From a prog point of view, the augurs for Maiden’s 16th album boded well: triple vinyl; songs clocking in at eight, 10, 13 and 18 minutes-plus; Mark Wilkinson artwork.
Could it be that Britain’s biggest ever metal band have finally given in to the passion for progressive music that flows through the veins of mainmen Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson? In a way, yes. And then in others, no. The Book Of Souls is, first and foremost, a great Iron Maiden album. And for a band not daunted by ambition, one that certainly stretches them like never before. Sure, there’s probably too much trad Maiden metal here to assuage those readers already sniffy about the words ‘Iron’ and ‘Maiden’ appearing in Prog. However, those who do dip in will find some excellent prog metal here in opener If Eternity Should Fail, the epic The Great Unknown, The Red And The Black’s gloriously OTT mid section and the title track too. The clincher is Dickinson’s colossal Empire Of The Clouds — pure prog rock indulgence, from its plaintive opening piano chords to swirling Jethro Tull-like mood. It’s the best thing the band have recorded for years, from their finest album for at least a decade.