IRON MAIDEN Book Of Souls
Album sixteen. ALBUM SIXTEEN. Let that sink in. Prince could make sixteen albums before you've had dinner (probably), but most of us are mere mortals, and sixteen albums give you a quandry. What more is there to say? What is the point? How many more Iron Maiden albums will there be?
Well. Make no mistake. Iron Maiden now are – at least – as good as they have ever been. “Book Of Souls” is their best album in 27 years. 93 minutes of double album style prog-metal about monsters and plasma and history? How can I resist?
They're like some kind of ubershouty Tangerine Dream, endlessly writing very very long songs, with lots of three-pronged widdly woo fretwork - “Speed of Light”, the first 'single', clearly has at least three guitar solos, from three guitarists, one after the other. It's not metal, but prog-rock, made with very heavy tones, where the band aren't constrained by the length of a 7” single, focusing instead on writing something with as many tempo shifts, parts and bridges you can imagine. Even “The Red And The Black” is a mere 13 minutes long, and powers along like a modern day 'Heaven Can Wait'. In fact, having spend most of 2012-2014 touring their “Maiden England” show (a recreation of the 1988 tour designed to show fans that were too young to see it then get another chance), the musical DNA of their classic late 1980's era is sprinkled all over “The Book Of Souls” like arterial wounds from an knife fight. There's another three-guitar-solos-in-a-row load of fretwankery, which is of course, utter brilliance in its hairy-chest stadium rock preposterousness, and lasts at least seven or eight minutes. In fact, that's pretty much every song on the album ; 8 minutes of hollering and guitars, that sounds pretty much brilliant and would give me Air Guitar RSI if I saw them live.
Five years between albums is a long time. But the band haven't rested, and in the past five years, have toured the world twice, and released a live album, reissued a classic concert on DVD, and … oh yeah, Bruce Dickinson has managed to kick throat cancer. Recorded before that, and thus, delayed, “The Book Of Souls” is the bands first genuine double album at 93 minutes, and, in one case, manages to beat even their most epicness with album closer, “Empire Of The Clouds”. Every song is a highlight, apart from the slightly rubbish acoustic codas. The rest of it is snarling, wonderful, enormous thunderstorms of rock – even “Shadows Of The Valley” which is a carbon copy of “Wasted Years” and even references their 1986 song 'Sea Of Madness'.
It's as if they wrote five years worth of songs and only recorded the best ones, with none of the usual end-of-side-two rubbish. Every song seems to have longevity built in by design, for a long standing life, and it's already high up my iPod play list. The whole of “Book Of Souls” is easily the best Iron Maiden album* since 1988's epochal, perfect “Seventh Son of A Seventh Son”. And it's about time.
(*excluding Blaze Maiden, because I love them, and you probably don't)