Published Sep 04, 2015When the phrases "double-album," "the band's longest effort" and "18-minute song" were being bandied about upon the announcement of a new Iron Maiden record, some wondered if the British metal giants could potentially fall victim to their own ambition. By the end of the hour-and-a-half runtime, such assumptions couldn't be further from the truth. The Book of Souls stands not only as another page in their lengthy history but a thoughtfully-penned one as well, concerned with mortality and the idea of living on after death.
It's heavy subject matter, first magnified by lead man Bruce Dickinson's cancer diagnosis and treatment that was put off until recording finished. Still as operatic as ever, it's Dickinson's delivery of the vivid lyrical work that grabs hold of the listener's attention across the record. "Death or Glory" paints a familiar picture of airborne warfare (perhaps a matured "Aces High") while the 18-minute juggernaut "Empire of the Clouds" he wrote himself tells the tale of English airship R101 crashing on its maiden voyage.
Such themes also struck a chord with bassist Steve Harris, who lost both a friend and family member during the record's writing phase. His absence in that stage of the artistic process led to a more collaborative writing process between the band members.
Consequently, not every song is distinctly Harris's work but a refreshing joint effort, save for the lengthy "The Red and the Black." In some of these longer numbers, it's easy to get lost in a mess of incredibly emotive guitar soloing between the band's talented trio of axe men and group "whoa-oh-ohs," but these moments are easily overlooked when considering Maiden's execution of such an ambitious project. However close they may be to calling it a career, this effort is sure to endure in future discussion of their later years. (Parlophone)