The Book of Souls | Iron Maiden Week (Day Five)

Fear not weary metal head. Fear not Iron Uppers! The long wait is over. The five year chasm that we all drudged our way through since the last Iron Maiden studio album has been scaled. Our long national nightmare - scratch that - our long GLOBAL nightmare has finally come to an end today.

The new Iron Maiden record is out for all of us with the correct taste in music to enjoy!

I ordered my copy weeks ago online from Best Buy to be delivered at my door today - then I saw in the tracking info yesterday that it wouldn't be here until next Wednesday. I'm sorry, don't they know what today is? That's just not going to work.

I couldn't cancel my online order, so I'll just turn around and return it as soon as it arrives. This morning, I went to the local record store - okay I still went to Best Buy - and walked right in when the doors opened at 10:00am. Surprisingly there wasn't a line of 40 year old men in Iron Maiden shirts waiting to get in...Unless one person counts as a line - then there definitely was.

Anyway, I put on the first CD for the car ride home, and the only new song I heard for the first time was the opening track. I decided not to listen to it while working, not to have it on while walking my dog. I wanted to sit down - with the lyric book (yes I bought the special edition) - and focus 100% of my brain on this new record. I listened on the back porch until it was too dark to read the lyrics, then I put a light on and stayed until the bugs got too annoying - and that one bat flew by one two many times...Which is one time.

That was around track number four. I came in and listened to the remaining seven tracks on the couch. Eleven tracks, over 92 minutes. That means the average track is over 8.5 minutes long. Of course that average is skewed by the final song on the record - but still, this is a LONG ALBUM. It's a lot to take in, as any good album is. It shall take me many listens to really discover it, but here are my real first impressions.

(I took terrible notes, so a lot of this is stream of consciousness while I have it on in the background for another listen. And you can listen along with me as The Book of Souls is streaming now on Spotify)




If Eternity Should Fail [8:28]


Written By: Bruce Dickinson

This is how you open up a new record! It felt like a real introduction into something. Some trippy synth and Bruce sounding eerily (that's a word, right?) - but that only lasts for about 90 seconds and the song kicks in to that galloping that Maiden is known for. This is the song I listened to on my ride home from the store and half way through it I was already singing the chorus - that is what I call "a good sign."

Great interlude with some awesome Nicko drumming and dueling guitar licks. All and all, a very good opening.

The ending though - a little creepy, right?




Speed of Light [5:01]


Written By: Adrian Smith & Bruce Dickinson

I've heard this song probably 100 times already, and I've already talked about it. At this point, this feels like a Maiden song I already "know" - as it just feels like it's already part of the Maiden lexicon. I can play it pretty good on guitar and have all the words down basically. So this song already has its stamp of approval by me!




The Great Unknown [6:37]


Written By: Adrian Smith & Steve Harris

This song really was the "Great Unknown" for me as this was the first song tonight that I haven't heard at least one time before. Looking at my notes (and listening to it again) I can agree with myself - Bruce sings his frigging ass on this one. Really, what else do you need to know? These are my immediate reactions - so they might not be the most well thought out...oh man he sure is singing his ass off.

One thing you have to remember, Bruce was treated for cancer AFTER this album was recorded, so he had cancerous tumors on his tongue WHILE he was singing like this. Amazing.

(P.S. I like this song even more the second time)




The Red and the Black [13:33]


Written By: Steve Harris

Every song on this album is pretty long, but this is the first epic (and certainly not the last). Also, this is the first "Steve Harris" penned song - actually, it's the only one that he's written on his own.

And after first listen - this is my favorite song on the record. I had two notes I wrote down for this song. The first one was simply this.

I'm in love!

And the second one was that I can't wait to learn all the words - because there are a lot of them. I was out on my deck with my hands raised in excitement with this tune (until that bat flew by and I ran inside).

Great guitar licks, catchy chanting (is that what it's called when the only lyric is "Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh"?) I cannot WAIT to hear this song live. The crowd interaction should be amazing.

This is already a Maiden classic as far as I'm concerned and I've only listened to it one and a half times.




When the River Runs Deep [5:52]


Written By: Adrian Smith & Steve Harris

Under six minutes? What is this a pop radio song? Ha, my notes say this is a "Rock and Roll" song. It has a nice groove, some good vocal harmonics and once again Bruce destroys! Also a nice 3-layer solo for all three guitarists, and I like how the chorus slows down in between quickly pastes verses.

Ug, it's tough having all these Maiden songs and not being able to sing along - YET!




The Book of Souls [10:27]


Written By: Janick Gers & Steve Harris

I've heard a few interviews with Bruce recently where he talks about how they got to song number 6 (who is number 1? sorry couldn't resist) anyway, when they got to this song they looked at the length and said - uh oh, I think we're going to have to do a double album. Lucky us! It's not a double album because they have 22 songs they just can't cut down, it's because they have 11 LONG ASS SONGS!

Here's another one over 10 minutes, and the first to be co-written by guitarist (and the most manic one at live shows next to Bruce) Janick Gers.

Maiden loves slow, quite openings and this one is right up there - but it kicks in with a killer riff that sounds like CLASSIC Maiden!

My only note (I was getting a little tired) was "Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!" probably in reference to the chorus where he once again kills it.

Yeah, I'm not a critic - just a giant, gushing fan - haven't you figured that out by now?




Death or Glory [5:13]


Written By: Adrian Smith & Bruce Dickinson

This song opens up disc #2 for all you old fashion CD people. My notes say "Rock Tune" with a catchy chorus. Then I wrote "Bouncer" which I think means it made me bounce in my chair, always good. Then I wrote a smiley face, a star, and wrote "like it" so you can tell I take these notes seriously.

Pretty straight forward, no sweeping tempo changes - just pure hard rock.




Shadows of the Valley [7:32]


Written By: Janick Gers & Steve Harris

If you're a Maiden fan, the first thing that popped in your head was Wasted Years. Just for a second, but it was there. Then maybe Sea of Madness - because Bruce actually said those words.

I wrote down "look forward to learning this one one guitar" it's another catchy bouncy tune. See, Iron Maiden doesn't make me want to mosh. It does make me want to bang my head from time to time, but mostly I'm just bobbing my head. Bobbing with occasional banging. Really Maiden just makes me want to sing along. Not scream. Not growl. Sing...And learn how to play it on guitar.

That's my next step after a few listens of this album.




Tears of a Clown [4:59]


Written By: Adrian Smith & Steve Harris

If I listened to this song, I would've thought the lyrics were sad enough. When I read that this song was a tribute to the late Robin Williams, it takes on a whole new meaning. It's the shortest song on the record, with a nice groove/riff, and is about the closest thing Maiden comes to a power ballad.

I like it, but it's the lyric in this one that speak to me.




The Man of Sorrows [6:28]


Written By: Dave Murray & Steve Harris

This song is the only one on the record with a credit for guitarist Dave Murray, one of only two members (founder Steve Harris) to be on every Iron Maiden record. A nice, calm start with (once again) some great Bruce singing. It kicks in after a couple minutes. Some weird transitions in this one that actually make the song more interesting. Cool song.




Empire of the Clouds [18:01]


Written By: Bruce Dickinson

Eighteen minutes? Are you kidding me? Punk bands can fit six songs into 18 minutes and Iron Maiden fits one song????

Can I just tell you that these 18 minutes might have been my most favorite of the entire listening experience?

Picture if you will, an 18 minute song, about the British R101 airship that crashed in 1930. An 18 minute song about a 85-year old airship disaster, without any real chorus, without any real repeated lyrics.

And it's god damn amazing.

Here is a run down of my notes. It was a long song, so there were more than a couple thoughts:

  • Piano!!!

  • I think I'm in love

  • No Chorus?

  • Oh shit yes! The interlude!

  • Love the Tempo Changes

  • Another Change

  • More Piano!

  • Of course Bruce - the pilot - is going to write about aviation!

  • Fastest 18 minutes


Really, it's an epic masterpiece and something I hope doesn't get lost to people who are not Iron Maiden fans.




So that's it. The years of waiting, the months of anticipation, the weeks of knowing it was coming - and this week - this Iron Maiden Week - was all in preparation for today. A great day for hard rock and music. A great day for music fans!

It's been fun focusing on my favorite band all week. Now I need to go listen to this album another 500 times.

Up The Irons!
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