Iron Maiden are back with new music in the form of The Book of Souls, a greatly anticipated double- album that’s sent metal fans into a frenzy.

OK, it’s sent me into a frenzy.  I may be categorically the wrong person to review this as I am a huge Maiden fan.  For those of you who are in the know, I’ve flown a previous Flight 666 to a gig with Bruce, and being in the know you will appreciate that this was the best day of my life.

A new album for any Maiden fan is a momentous event and The Book of Souls meets such an occasion in so many ways.  We have such great cover art from Mark Wilkinson in the form of a sneering Mayan Eddie and this is Iron Maiden’s first double studio album, other live double albums having gone before.   Some of the tracks are absolutely mammoth with three being over 10 minutes, including ‘Empire of the Clouds’ at a whopping 18 minutes long.

There’s been some debate on rock radio about the length of the tracks in the run up to the album’s release, with particular reference to the band’s much beloved epic ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, which is a mere 13 minutes 42 seconds by comparison.  ‘Mariner’ is one of those tracks that feels like not a note is wasted and whilst the airship evoking ‘Empire of the Clouds’ does not quite achieve this pinnacle of greatness, and is more akin to tracks like Rush’s ‘The Garden’ than offerings Maiden has brought us before, it’s still such a good track.  Put together in such a way that it feels like we travel with it, I can only hope that they play it live when they tour next year.

‘Empire of the Clouds’ is a track penned solely by Bruce Dickinson and it’s the first time since 1984’s Powerslave that Bruce has provided two solely-written tracks for an Iron Maiden album, the songwriting overall being split between all of the band members.  Steve Harris contributes to seven of the tracks, six of them written with Maiden’s guitarists, and Dickinson and Adrian Smith collaborate for the remaining tracks.

The second Dickinson track  ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ is a fantastic opening to the album and brings some interesting twists and turns, as do tracks like ‘The Man of Sorrows’.  The current single, ‘Speed of Light’, is one of those tracks that is instantly the essence of all that is Maiden and the accompanying video is a marvelous romp of Eddie through the ages of video games.

For me this album feels more like Brave New World than the more recent albums,  both Brave New World and The Book of Souls being recorded in Guillame Tell Studios in Paris, but then all Iron Maiden albums are great in different ways.  I don’t think the band are capable of making a bad album and I really love this latest release.  With dates of a huge global tour yet to come, I’m a very happy metal bunny.

The Book of Souls is released today and is available in a 2 CD deluxe hardbound book limited edition, 2 CD standard edition, lovely triple heavyweight black vinyl and high res audio, both 24-bit Mastered for iTunes and non-Mastered for iTunes.