Over a 17-month period that began last February, Iron Maiden’s Book Of Souls World Tour took the band to 39 countries, during which they played 117 concerts to more than two million fans. To commemorate the tour, the group have released their 12th live album, a composite of 14 performances across an incredible six continents.
Those who saw the tour know what to expect here – a 15-song set that devotes nearly half of its 101-minute running time to material from Maiden’s 2015 double-album, The Book Of Souls. The other half is essentially a masterclass in Metal 101, featuring classics such as The Trooper and Wasted Years performed with precision and power. There’s another important stat that will go unmentioned – the number of times Bruce Dickinson delivers his famed “Scream for me!” battlecry. Nevertheless, it’s probably best to not to treat Live Chapter as a drinking game, as Powerslave alone will cause severe impairment.
While it’s admirable that Maiden continue to showcase large swathes of new material in concert rather than simply ‘playing the hits’ like so many of their peers, the two Book Of softwareuiphraseguid=“9c8ba33e-2721-4b5d-bf0b-bcc7720896b5”>Souls tracks that kick off Live Chapter don’t have quite the same potency as the group’s time-tested classics. In person, that’s not as problematic, as the excitement of seeing the band in the flesh initially outweighs their song selection – but while If Eternity Should Fail might be a serviceable opener in concert, it’s a bit of a drag on Live Chapter, with awkward vocal reverb in the beginning verses and a tempo that’s too deliberately out of the box. Similarly, though there’s a certain charm to the dirt-under-the-fingernails highway rock of Speed Of Light, it’s ultimately too perfunctory for a band this ambitious. When the familiar, bouncy groove of Wrathchild kicks in, however, you want to echo the Irish crowd’s cheers.
From there, Live Chapter travels to Montreal, where Bruce introduces Children Of The Damned en français. Interestingly, despite the Book Of Souls tour beginning and ending in North America, Children… marks the continent’s lone inclusion on Live Chapter. Another Book Of Souls double-shot follows, but this time with better results. The infectious Death Or Glory, in which Bruce hilariously orders Polish fans to “climb like a monkey,” makes a compelling case to remain in the band’s set on their next tour, while the enthusiastic crowd participation on the 13-minute The Red And The Black dispels the misconception that Japanese audiences are reserved.
The second disc kicks off with another Book Of Souls two-fer: The Great Unknown, recorded in Newcastle and described by Bruce as “a song about spatial awareness,” and the lumbering title track, the Donington performance of which radiates a doomier vibe than its studio counterpart. We then journey to Brazil, where a predictably rabid crowd threatens to drown out the band during Fear Of The Dark; to Germany’s Wacken festival for The Number Of The Beast; and back to Donington for Blood Brothers, before which Bruce says, “The message that we send is that no matter how many people you try and kill, life, love, laughter and music will go on.” We will drink to that.