The transformation of Iron Maiden into epic progressive metal obsessed dullards has probably been one of the biggest declines in metal history.
Written by: Dangerzone
ARTIST: Iron Maiden
ALBUM: The Book Of Souls
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Bruce Dickinson – vocals * Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers – guitars * Steve Harris – bass * Nicko McBrain – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01-01 If Eternity Should Fail * 01-02 Speed Of Light * 01-03 The Great Unknown * 01-04 The Red And The Black * 01-05 When The River Runs Deep * 01-06 The Book Of Souls * 02-01 Death Or Glory * 02-02 Shadows Of The Valley * 02-03 Tears Of A Clown * 02-04 The Man Of Sorrows * 02-05 Empires Of The Clouds
WEBLINKS: Site Link
The transformation of Iron Maiden into epic progressive metal obsessed dullards has probably been one of the biggest declines in metal history. The critics would have you think otherwise, citing their post 2000 albums onward as instant classics and that somehow Maiden have reinvented heavy metal as a whole, topping their 1980’s work.
As you probably have ascertained by my past Maiden reviews I’ve been less than enamored with this change in direction, one which has spanned two decades now. 2010’s ‘The Final Frontier’ was especially galling, repetitive and numbing in every avenue, their worst yet. Somehow five years on Maiden have seen fit to push the limits of monotony to the extreme, with this album a 93 minute feast of every element which makes their current existence so frustrating.
It was never going to be a surprise the album would be lengthy, but even the most ardent Maiden fan must be wary of tracks clocking in at 18 minutes for example. To say this makes for excruciating listening is an understatement, my enthusiasm for this band and their music is at its lowest ebb ever.
There’s a part of me that wants to like what Maiden produce, but it’s not possible. The idea of going through this track by track is futile because it’s a repeat of ideas heard on the last four albums, with the same boring production by Kevin Shirley who somehow makes the band sound like there’s barely one guitarist in the mix, rather than three.
What’s there to say? Ten tracks, a few short ones with a commercial edge, tempered by a rash of the usual epics, three running over ten minutes. You get the requisite slow bass intros from Harris, slowly building in tempo to some random heavier sections which last a minute or so, with Dickinson rambling about the meaning of life in various forms.
If this sounds familiar it should. Take the 18 minute ‘Empire Of The Clouds’ which takes a good five minutes to even get going; who has time for this slop anymore? It sounds like a studio jam which just happened to be recorded for posterity’s sake. Of course there are the sub five minute tracks like ‘Speed Of Light’ ‘Tears Of A Clown’ and ‘Death And Glory’ which are supposed to make up for the endless epics.
But even at their most commercial, Maiden have lost their vision, the heaviness is non-existent and ‘Speed Of Light’ sounds like a reject from 1990 at best. One of the worst offenders is ‘Man Of Sorrows’ which could almost be a pop song. It’s depressing and very light, even worse than the Blaze Bayley era ‘2 A.M.’ I can’t think of a worse comparison.
Listening to the Harris intro to 13 minute ‘The Red And The Black’ could be any one of multiple tracks on the last four albums prior to this. Somehow Maiden’s songs have become indistinguishable from each other, the days of their albums having their own identities banished. You’d have to be somewhat of a sadist to sit through it all, the payoff being totally absent.
Aren’t Maiden supposed to blow you away? Where did it go? Lemmy’s 70 and still doing it, why can’t these guys? Even a song like ‘Where The River Runs Deep’ which on the surface is faster, is still ineffective. Wading six minutes into the ten minute title track provides a section which could be from 1984, but in the face of such a bloated and unnecessarily long song it means nothing.
Reading reviews of this album by the press who used to revile Maiden in the 90’s, you’d think this was the defining masterpiece of Maiden’s career. What are they listening to? The funny part is anyone who utters a desire for Maiden to return to their 80’s sound is dismissed as living in the past and instead should embrace Maiden’s evolution to progressive metal genius.
My take is these guys have plundered this direction for 20 years, much longer than their days playing a more direct form of metal that resonated instantly. So who’s regressed? How much is enough? Obviously this late in the game that point is irrelevant, but I find this album a revolting display of excess from a band I used to consider the greatest metal band ever. Now it’s more along the lines of pretentious metal banality, with ‘The Book Of Souls’ another nadir for a band I barely recognize anymore.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)