Album Review : Iron Maiden – Book Of Souls
They don’t do it that often anymore, but there’s always excitement when Iron Maiden comes out with new music. Knowing that they are closing in on the end of their career, you really do end up hoping that when they go out for good, it will be with a bang. I think it’s universally agreed upon that THE FINAL FRONTIER would NOT have been that bang at all, but more of a generic whimper from a band that is capable of so much more. With a lot of hype (generated mostly by the band themselves), THE BOOK OF SOULS comes forth. It’s a LOT of listening to say the least – 2 discs, multiple songs over 10 minutes long, and a ton of nuances to swallow before you can truly form an opinion on it. It’s a daring project for Iron Maiden, especially at a time when it’s destined to be little more than a vehicle that gives them a reason to tour the world once again.
But is it good? That’s really the question every Maiden fan had on their mind. Being completely honest, Iron Maiden hasn’t really been that uber-special band since Bruce Dickinson came back into the fold in 2000. That’s not to say they haven’t done some quality music in that time. Certainly, BRAVE NEW WORLD, DANCE OF DEATH, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH and THE FINAL FRONTIER aren’t terrible. But they are closer to FEAR OF THE DARK then they are to POWERSLAVE or THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST. So, swinging it back around, is it good? Yes, it is. As a whole, the band sounds very good. The songs are pretty solid, and you really can hear in songs like “The Red and The Black” where they created material a lot more in line with their heyday sound. Performance wise, there’s no complaints. The triple guitar team of Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers sound great. The bottom end created by bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain is thick and stable. The vocals of Bruce Dickinson are strong as always. In short, if you are an Iron Maiden fan, THE BOOK OF SOULS will do nothing to diminish that.
That said though, it’s just too long. Since before Dickinson rejoined the band in 2000, songwriter Steve Harris decided that the band’s music needed to be more epic. This has plagued the band, in my eyes, since 2000. While there are some great songs in this style (“Paschendale” being my favorite song Maiden has done in the last 20 years), it’s just kind of tiring. While songs like “The Red and The Black” are solid, is almost 14 minutes of it really necessary? I think not. It’s easy to get bored with this track as it goes on and on and on. The same can be said with the ridiculously long “Empire Of The Clouds”. Again, solid song…but one that would have been much better if it was 5-6 minutes long instead of an album side in length. “The Book Of Souls” is over 10 minutes as well, and seems endless. While I’m certainly aware that a big part of Maiden’s allure is the grandness of their material, much of this on THE BOOK OF SOULS is just having long songs to be long songs. On the three I mentioned here, there are long periods of each song that don’t go anywhere other than simply making the statement that it’s Iron Maiden playing. That doesn’t suck, but it’s not really an enhancement anymore.