I got the new Iron Maiden album late last week, "The Book of Souls" and I've been listening to it off and on since then.
It's got some true gems on it, but they're still a bit in the rough. The music is all good, much like you'd expect from Iron Maiden in their prime, but the main problem is there's too much and it's simply not arranged well.
With eleven songs, it's over 90 minutes long, coming on two CDs. Bruce Dickinson has been quoted as saying, "we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that if it needed to be a double album, then double it's going to be!"
Unfortunately while each song may be an integral part of it, most of the songs are simply too long. One is over 13 minutes and the final one is 18 minutes. Sheer length isn't the issue, it's that many songs have minutes of passages that don't feel like they fit into the theme of the song, they feel like they should be separate songs.
On a few of them if I'm not paying attention I think a song is over and moved onto then next one, only to find a couple of minutes later it's back to the one I thought was done. It's a little jarring. They could've trimmed passages out of many of them to create more cohesive songs.
The other problem is many of the songs have the vocals mixed kind of low, so it's difficult to actually hear what Dickinson is actually singing. He's got a powerful voice and musically it sounds ok, but I can't tell what the lyrics are from listening.
The first single from it, "Speed of Light" is the fastest paced one, reminiscent of earlier Iron Maiden and probably wouldn't have been out of place on "Piece of Mind" and doesn't sound like anything else on this album.
I quite like the first half of the 13 minute "The Red and the Black", especially the bits with a guitar going along with e vocals, but then the second half is like a different song. And it's not a cover of the Blue Öyster Cult song of the same name.
"Death or Glory" is a bit of a rehash of "Aces High" but supposedly about WWI dogfighting triplanes. And it's not a cover of the Social Distortion song of the same name.
The album rounds out with the 18 minute "Empire of the Skies" about a 1920's British airship that crashed and burned on one of its earliest flights. The song starts with some piano music, not at all what I expected from Iron Maiden, but then after a few minute sounds more typical. The piano at the end of song nicely finished it. In between its got some good music, and some passages that feel misplaced.
Overall it's a decent album. The biggest improvement they could've made is to trim more from many of the sings. It sounds like they wanted to integrate all the musical ideas they all hadn't hour being able to cut any of it out. They should've saved some for this next album.
Since I wrote this I read online about the airship R101 that's the theme of "Empire of the Skies" and that helped a lot. With the vocals low in the mix the song itself doesn't tell the story as well as it could. But reading the story, then listening, the various musical passages that jarred me initially work better by imagining it as the soundtrack to a movie, visualizing the crew of the airship running around frantically when the ship loses altitude and crashes.