Imagine a world without Iron Maiden, if you will. Imagine a world where no album covers are graced by Eddie’s grotesque figure. Imagine a world where all songs are doomed to last a feeble three minutes long. Basically, imagine the world without a band that revolutionised heavy metal and influenced pretty much every band in yours and your parents’ record collections. Impossible? Well it’s a good job they’re going nowhere then, isn’t it?
It’s hard to believe frontman Bruce Dickinson has fought and won a battle with cancer in just under a year. His consistently impeccable vocal range pummels its way through track upon track of beautifully epic anthems. For a band that was put on this earth to celebrate the versatility of music and its uncharted power to inspire and overwhelm, each tirelessly produced effort bursts forth with the energy and urgency of a band a third their age.
The black dog emerges in the distance as opener ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ calls out from the dark. The somewhat nonchalant soul harvester Necropolis addresses the listener, whose calmly threatening narrative sets the stage for a tale just tall enough for the pioneers of metal.
Larger than life lead single ‘Speed of Light’ is as infectious as they come, complementing the powerfully thumping ‘When the River Runs Deep.’ From the towering inferno of ‘The Red and the Black’ to the trepidation of ‘The Great Unknown,’ every chord tells a story of a timeless band that have inexplicably maintained their fire and brimstone from their 40 year reign.
An elegant acoustic meanders smoothly into the trudging authoritative call to arms of the title track, making fleeting visits through every tempo they master with consummate professionalism. The fatal game of ‘Death or Glory’ has a beautifully punchy soundtrack and a fitting colossal solo to boot, while the glorious halcyon echoes of ‘Shadows of the Valley’ drop like the sorrowful, bitter ‘Tears of a Clown.’
If you, like many of us, set your body clock to the tune of standard three minute songs, brace yourself for a rude awakening in the shape of eighteen-minute belter ‘Empire of the Clouds,’ smashing not only their own record for their longest track, but also expectations that these mainstays were to take things down a notch.
The music industry has changed beyond recognition since Iron Maiden formed all those moons ago. Bands are crucified the moment they hit the magazine spreads, doomed to a premature end in three albums’ time. Iron Maiden have been through hell and back, but this sixteenth opus sounds nothing remotely like a death knell. ‘The Book of Souls’ has been opened, and you’d better hope Eddie hasn’t got a page reserved just for you.
’The Book of Souls’ by Iron Maiden is out now on Parlophone Records.
Words by Ali Cooper (@AliZombie_)