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Review: Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
Iron Maiden
The Book of Souls

Label: Parlophone Records
Year released: 2015
Duration: 1:32:15
Tracks: 11
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 3.75/5

Review online: November 23, 2015
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
The Book of Souls

Rated 4.12/5 (82.47%) (89 Votes)

It's almost kind of irrelevant reviewing Maiden albums these days, as they have gone on so long, and become so much bigger than their chosen genre that they are practically impervious to criticism. They are a behemoth, an institution, and there are enough fanboys who worship everything they do that they will be able to keep recording and touring as long as they want to, no matter what I say.

That said, a big part of that is that they have been, and continue to be, a good band, and even on their sixteenth studio album they produce music that is more than good enough to justify their existence. I thought their last album, The Final Frontier, was a career high point, easily as good as their best classic material, and now here we have the biggest Iron Maiden album ever. The Book of Souls is a massive, ninety-two-minute double album that contains a lot of good stuff, but is – unsurprisingly – rather overstuffed and bloated.

Now, Maiden have spent the better part of the last twenty years getting bigger, slower, and somewhat more ponderous. It's just their style, and they are never again going to be the young band that bashed out "Aces High" or "Number of the Beast". But there is plenty of good to be found in their more epic approach, even if this time out they let it get out of hand. You get some really nice cuts of classic Maiden goodness like opener "If Eternity Should Fail" and "Tears of a Clown". Then you have several massive cuts like "The Red and the Black" (which features such a quintessential Maiden riff the band ought to sue themselves for plagiarism) and of course the monumental "Empire of the Clouds" which both feature some great stuff, but are too ponderous and disjointed to really work.

Overall, I would have to say the major problem with The Book of Souls is that it is too long, too slow-moving, and too baggy. It has some good stuff on it, but you have to wade through a lot to get to it, and the whole thing just takes too long to get anywhere. There is also the very Maiden-ish tendency toward repeating the choruses Too Many Times. You could have cut this album by about a third and had a much tighter, punchier work. The production as well could have used a kick, as the sound is a bit too rounded-off and smooth, not as vibrant as I would have liked. Bruce sounds great, but the guitars especially are too safe-sounding, and could stand to be turned up a notch. On the whole this album labors under a slight pall, without enough energy in the performances or in the production to really bring these songs to life. I will be curious to see if these compositions sound better live and in person, as I suspect they will. Bottom line, if you like Maiden's epic latter-period works then you will find a lot here to like, but it's not as good as The Final Frontier, not even close.

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