Album Review: Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls
Iron Maiden have already carved a distinguished niche for themselves in the world of metal, and this latest offering stays comfortably in that territory. This is a double edged sword: On one side, they retain the galloping riffs and powerful vocals that have always defined them, but on the other, they are not bringing anything new to the table. Some songs are indulgently long, making you savor the natural progression of the music. Others are mid-length, catchy battle anthems that we have come to expect from the godfathers of heavy metal.
Bruce Dickinson’s vocals are as great as ever, but he’s not pushing himself to sing anything I haven’t already heard in a previous Maiden album. The acoustic guitars were interesting, as infrequently used as they were. “The Red And The Black” is a prime example of this, with a Spanish guitar riff played sluggishly slow, invoking an eerie, leaden sense of dread. The drums, although never quite in the limelight, fulfill their role as steadfast beat to structure the music. The bass and rhythm guitar follow suit, while the lead guitar has some bombastic, shredding solos.
The artwork inside is inspired by the indigenous cultures of Latin America, with archaic illustrations mimicking Mayan hieroglyphs, the ancient step-pyramids which were used as sacrificial temples, and tribal regalia. The cover itself does not reflect this: Iron Maiden’s undead mascot, Eddie, isn’t doing anything more noteworthy or memorable than scowling. This is a huge departure from the epic, almost melodramatic grandeur that usually characterizes Iron Maiden art, such as the majestic and tyrannical Pharoah statues looming in Powerslave, or Brave New World with its cold, calculated hell of a digital dystopia, reflecting the eponymous novel by Aldous Huxley.
From a technical standpoint, this is a solid, hearty album. Sheer length alone makes this one a stand-out. The songs have plenty of catchy choruses, refrains, and guitar hooks to satisfy most metalheads, with enough musical tension with the chord progressions and tempo changes to keep listeners in suspense. Even so, there are no modern day masterpieces here. The Book Of Souls is a drastic improvement from their previous release, The Final Frontier, which would have been a disastrous swan song for the likes of Iron Maiden. If this album turns out to be their last, I will not be disappointed. Four stars out of five!
(Note: An earlier version of this article originally rated this three stars. But then I came to my senses and remembered that I was grading on a curve and a decent record by Iron Maiden is an exceptional record by any other standard.)