Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls (Parlophone)

Genre: Heavy Metal

It’s Maiden. It’s metal. It’s a number one smash hit. And it clocks in at more than 90 minutes. How can The Book Of Souls possibly fail?

It doesn’t, of course. The most progressive record of Maiden’s career, coupled with Bruce Dickinson’s recovery from cancer, makes this an essential album. It’s technically proficient and emotionally charged, typically powerful and unerringly poignant.

And yet it’s still not perfect. For some reason long-time collaborator Kevin Shirley just hasn’t got the levels quite right. So much so that a double take on the credits was required before The Book Of Souls could be verified as a genuine Shirley/Harris collaboration.

An occasionally dubious mix doesn’t detract from the fact that this is an album of substance featuring a slew of intricate, immersive Maiden gems. Opener If Eternity Should Fail sets a foreboding tone with all six members given licence to let their respective talents run wild.

Once The Book Of Souls settles into its relentless rhythm the overall concept becomes clear and the more progressive elements emerge as something more than mere vanity.

Maiden are big on meaning – always have been and always will be – and rarely waste a note: if their latest opus might be a little too expansive for every fan’s taste it’s impossible to accuse Dickinson and co. of drama for drama’s sake.

The Book Of Souls demands a serious investment of time and understanding its complexity doesn’t come easy. That’s why it’s the most important Maiden record in a quarter of a century.

RUSHONROCK RATED: 8/10 Sweet Souls Music