The Book of Souls is the sixteenth studio album 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 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.
"If Eternity Should Fail" is the first song from Iron Maiden's album The Book of Souls. It is the first and only Iron Maiden song far that is played in the drop D tuning, as Bruce Dickinson mentions in this interview. The song had originally been written for an album of Bruce Dickinson's solo career, but eventually made it onto the Iron Maiden record, as Dickinson explains:
The demo was done and the band just copied what Roy [Z, along time Bruce collaborator] and I did in his bedroom. In fact, the little keyboard bit in the beginning is me in Roy's bedroom.*
-Bruce Dickinson, Kerrang! magazine interview
The spoken word at the end of the track is actually the beginning of the story line [for Dickinson's solo album], and introduces one of the characters, Doctor Necropolis. And I said to [bassist] Steve, 'Does it matter that there's this spoken word and then nothing else happens for the rest of the album?' And he goes, 'It doesn't matter, it's talking about souls, it sounds great.'
- Bruce Dickinson, Rolling Stone interview
Dickinson described "If Eternity Should Fail" as being about a machine designed by the evil Dr. Necropolis that steals the souls of men. The opening of the song describes the taking of a soul. The white clothing signifies the soul's purity.
Dickinson contrasts the scientific with the primitive in the description of the operation of the equipment. Instead of running numbers or conducting experiments, Necropolis speaks with a shaman or jester and sees/hears the black dog (an omen).
In the Chorus Dickinson again uses the primitive in relation to the scientific. Reefing a sail is a method of folding the canvas of a ship's sail in on itself to improve performance. The edge of the world could refer to a primitive belief in a flat earth. Waiting for the end of the world describes a religious belief in apocalypse. The failing of eternity refers to the stealing of the soul by Necropolis.
Together, what the chorus expresses is an anxiety over the future of the soul. The soul is held in a kind of religious belief that is overthrown by Necropolis' foreign machine.
Putting stock in the belief of divine salvation is described as nothing more than going full speed into oblivion or passively waiting for the end if science is able to overcome the eternal.
The leading single out of The Book of Souls, featuring a really cool music video featuring Eddie going through the story of both video games and Iron Maiden.
The lyrics are about traveling through space at the speed of light and going to where no-one has ever gone before.
The music video was produced by Llexi Leon, creator of the comic book series 'Eternal Descent' and big Iron Maiden fan. He told Metal Hammer the following about how the video came about:
It seemed a perfect fit — 40 years of metal explored alongside four decades of video games. I pitched this idea to [Iron Maiden manager] Rod Smallwood and the guys in the band. They loved the concept and asked if I could pull it off. I figured it was Iron Maiden, so I had to pull it off, and it had to be the best thing I've ever done. The video is littered with nods to Iron Maiden artwork — whether it's the poses of the characters at certain key moments, or imagery woven into the background art. There's a lot to look out for in the video.
Other lyric references lead to a Black Hole experience: Black holes are possessed of such super-massive gravity that they distort time and space. Some astrophysicists have theorized that black holes might be wormholes to other times and places.
Fun fact, due to the extreme time-dilation of the event horizon of a black hole, if you were to fall into one, you would, as you reached the event horizon, observe time in the universe around you outside of the black hole speed up to infinity. You'd get to see the whole life of the universe play out in fast forward before your eyes.
"The Great Unknown" begins with an image of a calm atmosphere that is quickly broken by a cycle of violence. Later, Smith and Harris write that it will never be calm again.
Musically, the first stanza opens over a quiet instrumental before giving rise to a heavier sound in the subsequent verses, reflecting the calm, peaceful world giving way to a more violent one.
In the context of this song, "The Great Unknown" is death. The lyrics use a number of biblical metaphors and allusions to establish how violence distorts virtue, allows death to blossom and beget more death.
The urge to kill begins with only a few, but the desire for retribution turns everyone violent.
By the end of the song, the selfish hearts of some leaves people in isolation. There is a change of place: the violent start as only a few. but through violence, the peaceful are left alone and separated even from each other.
"The Red And The Black" is the 4th song from Iron Maiden's album The Book of Souls. It was probably inspired by eponymous 1830 French novel Le Rouge et le Noir, about a man trying to rise up in the social ladder through hard work and is eventually betrayed by his passions. Given red and black are the colors of playing card suits, references to those also show up.
In Classic Rock magazine, bassist Steve Harris told that vocalist Bruce Dickinson had a hard time recording the song.
I've written a few like that in the past, and Bruce does freak out a bit about it. I'll write all these words and he'll go, "I can't fucking sing that!" I'm not a singer so I'm not aware of how tough it is to sing this stuff. In my opinion, Bruce is such a great singer he can get his head around anything. Sometimes he does get the hump with me, and fair enough. I understand why he gets frustrated. But he usually ends up doing what I want him to do. He's cool with it all.
This song speaks about the meaning of life and how short life is. The lyrycs are saying that as soon as you think you have found what is worth living for, it's already time to leave this life. Life is too short to "hide" before the difficulties we may encounter in it. We should "keep on trying" until our goals have been reached.
"The Book Of Souls" is the title track from Iron Maiden's sixteenth album. It draws inspiration from the Mayans, which subsequently led to the Mesoamerican artwork of the album. Co-writer Steve Harris stated that the Mayans "believe that souls live on [after death]", and Mayanist scholar Simon Martin, who helped the band with the artwork, said that while 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."
Mayanist scholar Simon Martin clues us in on the civilisation that helped inspire The Book Of Souls.
As the expert who translated Maiden's song titles into hieroglyphs for the sleeve artwork, Simon Martin is well placed to fill us in on the history of the Maya.
"The Maya lived in Central America, including what is now southern Mexico," he explains. "They were identifiable from 1200BC, but their heyday was roughly 200-900 AD. Overtime, they became much more sophisticated and built larger and larger temples, made more complex artwork and created this incredibly elaborate writing system."
While The Book Of Souls Is not a tightly bounded concept album, it contains themes of spirit and destiny. A central figure in the Maya world was the god of maize, their staple diet. In an apt metaphor for agriculture, it was believed that the maize god had entered beneath the Earth and then undergone a series of trials in the underworld, before eventually rising (plant-like) into the sky. For the Maya people, the journey of the soul after death followed a similar path.
"It's very different from, say, the Christian sense of redemption," Simon explains. "You did your besting life, but the key thing was how good you were in surviving these trials in the underworld. Basically, everybody had to meet these lords of the dead who would effectively keep you there unless you could escape. And you didn't escape because you were stronger than they were - you escaped because you could outwit them."
A recurring theme in modern explorations of the Maya is human sacrifice, and in some of Maiden's new artwork, Eddie is pictured holding a bloody knife. Simon is keen to point out that the scale of this has been exaggerated in modern films (such as the Mel Gibson-directed epic Apocalypto), which are more inspired by the Aztecs.
Metal Hammer (September 2015)
"Death Or Glory" is the 7th song from Iron Maiden's album The Book of Souls. 20 years after "Aces High", the band again discusses aerial dogfights, only this time they're the ones from the previous World War. Ironically, the to-the-point 5 minute rocker started with a stanza of what would become the near 20 minute epic that closes the album, "Empire of the Clouds".
All I had was two or three little pieces written for separate things, actually, and one of them had a line, "Mist is in the trees, stone sweats with the dew/The morning sunrise, red before the blue," and it was, basically it was setting a scene: this is dawn, something is gonna happen. And the idea was, yup, it's gonna be World War I fighter airplanes take off, and they'll die horrible deaths and a song about that.
Mainly Death or Glory is about WWI ace Manfred von Richthofen AKA "The red Baron"
On July 6., 1917, during combat with a formation of F.E.2d two seat fighters of No. 20 Squadron RFC, near Wervicq, Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, sustained a serious head wound, causing instant disorientation and temporary partial blindness. He regained consciousness in time to ease the aircraft out of a spin and executed a forced landing in a field in friendly territory. The injury required multiple operations to remove bone splinters from the impact area.
The Red Baron returned to active service (against doctor's orders) on July 25., but went on convalescent leave from September 5. to October 23.. His wound is thought to have caused lasting damage (he later often suffered from post-flight nausea and headaches) as well as a change in temperament. There is even a theory linking this injury with his eventual death.
A full list of the aircraft the Red Baron was credited with shooting down was published as early as 1958 – with documented RFC/RAF squadron details, aircraft serial numbers, and the identities of Allied airmen killed or captured: 73 of the 80 listed match recorded British losses.
A study conducted by British historian Norman Franks with two colleagues, published in Under the Guns of the Red Baron in 1998, reached the same conclusion about the high degree of accuracy of Richthofen's claimed victories. There were also unconfirmed victories that would put his actual total as high as 100 or more.
Turn like the devil, shoot straight from the sun
Climb like a monkey out of hell where I belong
The Red Baron, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the staunchest advocate of triplanes claimed that his triplane could "climb like a monkey and maneuver like a devil."
Richthofen was trained by German ace Oswald Boelcke who composed a list of guidlines to aerial combat. The "Dicta Boelcke" states in it's first rule that you should allways attack from the sun.
Richthofen received a fatal wound just after 11:00 am on April 21., 1918, while flying over Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River. 49°56′0.60″N 2°32′43.71″E
At the time, the Baron had been pursuing (at very low altitude) a Sopwith Camel piloted by a novice Canadian pilot, Lieutenant Wilfrid "Wop" May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. In turn, the Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by a school friend (and flight commander) of May's, Canadian Captain Arthur "Roy" Brown, who had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May.
It was almost certainly during this final stage in his pursuit of May that a single .303 bullet hit Richthofen, damaging his heart and lungs so severely that it must have caused a quick death. In the last seconds of his life, he managed to retain sufficient control to make a rough "landing"( 49°55′56″N 2°32′16″E) in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector controlled by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Several witnesses, including Gunner Ernest W. Twycross, Gunner George Ridgway, and Sergeant Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps, all later claimed to have been the first man to reach the triplane and reported various versions of Richthofen's last words, generally including the word "kaputt."
It is not the first time that Maiden compose songs with strong relation to the Bible.The song itself speaks of sins, prays, and the penance of men. We will do a lyrics breakdown and compare them to a texts in the Bible.
We believe in that thou shall not kill
But others are ready to spill
Thou shalt not kill is a moral imperative included as the 6th of the Ten Commandments in the Holy Bible (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17).
The imperative is against unlawful killing resulting in bloodguilt. The Hebrew Bible contains numerous prohibitions against unlawful killing, but also allows for justified killing in the context of warfare, capital punishment, and self-defense.
So, even if killing a person should be avoided and forbidden, men are always ready to spill the blood of their fellowmen.
The hearts of all men since beginning of time
Living with temptation
Wanting and crime
Another Genesis reference: Adam and Eve has been tempted by the Serpent (Satan), wanting to be omniscient, eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge (this act was forbidden by God: so, they committed a crime.
According to this, sin exists since beginning of time.
Into the valley of death fear no evil
We will go forward no matter the cost
Into the valley of death follow me now
Bring me your souls and I'll make it our last
Here is a reference to Psalms 23:4:
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
The Psalm presents a man who puts his faith in God: besides him, he "will fear no evil". So, the song's character who speaks "follow me now/Bring me your souls..." is probably God.
"Tears Of A Clown" is the 9th song from Iron Maiden's album The Book of Souls. The track was inspired by comedian Robin Williams' depression and suicide in 2014.
My favorite song [on The Book Of Souls] is one I didn't write. It's 'Tears of a Clown,' which talks about Robin Williams. I ask myself how could he be so depressed when he always seemed to be so happy.
The reference "Who motivates the motivator?" is to Robin Williams' inspirational performances in films like Good Will Hunting and Dead Poet's Society as well as his comedic roles in films like Mrs. Doubtfire, The Bird Cage, and Jumanji.
Robin Williams' role was that of a motivator. You could watch any of his films on a bad day and immediately feel 'motivated' and uplifted. He was like a friend. The problem with that was that it didn't allow us to see his humanity. We couldn't see that outside of his role as an actor/comedian, he was a person. And he needed to be motivated more than anyone.
Who motivates the motivator?
"The Man Of Sorrows" is the 10th song from Iron Maiden's album The Book of Souls. The track should not be confused with Bruce Dickinson's 1997 song "Man of Sorrows", as they are completely unrelated.
The phrase translated into English as "Man of Sorrows" ("vir dolorum" in the Vulgate, the Layin translation of the Bible) occurs at verse 3:
He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
"Empire Of The Clouds" is the closing track from Iron Maiden's album The Book of Souls. An 18-minute epic, it is the longest track in the band's history so far, surpassing "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by three minutes.
The lyrics are about the ill-fated British airship, R101, which was the world's largest flying craft when it was built. It crashed in France on its maiden overseas voyage on October 5, 1930, killing 48 of the 54 passengers on board.
It was written concurrently with another song with an aircraft theme, the WWI aerial battle tune "Death or Glory". Once Bruce Dickinson finished that, he still had the "Mist is in the trees" stanza, and decided to write about the R101, to which he has some memorabilia. Given the guide book for the tragedy has 600 pages, no wonder the song seemingly never ends.
The song was composed entirely on a piano, and due to a plethora of factors (too long, too complex, too slow, not rocking enough) it wasn't even considered for The Book of Souls Tour. Bruce thinks it might work with a one-off performance, possibly counting with orchestra backing, along with actors and footage on screens "so you could actually really get the full sense of the tragedy and the drama that was going on behind the scenes".
Every single day we'd be in the studio blasting out stuff and [Bruce] would be in the soundproof glass booth playing piano. Like Beethoven with his ear to the piano, concocting this masterpiece. I think he wrote every single note in it. We interpreted it and we did it in sections. Kevin [Shirley, producer] and Bruce would be in the control room and say, 'That's too bluesy, can you make it a bit more classical sounding?' He recorded all the piano from start to finish and then we played along to that. Then I think they put on all the orchestration afterwards. It's a bit of a story on its own that one.
-Adrian Smith, on the writing process
The R101 was one of a pair of British rigid airships completed in 1929 as part of a British government programme to develop civil airships capable of service on long-distance routes within the British Empire. It was designed and built by an Air Ministry-appointed team and was effectively in competition with the government-funded, but privately designed and built R100. When built it was the world's largest flying craft at 731 ft (223 m) in length, and it was not surpassed by another hydrogen-filled rigid airship until the Hindenburg flew seven years later.
It crashed on October 5. 1930 in France during its maiden overseas voyage, killing 48 of the 54 people on board. Among the deceased passengers were Lord Thomson, the Air Minister who had initiated the programme, senior government officials, and almost all the dirigible's designers from the Royal Airship Works. The crash of R101 effectively ended British airship development, and was one of the worst airship accidents of the 1930s. The loss of life was more than the 35 killed in the highly public Hindenburg disaster of 1937, though fewer than the 52 killed in the French military Dixmude in 1923, and 73 killed when the USS Akron broke up over sea in 1933.