I’ve lost track of what number album this is for Iron Maiden. These guys have been producing arena rock that’s as melodic and evocative as it is hard and heavy since the early ’80s. And even though they’ve seen quite a few lineup changes over those years, they’ve kept true to their style and their sound. And their fans (and I’m one of them) have kept true to them.
The Book Of Souls features the current lineup, which is distinguished by their six-piece format with three guitars leading the pack. The players are: Bruce Dickinson, vocals; Steve Harris, bass’ Nicko McBrain, drums; Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers, guitars
Here’s my take on the first five tracks of the new album.
If Eternity Should Fail: An evocative beginning…with long sustained chords…leads to a solo vocal feature from Bruce Dickinson that should lay to rest any questions about his current vocal prowess. (He does seem mixed down a bit—at least for my taste. I like to at leasttry to catch all the lyrics.)
Speed of Light: Maybe not quite as fast as the title indicates, but a rousing rocker with killer tom fills from drummer Nicko Mcbrain, along with some blazing guitar solos. Since I was sent the album tracks online, I have no “liner notes” to tell me which guitarist is doing what. But it’s all head bangin’ stuff.
The Great Unknown: A synth-oriented intro evokes a little Zep-like fantasy/folk, but the song quickly drops into a half-time power groove, with Dickinson’s vocal soaring above.
The Red And The Black: This is a 13 ½-minute opus that starts off with a low-tuned Flamenco-esque acoustic guitar intro and then launches into an anthemic vamp (which, admittedly, does seem to go on). But then the vocal kicks in, supported by lots of syncopated power chords. And we get some “woh oh oh ohs” from the rest of the band that audiences are going to love singing along to when Maiden tours.
When The River Runs Deep: This one kicks off big and bold right from the outset, snaps into a nearly blast-beat feel, then back into rock time, and then back to the fast tempo. This goes on throughout the song, leaving me drained of energy just from listening to it. And these guys have been doing this for forty years?
Okay, that’s enough of a play-by-play to whet your appetite. Let me just add that the entire rest of the album is as driving, powerful, and ultimately satisfying as these first five tunes. It’s classic Maiden, but nothing stale or repetitive. If this is what the band is going to sound like as they tour in 2016, I’m duly impressed. And hey, what other band is going to be touring in their own 747 jumbo jet, piloted by their own lead singer? Check your local listings (or the band’s website) and get tickets now!
Editor’s Note: We previously did a feature on the logistics underlying this tour and you can read that blog here.