Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls (2015)

Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls (2015)
Iron Maiden’s main strength in their 1980s heyday was their ability to incorporate progressive rock tropes (and therefore useful techniques for song variation and extension) into what was otherwise a fairly standard, if well executed poppy heavy metal sound. Not the rarest trick in the book, but more than enough to turn the band into a commercial juggernaut whose influence can sometimes be heard even in the deepest dregs of the underground.

On first impression, The Book of Souls ages gracefully, offering an aesthetic mostly similar to the band’s earliest recordings with Bruce Dickinson if understandably and obviously brought up to modern production standards. Like the rest of the band’s latter day material however, it leans ever closer towards its prog-isms, resulting in several enormous tracks and inflating the content into a full-fledged double album. The unfortunate weakness of these epics is that they are replete with filler of questionable value to a track, and as the length of these albums and tracks grow ever longer, so does the tedium, as Iron Maiden’s ability to extend a track beyond 7-8 minutes or so has not advanced along with them. Tracks end up overwhelmed by moments stunningly reminiscent of old hooks and hit singles (for instance, the intro of “Shadows of the Valley” seems to channel “Wasted Years” from Somewhere In Time), and the true nature of the band’s recent weakness reveals itself.

Iron Maiden has become a band split between two souls that they are unable to effectively reconcile. Their urge to extend their songwriting and write metal epics is held back by their need to continuously sound like Iron Maiden and the corresponding need to push hit singles. Paring down some of the worst excesses would probably be the most profitable option, since the band has demonstrated many times through their career that they can handle some degree of extension. Even then, Iron Maiden is competing with their own past; a past that is more virile (if not as slickly produced or musically experienced) and still easily experienced at their live concerts. I expect this album to jump off the shelves of record shores for still being recognizably Iron Maiden, for having some memorable and well-written moments and for being a valid way to financially support the band, but as a work of music, I don’t expect it to retain much listener interest after its marketing blitz subsides.

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14 thoughts on “Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls (2015)”

  1. Daniel Maarat says:

    In a year will anyone spin this over Powerslave, Killers, or Somewhere in Time? No.

    1. Gabe Kagan says:

      It’s probably a better purchase than some of the gimmicky, goofy, tradmetal out there, but around here you need more to get into the pantheon of the gods.

    2. Blasted are the Sick says:

      Do you mean, Will anyone listen to those albums vs. other ones by Iron Maiden?

      If you mean Maiden in general… you’re probably mistaken, sir!
      It seems like EVERYONE affiliated with metal likes Iron Maiden. Didn’t everyoone go through Black Sabbath-Iron Maiden-Judas Priest?! (Some started with K.I.S.S.)

      1. Gabe Kagan says:

        If only that order of discovery were that simple. After acquiring a few random metal and metal-related songs from file-sharing networks many years ago, I jumped from Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets to Cynic’s 1993 debut, and then acquired metal records of varying quality semi-randomly. There are still large gaps in what I’ve listened to of the ‘classics’.

      2. Anthony says:

        I think most people go Metallica -> other speed metal bands -> the rest of metal. At least, that’s how most people I’ve talked to go. Some people start of metalcore/deathcore and get into death metal that way, but curiously, most -core converts end up “growing out of the genre” within a couple years.

  2. OliveFox says:

    “The Blessed Curse” from earlier this year was a much better example of epic traditional heavy metal/hard rock. Even if it was a less than sterling output for M.R.

    Manilla Road puts Maiden to shame over the last decade and a half with their albums. Having an excuse to tour is the only reason Maiden puts anything out…their songwriting chops have long been spent.

  3. no troll says:

    Not the rarest trick in the book? Well, it wasn’t exactly typical for late 70s/early 80s, that’s why their early output (up to Somewhere in Time I’d say) is miles ahead of almost anything heavy metal.
    As for their influence, it’s everywhere in the underground, except most North American death/black metal.
    I feel your Book of Souls review is spot on though. It looks like they’re trying too hard to fit songs from every band member in the album. Actually, all of their post-reunion albums would benefit substantially from being brought down to 40-50 minutes, especially Dance of Death.

  4. SERIOUS QUESTIONER says:

    Hey Gabe, sorry to be off topic but I´d like to ask you if you consider Werhmacht to be a speed metal band or a thrash band? By thrash I mean like DRI, Cryptic Slaughter and Dead Horse. Thanks.

    Werhmacht – Shark Attack
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6VXVZLY2uY

    1. Gabe Kagan says:

      This sounds more like DMU’s definition of speed metal, although by those standards it’s a very aggressive and abrasive speed metal album that aesthetically (if not necessarily otherwise) verges on more extreme forms. From what I’ve listened to (which admittedly isn’t a great deal since it’s past 2 AM here), I’d probably link this more to early proto-death/black recordings like Sepultura’s debut.

      For this sort of inquiry, I’d probably link you to the site forums, if not for the fact they’re essentially dead after the link was removed from the front page.

    2. Anthony says:

      This is definitely 100% thrash by the Dark Legions Archive definition. Whether or not it’s good is another matter. Personally, I’d place them in the top of the genre, but I can understand the viewpoint of those who find them a bit too silly.

      1. SERIOUS QUESTIONER says:

        I wonder then, why Brett Stevens never mentioned them? He has written about Excel and even StormTroopers of Death…

  5. Poser Patrol says:

    It’s better a 13-year-old gets in to metal through this album than buy a Five Finger Death Punch album and lose interest in 4 years when he realizes that type of metal is stupid.

    1. morbideathscream says:

      I do agree because they will likely hunt down the classic maiden albums shortly after. I haven’t even bothered listening to Book of souls as no iron maiden album after seventh son of a seventh son is of interest to me. I guess it can serve a purpose for the 13 year old kid just getting into metal, a gateway album of sorts. Obviously a better choice than any nu-metal or core garbage. The latest maiden album I heard was brave new world and even though it was still maiden, it just seemed watered down, stagnant, etc. I imagine any of their latest offerings are similar. A band can only be good for so long before they start to stagnate. Iron Maiden has seven classic albums which is more than 99% of the bands out there who release maybe 2 good albums. Slayer has 5 classic albums. So there you go.

      1. I think it’s worth listening to all new things for at least three tracks, especially when they come from proven bands. It is impossible to listen to all new releases, so every single person filters by some index, usually cutting out whole genres (metalcore = HIV) and bands with idiotic names, art, etc.

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