British metal legends Iron Maiden have released The Book Of Souls, their 16th studio album and first since 2010's The Final Frontier. In 2012, they released a live album called En Vivo! which was recorded in Santiago, Chile, during a period when the band were touring heavily and playing some of the most acclaimed concerts in heavy metal history even at their advanced age.
The Book of Souls was recorded at recorded at Guillaume Tell Studios in Paris, and produced by Kevin Shirley. It's a great sounding album, with all the instruments sounding pristine. The polished sound comes perhaps at the cost of being not as dangerous and raw as some of their previous work. Still, there is more than enough danger to keep things interesting. The guitar parts are shred-tastic, the grooves are rock sold, and Bruce Dickinson's vocals are soaring.
At over 92 minutes, there isn't a bad track on The Book Of Souls. This is the band's first studio double-album, and the final song, "Empire of the Clouds," is now the longest track on a studio record in their discography that now spans 40 years. The lead single, "Speed Of Light," is a whirlwind of energy and excitement that bubbles with intensity and emotion.
The first disc sets a high-octane tone with the strong opener "If Eternity Should Fail." Other highlights include the aforementioned "Speed Of Light," as well as what might be the best guitar playing on the track in "The Great Unknown," and the dynamic title-track, "The Book Of Souls." Where the album falls a little flat is that some of the longer songs have long instrumental passages that aren't always particularly creative or exciting, but those leads still sound pretty damn good if you're into loud guitar-driven rock.
The second disc might be stronger than the first, with some great songwriting on each of the tracks: "Death Or Glory," "Shadows Of The Valley," "Tears Of A Clown," "The Man Of Sorrows," and that epic closer, "Empire Of The Clouds," which includes timely acoustic strings and piano that really broadens the sonic scope of the project beyond anything Iron Maiden has ever done.
The album's cover art was created by Mark Wilkinson. It features the band's mascot, Eddie, wearing face paint in the style of the Mayan people (who lived in what is now Mexico and Central America from ancient times until the Spanish conquest of the late 1600s). Bassist Steve Harris told Kerrang! Magazine that the band was influenced by the Mayans, who "believe that souls live on ."
There's no doubt that Iron Maiden are a band who will live on long after the band have stopped making music, and this is an album that pushes their legacy to another level.
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