Friday, 4 December 2015

Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls (2015) / 77%

The Lack of Editing

It's sort of funny to hear the term “modern Maiden” as Brave New World was released fifteen years ago, that's older than many popular bands nowadays! I guess that's a testimonial to the brits' long and thunderous career? Anyhow, the fifth album since the return of Bruce “badass” Dickinson, The Book of Souls is certainly an adventurous album but there's some issues plaguing the ninety plus minute trip to really achieve the double album nirvana, it's still a pretty good album though.

The usual argument against double albums is that fact that most of them would be much better as a single disc and this is true for this record too. If they had to learn anything from Judas Priest, it was obviously to never do a double album. Too bad. The four previous Maiden (and also The X Factor) could had seen their lengths considerably reduced and I was hoping that after The Final Frontier, Harris and the boys would finally write a more concise release. Nope, it's their longest and most tedious one ever. The length is not necessarily the issue here, the problem with many of these songs is that they're just way too long for their own sake like “The Red and the Black” and its thirteen minutes. It's like good meat but with way too much fat that your butcher forgot to remove. With a career spawning many decades, they decided to do whatever the fuck they wanted and I must salute this even if it didn't work.

Nevertheless, it's still Maiden being Maiden, there's many brilliant moments here such as the psychedelic almost western spaghetti intro of “If Eternity Should Fail”, one of the best songs on the album and the first out of two to be written solely by Dickinson. The other being their longest song ever, the eighteen minutes epic closer “Empire of the Clouds”. The use of piano on this track is interesting and it's some sort of subtle historical opera, it's not the disaster I was expecting, really. It's one of the only track that actually feels shorter than it truly is and I liked how it's built. Outside of the long tracks, the shorter ones doesn't always work quite well (“Speed of Light” is underwhelming) and some of these were also disposable. “The Man of Sorrows” or “The Great Unknown” are pretty damn great, the whole thing could had been tighter, it's all.There's no superb fast paced tracks like "The Mercenary" here and it's a shame.

It's a varied and dark album but the classic Maiden leads are always there to lift your spirit. The instrumentation is once again top notch and I appreciate that the bass isn't in your face as much as on some other of the albums. Since Steve Harris is less involved than usual due to some personal issues, it's a more democratic effort and it's a cool thing. We have the acoustic leanings of Janick Gers (a totally underrated guitarist) on the title track, the proggy AOR approach of Adrian Smith on “Speed of Light” or the long-winded epic formula of Harris. It's a vast album and has everything to please everyone but it's hard to digest as a whole in one sitting, it's like stuffing your face with fifteen hot dogs.

I like Bruce's rough and mature voice, I think he aged well and isn't straining too much. The lyrics are also great (most of the time), they're not too cheesy and deals with death in a meaningful way. Maiden at this point is an experienced band and I can't quite say that they sound tired, they're not exactly rehashing ideas even though most of the album is nothing new. It's hard to find a band this old who's still able to be as invigorated except maybe for Rush.

As a fifty minutes album, this would had been spectacular but ninety-two minutes is just overwhelming. I tend to listen to my favorite parts and ignore skip some of the weaker moments, that's something I hate to do since I love listening to albums as a whole. Can't we just get a short album for once, guys? A new Maiden album remains a big event but I can't say that I was completely satisfied with this one. Nonetheless, when it's good, it's freaking good.


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