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The Book of Souls
The Book of Souls cover
Studio album by Iron Maiden
Released 4 September 2015
Recorded September–December 2014 at Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris
Genre Heavy metal
Length 92:11
Label Parlophone, Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG (US)
Producer Kevin Shirley, Steve Harris
Iron Maiden chronology
The Final Frontier

(2010)

The Book of Souls

(2015)

Singles from The Book of Souls
  1. "Speed of Light"
    Released: 14 August 2015
  2. "Empire of the Clouds"
    Released: 16 April 2016

The Book of Souls is the sixteenth studio album by Iron Maiden, released on 4 September 2015. It is the band's first studio double album, and therefore also their longest to date, with a total length of 92 minutes. Its launch and supporting tour were delayed to allow vocalist Bruce Dickinson time to recover from the removal of a cancerous tumour in early 2015.

Produced by long-time Iron Maiden collaborator Kevin Shirley, The Book of Souls was recorded at Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris from September to December 2014, which they had previously used for 2000's Brave New World. The band wrote and immediately recorded many tracks in the studio, resulting in a spontaneous live feel. The album's first release, "Speed of Light", was issued as a music video on 14 August, and simultaneously as a digital download and CD single exclusive to Best Buy. In addition to being their longest studio record, it also contains the band's longest song, "Empire of the Clouds", at 18 minutes in length, which was also issued as a single for Record Store Day on 16 April 2016. While not a concept album, references to the soul and mortality are prominent, realised in the Maya-themed cover artwork, created by Mark Wilkinson.

A critical and commercial success, The Book of Souls received positive reviews and topped the album charts in 24 countries. It earned the band their fifth (first consecutive) UK No. 1, following 1982's The Number of the Beast, 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1992's Fear of the Dark and 2010's The Final Frontier. In the US, it matched The Final Frontier's success on the Billboard 200, repeating the group's highest placement at no. 4. It also marks the longest gap between studio releases in the group's entire career; at five years, following The Final Frontier.

BackgroundEdit

The band's intention to record a sixteenth studio album was first revealed by vocalist Bruce Dickinson in September 2013, who expected a possible release in 2015. The album was recorded at Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris with producer Kevin Shirley from September to December 2014, with the finishing touches added in early 2015. They had previously used the studios for 2000's Brave New World, with Dickinson stating "the studio holds special memories for all of us. We were delighted to discover the same magical vibe is still alive and very much kicking there!" The band originally intended to release the record earlier in 2015, but it was pushed back to 4 September while Dickinson received treatment for a cancerous tumour.

The album's title, artwork and track listing were revealed on 18 June 2015. Released by Parlophone, this is the band's first original studio album not to be issued by EMI, after both companies were acquired by Warner Music Group in 2013. In the US, the album was issued by Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG, following BMG's purchase of Sanctuary Records in 2013. On 14 August, the band issued a music video for the song "Speed of Light", directed by Llexi Leon. In addition, the song was simultaneously made available as a digital download and was issued as a single-track CD via Best Buy in the US.

The album cover features the original version of the Iron Maiden logo, not used on a studio album since 1995's The X Factor. The artwork was created by Mark Wilkinson, whose previous works for Iron Maiden include Live at Donington (1998 remastered version) and Best of the 'B' Sides (2002 compilation), as well as "The Wicker Man" and "Out of the Silent Planet" singles covers. According to bassist Steve Harris, the cover art ties in with the title track, as the depiction of the band's mascot, Eddie, is based on the Maya civilization, who "believe that souls live on [after death]". To check the accuracy of the artwork, the band hired Mayanist scholar Simon Martin, who also translated the song titles into hieroglyphs. According to Martin, although the civilisation had no Book of Souls, "the Mayans are very big on souls ... So as a title, it's appropriate to Mayan culture, but it's very much Iron Maiden's own thing." Although not a concept album, references to the soul appear throughout, as do ruminations on mortality in general, with Harris explaining "as you get older, you start thinking about your own mortality and these things more".

A supporting tour based on the album was delayed until early 2016 so that Dickinson could fully recuperate from his cancer treatment. The Book of Souls World Tour began in February with the band performing in 35 countries across North and South America, Asia, Australasia, Africa and Europe.

Writing and recordingEdit

Harris states that many of the songs were written and immediately recorded in the studio, adding to the record's "live feel". Guitarist Janick Gers explains that this involved abandoning their previous approach of spending several weeks writing and rehearsing, which meant that they "went into the studio with only outlines and finished writing the songs in the studio - so we were actually learning them, rehearsing them, and putting them down all at once". According to guitarist Adrian Smith, the pressure this created was positive "because it snaps you into action". Gers states that each member brought in approximately an hour of original music to the sessions, even though they "might only want to use 15 minutes of it", the result being "a really broad spectrum of musical ideas". As with all of their studio collaborations with Shirley, most of the album was recorded live with lots of first takes used for added spontaneity.

"Shadows of the Valley", "Death or Glory", "Speed of Light" and "If Eternity Should Fail" were the first songs written for the album, the last of which, according to Dickinson, was originally written for a potential solo album and features the band's first collective use of drop D tuning. Smith states that "Speed of Light" and "Death or Glory" were two of a small minority of tracks completed prior to the recording sessions, and mark the first collaboration between Smith and Dickinson (without Harris) since both members rejoined Iron Maiden in 1999. With both tracks, Smith and Dickinson deliberately wrote shorter songs in an attempt to hark back to previous singles "2 Minutes to Midnight" (1984) and "Can I Play with Madness" (1988). According to Dickinson, "Death or Glory" is about World War I triplanes.

Unlike the band's previous two albums, 2006's A Matter of Life and Death and 2010's The Final Frontier, Harris does not receive a writing credit for all of the record's songs. This is because Harris suffered two bereavements during the writing stage ("an old schoolfriend and a member of the family") which affected his creative output. The result was a more collaborative effort, with all members except drummer Nicko McBrain receiving a writing credit. One of Harris' contributions, "Tears of a Clown", which he co-wrote with Smith, is praised by Dickinson as his favourite track from The Book of Souls and is based on comedian Robin Williams' depression and suicide in 2014.

The release's final song, "Empire of the Clouds", replaces "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (from 1984's Powerslave), as the band's longest song at 18 minutes in duration. The track features Dickinson on piano for the first time and is based on the 1930 R101 airship crash. According to Smith, Dickinson spent most of the album's recording sessions alone writing the song in a "soundproof glass box with his piano", which he completed with assistance from McBrain. Smith states that it was a challenge to record as Dickinson "laid down the piano on his own" and the band then "played along to that" while following Dickinson and Shirley's instructions. For Record Store Day 2016, "Empire of the Clouds" was issued as a single on 16 April. Along with opener "If Eternity Should Fail", it marks the first Iron Maiden album since Powerslave which features two tracks written solely by Dickinson. For the first time since 1998's Virtual XI, the final track wasn't written or co-written by Steve Harris.

At 92 minutes in length, it is both the longest Iron Maiden studio album and their first double studio record. Speaking about the running time, Dickinson comments "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!"

Track ListingsEdit

Disc 1
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "If Eternity Should Fail" Bruce Dickinson 8:28
2. "Speed of Light" Adrian Smith, Dickinson 5:01
3. "The Great Unknown" Smith, Steve 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" Janick Gers, Harris 10:27
Disc 2
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Death or Glory" Smith, Dickinson 5:13
2. "Shadows of the Valley" Gers, Harris 7:32
3. "Tears of a Clown" Smith, Harris 4:59
4. "The Man of Sorrows" Dave Murray, Harris 6:28
5. "Empire of the Clouds" Dickinson 18:01

PersonnelEdit

Production and performance credits are adapted from the album liner notes.

Iron Maiden
Technical personnel
  • Kevin Shirley – producer, mixing
  • Denis Caribaux – audio engineer
  • Michael Kenney – keyboards
  • Jeff Bova – orchestration
  • Ade Emsley – mastering
  • Chris Bellman – additional vinyl mastering
  • Stuart Crouch – art direction, design
  • Mark Wilkinson – cover illustration
  • Anthony Dry – disc illustrations
  • Julie Wilkinson – Maya codex drawings
  • Simon Martin – Maya hieroglyphs
  • Jorge Letona – Maya font design
  • John McMurtrie – photography
  • Rod Smallwood – management
  • Andy Taylor – management
  • Dave Shack – management

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