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Iron Maiden are the true survival story of British heavy metal, now in their landmark fortieth year together. The Book of Souls, their sixteenth (!) LP overall, was not done by halves.
Their first double album, their longest-ever song, they even had the song’s titles translated into hieroglyphics. It’s almost as if the realisation that they have approached the 40-year milestone has given them something to prove about the lasting power of the band and, on that basis, Souls is commendable.
At the centre, as always, is Bruce Dickinson. He remains one of the evergreen greats of the genre, all cape-swishing melodrama and shrieking histrionics. At 57, he is still able to reach the insurmountable heights of the band’s glory days and is clearly having a ball doing it.
It’s also hard to deny the triple-guitar attack of Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers; each of whom have their moments to shine. The technique is present and accounted for – its downfall, instead, comes with the fact The Book of Souls is literally exhausting.
At 92 minutes, one constantly finds themselves glancing upon the ‘time remaining’ scroll, growing wearier and wearier as the songs progress. The band justified the length, saying that every second counts; but there are far too many moments – the keyboard-fart intro of If Eternity Should Fail, the incessant “whoah-oh”s of The Red and the Black, a solid third of Empire of the Clouds – that explicitly suggest otherwise.
Those with Eddie tattoos on full display will welcome this return, but even they may struggle to keep up with their overly-ambitious heroes. Props to Maiden for their efforts in trying to shake things up, but the KISS principle could well have saved this entire LP from the depths of over-indulgence.
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