Empire Of The Clouds

How good is Empire of the Clouds on a scale of 1-10?

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I'll shoot the gunner first!
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. :p

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.


The Guide
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!


Ancient Mariner
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.
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Brave New Pilgrim

What not to do if your bird sh#$% on you....
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.
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Here I sit in a serenade of glory!
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.


Not even Wensleydale?
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. <3


Educated Fool
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:

"The dreamers may die, but the dream lives on."

Spectacular, bravo Bruce.


Ancient Mariner
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.


Not even Wensleydale?
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


Educated Fool
Here are the lyrics as I can hear them, there were a few instances where I missed a word or two so perhaps someone with a better ear than me might be able to make corrections:

To ride the storm, to an empire of the clouds

To ride the storm, they climbed aboard their silver ghost

To ride the storm, to a kingdom that will come

To ride the storm, and damn the rest, oblivion

Royalty and dignitaries, brandy and cigars

Related giant of the skies, you hold them in your arms

The millionth chance they laughed, to take down His Majesty’s craft

“To India” they say, “magic carpet float away”, an October fateful day

Mist is in the trees, stone sweats with the dew

The morning sunrise, red before the blue

Hanging at the mast, waiting for command

His Majesty’s airship, the R101

She’s the biggest vessel built by man, a giant of the skies

For all you unbelievers, the Titanic fits inside

Drum rolled tight, a canvas skin, silvered in the sun

Never tested with the fury, with a beating yet to come

The fury yet to come….

In the gathering gloom, a storm rising in the West

The Coxswain stared into the -----

We must go now, we must take our chance with fate

We must go now, for politicians we can’t be late

The airship crew awake for thirty hours at full stretch,

But the ship is in their backbone, every sinew, every inch

She never flew at full speed, a trial never done

A fragile outer cover, her Achilles would become

An Achilles yet to come...

Sailors of the sky, a hardened breed

Loyal to the King, and an airship creed

The engines drum, the telegraph sounds

Release the cords that bind us to the ground

Said the Coxswain ,“Sir, she’s heavy, she’ll never make the flight.”

Said the Captain, “Damn the cargo! We’ll be on our way tonight.”

Groundsmen cheered in wonder, as she backed up from the mast

Baptising with her water, from the ballast fore and aft

Now she slips into our past…

Feeling the wind as it blows you,

Feeling the – as you’re passing along

Watching the channel below you,

Lower and lower, into the night

Lights are passing below you

Northern France, asleep in their beds

Storm is raging around you,

A million to one, that’s what they say

Reaper standing beside you

Wind inside cuts to the bone

Having to make a decision

Experienced men, asleep in their graves

The cover is ripped and she’s drowning

Rain is flooding into the hold

Bleeding to death and she’s falling

Parachute(?) gas is draining away

“We’re down lads!” came the cry, bow plunging from the sky

Three thousand horses silent as the ship began to die

The flares to guide her path ignited at the last

The empire of the clouds, just ashes in our past

Just ashes at the last…

Here lie the dreams of -----

On the ground where they built, and the engines they run

To the moon and the stars, now what have we done?

Oh the dreamers may die, but the dreams live on

Dreams live on

Dreams live on

Now a shadow on a hill, the angel of the East

The empire of the clouds may rest in peace

And in a country churchyard, laid head to the mast

Eight and fourty souls, who came to die in France…

Have listened to the song about 5 or 6 times today and it just gets better with every listen, truly spectacular.
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Thanks, UpTheIrons.

Bruce should be knighted for his recent entrepreneurial activity, his overall outstanding contribution to UK music, and especially for this song.

Let's start an online petition.


Staff member
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.