The Book Of Souls Review

artist: Iron Maiden date: 09/09/2015 category: compact discs
Iron Maiden: The Book Of Souls
Released: Sep 4, 2015
Genre: Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal
Label: Parlophone, BMG
Number Of Tracks: 11 (2CD)
Iron Maiden's sixteenth studio release is more energetic than some of the band's other recent releases, with many of the songs written in the studio and recorded immediately, resulting in a more "live" feel to the album.
 Sound: 9.3
 Lyrics: 9.5
 Overall Impression: 9.3
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overall: 8.3
The Book Of Souls Featured review by: UG Team, on september 09, 2015
5 of 10 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 9

Lyrics: 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." // 8

Overall Impression: 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." // 8

- Brandon East (c) 2015

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overall: 10
The Book Of Souls Reviewed by: FutMike, on september 10, 2015
5 of 6 people found this review helpful

Sound: Almost 30 years after their original debut, and 5 years since their last album (the longest Maiden fans have had to wait for a new album), on the fourth of September 2015, Iron Maiden unleash "The Book of Souls"! Despite the band getting older, this album still sounds as fresh as their debut album, whilst adding a lot of progressive elements to their sound, but still capturing that classic Iron Maiden sound. Besides the well known sound provided by Bruce Dickinson's epic vocals, Nicko McBrain's drumming; Harris', Murray's and Gers' guitar work, Bruce also provides his piano playing skills to this album, and Steve Harris provided the keyboards, which go great with the overall epic feel of the album. As mentioned above the album has a very epic feel to it, ad the instrumental heavy songs only contribute to that. The tracks are very long, even for Maiden standards, with the shortest song being the "Tears of a Clown" (clocking in at 4 minutes and 59 seconds), and the longest song in duration being the grand and the epic "Empire of the Clouds" (clocking in at a whopping 18 MINUTES). The duration of the songs is a very clever move on the band's part, because it opens up a lot of opportunities for the band to experiment with the aforementioned progressive elements, and still add the fast shredding and solos that Maiden is known for. Every band member was at the top of their game, they all have very good chemistry, the guitars paired with Bruce Dickinson's vocals are just a joy for the ears, and the keyboards and piano that are included later on just enhance the experience.

The songs sound like a lot of previous Iron Maiden work, with a lot of songs having not so subtle references to classic Maiden songs, for example, the opening riff off of "Shadows of the Valley" is almost exactly the same as the opening riff of off "Wasted Years," but after that nod to a Maiden classic, it launches into a completely different and equally good song. Production wise, the album sounds clean and very professionally done! So to recap, "The Book of Souls"' sound and instrumentals are a joy to listen to, old Iron Maiden fans will go on a nostalgia trip through the evolution of Iron Maiden from their earliest work to today, whilst enjoying a lot of original, unique and equally awesome riffs, drumming, guitar solos and instrumentals. I also believe that new Maiden fans are going to see what Maiden is all about, and get the intensive to check out their earlier work! // 10

Lyrics: "The Book of Souls" is essentially eleven different stories. Every song has a personality, that is only amplified by the genius creativity of Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Dave Murray, wrote the lyrics for this opus combined with Bruce Dickinson's ability to captivate the listener, and immerse him into a grand, epic fantasy world makes the songs on this album more than just songs, they become epic adventures! The lyrics are heavily inspired by Mayan culture, but there are also other stories that are told throughout the entirety of this album, such as the song "Tears of the Clown" which pays homage to the late great Robin Williams. The lyrics accompany the music perfectly, and I don't have nothing more to say on that subject. // 10

Overall Impression: In conclusion, "The Book of Souls" is a masterpiece, even if you aren't a Maiden fan, you owe it to yourself to check this album out, and if you are a Maiden fan you should stop whatever you are doing right now, and go get this. I payed roughly $17 for my it, and considering this is a double disc album, it is a STEAL! It is one of the best, if not the best Iron Maiden album of all time, and I believe that it beats the likes of "The Number of the Beast" and "Powerslave"! // 10

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overall: 9.7
The Book Of Souls Reviewed by: patriotpizzaman, on september 10, 2015
5 of 5 people found this review helpful

Sound: The boys have come back with a vengeance! This is an aural onslaught! Maiden brings the heat from beginning to end with a diverse array of songs that seems to be culled out of the DNA of all of the bands previous works. This huge album sounds familiar immediately upon hitting the first galloping bass lines moments into "If Eternity Fails." The sonic landscape they traverse is littered with Maidens' trademark harmony guitars and galloping rhythms. Bruce sounds as if he popped out straight of a time machine from the mid '80s. "The Book of Souls" is a dynamic ten and a half minute journey filled with the ghosts of the "Powerslave" CD. "Shadows of the Valley" re-imagines the classic "Wasted Years" riff with equal aplomb. "Empire of the Clouds" is an epic masterpiece that firmly plants Maiden on the Mt. Rushmore of prog. metal without abandoning the adoring metal heads that have held the torch for the band for over thirty years. // 10

Lyrics: Iron Maiden has always set the bar high lyrically and they've sought to overachieve on this newest edition to their catalog. Bruce and company have succeeded in taking the listener into the deeper regions of the human condition with songs about life and death and the consequences of hasty decisions. They've always had a flare for the dramatic and a pension for more substantive themes and they've gone to great lengths to construct an album worthy of the title "The Book of Souls." Tons of descriptive references woven into a brilliant tapestry of consciousness and the repercussions that cognitive awareness can cause. // 9

Overall Impression: The band haven't aged they've leveled up (again) and this time they've doubled down. Quality and quantity! The longest Iron Maiden album (clocking in over 92 minutes) and what may prove to their crowning achievement. This is without a doubt an absolute masterpiece. The holy grail for classic Maiden fans to grasp firmly in their trembling hands and cradle to their breasts jealously with the zeal of Gollum clutching his "precious." Having said that, it may not win them any new fans but, any fan of any era of Maiden will be thoroughly satisfied with the sonic brilliance of this two disc collection of songs from our favorite purveyors of theatrical progressive heavy metal Iron fucking Maiden! Up The Irons! // 10

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overall: 9.7
The Book Of Souls Reviewed by: vpliedes, on september 10, 2015
4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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." // 9

Lyrics: 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. // 10

Overall Impression: 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. // 10

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overall: 9.3
The Book Of Souls Reviewed by: gamesplayswill, on september 10, 2015
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 9

Lyrics: 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. // 10

Overall Impression: 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! // 9

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overall: 9.3
The Book Of Souls Reviewed by: Maidenheadsteve, on january 15, 2016
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Bruce is still at the top of his game despite all that's happened to him. Only two songs noticeably lack his usual pitch ("Man of Sorrows," "Tears of a Clown"), but it's understandable, and I felt it wasn't necessary for "Tears of a Clown."

Can't say enough about how consistently good Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain has been throughout their careers and how that almost goes without saying. As far as "modern era" Maiden goes I thought this was Dave Murray's best performance album-wise for solos, and nothing to complain about with Smith (loved his solo on "Tears of a Clown") and Gers.

I could only count less than a handful of moments where it felt stale. Riff wise I suppose it wasn't "too" inventive, but most of the harmonies/melodies were very unique. I liked how they incorporated acoustic guitars into "The Book of Souls" and "The Red and The Black." I felt the vibe from the first bit of "If Eternity Should Fail" was unique. And "Empire of the Clouds" is amazing. Piano (by Bruce, no less) violins, and a general orchestral sound on top of the guitars provides for an absolutely epic composition. // 9

Lyrics: Like most Maiden albums, themes of religion, mythology, life and death, war/evils of mankind are the core of this album. Even if some of the topics are very specific or somewhat obscure to the average person, Bruce-as always-delivers lyrics in a top-notch, convincing manner. It's a Maiden album with a Maiden sound with Maiden lyrics, so yes, the lyrics comply.

I felt Bruce declined a little form "The Final Frontier" and that his high notes weren't as high (I won't be winning a Pulitzer) and sounded a bit raspier; however, it's senseless to knock him for it given the cancer. The only difference between "The Final Frontier" and "The Book of Souls" for Bruce is he is only a little less other-worldly, but still other-worldly. // 10

Overall Impression: I had 3 issues with the album. "Man of Sorrows" took a bit to get going, not the most inspiring vocal performance from Bruce (I don't mean just on pitch). Saved by it's harmony/solo section (when it switches to D minor). "Shadow of the Valley" was my least favorite song since it was so rhythmically static given its 7 minute length, also not a fan of the wordless vocal fills (6:15 mark; "The Red and the Black," as absolutely brilliant as the song is, does it too). I didn't feel the intro to "When The River Runs Deep" fit the rest of the album's musical style since it sounds like something from '86-'88 and overall it's a little generic, but the solos are good.

But that's all, and despite my own personal nitpicks, those aren't *bad* songs by any stretch, just not as good as the rest of the album. I personally think this is the best album since the '80s. I felt the album proficiently combines epic songs with short straightforward songs better than the previous two albums, both in amount of songs and each type and the quality of each type since very little on this album comes off as filler/autopilot to me. The long songs, except for Shadow of the Valley, don't drag since they are very dynamic.

Favorite songs were the title track, "The Red and The Black," "Empire of the Clouds," and "If Eternity Should Fail" (the best album opener from the last five). The rest of the album was solid, and there really isn't a bad song. The album truly encases old-school Maiden and the recent long epic style from the last few albums into one. It's a shame Bruce wasn't fully healthy for the recording, but that doesn't hamper the album. 9.5 in my heart, 9 for what I can click. // 9

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