Iron Maiden sounds fit as ever on its first new album in five years

Matt Wardlaw

Four stars

Iron Maiden The Book of Souls

When Iron Maiden first reunited with longtime vocalist Bruce Dickinson in 1999 for a well-received tour, the jury was out in regard to what a trip into the studio might produce. The band answered that question on the edge of the summer of 2000 with Brave New World, a stunning return to form, produced by Kevin Shirley and, for the first time, largely recorded live in the studio.

The Book of Souls, Maiden’s fifth collaboration with Shirley, returns the band to the Paris studio where it recorded Brave New World and appropriately, the musicians were able to capture the same exciting raw spirit and spontaneity, recording many of the tracks live shortly after they had been written.

Bassist and creative mastermind Steve Harris stepped back a bit, with writing credits on only seven of the album’s 11 tracks. That opened up some additional space for input and collaboration from the other band members, including Dickinson (sounding fantastically on-point vocally), who lands two solo writing credits with the album opener, “If Eternity Should Fail” and 18-minute epic “Empire of the Clouds.”

A double album with a total running time of 92 minutes could easily feel bloated (something that plagued the previous album, 2010’s The Final Frontier), but instead, Souls feels intently focused. Thankfully, it’s also often gloriously guitar-heavy, proving that after four decades, Iron Maiden hasn’t lost an ounce of vigor.

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