Unlike Bruce Dickinson’s creditable Accident Of Birth and Chemical Wedding albums, on Tyranny Of Souls there’s no sign of guitarist Adrian Smith, who returned to Iron Maiden with him.
Athough the singer has again worked with guitarist/co-writer Roy Z from Latino-flavoured LA rockers Tribe Of Gypsies. Bruce is still steering the course he charted on his earlier albums – a thorough re-immersion into metal with a modern twist – and the result is a superbly consistent album.
Generally, the lyrics and feel continue the particularly macabre turn all the writers in Maiden took on Dance Of Death, which isn’t too surprising considering Bruce wrote the words during Maiden’s tour for that album, fitting them to guitar riffs Roy Z sent him. The singer’s fascination with flight is evident throughout, and is most overt in Kill Devil Hill, named after the North Carolina vantage point from which the flight-pioneering Wright brothers flew. Fittingly, with Bruce explicitly referencing Maiden’s Flight Of Icarus, this and the equally powerful Soul Intruders are the tracks that would best fit Maiden.
There’s a technological edge to the stately River Of No Return and the frenetic Power Of The Sun, while the foreboding _Believil _reproduces the bone-crushing dynamics that Roy Z helped Judas Priest produce on Angel Of Retribution. The title track, meanwhile, brilliantly combines the juddering angularity of modern American rock with Bruce’s defiantly British delivery.
The centrepiece of the album is the wistful sci-fi-inspired Navigate The Seas Of The Sun, on which a tranquil Dickinson imagines ‘distant earth-rise long ago lingering at the borders of our minds’, while Roy Z demonstrates his Latino background with a gorgeously fluent acoustic solo that contrasts wonderfully with the electric work elsewhere. Bruce saves his air-raid-siren impressions for some distant wailing in the final chorus, and with haunting effect.
He may have rebelled against the perception of himself as ‘only’ a heavy metal singer during his first years away from Maiden, but really he had nothing to prove to those people preoccupied with vacuous notions of ‘cool’. The same sort of people who tried to tell us that the likes of The Strokes and The Vines were ‘incredible’ rather than ‘not bad’, and who never appreciated Bruce’s or Maiden’s talents in the first place.
It’s good that Bruce is playing to his formidable strengths and has put his apologetic demeanour behind him. After all, as he sings on the witty Devil On A Hog, he’s ‘not the shy retiring kind’.