It’s here. Like the longed-for, hairy Father Christmas of heavy metal, the Maiden ship hath arriveth.
The bottom line: The Book Of Souls is Iron Maiden as you know them, but rejuvenated by the riffy weight that spawned some of their prime early 80s material. Hearty, rabble-rousing yarns of yore, chords like still-twitching steaks, thick BBQ sauce layers of guitars, Bruce Dickinson’s lungs of operatic steel… they’re back with colossal intent.
The level of security, the iron tower of bureaucracy that’s gone into policing this release, has been immense. Even now I’m almost afraid to write about it, in case of inadvertently infringing some measure. Distribution of review copies has been strictly vetted. Accidentally leaked slithers of information, confusion over release dates etc were met with aghast panic… Christ, the White House isn’t this well guarded. Such is the reverence commanded by the Maiden camp circa 2015.
And actually, that’s kind of brilliant. For a band so gleefully hooked in a world unshaken since the 80s – visually built around Eddie the Head, for godssake – to generate this much anticipation in the iPad age, is a lovely thing. You could argue it’s just plain daft (“I stopped liking them when I grew up” one friend told me) but their enduring legacy is pretty remarkable. A triumph of pomp and far-fetched protein over ‘cool’ subtlety.
In many ways, however, it’s a more thoughtful Maiden on show here, with solemn layers flourishing in the multi-tonal likes of The Great Unknown. Eastern, Kashmir-esque edges pepper the title track, while The Red And The Black is a classic, mad pirate-wailing piece of Harris-penned oomph – which, like many tracks here, grows into a bigger, more varied monster than you expect.
If you don’t already like Iron Maiden, chances are you won’t now. Saying this, Speed Of Light probably has the best shot at converting non-fans. It’s lip-smackingly tasty, there’s a sparky, almost celtic momentum as the verses climax, and that chorus… it’s bloody marvellous, and a snappy counterpart to Bruce’s epic, proggy 18-minuter Empire Of The Clouds (don’t fear the length though; it’s an accomplished album highlight).
Maiden fans, rejoice and strap in – you’re in for a great ride, with just about everything you wanted.