Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Of Lols?

Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

BMG – 2015

Muthas, have you noticed that every recent album from the Old Masters of Metal has been praised to the hilt as being superb – Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, AC/DC, and now Iron Maiden?  Let’s face the truth, most of these albums range from awful, to forgettable, to passable, to average.  None of them is “the best thing the band has ever done” regardless of what most reviewers and the band members themselves claim.  So that brings us to the latest album from Iron MaidenThe Book Of Souls.  Most of the reviews of this album have devolved into nothing more than a hagiography of Maiden, with such absurd claims that it’s the best album since Brave New World, or Fear Of The Dark, or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, or even more absurdly Powerslave.  Come on man, that’s total bullshit.  Let’s not go crazy here, and instead let’s take a look at this album with an honest, critical eye.

Two things are immediately apparent upon the first listen to this 93 minute double album- the production by Kevin Shirley is fucking atrocious and Bruce’s vocals are very strained on the majority of the tracks. It’s is baffling to me that the band retains the services of Shirley because his production jobs are universally terrible.  There is absolutely no separation of the various instruments and the drum sound is particularly bad.  Poor Nicko’s drums sound like state of the art cardboard box drum sound from 1995.  Awful.  Bruce is really pushing it on most of the songs and the results are disappointing and troubling.  Bruce needs to take a page from Rob Halford’s book and pull it back a notch and realize that age has caught up with him.  The tongue cancer and chemo can’t have helped matters either.

What about the songs?  Well, there are eleven of them spread over two CDs.  Disc one clocks in at 50 minutes and disc two at 43 minutes. Of course there are some longer tracks, but there are many sub eight minute cuts for a change.  The album kicks off with “If Eternity Should Fail” and it’s a very good opener, with a catchy chorus and doesn’t feel its eight minute length.  The next song is the lead single, “Speed of Light” which feels dull and lifeless at first, but does get somewhat better with repeated listens.  There is a cool video game themed video for it which you can check out below:

“The Great Unknown is a good song that delivers the goods and has that vintage Maiden sound, but the album comes to a screeching halt with the next cut, “The Red And The Black.” Unfortunately, this is not a cover of the killer BOC song, but rather a bloated thirteen minute cut that could really use some judicious trimming.  Of course this is a Steve Harris construction and exhibits all of his worst modern day songwriting habits.  There’s probably a great five minute song lurking in there someplace, but I don’t have the patience for Steve’s bullshit. 

Thankfully, this is followed by “When The River Runs Deep” which shows tons of pep and is not repetitive at all which helps to clean the palate after “The Red And The Black.” Disc one closes with the ten minute title cut, and of the three ten-minute-plus songs on the album it’s the best.

Disc two opens with “Death Or Glory” which sounds like the Iron Maiden of the days of yore and is easily one of the best songs on the album.  It’s direct, full of energy and is a fun listen.  “Shadows Of The Valley” is enjoyable and sounds like something that could have been on Somewhere In Time without the synth guitars. 

“Tears Of A Clown” has cringe inducing lyrics about a comedian that’s really sad inside and it’s dedicated to Robin Williams. Maiden deserves a round of cock punches for this trite horseshit.  A clown that’s sad?!  How inventive!  I’ve never heard of that before.  Fuck off with this.  Paradoxically, the music is very good on this track with some very nice guitar work.  Too bad about the lyrics being hot garbage.

“The Man Of Sorrows” is a bit lackluster and sort of just plods along. It’s not the worst song on the album, but it’s one of the more forgettable compositions.  By the way, really inventive song title there Maiden.  It’s not like Bruce has a far superior song with the same title or anything.    

And that leaves us with only the eighteen minute and three second “Empire Of The Clouds” which many are hailing as a masterpiece on par with “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.”  Those people are fucking idiots. This song is thirteen minutes too long and is a perfect example of self-indulgent, repetitive twaddle featuring Bruce Dickinson at his pretentious worst.  Egads.  There isn’t even a guitar solo until ten minutes into this journey to the center of boredom.  The rest of the band was probably like, “Oh fuck!  Bruce has cancer!  We’d better indulge this horseshit because who knows how long he’ll be around.”  Of course it’s about a blimp that crashed in 1930.  How exciting!  I’d rather listen to Bruce recite passages from a 747 maintenance manual.  Fuck this shit. Boo!!!!

Well this is harsh.  It's not that bad.

The Bottom Line:  The Book Of Souls is not a great Iron Maiden album, but it is the best Iron Maiden album since the reunion.  Of course, that’s not much of a high bar to hurdle, but they did at least achieve that.  If you are a fan of the band from their classic period you will find a lot to enjoy here even with its flaws.  It’s bloated with several tracks that are absurdly long, but you can always skip the nonsense.  If this sounds like something you’d like, then go buy it, or better yet, go buy Bruce’s Accident Of Birth and The Chemical Wedding which are far better than anything that Maiden has put out since 1988.


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