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The Book Of Souls

Well, I guess you all know that feeling: the one band you always adored for bringing you the light releases a new album. The anticipation and the undying love for that on one hand, the fearful questions and the scepticism on the other... In my case that one band is IRON MAIDEN. Their first five albums were my world when I was young, they gave me songs that are always in my heart. With “Somewhere In Time”, they disappointed me for the first time, it took me years to find out how great that album really is. Since that day, IRON MAIDEN released some more albums of course. Some of them were extremely fine, like “Brave New World”, some of them were disappointing, like “Virtual XI” and some of them took a little time to grow, like “A Matter Of Life And Death”. Well, complaining about a “bad” IRON MAIDEN album is mostly complaining on a high level anyway. In the meantime, we have the year 2015. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the band as well as my personal 35th IRON MAIDEN anniversary. Gosh, note to myself: never tell my readers again how old I really am... This anniversary is a good occasion to release a brand new IRON MAIDEN album. And thus we are at the point I talked about in the beginning. A band like MAIDEN does their anniversary in style - “The Book Of Souls” is nothing less than a double CD and triple LP with more than 90 minutes of music in finest MAIDEN quality, to relief all fans of the band. Of course the albums of this millennium saw the band remembering their roots, the Hard and Progressive Rock of the 1970s era. But that should not be a problem to any fan of the band, since these albums always still sounded like IRON MAIDEN. And “The Book Of Souls” excels the slightly changed trademarks of the band. The opening 'If Eternity Should Fail' is the first of many proofs for that. This one is quite epic for an album opener, with a long intro piece and fine twin guitars to start up the song. The tension builds up with Bruce Dickinson, who also wrote this one, at his best to flow into a galloping middle part. The second one is the first single 'Speed Of Light', already well known beforehand, a typical old fashioned up-tempo MAIDEN song that might have been on one of the band's albums from the mid 1980s. With some regards from '2 Minutes To Midnight' maybe, as both songs were composed by Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson. 'The Great Unknown' is a little bit unspectacular in comparison to that fast tune, yet this one has fine and powerful riffs and damn well played guitar solos. Be prepared for the best now, for with 'The Red And The Black', Steve Harris did what he's a master at. This one is an epic 13 minutes song with those well known “Oh-ho-ho” choruses of the past and the most fantastic lead guitars of the millennium. After such a highlight, a song like 'When The River Runs Deep' has a hard furrow to plough. But this song by Smith and Harris is doing pretty well, taking up speed again. If you expected an epic title track, 'The Book Of Souls' won't disappoint you, since this one is of course in finest tradition, with some hints on 'The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'. Janick Gers did a fine job as a co-composer of Steve Harris here. The second disc opens with a real blast from the past. 'Death Or Glory' leaves you with only one chance: to 'Die With Your Boots On'. Yes, this classic is in some ways a kind of blueprint to 'Death Or Glory', refined with some classic 1970s style guitar solos. And the intro piece of the following 'Shadows Of The Valley' refers to the past as well, since it reminds of the era of “Somewhere In Time”. In the middle part, this one is more in the way of the newer MAIDEN releases, with fine solos again. The thoughtful 'Tears Of A Clown' turns out to be one of my personal favourites on “The Book Of Souls”, a mid tempo song with a very catchy refrain and damn good riffs all the way. The up to now most unusual song on “The Book Of Souls” is 'The Man Of Sorrows', a semi-ballad with very strong 1970s Rock vibes and very melodic solo parts. This one was written by Steve Harris and Dave Murray, so the latter might be responsible for the unexpected feeling of the song. But IRON MAIDEN would not be IRON MAIDEN if they weren't able to take the biscuit! Bruce Dickinson was the one who did it, composing 'Empire Of The Clouds' all by himself. It is the longest song the band ever recorded, and most complex song as well. 'Empire Of The Clouds' starts off with a piano melody and even well placed strings and slowly builds its tension up to the point where you just sit and listen with your jaws dropping. The twists of this songs are so astounding, with turns into dramatic orchestration and Folk styled guitar harmonies, crowned by the best vocals Bruce Dickinson did in years, maybe the best ever. There's just one word to say about this song: gigantic!!! And with this 18 minutes masterpiece, “The Book Of Souls” gets closed. But not for long, as far as I am concerned, since I'm sure that this album will be mentioned in the same breath as the classic seven (or eight) IRON MAIDEN albums very soon. If anyone wanted to claim the throne of “The Best Band Of All Times”: just forget it! IRON MAIDEN will keep this throne forever! And with “The Book Of Souls”, they delivered the best proof for that thesis! If you can get a hold of it, pick up the vinyl version of the album, since it is released as a triple record, finally again on black vinyl, not on those bloody picture discs. In addition, the artwork that shows Eddie as a Mayan priest, looks better, of course, and the packaging is exquisite. Do you really need links? OK, here we are: and

Thomas Meyer

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