Try to keep calm, everyone...
IRON MAIDEN's eagerly awaited new studio album, "The Book Of Souls", will be released globally on September 4 through Parlophone Records (Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG in the U.S.A.). It was recorded in Paris with their longstanding producer Kevin "Caveman" Shirley in late 2014, with the finishing touches added earlier this year. However, the band decided to delay its release so that vocalist Bruce Dickinson, who was recently given the all-clear from a tumour, would have time to recuperate sufficiently to join in the preparations for the album's launch.
The stunning cover art was created by Mark Wilkinson, who has worked with the band previously, and because this 11-track album has a total running time of 92 minutes, it is IRON MAIDEN's first-ever double studio album. There's a broader split on the songwriting compared to previous MAIDEN records, with bassist and founder member Steve Harris contributing to seven of the tracks; six of them with MAIDEN's guitarists and one sole composition. This is also the first time since 1984's "Powerslave" that an IRON MAIDEN studio album also features two tracks written solely by Bruce Dickinson, one of which is the longest song MAIDEN has ever recorded! And also two Dickinson/Smith collaborations.
Steve comments: "We approached this album in a different way to how we've recorded previously. A lot of the songs were actually written while we were there in the studio and we rehearsed and recorded them straight away while they were still fresh, and I think that immediacy really shows in the songs, they have almost a live feel to them, I think. I'm very proud of 'The Book Of Souls', we all are, and we can't wait for our fans to hear it, and especially to take it out on the road next year!"
Bruce continues: "We're really excited about 'The Book Of Souls' and had a fantastic time creating it. We started working on the album in late summer 2014 and recorded it at Guillame Tell Studios in Paris, where we'd done the 'Brave New World' album back in 2000 so the studio holds special memories for all of us. We were delighted to discover the same magical vibe is still alive and very much kicking there! So we immediately felt at home and the ideas just started flowing. By the time we'd finished we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that if it needed to be a double album, then double its going to be!"
The full track listing is:
01. If Eternity Should Fail (Dickinson) 8:28
02. Speed Of Light (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:01
03. The Great Unknown (Smith/ Harris) 6:37
04. The Red And The Black (Harris) 13:33
05. When The River Runs Deep (Smith/ Harris) 5:52
06. The Book Of Souls (Gers/ Harris) 10:27
Disc 2I can't say I'm all that impressed by the cover artwork. IRON MAIDEN has a legacy of truly spectacular cover art, and when compared to the artwork for, say, The Final Frontier or Fear of the Dark, this just seems... tame. More like the cover art for The X Factor, the album that every MAIDEN fan from the 80s hates to admit that he likes.
07. Death Or Glory (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:13
08. Shadows Of The Valley (Gers/ Harris) 7:32
09. Tears Of A Clown (Smith/ Harris) 4:59
10. The Man Of Sorrows (Murray/ Harris) 6:28
11. Empire Of The Clouds (Dickinson) 18:01
It also looks like the very proggy, somewhat slower direction that the band has taken for the last, oh, twenty years is going to be front-and-centre once again. I know that a lot of MAIDEN fans want to go back to the classic thundering sound of the mid-1980s, but the fact is that those days are long done. Think about it- most of the guys in the band are in their mid-to-late-fifties. Nicko McBrain is sixty-three. He's older than Neil Peart. There is simply no way that a bunch of guys that old are going to be playing with the speed and ferocity of a bunch of twenty-something whippernsnappers.
That being said- if you've seen them live (and I have- something like 7 times), you know full well that they make bands one third their age look slow and boring by comparison. They've been doing this for nearly 40 years. And they are, quite simply, the greatest. Ever.
And the fans just keep getting younger every year. Every MAIDEN gig that I've ever been to has always had these teenagers going bonkers in the pits; every year, it seems like more young fans get introduced to the music of one of the very few bands in heavy metal with true staying power.
This year is shaping up to be a truly monumental one for metal. We've already had new material from BLIND GUARDIAN, HELLOWEEN, and NIGHTWISH- all excellent- and we've got new AMON AMARTH, CHILDREN OF BODOM, KREATOR, SYMPHONY X, POWERWOLF, UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, and of course the magnificent IRON MAIDEN to look forward to.
Old farts like me are going to look back on the Year of Our Lord 2015 with great fondness in decades to come.
In the meantime- UP THE IRONS!