The Book of Souls: General album discussion

Josh

Ancient Mariner
I am deeply impressed. Most of the tracks are very strong; I really enjoyed every song, and I don't think there's any "filler". It's gonna take more listens, but this could be one of their best albums.

That's the nicest thing about this one. There may be songs some don't like but at least it cant be because they are fillers.
 

Ranko

I'll shoot the gunner first!
My first listen: I'm done with the first CD - I gotta say there's a ton of music to process, and I wouldn't rate anything yet. IESF is stellar and amazing, TBOS is a decent epic. In between, I don't know what to think, it seems like a jumble of stuff which I have to listen to at least several times before I get a grasp on it.
 

Azas

Alchemist / The Rose of Paracelsus
Right... I will say it again, i am one of those infidels, who don't like post reunion album's production, maybe, even band's songwriting style. Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding i rank better than any reunion album.. Today i listened to the new album. For me, it's their best since reunion. :scared::applause: Easily. Hell, i think it's their best since 7th Son! I am happy, truly truly happy. :) Maiden - for me - is back on track. :bigsmile:
Production is good, not ideal, i'd like some more studio 'sound enchantment', but great songwriting grabbed me from the start.
For me this album is 'guitar oriented'', i like it very much. Nicko does good job, band, unlike in previous albums, does not sound old and tired. Bruce, in songwriting department, shines like diamond. I think, vocally, band should make some minor changes to accomodate his today's range. He should sing more in lower register? I'm not an expert by any means, just impressions. Even epics does not sound overly long. Can be even longer. :dancinggeek: Album is paced very good. (sorry for my english)

CD1

01. If Eternity Should Fail 10/10
02. Speed of Light 7.5/10
03. The Great Unknown 8.5/10
04. The Red and the Black 10/10 (instrumental part is G L O R I O U S)
05. When the River Runs Deep 9/10
06. The Book of Souls 10/10

CD2 (no flaws here :D)

01. Death or Glory 10/10
02. Shadows of the Valley 10/10
03. Tears of a Clown 10/10
04. The Man of Sorrows 9/10
05. Empire of the Clouds 11/10 (modern masterpiece)

In some songs i almost started to weep. I like that album contains Bruce's solo material influences/direction. I will buy original cd. :D
 
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Just came here looking for an outlet for my excitement about this album.

Loved the album, one of the best! Just heard it twice till now. Lots of great songwriting. The triple guitar attack is one of the highlights but Bruce is, to me, the star of this album.

My favourite songs are Empire, SOTV(what a great songwriter Janick is!), IESF(Best opener since the 80's?), TOAC(emotions!), TMOS(there's something epic going on here from Dave).

Also liked The Great Unknown, WTRRD, pretty refreshing, original songwriting.

TRATB is a mixture. Some great moments but I want to like it more than I do. Maybe it will grow. Also I am not liking the title song much but I see everyone else seems to like it. Hope it will grow as well!

Empire.. The crownig achievement in Bruce's career. What an epic in the true sense of the word.

What a great album. It is incredible how Maiden are still as good as they ever were and stepping into unchartered territories.
 

Sara

Not even Wensleydale?
I've never made any secret of the fact that I found "The Final Frontier" to be a disappointing album, largely devoid of truly great songs, and a real step backwards after the awesome AMOLAD. This album however, is a big improvement over TFF, and should have been the album which followed up AMOLAD. Whilst TFF had a few songs which never clicked with me, "The Red And The Black" is the only song on this album I found to be very disappointing, and very inferior to the small amount of songs from the last album which were great.

Overall, this album is a very strong and varied collection of songs, which can certainly hold it's own with the best works in the band's catalogue.
 
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Dominocracy

Prowler
Reposting from the Maiden Chat thread. As I'm wont to do whenever a new Maiden album comes around, I'm here to pop out of the shadows, spew my opinions on it, then fade into the great unknown after about ten posts or so when my enthusiasm wears off. Enjoy, lambaste, or ignore at your leisure. All my thoughts are in spoiler tags, for the sake of brevity.

Preramble
I listened to The Book of Souls from start to glorious end one time yesterday, unable to manage the wait until my pre-order copy arrives in a week. Any negative feelings about opening my presents early quickly faded once I made my way to the meat of the album and, to spare you any illusions of what this review will entail, I came away thoroughly impressed. It has its problems and I'll happily discuss them, but held up to their back catalog as a whole, I can't really give The Book of Souls any faults that I couldn't also lay on any of their other releases. There are songs that, while I'm glad I got to hear, I'm not sure hold up quality-wise to the rest of the album. The only difference here is that, while past albums would be rather lacking in length if songs were removed, this one in particular has such a wealth of content that knocking off a few of the weaker songs would have actually improved it as a whole. That's just one humble reviewer's opinion though. This review is based off my second listening, after plenty of soak time and as much objectivity as I'm capable of and allowing myself the privledge of bouncing around songs for a better listen. I listened to the album in a dark room without distraction through a pair of Sennheiser HD595's. My sound card is an Asus XonarSTX. Just so you know I'm not bullshitting you when I say that the album sounds pretty good in the next bit.

The Sound
Adequate. If I had to sum up the overall sound of the album in one word, it would be adequate. Leveling issues and some peaking here and there aside, this is probably the best we're going to hear from Maiden as far as sound quality these days, and it's very easily their best sounding record since Somewhere in Time, witch I find to be the best mixed and mastered album in their entire catalog. It's nowhere near as good mind you, but most issues can be mitigated to taste with some EQing, witch cannot be said for many of the other albums engineered by Harris with someone elses name on it. There are some lovely guitar tones floating around, and there are many instances where all three players are very clear in the distinct parts they're shredding out. Steve could use a little more of his trademark "clank" and Nicko could use a little more punchyness in the mix, but my complaints are pretty nitpicky here. Bruce seems to be straining a lot more here than on albums past, whitch I understand is due to age and potentially tumors constricting his airway, but his midrange is starting to suffer now as opposed to when it was only evident when he was reaching for the highs. This could be due to the recording method, but I suspect it's not. We'll see when the tour rolls around what changes to his voice the surgery made. There will never be a day that I don't want to hear this man sing things, it's just sad to listen to your favorite vocalist get old. It's not a complaint, there are many moments of killer vocals here, just an observation.

The Songs
I'll be completely honest, my heart sank when the keyboards kicked in on If Eternity Should Fail. What an awful tone, and what an insult to Bruce's moody intro. There's nothing there that couldn't have been done better with a guitar. Thankfully, the song itself is quite good once the guitars kick in. It's actually a pretty interesting intro track, almost a prelude in concept to the rest of the album. There's a lot of very "classic" sounding riffage floating around in there, with song structure that should look pretty familiar to fans of the "post-reunion" albums. This trend is repeated throughout the rest of the album to a certain degree. Lots of throwback licks, even some bits in solos that I can't put a finger on, but sound vaguely familiar to me. I like it, and I vew the album itself as a celebration of Iron Maiden's history. If it comes to that, a fitting and worthy swan song. I hate the spoken word outtro. It's made of a sauce that's 50% corn and 50% cheese.

Next up is Speed of Light, witch has been discussed ad nauseam around here by everyone but me. So here I go, but I will be brief. This is probably my favorite single since Wildest Dreams. I love the riffyness of it, that classic rock swagger with a Maiden twist. Great solos all around, but in particular, did Adrian cop a bit of his own Paschendale solo at the start of his own on here? It's used to great purpose regardless, and generally as far as straight-up rockers go, this is the best one on the album and one of my favorites of the reunion lineup.

Not a whole lot to say on The Great Unknown, other than there are some sweet harmonies here and an impassioned delivery from Bruce. Solid track all around, but I don't feel that's giving it enough credit. Let's just say that it's taking a formula that has become typical for Maiden at this point and showing us that they've perfected it.

A sweet, albeit simple bass into leads us into The Red and the Black, Maiden's first "true" epic on the record. There's a very natural shifting of tone here, from the steady drive at the songs onset, the general uplift leading up to and through the instrumental section. Some gorgeous extended harmony pieces put a nice cap on the whole instrumental affair, then bring us back down to the outro with some cursory "woah-oh's" and a repeat of Steve's bass licks. My only complaint is that the "woah-oh's" tend to overstay their welcome a bit here, but it's relatively minor. All in all, this is a worthy addition to Maiden's pantheon of epic tunes.

Our next rocker comes in the form of When the River Runs Deep. I love the riff here, but the vocals feel a bit... awkward? Especially the chorus. I can't really put a finger on it, but it's odd that this song feels so disjointed to me considering its length. It starts off skipping along, but it trips all over itself whenever they take a break for that chorus. Unfortunate, and as a result, I could basically take or leave this song despite some entertaining riffage popping around here and there. It just doesn't form a cohesive whole to me.

And on to the title track! Hilariously, this song starts with a diversion of the opening acoustic bit on The Talisman, then slams into some strange plodding beast that reminds me of a far better take on Mother Russia. Weird! But I like it. This song is massive and savage, with soaring vocals from Bruce. Interesting, as this is the first song on the album that I couldn't form a solid opinion on by my first play through. A grower to be sure, and this trend continues through the second disc as well. Repeated listening is definitely rewarded though, and the kick in to high gear around 6 minutes in put a huge smile on my face. This section invokes the spirit of the main riff in Losfer Words, and this pace is continued to the track's end. Such a strange mishmash, I said it was a weird one, but it works on a number of levels.

In Death or Glory, once again, we have a rocker that shows such promise and ends up just not doing it for me. That intro belongs on a far better song. Not much more to say on it.

Continuing on, we come to Wasted Years (just kidding!) Shadows of the Valley. A sinister introduction from Bruce over a vaguely familiar opening riff leads us to another pretty great mid-length tune. There's a lot to like here, and my dissatisfaction with the opening number on this disc is very quickly abated. There's a lot of strained vocal delivery from Bruce. I can't help but wonder if there was a better way to approach some of the higher sections in a more comfortable register but, regardless, this one's a keeper for sure. We have an always appreciated return of Maiden's trademark "woah-oh's" and, thankfully, they're only used to spice up what's already a pretty delicious meal. Lot's of fretwork to enjoy here.

This is the last time I'll speak of it, mostly because this is the last one, but I'm pretty sure that you're catching on that I'm not a huge fan of the shorter songs on this album. Tears of a Clown in particular pisses me off given who its about and how on the nose it is. Not a fan of this one. Nice riff though.

I always look forward to a new song by Dave. Ever since Thin Line from BNW, I'm always sure to keep an eye out for 'em when the track list and writing credits get released. The Man of Sorrows isn't my favorite song on the album, but it has some very haunting guitar work peppered here and there. To sum it up? Solid.

The Empire of the Clouds, as far as I can gather, is Bruce's 18+ minute sonic love letter to a blimp. No one else would dare write a song as ridiculous in concept as this, then have the audacity to make it this amazing. For the first time on a Maiden record, Brucie hopps on his piano and serenades us through the opening diddy, accompanied by string instruments and the rest of the band in a vaguely celtic style that we should all be accustomed to by now. This theme continues through the opening verses until a glorious guitar buildup about 8 minutes in. Like heralding the coming of a king, with a hint of desperation at the end as the tone changes just before the guitars evoke the sense of a downward spiral. Then, a riff from The Legacy makes an unexpected comeback, albeit much better utilized here, leading us through an instrumental section showcasing all three guitars in fine form with brief interjections from Bruce. I'm not familiar with the subject matter, but given the sinister then somber tones the song takes on towards the end, I'm all but certain things do not end will for the passengers and crew of the enormous airship. And, you know, the lyrics. The length of the song belies just how masterfully paced and composed the whole package is. This truly goes by too soon, and will be talked about for years as one of Iron Maiden's seminal pieces. Simply wonderful.

Assorted Musings
It annoys me to a certain extent how often I hear people say how "good, for their age" Iron Maiden are. If anything should lay waste to that kind of tone, this album is it. I've never had 92 minutes fly by as quickly as my first play through of this wonderful addition to Iron Maiden's catalog. They certainly play to their strengths here, and there's nothing overtly "new" to hear, even a lot that's overtly and intentionally old, but the creative fire that is still burning in this band, 40 years and 16 albums deep, is unprecedented. Time will tell where The Book of Souls sits in Iron Maiden's extensive library of work, but I can say with assurance that it will be looked back on with love and fondness from even the most casual of fan decades from now.
 
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Brave New Pilgrim

What not to do if your bird sh#$% on you....
Reposting from the Maiden Chat thread. As I'm wont to do whenever a new Maiden album comes around, I'm here to pop out of the shadows, spew my opinions on it, then fade into the great unknown after about ten posts or so when my enthusiasm wears off. Enjoy, lambaste, or ignore at your leisure. All my thoughts are in spoiler tags, for the sake of brevity.

Preramble
I listened to The Book of Souls from start to glorious end one time yesterday, unable to manage the wait until my pre-order copy arrives in a week. Any negative feelings about opening my presents early quickly faded once I made my way to the meat of the album and, to spare you any illusions of what this review will entail, I came away thoroughly impressed. It has its problems and I'll happily discuss them, but held up to their back catalog as a whole, I can't really give The Book of Souls any faults that I couldn't also lay on any of their other releases. There are songs that, while I'm glad I got to hear, I'm not sure hold up quality-wise to the rest of the album. The only difference here is that, while past albums would be rather lacking in length if songs were removed, this one in particular has such a wealth of content that knocking off a few of the weaker songs would have actually improved it as a whole. That's just one humble reviewer's opinion though. This review is based off my second listening, after plenty of soak time and as much objectivity as I'm capable of and allowing myself the privledge of bouncing around songs for a better listen. I listened to the album in a dark room without distraction through a pair of Sennheiser HD595's. My sound card is an Asus XonarSTX. Just so you know I'm not bullshitting you when I say that the album sounds pretty good in the next bit.

The Sound
Adequate. If I had to sum up the overall sound of the album in one word, it would be adequate. Leveling issues and some peaking here and there aside, this is probably the best we're going to hear from Maiden as far as sound quality these days, and it's very easily their best sounding record since Somewhere in Time, witch I find to be the best mixed and mastered album in their entire catalog. It's nowhere near as good mind you, but most issues can be mitigated to taste with some EQing, witch cannot be said for many of the other albums engineered by Harris with someone elses name on it. There are some lovely guitar tones floating around, and there are many instances where all three players are very clear in the distinct parts they're shredding out. Steve could use a little more of his trademark "clank" and Nicko could use a little more punchyness in the mix, but my complaints are pretty nitpicky here. Bruce seems to be straining a lot more here than on albums past, whitch I understand is due to age and potentially tumors constricting his airway, but his midrange is starting to suffer now as opposed to when it was only evident when he was reaching for the highs. This could be due to the recording method, but I suspect it's not. We'll see when the tour rolls around what changes to his voice the surgery made. There will never be a day that I don't want to hear this man sing things, it's just sad to listen to your favorite vocalist get old. It's not a complaint, there are many moments of killer vocals here, just an observation.

The Songs
I'll be completely honest, my heart sank when the keyboards kicked in on If Eternity Should Fail. What an awful tone, and what an insult to Bruce's moody intro. There's nothing there that couldn't have been done better with a guitar. Thankfully, the song itself is quite good once the guitars kick in. It's actually a pretty interesting intro track, almost a prelude in concept to the rest of the album. There's a lot of very "classic" sounding riffage floating around in there, with song structure that should look pretty familiar to fans of the "post-reunion" albums. This trend is repeated throughout the rest of the album to a certain degree. Lots of throwback licks, even some bits in solos that I can't put a finger on, but sound vaguely familiar to me. I like it, and I vew the album itself as a celebration of Iron Maiden's history. If it comes to that, a fitting and worthy swan song. I hate the spoken word outtro. It's made of a sauce that's 50% corn and 50% cheese.

Next up is Speed of Light, witch has been discussed ad nauseam around here by everyone but me. So here I go, but I will be brief. This is probably my favorite single since Wildest Dreams. I love the riffyness of it, that classic rock swagger with a Maiden twist. Great solos all around, but in particular, did Adrian cop a bit of his own Paschendale solo at the start of his own on here? It's used to great purpose regardless, and generally as far as straight-up rockers go, this is the best one on the album and one of my favorites of the reunion lineup.

Not a whole lot to say on The Great Unknown, other than there are some sweet harmonies here and an impassioned delivery from Bruce. Solid track all around, but I don't feel that's giving it enough credit. Let's just say that it's taking a formula that has become typical for Maiden at this point and showing us that they've perfected it.

A sweet, albeit simple bass into leads us into The Red and the Black, Maiden's first "true" epic on the record. There's a very natural shifting of tone here, from the steady drive at the songs onset, the general uplift leading up to and through the instrumental section. Some gorgeous extended harmony pieces put a nice cap on the whole instrumental affair, then bring us back down to the outro with some cursory "woah-oh's" and a repeat of Steve's bass licks. My only complaint is that the "woah-oh's" tend to overstay their welcome a bit here, but it's relatively minor. All in all, this is a worthy addition to Maiden's pantheon of epic tunes.

Our next rocker comes in the form of When the River Runs Deep. I love the riff here, but the vocals feel a bit... awkward? Especially the chorus. I can't really put a finger on it, but it's odd that this song feels so disjointed to me considering its length. It starts off skipping along, but it trips all over itself whenever they take a break for that chorus. Unfortunate, and as a result, I could basically take or leave this song despite some entertaining riffage popping around here and there. It just doesn't form a cohesive whole to me.

And on to the title track! Hilariously, this song starts with a diversion of the opening acoustic bit on The Talisman, then slams into some strange plodding beast that reminds me of a far better take on Mother Russia. Weird! But I like it. This song is massive and savage, with soaring vocals from Bruce. Interesting, as this is the first song on the album that I couldn't form a solid opinion on by my first play through. A grower to be sure, and this trend continues through the second disc as well. Repeated listening is definitely rewarded though, and the kick in to high gear around 6 minutes in put a huge smile on my face. This section invokes the spirit of the main riff in Losfer Words, and this pace is continued to the track's end. Such a strange mishmash, I said it was a weird one, but it works on a number of levels.

In Death or Glory, once again, we have a rocker that shows such promise and ends up just not doing it for me. That intro belongs on a far better song. Not much more to say on it.

Continuing on, we come to Wasted Years (just kidding!) Shadows of the Valley. A sinister introduction from Bruce over a vaguely familiar opening riff leads us to another pretty great mid-length tune. There's a lot to like here, and my dissatisfaction with the opening number on this disc is very quickly abated. There's a lot of strained vocal delivery from Bruce. I can't help but wonder if there was a better way to approach some of the higher sections in a more comfortable register but, regardless, this one's a keeper for sure. We have an always appreciated return of Maiden's trademark "woah-oh's" and, thankfully, they're only used to spice up what's already a pretty delicious meal. Lot's of fretwork to enjoy here.

This is the last time I'll speak of it, mostly because this is the last one, but I'm pretty sure that you're catching on that I'm not a huge fan of the shorter songs on this album. Tears of a Clown in particular pisses me off given who its about and how on the nose it is. Not a fan of this one. Nice riff though.

I always look forward to a new song by Dave. Ever since Thin Line from BNW, I'm always sure to keep an eye out for 'em when the track list and writing credits get released. The Man of Sorrows isn't my favorite song on the album, but it has some very haunting guitar work peppered here and there. To sum it up? Solid.

The Empire of the Clouds as far as I can gather, this is Bruce's 18+ minute sonic love letter to a blimp. No one else would dare write a song as ridiculous in concept as this, then have the audacity to make it this amazing. For the first time on a Maiden record, Brucie hopps on his piano and serenades us through the opening diddy, accompanied by string instruments and the rest of the band in a vaguely celtic style that we should all be accustomed to by now. This theme continues through the opening verses until a glorious guitar buildup about 8 minutes in. Like heralding the coming of a king, with a hint of desperation at the end as the tone changes just before the guitars evoke the sense of a downward spiral. Then, a riff from The Legacy makes an unexpected comeback, albeit much better utilized here, leading us through an instrumental section showcasing all three guitars in fine form with brief interjections from Bruce. I'm not familiar with the subject matter, but given the sinister then somber tones the song takes on towards the end, I'm all but certain things do not end will for the passengers and crew of the enormous airship. And, you know, the lyrics. The length of the song belies just how masterfully paced and composed the whole package is. This truly goes by too soon, and will be talked about for years as one of Iron Maiden's seminal pieces. Simply wonderful.

Assorted Musings
It annoys me to a certain extent how often I hear people say how "good, for their age" Iron Maiden are. If anything should lay waste to that kind of tone, this album is it. I've never had 92 minutes fly by as quickly as my first play through of this wonderful addition to Iron Maiden's catalog. They certainly play to their strengths here, and there's nothing overtly "new" to hear, even a lot that's overtly and intentionally old, but the creative fire that is still burning in this band, 40 years and 16 albums deep, is unprecedented. Time will tell where The Book of Souls sits in Iron Maiden's extensive library of work, but I can say with assurance that it will be looked back on with love and fondness from even the most casual of fan decades from now.

Great write up! I find myself agreeing with a lot of your points, actually. The shorter songs don't quite resonate with me as much as the longer tracks either.
 

Dominocracy

Prowler
Great write up! I find myself agreeing with a lot of your points, actually. The shorter songs don't quite resonate with me as much as the longer tracks either.
Thanks! As much as I'd love to hear a collection of strong, fast paced songs from the band, it's time for me to accept that they're past all that. I'm loving their more longform work here, and always have, so if that's what they're going to pour their creativity into I'd personally rather them keep with it rather than muddy the album with uninspired rockers just for the sake of sticking them in there. I see a lot of praise for the shorter songs on this album around here, so maybe they just need some time to sink in. Or maybe everyone's still too drunk off the excitement to give them a critical ear. Time will tell I suppose.
 

Brave New Pilgrim

What not to do if your bird sh#$% on you....
Thanks! As much as I'd love to hear a collection of strong, fast paced songs from the band, it's time for me to accept that they're past all that. I'm loving their more longform work here, and always have, so if that's what they're going to pour their creativity into I'd personally rather them keep with it rather than muddy the album with uninspired rockers just for the sake of sticking them in there. I see a lot of praise for the shorter songs on this album around here, so maybe they just need some time to sink in. Or maybe everyone's still too drunk off the excitement to give them a critical ear. Time will tell I suppose.

Well, I find them to be interesting and have cool parts/melodies/riffs/solos/whatever. However, they simply don't stack up to the hard hitting short tracks from their earlier albums, and I really don't think any of the shorter tracks from the reunion era albums have TBH (The Wicker Man being the obvious exception here).

It almost seems as though they've been sticking them into the last few albums simply to try and give the people who want them to revert back to what they were in years past something to latch onto. To me, it's pretty obvious that writing long, "epic" tracks are what their hearts are in now, and it shows. Fact is that they're just simply a lot better at writing longer songs IMO.
 

Meliegree

Sound of distant drums
Well, this is first time when after first listen I prefer "epics" rather that fast rockers. But still - DoF and ToaC are really great, I'm sometime in a mood for something simple so I don't mind if this songs are on BoS for nostalgia value.
 

Sara

Not even Wensleydale?
I prefer all of the shorter songs on this album, over "The Wicker Man", then again, I've always found that particular song to be highly overrated. I don't even find it to be the best short track on BNW. For me "The Fallen Angel" is a far stronger song, and should have been the first single from that album.
 

Meliegree

Sound of distant drums
Agree about TFA.

Still - how they make album that is so long without repeating choruses x 30? I'm in shock.
 

Natalie

Insect of Terror
Staff member
I just finished listening to the whole album and my head is literally spinning.
It's a ton of material to process but my first impression is this is a really good album, like, incredibly strong.

Other thoughts:

1) Speed of Light is the weakest song on this album, hands down.
2) CD 2 is stronger than CD1 but I'm not sure we should fixate on the division.
3) It's heavy and proggy at the same time.
4) I get an AMOLAD/DoD/The X Factor vibe from many songs. Also, a Bruce solo album vibe from a few as well, which is interesting.
5) It'll be fun to read the lyrics because I think there are many nods to older songs strewn throughout.
6) Production. Everything sounds great. Ok, Bruce's vocals sometimes (especially in CD1) could be better, but I think this is a range thing. At least we don't get any The Talisman atrocities anywhere.
7) What on earth are they gonna play live?????
 

Maturin

Sköldpadda
This forum's most disappointed Maiden fan gives you a walkthrough on the album song by song, after just below 10 full run-throughs of the album.

1. "If Eternity Should Fail" - Get a Ghost-vibe from this track. Cool chorus, but the guitar harmony is weak. (Minus one point for that Hammerfall-ish "OMG demon speech"-outro.) 5/10.
2. "Speed of Light" - Maiden channels Deep Purple's "Burn". Super-cool chorus, but that riff... 6/10.
3. "The Great Unknown" - Reminds me of "The Man Who Would Be King"... without cool melodies. 4/10.
4. "The Red and the Black" - Steve decided "The Angel and the Gambler" needed a retarded younger sibling... that's mostly mute. 3/10.
5. "When the River Runs Deep" - How did this go? Oh, the Moonchild-guitars... Fifth song of a sixteenth album. Not exactly bad, just utterly forgettable. 5/10.
6. "The Book of Souls" - The fast part with interchanging verses/harmonies/solos is glorious. The road towards it paved with dullness. 7/10.
7. "Death or Glory" - Takes you back to No Prayer and a Maiden that just wanted to rock. Nothing wrong with that, the track is somewhat catchy - but it's subject matter sibling "Tailgunner" has both cooler riffs, lyrics and delivery. 5/10.
8. "Shadows of the Valley" - First track that impresses with the quality I expected all the way through. 8/10.
9. "Tears of a Clown" - Just like "Coming Home". Maybe a little underwhelming, but with nice heartfelt melodies. Too bad the record is already beyond salvation. 7/10.
10. "The Man of Sorrows" - How that take of the intro-solo ended up on the album is beyond me (it reminds of how Dave played on the first album), but it develops into a really cool song with some interesting melodic content. Awkward phrasing of the chorus melody - "As we look to see. The. Man. Of Sorrows" - but it doesn't ruin the song. 8/10.
11. "Empire of the Clouds" - Surprised at how accurate my guess of piano-based song was, even down to how I expected the song to sound. The record's first (and sadly, only) glorious guitar-riff at 10:33. 9/10.

Song by song avg. 6.1 this far. I round that off to 5 for the full effort. Maybe not the worst Maiden album ever (after all!) - but certainly below all of the reunion albums. Can't see how that would change, for me. Feel free to hold me responsible to this review if I do change my mind - which I do honestly admit really would be the best outcome for all involved. I wanted to be blown away like I was the first time I heard "The Talisman" in 2010, but this time I wasn't.
 
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