Sound — 9
So, it's finally here. "The Book of Souls" is Iron Maiden's 16th studio album and first studio album in five years. The first song of the album is "If Eternity Should Fail," which is written by singer Bruce Dickinson. Song begins with surrealistic atmosphere and then suddendly a great melody breaks in. It's quite dark song. It's quite difficult to understand the greatness of the album in the beginning. After listening Steve Harris' 13-minute masterpiece, "The Red and The Black" you are completely under a spell of Iron Maiden. "The Red and the Black" might be the best song Maiden has ever done. Overall, album has quite dark sound except the first single of the album, "Speed of Light." Kevin Shirley has done absoluite killler work in mixing. Album has its classic Maiden sound in it, but it sounds still modern.
The thing that stroke on me immediately when listening to the album was lead guitars. The guitar solo sections are pretty long, there are 3 guitar solos in almost all of songs. Adrian Smith's exact work comes out there first for me. Jannick Gers and Dave Murray don't sound bad either. Iron Maiden sounds like they would be on the peak of their career. Overall sound on the album is almost perfect. The only thing I missed was some strong ballad, like "Coming Home" in "The Final Frontier."
Lyrics — 10
For me, Iron Maiden has always had best lyrics I've known. Steve Harris has said that "The Book of Souls" isn't a concept album, but many of the songs are quite dark and they are somehow about life after death. In many songs there are a lot of intelligent metaphoras. "Tears of a Clown" is a song about actor Robin Williams who committed a suicide. Bruce Dickinson sounds better than never before. He can still hit those sky-high notes that he did 35 years ago. If anyone can sound less like a man who has cancer, it certainly is Dickinson.
Overall Impression — 10
I knew "The Book of Souls" would be great album, but I didn't expect it to be this kind of masterpiece. The first CD is for me a little bit stronger than the second one. It contains Harris epic "The Red and the Black" and the title track, which is for me another peak moment in the album. "The River Runs Deep," "The Great Unknown" and "If Eternity Should Fail" are also excellent songs. In the second CD there are great songs as well. "Shadows of the Valley" contains very beautiful guitar harmonies. "The Man of Sorrows" shows Dave Murray's abilities as a composer. And that last track. "Empire of the Clouds." Bruce Dickinson's 18-minute opus of the R101 airship accident. It's something Iron Maiden has never done before. The piano intro, verse and guitar harmonies in the middle section. Quite a masterpiece.
After all, "The Book of Souls" is absolutely Maiden's best album in the 21st century. You need a couple listening times to get into it. It challenges their classic records "The Number of the Beast," "Piece of Mind" and "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son." I'm not saying it's Iron Maiden's best album but it certainly is the most epic one.