It was, undeniably, the biggest rock album of the year.
In September 2015 The Book Of Souls went to No.1 in 24 countries. It was also the biggest album of the year in terms of content: Iron Maiden’s first double studio album, running to 92 minutes.
Everything about it was big, the music built to a vast scale. No more so than on the monumental Empire Of The Clouds that closes the album, at 18 minutes the longest song they’ve ever recorded.
In every respect, The Book Of Souls was a triumph. And on the very deepest level, what it represented for Iron Maiden was something truly profound.
The back-story is well-documented: how singer Bruce Dickinson was diagnosed with cancer days after the record was completed. And how, during his lengthy treatment, the future for him and for the band hung in the balance. Confirmation of Dickinson’s full recovery was made public on August 25, 10 days before the album’s release. As Maiden’s bassist and leader Steve Harris told CR: “It was a huge relief, for all of us.”
The Book Of Souls might have been Iron Maiden’s last album. Both Harris and Dickinson are adamant that there will be at least one more. One thing is certain: for this legendary band, The Book Of Souls is a late-career masterpiece.
In Speed Of Light and Death Or Glory there was the cut-and-thrust of early Iron Maiden, but what defines this album is its epic songs: If Eternity Should Fail, The Red And The Black, the Mayan-themed title track and, finally, Empire Of The Clouds, written by Dickinson. He has described it as the most important piece of work he has ever created. But as he says: “I’m not done yet.”