Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
The Book of Souls has to be one of the best sounding live albums I have ever heard in my life. I’ve been a hard-core Maiden fan since the early ’80s, and this is one of the best live releases with a good amount of new and classic material. Even the band’s mascot, Eddie the Head, looks a little more mummified than usual, starkly and stunningly illustrated by Mark Wilkinson, inspired by the Mayan belief of the soul living after death. Much has been made about the album being a double-disc, when, in fact, pretty much every Iron Maiden release is a lengthy tome. But the sequencing is key, and after songs like the barn-burner “Speed of Light” and the chant-along “The Red and the Black,” the title track bookend the first disc (or side three of six on the triple-vinyl) with the group in full theatrical mode. The extras with this set include a small Eddie figure and gold sculpted enamel badge – while the Eddie is small, he’s insanely detailed. The badge is an instant stand out in my Maiden pin collection. Detailed and colorful Mayan motif.
The Book of Souls is the sixteenth studio album by English heavy metal band Iron Maiden, released on 4 September 2015. It is the band’s first studio double album, and therefore also their longest to date, with a total length of 92 minutes. Its launch and supporting tour were delayed to allow vocalist Bruce Dickinson time to recover from the removal of a cancerous tumor in early 2015. It is also their first album to be released on Parlophone, since the end of their 30-year contract with EMI Records.
Produced by long-time Iron Maiden collaborator Kevin Shirley, The Book of Souls was recorded at Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris from September to December 2014, which they had previously used for 2000’s Brave New World. The band wrote and immediately recorded many tracks in the studio, resulting in a spontaneous live feel. The album’s first release, “Speed of Light”, was issued as a music video on 14 August, and simultaneously as a digital download and CD single exclusive to Best Buy. In addition to being their longest studio record, it also contains the band’s longest song, “Empire of the Clouds”, at 18 minutes in length, which was also issued as a single for Record Store Day on 16 April 2016. While not a concept album, references to the soul and mortality are prominent, realized in the Maya-themed cover artwork, created by Mark Wilkinson.
One of the many ways in which Iron Maiden on gets it absolutely right on The Book Of Souls is with the pacing. While three tracks clock in at ten minutes plus (the piano-led closer ‘Empire Of The Clouds’ at almost double that) there are shorter, sharper tunes like ‘The Speed Of Light’, side two’s ultra-lean ‘Death Or Glory’ and the quite unusually short and poppy ‘Tears Of A Clown’ there to compliment them. The balance is always right there and the quality just doesn’t relent at all although, if you’re really digging for a tiny weakness, the aforementioned, eighteen-minute long ‘Empire Of The Clouds’ does threaten to swallow its own tail a few times; it’s just a tad labored and self-indulgent but brilliantly composed and conceived all the same.
A critical and commercial success, The Book of Souls topped the album charts in 24 countries. It earned the band their fifth (first consecutive) UK No. 1, following 1982’s The Number of the Beast, 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1992’s Fear of the Dark and 2010s The Final Frontier. In the US, it matched The Final Frontier’s success on the Billboard 200, repeating the group’s highest placement at no. 4. It also marks the longest gap between studio releases in the group’s entire career; at five years, following The Final Frontier.
Harris stated that many of the songs were written and immediately recorded in the studio, adding to the record’s “live feel”. Guitarist Janick Gers explains that this involved abandoning their previous approach of spending several weeks writing and rehearsing, which meant that they “went into the studio with only outlines and finished writing the songs in the studio – so we were actually learning them, rehearsing them, and putting them down all at once”. According to guitarist Adrian Smith, the pressure this created was positive “because it snaps you into action”. Gers states that each member brought in approximately an hour of original music to the sessions, even though they “might only want to use 15 minutes of it”, the result being “a really broad spectrum of musical ideas”. As with all of their studio collaborations with Shirley, most of the album was recorded live with lots of first takes used for added spontaneity.
At 92 minutes in length, it is both the longest Iron Maiden studio album and their first double studio record. Speaking about the running time, Dickinson comments “we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that if it needed to be a double album, then double it’s going to be!” The Book of Souls received the Album of the Year award at the 2015 Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards, collected the 2016 Metal Hammer Golden Gold Award for Best Album, and won in the Best International Album category at the 2016 Bandit Rock Awards. In addition, it was also listed among the best albums of the year by some publications.
Artist: Iron Maiden
Album: The Book of Souls
Released: September 4, 2015
Label: Parlophone Records
Producer: Kevin Shirley, Steve Harris
Genre: Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
Website: Official Website
Discs: 2 discs
Reviewed by: Guest Reviewer
Our Rating: 4.4 /5
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