The Book Of Souls review by Iron Maiden

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  • Released: Sep 4, 2015
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.2 (121 votes)
Iron Maiden: The Book Of Souls
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Sound — 9
Iron Maiden formed in 1975 by bassist, Steve Harris, who is also the only remaining founding member. The lineup has been fairly consistent, however, for the last 16 years when Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith (both previous members) rejoined the band. Iron Maiden has been one of the most well-known and talked about metal bands in the world, and has survived a changing metal community for multiple decades. "The Book of Souls" is the band's sixteenth studio album - and is technically a double album, with an approximate runtime of 92 minutes with 11 tracks. The band's longest studio recorded song of their career, "Empire of the Clouds," is on the album and clocks in at over 18 minutes. The first single from the album, "Speed of Light," was released in mid-August. The album was produced by Kevin Shirley, with Steve Harris acting as co-producer.

The album opens up strong with "If Eternity Should Fail," which has a very space rock/prog vibe going on in the intro, and immediately gets the lyrics involved with the album's "theme" of souls and mortality. Bruce Dickinson does some soaring vocals on this one, as well as some spoken word, and even gets a touch on the growly side. Musically, you see the band mostly going with classic heavy metal galloping. "Speed of Light" opens up with a riff that almost has a blues thing going on, and goes from there into some fairly aggressive music for the Iron Maiden of recent years. "The Great Unknown" opens up with some solid heavy metal interplay between guitars and bass and some very narrative lyrics. "The Red and the Black" opens up with a bass riff, sounding almost like some Spanish guitar. The guitars come in with the drums and immediately goes into some gallops, with the lead guitar coming in with a brisk melody and vocals close behind. The lead part on "The Red and the Black" is very hummable, often harmonized with the lead vocals. "When the River Runs Deep" definitely has a live feel to it, with the riffing sounding raw and powerful, with Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain (drums) definitely being the MVPs on this track. The title track, "The Book of Souls," opens up with a little acoustic lick that is repeated several times. The electric guitars and drums come in around the 1 minute mark, and they bring a lot of groove with them - the overall feel of the track is pretty sick. The track is over 10 minutes, but it stays engaging enough that it doesn't feel like 10 minutes. The guitar solos on "The Book of Souls" are a pretty awesome mix of feel and technical prowess.

"Death or Glory" starts disc 2 and opens up with a "Taps" reminiscent drum part, accompanied by some tri-guitar riffing. This is one of the shorter tracks on the album at just 5 1/2 minutes, but it is very catchy with a good hook in the chorus. "Shadows of the Valley" has some staccato vocals accompanied by guitar that builds up to a cool little peak, then the song picks up some momentum. "Tears of a Clown" is written about Robin Williams, and is a tearjerker about playing the part as the clown when you feel like anything but inside your own mind and in your own perception. "The Man of Sorrows" makes good use of the multi-guitar setup, with a lead melody layered over an arpeggio. The vocals come in and it almost feels like a vocal solo track - this track is good proof of Bruce's continued skill as a vocalist despite his age. The track slowly picks up additional instrumentation and changes gear a few times but still feels like a slow swampy metal track to me. It definitely works and acts as a good change of pace for the album. I enjoyed the solo for "The Man of Sorrows" quite a bit. The album closes out with the track "Empire of the Clouds," which as I mentioned earlier is the band's longest track at over 18 minutes long. It opens with piano played by Bruce Dickinson. There is some interesting instrumentation going on with what sounds like a string quartet, and some very minimal percussion during the opening movement. The song definitely goes in some different directions throughout the 18 minutes, almost like a little concept album in and of itself. Some of my absolute favorite guitar work on the album is in this track, but just for a few fleeting pieces/melodies.

Lyrics — 8
Bruce Dickinson is definitely a master at his craft. If you do the math he's 57 years old and has been providing vocals in bands longer than I have actually been alive on this earth. When you think about the scope of that, you definitely gotta respect Bruce for his skill and craft, and realize that he has maintained his vocal chops for coming up on 40 years. Can you hear the age in his voice? Sure, but only in a way that adds character, and not yet in a way that really detracts from his performance. The lyrics on the album definitely stay focused on death, the soul, and mortality, with a little bit of Mayan imagery mixed in. As a sample of the lyrics, though, I want to share some lyrics from the song dedicated to Robin Williams, "Tears of a Clown": "All alone in a crowded room/ He tries to force a smile/ The smile it beamed or so it seemed/ But never reached the eyes, disguise/ Masquerading as the funny man do they despise/ The false smile maketh of the man/ Glass empty or half full/ Try to make some sense or sorrows drown/ All looks well on the outside/ Underneath the solemn truth/ There's something that inside has died/ Tomorrow comes tomorrow goes/ But the cloud remains the same/ Wonder why he's feeling down/ Tears of a clown."

Overall Impression — 8
This isn't the album I was expecting from Iron Maiden at this stage, but I definitely appreciate it. It has a slightly more "prog" feel to it that reminds me a little of the band's first few releases, but with the added element of the space rock/metal that has become part of their sound in just the last few albums. I find myself listening intently to Steve Harris' bass playing, and I do believe I'm gonna have to string up a bass with some flats and work on some flat picking. Bruce Dickinson is insanely impressive at his age, and Janick, Adrian and Dave aren't slouches either. I enjoyed the album from start to finish. My favorite tracks would have to be "Empire of the Clouds," "Tears of a Clown," "If Eternity Should Fail" and "The Red and the Black."

29 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Aberinkulas
    I thought it was more of a 9/10, at least. INCREDIBLY solid album, and even if a couple of songs somewhat feel like fillers, they're still pretty awesome. If this album had been released in the 80s, NOBODY would doubt it's "masterpiece" and an "all time classic". Might do a review of it later myself.
    Iommianity
    I honestly disagree, if it wasn't for their 80s work, I don't think this album would have anyone calling it genius. I like it, and I love Iron Maiden to the point where I can appreciate anything they release, but I would [i]never throw this album up there with their seminal work. As a Maiden fan it lacks the energy and upbeat feel I love about the band, and as a fan of progressive music, it has a samey vibe through out. It makes the mistake that progressive = long or epic = long. I really think there needs to be more of a counter balance in this album's reception. I've seen people talk about it like it's flying over everyone's head, but there's nothing complicated or hard to understand about 8 minute long mid paced songs with recycled chord progressions and multiple choruses. That's just me though. When you break Iron Maiden down to its core essentials, it's strong riffs and melodies, and a certain up beat energy. When every single Iron Maiden album is made of up those elements, it's easy to pick which albums accomplish that best and which don't, and there's no way in hell any band maintained that same level of integrity or quality for that long.
    *Stranger*
    I'm not saying anything about the opinions presented in this review, but this is probably the worst written review I have ever read. Every sentence opens up with *song* opens up *w/smth* Get a good writer, please
    Daedwing
    I've said this about UG reviews before. I feel kinda bad criticising though, cus it kinda reads like it was written by child, and if it was, that's quite an achievement to be published on a site such as this. Good job lil' buddy!
    Aryan Death Man
    The score doesn't do justice for this masterpieceThis album should at-least be a 9. It is the most complete Iron Album since Bruce's return. Personally,Three tracks standout for me. The Red and The Black,The Book of Souls and EMPIRE OF THE CLOUDS!! Empire of the Clouds is definitely one of the best songs Iron Maiden has ever written.
    a drummer
    it's a lot to digest. Probably the most ambitious Maiden record to date. I really do like the live sound they have going on in the production but the majority of the songs just seem to be lacking something. I have to listen to it more but so far this one is around a 7 to me. The Red and the Black is fucking great though
    chris.reid.319
    9/10 for me. Yes it takes longer to get into the album but that's because of the shear size of it. Album feels more relaxed compared to The Final Frontier even though there is a lot going on. Songs are structured in a way that they are balanced between long ones and shorter ones. Empire of the Clouds, Tears of the Clown and When The River Runs Deep are my top 3 off this one....ok If Eternity Should Fail in there as well. Great effort by the lads
    travislausch
    I'm digging the songs so far, but... I'm having a hard time doing it all in one sitting. It's a lot of music to sit through and that's usually my problem with double albums. They've gotta be PRETTY FUCKING GREAT for me to sit through them and absorb them. Arjen Lucassen's pretty much the only artist who's made a lot of double-albums that worked like that for me. Loved the final track, the first track with the synths was pretty trippy... it's good Maiden so far.
    MyUserName777
    This album has really grown on me. Initially, nothing jumped out but after a few listens, I'd say it's a solid 7-7.5. When the River Runs Deep might be my favorite. There's some solid riffs on that song in particular. It'd almost be at home on Powerslave. Always a good thing. I also quite like Shadows of the Valley and If Eternity Should Fail. Death or Glory sounds like it could be off a Paul Di'anno album. The bouncy, energetic feel is very reminiscent of their early material. Maiden really does have a little bit of everything on this album. That doesn't necessarily make it better but certainly more approachable for fans of different eras of Maiden. I prefer 80s Maiden but still enjoy some of their newer material. I still don't love every song though. I typically skip Tears of a Clown and The Book of Souls. It's better than Final Frontier, which I didn't think was bad like everyone else. Certainly better than A Matter of Life and Death and Brave New World but not quite as good as Dance of Death. The production could be a bit better. I understand the live feel they're going for but the production suffers in the end. This seems to be an issue with a lot of recent Maiden albums. They might not be as organic but the remasters really sound phenomenal. Empire of the Clouds is going to take a few more listens for me to digest. Upon first listen, there's moments of greatness but I'm still not hearing the standout track everyone seems to be raving about. 18 minutes is a lot to take in so I'll give that time. I might as well have just polished this comment up, added a bit more in depth opinion paragraphs, and submitted a review. Overall, pretty good Maiden album. I doubt they'll ever reach the heights of Powerslave or Number of the Beast but I'm not expecting them to at this point in the game.
    EpiExplorer
    I personally think it's a 7.5/8. This is cuz while there's some seriously good new track ideas, like the final 18 minute track (I've never heard Maiden do those sorts of prog chords before), there is some filler material. Also, Bruce's voice is still good but he's not quite hitting the highest of his highs with as much oomph as usual. Must've been all the cancer. Still, stronger than Final Frontier, nice progressive influences.
    Machineflame
    Agreed, the album could be better as a whole. That being said, holy shit, Empire of the clouds is damn glorious. That middle instrumental section make most of dream theatres stuff look like potty training (and I really Like DT)!
    Funnyname99
    Overall, I was suprised at how minimal the Hook riffs were... Mauch of the songs were just 4-chords patterns for both the verse and chorus... A solid effort, but I agree, it's not more than a 7.5
    travislausch
    I loved the song too, but I'm trying to figure out what you mean by "prog chords". Sounds like the usual natural minor kind of stuff they always do, all the way through the song.
    Peres.T.Peanut
    Agree, an 8 suits well this album. If it was a single album instead of a double album it could potentially be their best effort yet.
    Skuzzmo
    hmmm...I've got a feeling I'm going to do with book of souls exactly what I did with the last couple of maiden albums. Buy it, listen to it, think it was OK then never play it again. To be fair I've only listened to the tracks provided above but I can't say its a life changing moment.... I will buy the album at some point and give it a good listen to and hopefully it'll grow on me....
    usedillusion93
    'If Eternity Should Fail' kind of reminds me of some of the song writing on the Somewhere in Time album. Anybody else hear this?
    chris.reid.319
    I'm picking up bits and pieces from all their previous releases on this one. Some songs have the SIT sound, others early 90's and even some Di'Anno and Blaze era leanings.
    Metallidethca
    This album is way better than the 2 previous ones and it is rated way lower, both by the users and the UG team.
    vrhovnichoban
    I ve got a particular set of skills, i dont know who you are but i will find you and i will kill you..
    TheGroundZero
    I gave it a solid 7. I've listened to it twice in it's entirety now. It has a classic vibe for most of the songs, aside from synth usage. I have a couple standout tracks that I like, but it doesn't quite have the hooky rhythms that I really love from the Piece of Mind/Powerslave/Number of the Beast(and even Somewhere in Time) era. I miss that.
    markyj666
    Empire of the Clouds left me a little wanting more though. Perhaps quality over quantity on this track. Other than that its solid, and the songs grow on you more as you listen, but once you've heard a few Maiden chord progressions you've heard them all
    henrihell
    Do they have more than one? There's a galloping E-D-C-D in almost every song they've made. That's the signature Maiden progression for me.