IRON MAIDEN -“Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Parlophone Record Store Day picture disc single)
The story of acquiring this single and RSD 2016 can be read right here, so without getting into the details again this is what you need to know:
This was a Record Store Day exclusive (April 16 2016).
There were only 5500 copies made.
Everybody wanted one.
The picture disc and packaging are gorgeous. The record is a depiction of the Eddie destroying the R-101 airship, but fear not, this is not how history actually unfolded! This picture disc is ensconced in a die card cover with reprintings of the Daily Mirror newspaper article from the day following the disaster. It’s a lovely keepsake for sure, but it also has an exclusive interview on the B-side.
Not that the A side is unimportant. From my original review for The Book of Souls, I had much praise for “Empire of the Clouds”:
“Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon. Never before have the credits ‘Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano’ been written inside one of their albums. For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup. Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well. ‘Empire of the Clouds’ is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, ‘we did that’. The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic. Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but ‘Empire of the Clouds’ might be his first song about airships. You can trust him to instil it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.”
Nicko McBrain and Bruce Dickinson discuss the making of the song, almost an album in itself, on the B-side “Maiden Voyage”. The R101 was a massive airship (“the Titanic fits inside”) that was rushed into service and caught flame in 1930. Bruce wrote the song on piano, which he had learned to play over the last three years. He then researched the history of the airship and worked on the words. The way he describes the incident on this interview track, it was a perfect storm of everything going wrong. In its context, the airship was an expression of the ambition of the British Empire to stretch to all corners of the Earth and above as well. Bruce says the crash was the end of this era.
Part of the story involves a storm, so Bruce came up with a piano part to depict that. Before long he had enough components from his piano writings to build the different parts of the song. One of the bits was written when Jon Lord (from Deep Purple) was ill with cancer. After his death, Bruce used this piece for the part when the airship initially sets off. It’s interesting that this era of British ambition inspired the most ambitious track that the singer had ever attempted. This includes a musical “S.O.S.” in Morse code, something I picked up on upon first listen.
Bruce has particular praise for drummer Nicko McBrain in the building and recording of this song. Nicko was not only a help in a technical respect, but also as a cheerleader keeping the band driven, so much was he into it.
Bruce Dickinson is a remarkable individual in heavy metal. You don’t see many metal stars as well educated in history as Bruce, or as capable at communicating it to his audience. Indeed, as a presenter on the BBC, Bruce has brought history to many diverse audiences. You would think Iron Maiden fans would be one of the more challenging groups to reach, but Maiden followers are hungry for this kind of content. We can only respect the band that much more when we realize the true depth of their work. This coming from a licensed airline pilot, published fiction author, cancer survivor and amature fencer who also happens to be in Iron Maiden. Extraordinary!
I’m not sure if this disc was worth the buying frenzy it spawned or the online prices you are about to see, but I’m sure glad I got my copy.
One more list for 2015 arrived at the last minute! Enjoy the rock as prescribed by Dr. Dave Haslam.
GETTING MORE TALE #459.4: 2015 Year-End Lists, part 4 – Dr. Dave Haslam!
First of all – it had to happen sooner or later, but when it does it is still a shock. RIP Lemmy. A true lifer for the rock and roll.
10. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within 9. Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short 8. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal 7. Mgla – Exercises in Futility 6. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls 5.Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper 4.High on Fire – Luminiferous 3. Deafheaven – New Bermuda 2. Ghost – Meliora 1.Clutch – Psychic Warfare
Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
Failure – The Heart is a Monster
Baroness – Purple
Elder – Lore
Slayer – Repentless (without Lombardo and Hanneman they are a shadow of their former selves.)
GETTING MORE TALE #459.3: 2015 Year-End Lists, part 3 – yours truly, LeBrain!
Unlike my companions in rock, Tom and Uncle Meat, I’m going to be a bit more verbose here with my top lists of 2015.
I thought I had my top five albums down. I didn’t expect any changes, but then a couple respected writers started praising the new DefLeppardalbum. I decided, against my better judgement to go ahead and buy it. What can I say? Those reviewers were right. It’s a good album. Def Leppard 2015 cracked my top five list, necessitating a top six.
The high quality of new albums by returning bands continues to amaze me. The last band I expected a quality album from this year was Def Leppard. Of course, on the flip side of that, we have Bon Jovi who choked to death on pop dreck. Given what was coming out this year, and what the stakes were (a possible final album from Iron Maiden, the first Faith No More CD in 18 years), you couldn’t have realistically hoped for better than we got. Meanwhile on the new music front, it is hard to find a better debut than …listen, by Stealth. Not rock in any way, but more mind-expanding than anything else I heard in 2015.
And talk about high stakes on the movie front! The most anticipated movie of all time is going to be the most successful movie of all time, thanks to it pushing all the right buttons while moving the story into its next phase. Because of my wife’s health condition (epilepsy) I don’t go out to movies very often, preferring to wait for the blu-ray. Age of Ultron and Ant-Man pleased me immensely. But worth more than just an honourable mention is Mad Mad: Fury Road. Unlike Star Wars, Mad Max rebooted while going off into a startling new direction. It was probably the most impressive film of the year…but even so, my 2015 was only about Star Wars. Just trust me — see Mad Max: Fury Road. See it many times.
Finally: Rest in peace Lemmy Kilmister, Philthy Animal Taylor (that’s 2/3rds of the classic Motorhead lineup, wiped out), Scott Weiland, Chris Squire, Ornette Coleman, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, A.J. Pero, Andy Fraser, and of course, B.B. King.
GETTING MORE TALE #459.1: 2015 Year-End Lists, part 1 – Iron Tom Sharpe!
Here we are once again. It’s the end of the year, and that means it’s time for lists!
Iron Tom Sharpe, the near-legendary host of Sausagefest, needs no introduction here. I like to describe him as “one of the Jedi masters who instructed me” in the ways of rock. A former Record Store owner himself, Tom knows his shit. So listen up!
But which one is Tom?
IRON TOM’S TOP SIX(!) ALBUMS of 2015
6.The Atomic Bitchwax – Gravitron 5. Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls 4.Baroness – Purple 3. Ghost – Meliora 2. Clutch – Psychic Warfare 1. The Sword – High Country
IRON TOM’S TOP SIX(!) TV SHOWS of 2015
6.The Last Man On Earth 5.W/ Bob and David 4.Mr. Robot 3.Fargo 2.Rick and Morty 1.Game Of Thrones
Come back tomorrow for another great list…from the man, the myth, the stinky putrid legend: UNCLE MEAT!
IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls(2015 Parlophone, collector’s book edition)
I have a new hero. His name is Bruce Dickinson.
Bruce has not only beaten cancer back to that dark hole from which it came, but he takes command on Iron Maiden’s new opus The Book of Souls.
Even though he only has writing credits on four of the 11 tracks here, his impact is massive. With lungs of iron, Bruce propels everything. For the first time (possibly) ever, I feel that the most important band member is not leader Steve Harris, but the singer himself.
Right from the opener “If Eternity Should Fail”, Bruce is center stage. He wrote this complex number himself. It boasts one of Maiden’s most memorable choruses yet, and musical twists and turns that return us to Powerslave. Meanwhile, there is a hook that reminds me of Bruce’s solo song “The Ghost of Cain”, from Accident of Birth.
We took a good look at the lead single, “Speed of Light” a couple weeks back. Maiden often write a fast, heavy blazer to go with a new album, and that’s “Speed of Light”. Even though it is the single, it is far from the strongest song. Written by Bruce and Adrian Smith, it is certainly a good Iron Maiden track, but in comparison to the monuments of metal that surround it, “Speed of Light” feels like a brief diversion from the epic metal moments at hand. Adrian’s solo, however, is delicious.
“The Great Unknown” (Smith/Harris) opens softly, but even so there is a menacing tone to Bruce’s voice and the underlying instruments. With a slow, thrusting riff, “The Great Unknown” soon lurches forth, a killer metal march for the ages. Bruce pushes his voice to the very limits, giving it all and then some. As with many of the songs on The Books of Souls, I hear hints and echoes of past Maiden epics. This is not a lack of originality, more like a signature — familiar but always different. “The Great Unknown” ends on the soft note with which it began.
What is an Iron Maiden album without a Steve Harris bass intro? He and producer Kevin Shirley captured a wonderful bass sound on this album. “The Red and the Black”, another epic, is the only Harris solo writing credit. It has a riff that takes me all the way back to Killers, but then it is gone, and it’s onto another riff…and another…and another. At 13 minutes in length, this is one of those trademark Harris songs. Time changes galore, loaded with hooks. You can draw parallels to many epics from the past, but to do so takes away from this one. “The Red and the Black” is a proud achievement, a passionate metal song as only Iron Maiden can really do. Adrian Smith handles one of the guitar solos with a huge splash of wah-wah, and that is simply a thing of beauty. In sum, if you took a little bit of everything that makes Iron Maiden great and unique, then all those ingredients are in “The Red and the Black”. Bass outro, and that’s that.
A semi-shorty (5:52) is in the next slot, a fast riffer called “When the River Runs Deep” written by Steve and Adrian. This one is hard to compare to any past Maiden tracks, as it occupies a space all its own. Adrian Smith sometimes brings in riffs that sound like something other than Iron Maiden, and I think that’s “When the River Runs Deep”. Adrian takes another wah-wah solo, but not to be outdone is Janick Gers who throws down an edgy solo of his own. As far as Iron Maiden goes, this song is guitar solo nirvana.
A 10 minute epic always makes a good closer when you’re Iron Maiden, so the title track “The Book of Souls” (Gers/Harris) is last for disc one. Gentle acoustic guitars and keyboards emulating pipes tell us that this is previously uncharted territory. Then “The Book of Souls” trudges forth, with a beat not unlike “Mother Russia” from No Prayer for the Dying. There’s far more to the song than that, however. Soaring lead vocals (Bruce only seems stronger!) just ice the cake. All three Maiden guitarists shine on this, but Janick and Adrian have some solos that just play off each other so well. You want those trademark Maiden guitar melodies? How about galloping riffs? Nicko McBrain killing it on the drums? Maiden deliver, in top notch style, everything and then some more.
Bruce and Adrian co-wrote “Death or Glory”, opening side two with frenetic drums and riffing. Going for the throat, The Book of Souls has more fast riffs per minute than any Maiden album in decades. In five brief minutes, you are blasted against the wall, bounced off the floor, and nailed to the ceiling. Don’t hurt your neck from all the headbanging. This time, the guitar spotlight is on Dave Murray for an intense, dramatic solo.
“Shadows of the Valley” (Gers/Harris) sounds a lot like “Wasted Years” at first, but only briefly. If anything, “Shadows of the Valley” recalls Dance of Death-era Iron Maiden. Although this song is not as powerful or memorable as others on the album, it does contain some seriously incredible instrumental moments.
One of the most heartfelt and powerful songs on the album is the shortest. “Tears of a Clown” is a thoughtful moment about Robin Williams. The poignant lyrics are to the point:
All alone in a crowded room, He tries to force a smile, The smile it beamed or so it seemed, But never reached the eyes, disguise, Masquerading as the funny man do they despise.
I found this to be one of the compelling songs. Of all the bands to commemorate Robin Williams, I did not expect it to be Iron Maiden. But they did it in such a way that it completely fits.
Dave Murray and Steve Harris might not have known that Bruce already has a solo song called “Man of Sorrows”, but it doesn’t matter much since Maiden’s song is called “The Man of Sorrows”. Musically this sounds much like X Factor-era Maiden. Bruce takes it to a higher level than that. Dave himself has a nice slow bluesy solo at the end that is just pure gravy.
The biggest surprise, the biggest song, and the biggest challenge has to be “Empire of the Clouds”. Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon. Never before have the credits “Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano” been written inside one of their albums. For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup. Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well. “Empire of the Clouds” is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, “we did that”. The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic. Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but “Empire of the Clouds” might be his first song about airships. You can trust him to instill it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.
Even though 92 minutes have elapsed, The Book of Souls does not particularly feel longer than A Matter of Life and Death or The Final Frontier. Like those two previous records, The Book of Souls is going to have to be digested long-term, returned to again and again to fully absorb and appreciate. This is an album in the true sense: best appreciated in sequence, as a single work. There’s an intermission in the middle for you to change CDs and take a break, but I recommend diving right back in once again.
With Bruce’s very serious health scare, and the increasing age of the band, there is always the chance that this could be the last Iron Maiden album. Of course, some said that about The Final Frontier as well. It seems that ever since Brave New World in 2000, Iron Maiden have set to top the previous album each time. The cumulative effect of that is that they had a hell of a lot to live up to on The Book of Souls.
1. If Eternity Should Fail (Dickinson) 8:28
2. Speed Of Light (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:01
3. The Great Unknown (Smith/ Harris) 6:37
4. The Red And The Black (Harris) 13:33
5. When The River Runs Deep (Smith/ Harris) 5:52
6. The Book Of Souls (Gers/ Harris) 10:27
7. Death Or Glory (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:13
8. Shadows Of The Valley (Gers/ Harris) 7:32
9. Tears Of A Clown (Smith/ Harris) 4:59
10. The Man Of Sorrows (Murray/ Harris) 6:28
11. Empire Of The Clouds (Dickinson) 18:01
For the official KeepsMeAlive review by Aaron,click here!
IRON MAIDEN – “Speed of Light” (2015 BMG single/T-shirt bundle – Best Buy exclusive)
“Only at Best Buy“ — the words chill me to the bones.
I don’t know what the deal is with Best Buy exclusives in Canada. When Tenacious D’s movie Pick of Destiny came out, I found the Best Buy edition no problem, just up the street. Bonus disc and all, easy peasy. Didn’t even know such a thing existed until I found it at Best Buy.
Only a few years later, it became impossible to find Best Buy exclusives at Best Buy. Using Tenacious D as the example again, the Best Buy edition of Rize of the Fenix has two bonus tracks. I had to buy it on eBay, so you know it was an inflated price. Same thing with the last Black Sabbath album. Best Buy had a bonus track called “Naïveté in Black” which happened to be one of the best songs. Had to buy it on eBay. Paid too much.
A few weeks ago, Best Buy announced they were getting an exclusive on the new Iron Maiden single “Speed of Light” from the forthcoming double album The Book of Souls. It came with a T-shirt. But I wanted the single just as much. That’s where Stone from Metal Odyssey came in!
First of all, I’m gonna tell you to follow Stone in some way, shape, or form. (WordPress/Twitter) He read my plight regarding Best Buy items here and took pity. I called my closest Best Buy — all CDs have been removed from their inventory. So Stone bought two copies and sent me one, asking nothing in return. (I will return the favour — just name it man!) To say I appreciate this gesture is am understatement, which is why I’m being more long winded than usual for a one track CD single!
“Speed of Light”, written by the duo of Dickinson/Smith, is true to Iron Maiden, and it sounds fucking brilliant. We know all about the new double album, with plenty of long bombers. “Speed of Light” is just a hair over five minutes, a very concise song for any Maiden album. When Adrian and Bruce write together, you can count on a catchy riff and hooks. “Speed of Light” delivers, and Bruce’s singing is just as powerful as ever, cancer be damned. His voice is virtually unchanged since Brave New World, 15 years ago. The air raid siren is intact. And this album will be the fifth with this Maiden lineup, the longest lived in its history. Impressive.
A highlight of “Speed of Light” has to be Adrian’s solo. The three Maiden guitarists (Janick Gers and Dave Murray being the other two) all have their own distinct styles, which is a major boon to a band like Maiden. Adrian is the one who thoughtfully composes his solos, and then lets them rip. This one is brief but has his stamp all over it.
Sometimes Maiden take on a 70’s vibe. “The Angel and the Gambler” is one such moment, but I think “Speed of Light” also has one foot in the 70’s. Just a hint, an insinuation, at the beginning. Otherwise, “Speed of Light” is purely a modern Maiden metal moment. It would have fit comfortably on The Final Frontier, although I would caution against inferring the sound of the new album from just one single. It is probably one of the more straightforward moments on The Books of Souls, but we’ll find out for sure on September 4.
One last comment: fuck you, cancer! You just got beat by Bruce Dickinson!