I just finished listening to the new Iron Maiden album The Book of Souls. The hype surrounding this album has probably been bigger then any other IM album ever. This is probably due to three things surrounding the album.
First, after the recording, vocalist Bruce Dickinson was diagnosed with having cancer on his tongue and at the back of his throat. He has since beaten it and has been on the road to full recovery. Second, there are two lengthy solo Dickinson compositions which bookend the album, If Eternity Should Fail and Empire of the Clouds. Third, Dickinson wrote on, and plays piano on, Empire of the Clouds. Overall, these three points are reason enough to get excited about the album, and I was. Now on to the music.
I was happy to hear that again they haven't relied on the chord cliche of Em D C or Am G F, but this has been the case since Brave New World. There seems to be more harmony guitars throughout the songs. I know this is IM and they're known for their harmony guitars, but it sounds as if they're in almost every song, so that got a bit tiresome for my ears. The longer songs also seem to be a bit patchy from section to section and lack a flow. For a great example of how they've made their longer songs work well, take a listen to Hallowed be thy Name, To Tame a Land, Alexander the Great, Sign of the Cross or Paschendale.
Over all I enjoyed the album and thought there were a few stand out songs. Opener If Eternity Should Fail is fantastic and probably one of my new favourites. Tears of a Clown has a nice groove to it with a syncopated riff in the intro. The tour de force is the closing Empire of the Clouds. This song is not bad, but for any fan of Progressive Rock (Genesis, Yes), the song is a bit of a let down. Sure the piano is different for IM and the song is 20 minutes, but Suppers Ready and Hemispheres are both superior due to their better execution and more cohesive song structure.
For anyone who hasn't been listening to Maiden for the past 15 years, this album will be awesome. It's just that for me, I find most of it the same old, although I really liked A Matter of Life and Death.
I would definitely put this album above the The Final Frontier, Dance of Death, Brave New World, Virtual XI and No Prayer for the Dying.