First listen: The intro is very nice, but there's no chance in hell they'll pull this one off live without a serious keyboard player to cover all the piano and synth parts. Maybe Jordan Rudess for a special show.
Anyway, it's interesting. A lot of different parts, but in two or three places a single short melody/idea gets repeated a lot for a significant amount of time... That I don't like that much.
But surely a complex song, I'll need to listen to it a lot to fully appreciate it.
So at some point around listen 5 this became a song I started to listen on repeat. Had it going while in the shower, car ride to and from errand outing, headphones while wife watching tv. Humming, la la la la laaaa l-la laa laa allll damn day! This album is unbelievable!
Like many others have said, this track is not just a normal song, it's a soundtrack to a tale narrated by Bruce. The imagery in the song is so strong, it's almost impossible to view it as a mini-movie in one's mind's eye.
At 2:40, I can see crowds of people ("Royals, dignitaries, brandy and cigars") standing at an airbase surrounding the airship awaiting its launch on its maiden flight. Cameras flashing, people chatting, and passengers being ushered on board. Then, at 5:50, the ship is released, and I can imagine the crowds of people cheering, and passengers waving from the windows above. The flight is airborne when guitar riff comes in at 7:20, flying higher and higher above the clouds as the notes ascend.
The R101 reaches its maximum height and flys on triumphantly, and the music reflects this with the soaring guitar solos by Dave and Adrian. But at 11:05, the horns signal an imminent threat to the airship. The music becomes more dramatic to represent the ship flying into an oncoming storm cloud. The guitar solo at 12:04 represents the turbulence that the ship is facing, it flys through rain, hail and perilous wind.
When Bruce comes back in, his voice is apparent panic and distress, which could represent the feelings of the passengers onboard, knowing that the airship is in trouble.
At 14:24, a fast paced piano comes in to represent the ship losing the fight against the storm and is rapidly losing altitude as the ship's nose plummets. When Bruce's vocals come in after this, he sings to confirm the ship is "falling from the sky" and will crash. The somber, melancholy tone to the final section of the song, tells the listener of the large loss of life.
I should stop, I'm sounding like an other enthusiastic English teacher.
Empire of the Clouds really is an opus, and should be regarded as one of Maiden's best ever songs that they have ever recorded. We all knew Bruce could write good songs, but did we know he write them this good?
If the band decides to call it quits and declare that The Book of Souls is their final album, then EOTC will stand as their last song - But what a song it is.
In case you missed it: listen to the closing seconds of the track. The final sound you hear is a soft thump. They kept the microphones recording until Bruce took his foot off the piano pedal. The thump is the dampers dropping back on to the piano strings when the pedal is released.
So, I've listened to this song several times now. I wasn't sure how I felt about it, other then the fact that there were some really cool and touching parts to it. Something about it clicked for me this time, though. I started picturing images of this massive airship. Of people boarding it, and of it going down. I thought of Bruce's passion for aviation. And something just clicked for me this time. This song is a masterpiece. Pure and simple.
It sure does that. It's got some extremely strong parts and melodies. However it gets a bit tiring after some point. Not the best song of the album as far as I am concerned, I think it needs some editing and better arrangement/ structuring.
Whilst this song isn't quite perfect, it is nonetheless, a sterling piece of songwriting, which is engaging and affecting, and definitely pulls at my emotions in a very positive way. Why is it not perfect? Well, the long instrumental section sandwiching the points where the vocals end and then begin again, has a couple of parts which are a bit repetitive, and could have been shortened without being in anyway detrimental to the song. In fact, doing so would have had the opposite effect. On the flipside, there's a very ominous section (which sounds like it could be used in a horror film!) just before the sorrowful outro, which I feel is too short, and should have been expanded on to add even more texture and depth to the piece.
Overall though, this is an amazing song, which is very much like having a movie playing inside your head. I don't need the lyric sheet, because I can hear every word Bruce is singing clearly, and the images conjured up by those words, are also very clear, and vivid. There is a "main melody" if you will, which is highly emotive, and affecting, as well as being immensely catchy. The moments of this song that are truly wondrous, is the main melody I just mentioned, as well as all the parts where Bruce is singing and playing the piano. The music and the words of these sections go together perfectly, and do a wonderful job of making you feel like you are witnessing the historic happenings being described as if you are actually in the middle of the tragedy yourself. By the end of the song, I'm always shedding tears, so powerful is that aspect of the song.
A little bit of work getting the arrangement of the piece as a whole absolutely right would have made this song bar none the greatest Maiden song ever. But even as it is, it's definitely one of the most important and significant tracks in the Maiden catalogue, and it works fantastically well as a very elaborate, and dramatic piece of storytelling. In the end, Bruce has created a special piece of work here, and one that should demand the attention of any progressive music lover. Just an awesome piece.
Absolute incredible song, a real masterpiece that takes you on a spectacular journey.
It could almost certainly said that some of the instrumental passages perhaps repeat themselves a little too much, but the overriding feeling after listening was that of Bruce's passion and love for aviation.
As the song reached its crescendo I actually cried a single tear, this has never happened to me before when listening to music.
My favourite lyric, which encapsulates everything I think of the song comes towards the end, in the final two minutes:
I am addicted to that song (and whole disc 2 of The Book Of Souls). Listened to it for about 15 times now and each time I discover something new in it. I don't see a problem with long instrumental bit in the middle as it perfectly paints the maiden (no pun intended) flight of R101 and it's crash. Easily the best song written since 1990 by ANY band. The atmosphere and melodies... just wow. Welcome to my top 3 Maiden songs EOTC.
Just finished listening to this song once again, and the more I hear it, the shorter it seems to get. lol I'd say that this song is up there with the likes of "2112", and " The Odyssey" as one of the finest prog epics ever recorded. It is magical stuff. xD
It's intentionally expansive. To be fair, there is always a group of people who find such music boring. It's nothing against either the song or the fan; it's just a fact that longer songs are more likely to eventually becoming boring to someone. That's how the human brain works.
For instance, "Echoes" by Pink Floyd gets a lot of praise, but I find most of it boring. I love "Supper's Ready" by Genesis, but the recent war of epics showed that many here find it boring. Likewise, "Empire of the Clouds" is long enough that, no matter how good it is, some people will find it boring.
I think the key is really paying attention to the lyrics. The music is indeed repetitive at times, but the lyrics paint a vivid picture. This song is like a painting, with a distinct background (music) and foreground (lyrics), more so than any other Maiden song.