REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017)

IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017 Universal)

Not many bands can get away with releasing so many live albums so late in their career.  Iron Maiden can.  They can for three main reasons:

1: They still kick enormous amounts of ass.
2: Their setlist changes tour after tour and there will always be songs you won’t get to hear again.
3: See #1.

It doesn’t hurt that their new albums are as acclaimed as their old. Ever since Maiden’s 1999 reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, we have been treated to an abnormally solid stream of brilliant records. Deal with the devil, perhaps? Faustian bargain #666?

The atmospheric and shadowy intro to “If Eternity Should Fail” is a perfect way to begin an Iron Maiden concert.  This track is magnificent.  It also serves as a dramatic way to open what is sure to be the greatest live experience on Earth. “Scream for me, Sydney!” yells Bruce to rile up the crowd. Yes, The Book of Souls: Live Chapter is taken from a number of different shows, which is a format Maiden have succeeded with before.

Another thing Maiden do successfully is top-load their live set with new songs.  The first two songs here are the same two as The Book of Souls itself.  Single “Speed of Light” really kicks up the excitement level.  To go from the epic drama of the opener to the taut single immediately causes an energy surge.  From there, we travel back to 1981 with “Wrathchild”.  It’s like a time machine to the London stages that young Maiden once trod upon.  Bruce’s scream is unholy.

Jump cut to Canada and “Children of the Damned”.  Bruce speaks French for the raving Montreal crowd, a nice touch of respect for the province of Quebec.  Maiden never sagged in popularity there.  In Quebec, Maiden’s 1995 album The X Factor (with lead singer Blaze Bayley) went Top 10.  Back to new material, “Death or Glory” is another energetic shorty.   The triple guitar solo slays.   Then it goes to epic, “The Red and the Black”, 13 minutes and the longest track on the album.  Riff overload!  Unabated, we launch into “The Trooper” and “Powerslave”, both old classics that remain as amped up as they were in the 80s.  It is pure joy to listen.  (Only qualm: backing vocals on “Powerslave” sound like tape.)

A pair of top-notch new songs, “The Great Unknown” and “The Book of Souls” kick off the second CD.  These are not short tracks.  In a way this is the “meat” of the set.  It is a run of 17 combined minutes of epic Maiden, and it’s a lot to swallow.  Savour every bite; this is prime stuff.  And will they ever be played live again?  Who can say?

You know the show is drawing to a close when you hear the opening chords to “Fear of the Dark”.  This favourite has been in the set since 1992.  It’s the crowd’s chance to really sing along and be a part of it.  More favourites follow:  “Iron Maiden” and “The Number of the Beast”.  (Absent is “Run to the Hills” which is on plenty of other live Maiden albums of recent vintage.)  “Blood Brothers” from the reunion album Brave New World seems oddly placed in the second-to-last slot.  The crowd at Download festival are thrilled to sing along.  On CD, you can hear Steve on backing vocals clearly, and appreciate how he and Bruce complement each other.  Then finally, it’s a terrific “Wasted Years” from underdog favourite Somewhere in Time.

The mix here is just dandy.  There are variances in sound from track to track and city to city, but these are minor and only natural.  You can clearly pick apart the instruments in the stereo field, and it’s pure delight to do so.  Once again, Iron Maiden have released a quality product.  You cannot go wrong by investing in any version of The Book of Souls: Live Chapter.

4.5/5 stars;

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24 comments

  1. Great live album and review as usual. Just some supplementary information.

    Hallowed is expectantly absent but the album doesn’t suffer because of this. Tears of a clown is also missing. Perhaps there was too much BOS material already

    Powerslave’s backing vocals may be from a keyboard as “The Count” (Michael Kenney) is still backstage a la Geoff Nicholls

    Interesting to note is that Kevin Shirley wasn’t part of this. Steve and a guy called Tony Newton mixed it. This probably explains the new guitar tone

    As for the video version, I’ve a couple beefs with quality control that would bother pedants but don’t detract from the experience.
    1- editing is like Death on the Road (I can handle this though)
    2-the performances aren’t filmed in one city despite sayings so. Thus-
    i) Dave (primarily) often switches guitars halfway through songs
    ii) Bruce can be seen with and without a mic stand in successive shots sometimes
    iii) Location identifiers (Ferris wheel, Wacken flaming thingy) can be seen in multiple songs
    iv) band member placement (mostly during Wasted Years chorus) is not authentic.

    All in all nothing major, but it bothers those who notice it. Perhaps that’s why it was essentially given free.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very good point there Harrison. I would agree with you. I find that kind of editing very distracting. Van Halen have an awful live video like that. Sammy’s wearing one shirt…then he’s wearing another. I hate that kind of video, I really do.

      But the CD release is absolutely top notch!

      Like

  2. Dude great writeup!
    I think the production is wicked on this. Thinking its time to move on from Kevin Shirley. Nothing against him its just that he’s done the last how many Maiden albums since Brave New World..
    Just love the songs here/performance!
    Bada Bing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It came today, vinyl so heavy the postman could barely lift it.

    Nice write-up, B;ood Brothers and Wasted Years are the real standout tracks for me on a first listen.

    They’re playing quite near again next year and I am tempted.

    Liked by 1 person

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