‘Book of Souls’ reflects band’s long career

Kieran Graulich, Music Editor

Fans of Iron Maiden might wonder if their fire still burns as strongly in 2015 as it did in 1981. That’s up for debate. In the British metal legends’ latest effort, “Book of Souls,” Iron Maiden serves up their longest album to date, which is quite a feat for a band nearly four decades into their career. However, the second half of Maiden’s discography has been trademarked by longer, drawn out and more symphonic album structures.

The average post-2000 Maiden song clocks in at nearly seven minutes long, a length rivaled only by contemporaries Metallica. The most recent catalogue of Maiden’s career has been defined by long sagas and more mature, varied soundscapes, so a double album reaching 90 minutes long is not necessarily out of character. “Book of Souls” fits, almost to a fault, Iron Maiden’s formula: anthemic songs often spanning over 10 minutes in length, soaring, epic vocals from frontman Bruce Dickinson, a confusingly large number of Celtic-themed guitar interludes and a melodramatic bravado that has often served the band well.

However, one would be disappointed to find that Iron Maiden seldom breaks new ground on “Book of Souls.” This might be because Maiden has already broken all the ground that there is to find, yet the staleness of “Book of Souls” is alarmingly prominent. “Book of Souls” almost never delivers a bad song, but at the same time rarely delivers an exciting moment or fresh sound. For a die-hard Iron Maiden fan, this may not exactly be a bad thing. The album isn’t a painful experience, yet it does little to capture the attention of someone not already completely invested in it.

Despite the lack of surprises, Iron Maiden’s new album can still offer a pleasurable listening experience, particularly on the heart-pumping, 13-minute burner “The Red and the Black,” or “When the River Runs Deep,” where Maiden manage to strike the iron just right and keep their audience captivated for the entire run of the song. However, all too often on the album, Maiden is found recycling old formulae and song ideas; one needs to be willing to hear similar material for 90 minutes to fully enjoy “Book of Souls.”

After all, it seems like Maiden are growing a bit tired. Bruce’s soaring tenor is now weathered down to a simmering baritone and the guitars and drums are just a little slower than before. If you’re a metal fan of any kind, you almost owe Maiden the respect of giving “Book of Souls” a try, and you’ll probably find something you enjoy. However, for those who have a more eclectic taste, it might be a better idea to look back to Iron Maiden’s older albums and take this album as a marker of a later time in Iron Maiden’s catalogue.

Email Kieran Graulich at [email protected]