Sound — 9
Oh boy, as a avid Maiden fan I've been dying to hear what Bruce and the boys had in store for us this time and even then I wasn't prepared for the shitstorm of awesomeness that came from the band. First of all, for someone who was suffering with technically "tongue" cancer, I was blown away to hear him reach pitches the "Brave New World" Bruce probably wouldn't have been able to achieve. Steve Harris, the main songwriter, keyboard player, and bassist, sounds phenomenal as always and never fails us with the magnificent gallop. As a bass player I am a fan!
Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and especially Dave Murray have shined and stormed through the challenges each song has faced them. Dave Murray as I've said, is exceptional this time around, I can't possibly begin to tell you how ground-breaking it was for me to finally hear a few of his bluesy licks in "The Man of Sorrows." But I saved the best for last, Nicko McBrain... Man, he just got me banging away at the desk (oi, that's rude), trying to pathetically recreate the insane technicality that he had. If you love a tight drummer in hard rock/metal, this album could be for you.
Lyrics — 10
I have to give this a ten mainly because of Bruce singing like an absolute legend without even knowing what he'd have to deal with in the next few months (with cancer and all). But honestly, the lyricism brought me to genuine tears on the song "Empire of the Clouds." Let me tell you a quick story, me and my father love airships and have always been fascinated in how quickly they revolutionised air travel, but also how quickly they vanished from the face of the earth without any genuine reason. Which is why the song about the R101 ("Empire of The Clouds") moved me. Not to mention, the guitar work in this song is probably in the top ten for Maiden. I'd go as far to say this is my, truthfully, favourite song Maiden have EVER done. For a song that's a whopping 18 minutes long, I can't stop listening to it's haunting but humble atmosphere.
Overall Impression — 9
Okay, now here come the negative parts... The reason I give it an overall 9/10 is because they really could've spent more time on coming up with memorable, original riffs. While they sound and are spectacular, it took me over five listens to actually remember THREE of them properly. Whereas songs like "Run to the Hills" and "The Trooper"? They come to mind so, so quickly. Even if you're a fan or not. I am also disappointed that "The Red and the Black" didn't explore the bass solo even more at the beginning and end. It ended up feeling a bit like a clone to the beginning and end to "The Book of Souls" because of it's atmosphere was so similar (although they, alone, sound very different).
Now to the positives:
- The production is raw, powerful and downright warm.
- The musicianship is exceptionally clever.
- In lyricism, it is probably up towards a "Seventh Son" level.
- Dammit Dave Murray, you aren't complex, but you're something!
This is hands-down my personal favourite Maiden album, I love old styled prog, I love drama, and I love me some Maiden. It may not be as musically imaginable as "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son," but damn it comes close!
My top picks for this album are: "Speed of Light," "Empire of the Clouds," "Death or Glory" (tied with) "Man of Sorrows" and of course, "If Eternity Should Fail."
If you haven't listened to it yet, please do so now!