The stories behind Bruce Dickinson's new album The Mandrake Project

Bruce Dickinson: The Mandrake Project
(Image credit: Press/BMG)

Almost 20 years since his last solo album and over a decade in the making, Bruce Dickinson has torn himself away from the bosom of Iron Maiden to foster his solo output on The Mandrake Project

Bruce spoke to Hammer all about the hows and why's of the ambitious project - which includes both an album and series of comic books - but what of the songs themselves? We got Bruce to shed some light on exactly what the stories are behind each of the songs... 

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Afterglow Of Ragnarok

The album’s barnstorming first single – a look at the potential upsides of the apocalypse. Bruce says: “It’s got nothing at all to do with Norse mythology. It’s about the world going to shit and it just cleansing everything.” 

Many Doors To Hell

Propulsive yet evocative anthem of a female vampire bored with eternity who wants to regain her humanity. “It has nothing to do whatsoever with the comic, but I thought, ‘Screw it, it sounds really fucking good anyway.’” 

Rain On The Graves

Started back in 2008 and inspired by Bruce’s visit to the grave of 19th-century romantic poet William Wordsworth. “But it’s about a man meeting the Devil in the graveyard and making a Faustian pact. Graveyards can be inspirational places,” explains the singer. 

Resurrection Men

One of the songs on the album that ties in directly to the comic, centred on anti-heroes Doctor Necropolis and Professor Lazarus, and teasing the promise of eternal life. Features some twanging surf guitar from Bruce: “It’s my Dick Dale/Pulp Fiction moment.” 

Fingers In The Wounds

A classic, soaring Dickinson vocal sits atop a delicate piano melody and a big, sweeping chorus on this takedown of blind religious idolatory: ‘You walk in his shoes / With feet made of clay.’

Eternity Has Failed

AKA If Eternity Should Fail, the album’s original title before it was purloined by Steve Harris for Iron Maiden’s The Book Of Souls. Bruce: “When I came back to it, I’d got the story of the comic: ‘Oh, right, eternity has failed because these fuckers have played around with it.’ I chucked in the choir at the end – another Hammer Horror moment.” 

Mistress Of Mercy

The Mandrake’s Project's most straightforward song: a shot of heaviness and melody. “I wrote the riff on an acoustic, basically on one string. I thought, ‘If it sounds heavy now, imagine how amazing it will sound with a big, smashing rhythm and some loud guitar?” 

Face In The Mirror

Moody look at addiction and alcohol abuse: “It’s quite personal, in that I know a lot of people who have been through that. It’s that whole thing of who you really are when you look in the mirror in the morning: there but the grace of God goes everybody.” Features the singer’s first ever recorded guitar solo.

Shadow Of The Gods

Shapeshifting mini-prog metal epic that mixes grandstanding power balladry with heavy riffing. “It’s kind of a cosmic version of Romeo And Juliet – starcrossed lovers who want to escape their horrible life and go and live in the sunlit uplands of somewhere beautiful.” 

Sonata (Immortal Beloved)

Stately, slowburning 10-minute closing track. “It dates back to before Tyranny Of Souls, even. Roy had this really atmospheric music, and I went into his garage with no words and just made up 80% of the lyrics as I went along: ‘Save me now…’ That story is going to make an appearance in the comic at some point.”

The Mandrake Project is out March 1 via BMG. Bruce Dickinson's solo tour starts April 15 at The Observatory in Orange County. For the full list of dates, visit his official website

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.