Parlophone [Release date 04.09.15]
I have been a Maiden fan for the past 33 years through thick and thin. Over that time we have had members leave and re-join, popularity highs and lows and Eddie in many guises. What has always been a constant throughout the last 30 odd years though is the quality of the music.
An Iron Maiden track is an instantly recognisable thing, soaring vocal, check, galloping bass line, check, multiple guitar solos , check, all these elements are the foundation of the Maiden sound, so it was and so shall it ever be. The question is however, does familiarity breed contempt?
Book Of Souls is an epic opus. Ten songs spread over two discs clocking in at 92 minutes in lavish packaging, nothing less than you would expect from a band who like to provide value for money. When it comes to the musical content though I started to ask myself, can you have too much of a good thing?
The band have clearly enjoyed the creative process of writing and recording this album and indeed the tracks are all of a high standard with all the aforementioned trademark elements in place.
There are a few tracks where the similarity to others in the band’s back catalogue is bordering on plagiarism, try listening to ‘The Red And The Black’ and not singing the lyrics to ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’. Similarly the opening to ‘Shadows Of The Valley’ is a few notes away from the opening gambit of ‘Wasted Years’. Both of these songs are classic Maiden in every sense but it’s the sound of a band very much in a comfort zone.
My other issue is the length of a number of the tracks. Apart from ‘Speed Of Light’ most tracks clock in at over six minutes, some well beyond that. I do like an epic Maiden track and they have written many excellent ones over the years, but when 90% of the album is filled with sprawling instrumental workouts it does leave you wishing for a short, sharp Maiden romp to get the juices flowing.
Perhaps I am being over critical here. Let’s face it, Iron Maiden are still the biggest metal band on the planet and after 33 years I have become more sprawling and comfortable as well, so who am I to cast aspersions! Why then should I expect Maiden to still be pushing the boundaries? Book Of Souls is an excellent album, make no mistake on that one, is it a Maiden classic? Probably not. Is it classic Maiden? Most definitely!
Steve Harris has always had a love of prog rock and a little more slips in on each record, but can you blame the man for indulging a passion? After a hugely successful career and bringing so much joy to so many fans around the world over the years, you can allow the man a little indulgence. No doubt the 2016 tour setlist will feature most of the tracks from Book Of Souls and if that is the case I hope Bruce Dickinson has the odd Sudoku book backstage to while away the hours during the instrumental breaks.
I will still be in the crowd to witness the spectacle though as this is Iron Maiden and like most diehard fans of a certain age, to quote another prog classic, ‘I know what I like, and I like what I know’. ****
Review by David Wilson
Seeking a second opinion on this one I played the album a couple of times to sometime GRTR! reviewer CJ, a veteran of many a Maiden show. The result was a few choice words and phrases which included, overlong, overblown, heard it all before, past their best, the list goes on…
CJ’s summing up of the album again amounted to one word, ‘boring’…
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