When every superlative known to man has already been used a hundred times over, it’s difficult to find something to say about Iron Maiden that hasn’t already been said. Every lyric, song, album and music video has been rated and evaluated to within an inch of its life. Business dealings and interviews are scrutinized in microscopic detail, and the minutiae of every record cover examined and dissected like a hairy art project. The moment anything regarding the band is released, the global hive mind that is Maiden’s information-hungry fan base not only know about it but have already expressed their opinion.
With Iron’s Maiden’s “Legacy of the Beast” tour set to hit North America this month, drummer Nicko McBrain has taken to the bands’ YouTube channel to run down how the band picks the setlist. Check out the videos below! Continue reading
Thirty-five years ago this week, Iron Maiden released Piece Of Mind (EMI/Capitol) cementing their legacy as arguably the best band ever in heavy metal. Their second album with Bruce Dickinson, following the spectacular success of Number of The Beast, the band was certainly under pressure for the much-anticipated follow-up. After leader/bassist Steve Harris wrote most of Number, the group chose a more collaborative approach on the new album. In addition to new drummer Nicko McBrain (ex-Trust/Pat Travers) who’s powerhouse drumming has buoyed the band ever since. Continue reading
Makers of incredible one of a kind drum wall art Select-A-Head, LLC, have announced new reduced pricing for their popular 22” pieces of art for some of the most popular bands. The new pricing comes just in time as the Seattle-based company has also established new partnerships with Rob Zombie, Alter Bridge, Mastodon and supergroup KXM. Continue reading
For you uninitiated, Alestorm is what us pirate loving, rum swilling, sing-a-long hullabalooers listen to. Their newest disk is No Grave But The Sea (Napalm). To be sure, there is some nifty metal and folk music happening here. Alestorm is fun and competent, and that’s a dangerous combination! No Grave But The Sea is Alestorm’s sixth full length album and, in fact, another winner in the pirate metal album genre.Continue reading
Last time out, 2012’s The Emptiness Within (Kolony), progressive deathsters De Profundis lit the touch paper of anticipation by spinning a twisted tower dire of cacophonous, methodical strands of tight, technical metal all wrapped taut in a very promising third album. Follow on by refining and developing the song-writing elements on Kingdom Of The Blind (Wickerman) would surely see De Profundis crowned as cyclopic kings?
Having stopped a gap with last years’ Frequencies EP (also Wickerman), two-thirds of the original material of which is regurgitated here, Kingdom Of The Blind (once we’re past the obligatory “atmospheric classical” intro – yawn), throws an interesting initial curve ball, as ‘Kult Of The Orthodox’ unfurls with a discordant melodic fury, before settling into a stately deathly march. Unfortunately it seems Tom Atherton has borrowed Nicko McBrain’s biscuit tin for a snare, as heard on No Prayer For The Dying (EMI), and the distracting “pah-pah-pah” takes away from a fine couple of Dissection tinged riffs.
Settling down after its’ initial divergence, Kingdom Of The Blind soon finds a comfort zone… though maybe not for the protagonists, whose dexterous performances risk finger-cramp at times. While mid-paced death metal, decorated with melodious and frequent leads and both progressive and technical deviances is the order of the day, once the early cards have been dealt there are few surprises to light the way.
Lacking either a truly innovative spark – the jazzy breakout in ‘All Consuming’ accompanied by the (though very complex) fretless bass noodling of Arran McSporran arrives as expected, neither shocking nor adding any particular dynamic embellishment to the song – or series of hooks to overly distinguish the tracks from each other, Kingdom Of The Blind competently passes by with its contorted mesh of riffs, overlaid with some Gregor Mackintosh-esque leads.
With touches of (very) early My Dying Bride in their more death metalling moments, and with more than a nod to the excellent Disincarnate and legendary Death (natch), De Profundis have turned in a decent, if safe, slab of progressive death metal that doesn’t reach the levels promised by its’ predecessor. Expectation can be a bugger, hey?
The arrival of a new Iron Maiden album is nearly always something to be celebrated. Probably the most consistently inventive and compelling heavy metal band of the past thirty years, the band’s new record, a double album effort, The Book of Souls (Parlophone/Sanctuary/BMG), is their 16th opus. For a band with such a celebrated history, it is a joy and delight to confirm that it stands resolute as one of the best things the band has produced. Ever.
Given the backdrop to the arrival of this record, notably lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s unexpected brush with cancer, one could be forgiven – and forgive the band – if you thought that, given the turmoil, something sub-par might turn up. Not a bit of it. Far from The Book of Souls being a “will this do?” contractual obligation effort, The Books of Souls sees the band in ridiculously fine fettle, delivering an album with heart and chutzpah in equal measure. It is a record of heft, of innovation and invention. It is an album to cheer from the rooftops.
The first two songs on the album are Dickinson only compositions and, perhaps more so than any Iron Maiden album even since his debut on 1982’s The Number of the Beast (EMI) his personality and musical talent positively radiates and dominates the record. ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ and ‘Speed of Light’ are both superb tracks, full of power and emotional range, substance and guile. On ‘The Great Unknown’ and ‘When the River Runs Deep’, the creative and intelligent interplay between Adrian Smith and Steve Harris is much in evidence. Harris’s role as a key driving force in Maiden has never been in doubt; Smith’s song writing is taught and focussed as ever, his musicianship breathtakingly accomplished. It’s a performance of valediction.
For an album that lasts the length of a movie but contains only eleven tracks it is perhaps inevitable that much of the focus on The Book of Souls will revolve around the album’s epic songs: ‘The Red and the Black’, ‘The Book of Souls’ and ‘Empire of the Clouds’.
‘The Red and the Black’ is a Harris-penned song and his only solo effort on this album; however, when it is as powerful and inspiring as this, you need not worry. This is a magnificent composition, fourteen minutes of atmospheric, captivating metal that is so brilliant put together that you can only sit back and admire the artistry at work. Whether it’s the infectious wo-oh-ohs, the cheeky and cunning nods to ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ on parts of the musical interludes, or the sheer bloody joy of it all, it scarcely matters. This is Maiden at their most epic, most versatile and most bellicose.
The album’s title track is similarly effortlessly brilliant. A continent-sized riff eases the listener into one of those epic, universe spanning classics that lets Bruce and his not inconsiderable lung power free. It’s familiar, alien, exotic, defiantly Maiden. The middle part sounds awfully like ‘Losfer Words’, the instrumental track off 1984’s Powerslave (EMI) but, as with the rest of the record, this sounds more like a band embracing their heritage rather than plundering it.
It’s the piano that initially knocks you sideways on the stunning coda that is ‘Empire of the Clouds’. Dickinson’s retelling of a British R101 Airship disaster of 1930 is, simply, majestic. This is historical narrative set to a Maiden soundtrack, passionate in its re telling the tale of human frailty and human heroism. This is progressive music at its very best: complex without indulgence, structured but not arch. Above all, it’s a song that for all the talk of it being eighteen minutes long, is actually something that would benefit from being longer. It’s an extraordinary way to end what is, let’s not be coy here, an extraordinary record.
The Book of Souls is everything that you hoped it would be and more. In this world of short attention spans, the announcement that Iron Maiden’s new album was going to be a proper double, weighing in at a hefty 92 mins felt like some statement of intent. Iron Maiden have never been ones to follow the vagaries of fashion and given their history and their collective sense of purpose they were deeply unlikely to start that kind of nonsense at this stage in their career.
An album that works on a number of levels – the strength of the songwriting, the collective and individual musicianship, the range and power of the entire album are all deeply impressive. This is a record about confronting mortality in an adult and mature way but it is no maudlin self-indulgence and is resolutely in favour of life and resolutely life-affirming.
The Book of Souls is the collective endeavour of a band still resolutely in love with music and still gracious and humble enough to want to share that with its audience. Happy and glorious, from epic start to bombastic end.