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Motionless In White Announce New Album and Release Single

Motionless In White have debuted Eternally Yours, another new song from their forthcoming fourth studio album Graveyard Shift, set to hit stores on 5th May.  The release will be their first for new label home, Roadrunner Records.

You can pick it up via iTunes, Amazon and all DSPs.

Eternally Yours also features fan-designed single artwork and follows the previously released track, 570, the music video for which has received over 2.6 million views on the band’s official YouTube.  If you haven’t managed to catch that one yet, scroll down.  Both tracks are taken from Graveyard Shift which will be available for pre-order in the coming weeks.

The band are currently on the road co-headlining The End Is Here Tour across the US and are set for a European run of festivals including Download Festival in the UK on 9th June.

Heart Avail – Heart Avail EP

Milagro Records

Review by Rick Ossian

Aside from what may appear an unfortunate moniker for themselves, Spokane‘s Heart Avail have a lot going for them.  Though there are only five songs here on their eponymous debut, they are all strong tunes and each one has the potential for concert appeal and/or FM Heavy Rock airplay.  Aleisha Simpson (vocalist) can be eerily reminiscent of Evanescences Amy Lee, or any one of a number of Nightwish/Within Temptation wannabes, but she has her own set of sexy, sultry pipes and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that she can hang with the boys.  By the by, the boys are Greg Hanson (guitar), Mick Barnes (bass) and Seamus Gleason (drums).

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Broken Fairytale, the second single (Femme Metal), starts things off in fine form.  There is a creepy cool intro filled with acoustic guitar and angelic choirs that soon blossoms into a riffy, uptempo commercial heavy rock number.  The vocals are somewhat akin to what sirens must have sounded like, and though the structure is almost cliche, something keeps it lively.  A beautiful synth close signals us that it is time to move on the next number.

Up next is Vacillation, and features heavy riffing on top of a pounding, grinding AOR-esque uptempo rock number.  The vocals fit the rhythm of the music, which is always helpful.  This would be perfect pop fodder for FM radio.  I’m totally digging the main riff, which is excellent!

Always begins life with some random synth bleeps and bloops.  Good strong vocals accompany a chugging riff about a minute in to the proceedings, but shortly afterwards (1:27) a decided progginess rears its ugly head.  Again, I’m digging the main riff, even when it is interrupted by a noodly guitar solo and some violin-style FX (probably generated by the guitar or the keys).  The production is in-your-face heavy for the most part, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it would have been more effective in more practiced hands.  This is a 7-minute monster that could possibly have been pared down, but what’s the point?

No Remorse includes one of those spooky intros that you always find me yapping on and on about, but when the guitars and the drums kick in you will find yourself nodding and smiling right along with me!  Aleisha is sexy and all sorts of sultry again on this track, which is a mid-to-uptempo rocker, chock full of shifts (2:45) and riffs.  There is the obligatory guitar solo at about four minutes in, but there are lots of keys and vocals to rave about as well.  The vocal passage at five minutes in was a particular wow for me.

The last number, Pink Lace, is oddly enough the first single.  Normally I would think the first single would be the lead off track, but then, again, more practiced hands may have prevailed.  Dig that opening guitar lick – I really love the energy on this one.  Cool, chugging riffage accompanies a “prissy little princess in ribbons and bows”.  The vocals are a strong, plaintive howl, and can be, again, in your face – but this, dear reader, is a good thing. Trust me on this.  Rock blues must ask its questions, and the main one here seems to be “if you could see what you do to me/ Every time that stupid smile…” well, you get the picture!

If you like your rock along the lines of Evanescence, Within Temptation or Nightwish, and you don’t mind a bit of commercial AOR for your background, then you should do just fine with Heart Avail! Enjoy!

Verdict: 7/10

KANSAS ANNOUNCE FIRST NEW ALBUM SINCE 1990

Legendary American Proggers, Kansas, will release their intensely anticipated new studio album The Prelude Implicit on 23rd September 2016.  The album is the first new release in 16 years for the band that has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and is famous for “classic hits” such as Carry On Wayward Son (which fans of Supernatural will be familiar with, since it appears in the recaps of each season’s finale episode) and Dust In the Wind (as quoted in Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure when Bill “philosophizes” with Socrates).

The Prelude Implicit features 10 all new tracks written by the band and co-produced by Zak Rizvi, Phil Ehart, and Richard Williams.  Kansas’s signature sound is evident throughout the album.  They returned to the studio in January 2016 after signing with Inside Out Music.  Says Inside Out founder and president Thomas Waber:

Kansas are the biggest and most important Prog band to come out of the United States. I grew up listening to them, and their music is part of my DNA.  The Prelude Implicit undoubtedly adds to their already impressive musical legacy.  I can’t stop listening to it, and we are proud to be releasing the album.”

The result of the time in the studio was even more than the band imagined.

This is definitely a Kansas album,” remarks original guitarist Richard Williams.  “Whether it is the trademark Prog epic like The Voyage of Eight Eighteen, biting rocker such as Rhythm in the Spirit, or mindful ballad like The Unsung Heroes, there is something on this album for every kind of Kansas fan.  After years of pent-up creativity, the entire band is very proud of The Prelude Implicit.”

Lead vocalist Ronnie Platt adds, “Recording The Prelude Implicit was an incredible experience, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. It is my hope that, knowing the intense listeners that Kansas fans are, the continuity yet diversity of this album will be pleasing to them.”

When asked about what the album title, The Prelude Implicit means, “Without a doubt, this is a new musical beginning,” explained drummer, Phil Ehart.

The Prelude Implicit will be released September 23, 2016, on Inside Out Music.  The album will be available on CD, Double 180 Gram Vinyl, and digitally on iTunes and Google Play.  Pre-order opportunities will be available starting later this summer at KansasBand.com and Amazon.com.

The Prelude Implicit Track Listing:

  1.  With This Heart
  2.  Visibility Zero
  3.  The Unsung Heroes
  4.  Rhythm in the Spirit
  5.  Refugee
  6.  The Voyage of Eight Eighteen
  7.  Camouflage
  8.  Summer
  9.  Crowded Isolation
  10. Section 60

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When I started The Wyrd Ways Rock Show back in 2008, my intention was to bring you, the audience, the best up-and-coming talent in Hard Rock and Metal as well as chucking in some classic stuff.

Thing is, the podcast then grew a website.  and I ended up getting some friends and a few others to help out.  Some of those that were classed as “others” became friends (hello, Rick!).

Getting down to brass tacks, this whole thing has got too big for myself and a small handful of regulars to handle on our own.  This is why The Wyrd Ways Rock Show needs YOU.

If you can write detailed reviews of albums or gigs or opinion pieces relevant to Metal and Metal culture, we need you.

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CROSSFAITH ANNOUNCE NEW SINGLE AND EP AHEAD OF READING & LEEDS

Crossfaith have revealed the release of a mini EP New Age Warriors on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Youtube and everywhere else you can listen to music.

The first single to be taken from the record will be Revolution which you can check out here:

Frontman Ken comments “Welcome to the new era! It’s time to get wild. We are the New Age Warriors, and you can see the future of Crossfaith with our new songs. We’re so excited about bringing out more new music to you guys, so get ready!”

Crossfaith were also recently announced as this year’s Edinburgh Metal Party headliners, appearing on the bill above Hacktivist, Certain Death and Dead Lies.  The band will also be appearing at this years Reading and Leeds festivals.

The band also unleashed an impressive video for Rx Overdrive,  check out the video here:

 

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

download (6)

Metal Blade

Review by Tom Mead

amazon_badgeAmon Amarth are a shining example of what a band can achieve through hard work and determination.  Their sound, style and image have not changed much in 20+ years, but relentless touring and a string of consistently strong albums have led to this bunch of Swedish Vikings becoming one of the biggest Metal bands in the world. Suffering a recent setback with the departure of long-term drummer Fredrik Andersson, Amon Amarth have followed the AC/DC template for replacing an important band member: quickly find a replacement (session drummer Tobias Gustafsson, of Vomitory) and record a quintessential album.

Jomsviking, the band’s 10th full-length release, is a concept album featuring an original story about love, loss and revenge, based on the legendary Jomsviking warriors, a secretive group of mercenaries who were sort of like a Viking equivalent of Samurai.  Don’t worry if the words “concept album” send alarm bells ringing in your mind; this is by no means a major departure from the band’s usual sound!  It is arguably the case though that Amon Amarth have shifted slightly over the years from a pure Swedish Death Metal sound to one that has a bit more in common with NWOBHM and other more overtly melodic metal styles (whilst still retaining Johan Hegg’s trademark harsh Viking roar); this was particularly the case on their previous album, Deceiver of the Gods, and Jomsviking follows suit with several gentler passages used to convey different parts of the story.  Nevertheless, there is plenty here to satisfy old school fans and new converts alike.

The opening three tracks are amongst the strongest the band have ever recorded. Lead single First Kill erupts into life with rapid-fire drums and guitar harmonies, leaving the listener in no doubt which band they’re listening to; we’re in familiar, comfortable territory here.  Wanderer maintains your attention with a bouncy, palm-muted riff (somewhat reminiscent of Gods of War Arise from fan-favourite album With Oden on Our Side) and contains one of Amon Amarth’s best guitar solos.  A melancholic spoken-word passage segues into third track On a Sea of Blood, where axemen Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Soderberg are again on top form with Thrashy riffs and Maiden-esque harmonies aplenty.  There’s also a deliciously heavy bridge where Johan Hegg sings of a dragon attacking our hero’s ship: “the dragon sweeps down with a roar, sky and ocean shake” (NB: this story is not inspired by true events…). This all drags the listener into the album’s concept with ease, the story fitting the music comfortably.

Other highlights throughout the album include Raise Your Horns, One Thousand Burning Arrows and A Dream That Cannot Be.  Raise Your Horns is what every Viking album needs: a drinking song!  Heavy and catchy, with a guitar melody you’ll be humming/chanting for ages, this will surely find a place in Amon Amarth’s live set.  One Thousand Burning Arrows is a melancholic and captivating song about a Viking king’s funeral; it’s probably the closest the band ever get to a ballad! And A Dream That Cannot Be features a rare collaboration with another artist, in the shape of German Metal siren Doro Pesch.  Her impassioned vocals contrast with Johan Hegg’s nicely, with the effect being a Death Metal approximation of The Phantom of the Opera, without being at all cheesy.

It is however very difficult to make a truly great concept album; how do you ensure every chapter of the story is equally engaging?  In Amon Amarth’s case, this is magnified by the fact that they have a distinctive, easily identifiable sound.  As with several of their other albums, they have struggled to create enough ideas to make their sound captivating enough across all the album’s tracks.  Songs like One Against All, At Dawn’s First Light and Vengeance Is My Name contain good riffs and are generally catchy, but they contain several musical ideas found elsewhere on Jomsviking and Amon Amarth’s back catalogue, making them sound somewhat formulaic.  Still, there are worse formulae for Rock/Metal bands to stick to…

In general, Jomsviking is more or less business-as-usual for Amon Amarth and is unlikely to disappoint old or new fans.  Yes, it’s somewhat inconsistent, but they’ve done a good job of telling a decent story on an album that is not out of place, in terms of style or substance, with the rest of the band’s catalogue.  Not many bands make it to ten albums, and there’s enough evidence here to indicate that Amon Amarth still have plenty of fuel in the tank (or mead in the drinking horn; pick your own Viking metaphor…)

Verdict: 8/10

Wyrd Ways Rock Show CCCXXX

With the unveiling, in the last show, of The Wyrd Ways Rock Show’s Album of 2015, it’s time to start looking forward again (at least for the most part, anyway!). That means new music from Anthrax, Rob Zombie, Bull Riff Stampede and Amon Amarth as well as the unveiling of an interview with a band who played the New Blood Stage at last year’s Bloodstock Festival.

So, all told, that’s a little over two hours of quality music. Who says I don’t look after you lucky people?

If you decide to support the making of the show by becoming a Member, you get the show at a higher bitrate and therefore better quality. For details about how to become a Member as well as the latest in Rock and Metal news and reviews, head over to www.wyrdwaysrs.com.
Amon Amarth – First Kill
Bull Riff Stampede – Enraging The Beast
Machine Head – Game Over
Covered: Emerson Lake & Palmer – Nutrocker
Rainbow – Stargazer
Lords Of Black – Lords Of Black
Record Of The Week: Anthrax – Evil Twin
Ricky Warwick – When Patsy Cline Was Crazy
The New Roses – Heads Or Tails
Knock Out Kaine – Cruel Britannia
Shock Of The New: King Leviathan – Wormwood
Shock Of The New: King Leviathan Interview
Shock Of The New: King Leviathan – The Shrine
Asylum City Zoo – Bait The Hook
Van Halst – The End
Record Of The Week: Anthrax – Breathing Lightning
Human Fortress – Thieves Of The Night
Stone Broken – Fall Back Down
Record Of The Week: Anthrax – For All Kings
Beholder – Frozen Steps Of Utoya
Rob Zombie – Well, Everybody’s Fucking In A UFO

Bloodstock adds three bands to the Sophie Lancaster Stage line-up

Buy your Bloodstock ticket by clicking on the image.
                           Buy your Bloodstock ticket by clicking on the image.

News has just reached Wyrd Ways HQ that three more bands have been announced for this year’s Bloodstock Open Air Festival at Catton Hall in Derbyshire.  Click on the image above if you haven’t got your tickets yet.  It’s looking like it’s going to be another good one.

Headlining the welcome party on the Sophie Lancaster stage on Thursday night, will be Phil Campbell‘s All-Starr Band.  The legendary Motörhead guitarslinger will also be officially opening the newly christened Lemmy’s Bar with the first drink at 5pm.  This will be their second appearance at the festival, following their appearance on the Jagermeister Stage back in 2013.

If you’re on Instagram, go follow Phil’s brand new page (@phil_campbells_all_starr_band).

Also on the bill are British extremists The King Is Blind, following their Bloodstock debut in 2014 and release of their debut album, Our Father last month.  Frontman Stephen Tovey tells us:

“The Bloodstock crowd welcomed us with open arms and raised fists on our last visit, so on the back of Our Father, we’re primed and champing at the bit to bring a savage and energetic set of the heaviest metal to Catton Hall this August.  You bring the beers, the horns and the headbanging, we’ll bring the riffs and the truly crushing metal.”

Homegrown doomsters, Witchsorrow also join the bill. Says frontman Necroskull;

“It gives us no small amount of pleasure to once again rain doom down upon BLOODSTOCK. It is an incredibly special place for us, and we are incredibly proud to stand alongside Twisted Sister, Venom, Slayer, and Paradise Lost in bringing heavy metal madness to Catton Park. Doom forever. Forever doomed.”  

Their album, No Light, Only Fire, is available through Bandcamp or Amazon and needs your immediate attention.

Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls

Released 04 September 2015

Parlophone UK

Review by Suzi Horsley and Rick Ossian

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Right.

Iron Maiden.

I *love* Iron Maiden. Probably more than any other band ever- seeing them at Sonisphere last year was one of the highlights of my life, and the picture of me screaming my head off to Fear of The Dark remains one of my most loved pictures of me everThey were my gateway into Heavy Metal. When I was 17 or thereabouts, (I’ve told this story way too many times on here) I nicked my housemate’s copy of Best of the Beast (It might have been Number of The Beast, I can’t remember these days) and was enthralled. I walked around the house snarling “666! The Number of The Beaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast” for months. From then on, it was a slow descent to my current eclectic tastes which are slowly widening to include Metal of the Black and Death variety. Anyway, Iron Maiden hold a very, very special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons, and I am rather firmly of the belief that it is actually impossible for them to put out a bad album.

However, that being said I didn’t think was possible for Linkin Park to put out a bad album (remember that horror?  Or this one?) or for Lacuna Coil to put out a bad album or…well you get the idea. In the last few years I’ve been let down by some of my trusty favourites, so before I gave The Book of Souls (announced on my birthday this year don’tcha know – thanks for the present, guys!) it’s inaugural listening in the southern tower of Castle Wyrd Ways I was somewhat apprehensive.  Could a band who have been steadily churning out killer albums for the last 40 years do it again? It’s been five years since we had an Iron Maiden release – what if they’d all forgotten how to play, or something?

Well, I’m very pleased to say that is not the case. I’ll spare you the summation of my feelings and give you a track by track breakdown and as a Wyrd Ways Rocks Show Special and (to save fights) my colleague, the esteemed Rick Ossian, also known as WWRS’s King Of Prog And AOR and Senior Reviewer will be joining me.

Hello Maiden fans and freaks worldwide – Rick here, your favorite Fish-Man, with a few words (or so) to add to my fellow WWRS cohort Suzi’s.  Apparently, track listing(s) vary from one continent to the next, so what we shall have here is a Transcontinental Twisted Review with a shared authorship of sorts.  Now, normally when I do a review I do a pretty technical breakdown and try to map things out for the listener.  I will try to refrain from that to a certain extent here and just get down to brass tacks.  Like Suzi, I have become an ardent admirer of the Irons (Up the Irons!) since they appeared in my musical orbit — only difference being that I may have become more aware of them much earlier than Suzi.  Then again, the only REAL reason for that is because I am much older.  Also, there isn’t going to be a lot of objectivity involved here…let us be clear, this is a completely biased review.

When I first began listening to Maiden, I was a MUCH younger man than I am now.  I also have one concert experience to covet, and I can’t even begin to tell you about it, because the memories just aren’t there.  I DO recall that Guns N’ Roses bowed out as the support band (supposedly because their star was on the rise and Axl didn’t think it ‘proper’ that G N’ R should open for somebody else at the time). Another American outfit, Hurricane, did the honours instead, and I remember not much else except for Dickinson‘s regular requests for us to “SCREAM FOR ME, OMAHA!!”

Since I’m the boss (or T’Gaffer, to use Yorkshire slang), and Maiden were the band that single-handedly got me into this whole Heavy Metal thing, if you two think you’ll get away without at least the odd interjection, you’ve got another thing coming!

So let’s get to it.  Damn straight.

The album is Maiden’s first studio double album (though I have a digital copy from Groove Music) and comes in at a whopping 92 minutes. It has  their longest ever track on it, which comes in at 18.01 minutes long and knocks Rime of The Ancient Mariner down to being Maiden‘s second longest track. It is *not* a concept album, although I rather feel it should be, but it quite thematic on the subjects of death and hell and other cheerful things like that.

If Eternity Should Fail  is our introduction which kicks off with some weird Spaghetti Western-esque “do-do-dooooooo” stuff before Bruce gives the most beautiful, ethereal standalone kick off to a vocal introduction to an album I think I’ve ever heard. What you then get is gloriously classic Maiden – all the things that make Maiden great – with something that’s new.  It’s old Maiden enough that no one is going to be upset, but new Maiden enough that it isn’t boring either.  And the lyrics are mind blowing.  It’s also instantly catchy.  I’m only on my third listening and singing along already.  At the end it has some really creepy spoken word stuff which gives you some flavour (and freaks you out).

As an opening track, this one sets the stall out well.  The intro is a bit… interesting.  Very 80’s synths (remember this band telling us in their sleeve notes that Metal and keyboards should never mix?  How times have changed!) backing a mournful verse, with Bruce showing another, Blues-y, side to his voice.  Then the rest of the band comes in and we’re in familiar territory.  This is Maiden.  A good one to start with.

If Eternity Should Fail follows The Red and The Black (more on that later) as track 5 in the States, and I was agog at the intro, a purely spacey, Egyptian-style intro that recalled some of the tracks from Powerslave, for me at least.  The requisite galloping and guitar-soloing are there, and at the five-minute mark there is a brief bass/drum takeover, of all things.  Bruce‘s vocal power is just that, an extraordinary display of an extraordinary man’s talents.  The voicing(s) at the end may be these blokes’ way of getting all philosophical on us, but who cares?  It SOUNDS cool!

Track 2 here in the UK is the previously released single Speed of Light which is *deep breath* the closest I think Maiden have ever come to releasing a Pop Song. It’s not bad, please do not misunderstand me for a single second, it’s just a bit poppy in a way I can’t put my finger on. It’s my least favourite track from the album, but it’s still good. From any other band I’d think it was perfectly acceptable. Anyway, it’s a bit boppy, and I want Maiden to make me scream and then displace bits of my spinal column head-banging. This track doesn’t do that. I do still find myself bouncing along in my desk chair signing the chorus though so, yeah…

Oh, give over, Elfie!  This one’s a cracker!  The song gallops along on sheer joy and showcases a band that are enjoying themselves.  After the last couple of albums, I’d begun to fear that Maiden had lost the ability to write quick songs.  This one proves me wrong, and does it in fine style.  Nicko even uses his cowbell!

Speed of Light, the track that first became available to us, is the last track to appear, ironically enough, on the US version.  Though it may sound tepid by some standards, it is a truly remarkable piece of work as well.  

The Great Unknown starts with all the guitars doing cunning understated things, and is almost stripped back for a Maiden guitar line. The Bruce comes in with some restrained vocals and then you get some keyboards I think, and the track just slowly builds up for well over a minute until finally around the 1 and a half minute mark Nicko gets unleashed on the drums and then the guitars kick into Maiden style and you get hit full on in the face with the glories of a full Maiden line up doing what they do best, while Bruce shows off all that opera singer training he had. Also, epic guitar solos.  I can see the crowds going nuts, with horns up screaming this one back in the middle of a festival already.

This one is an example of what Iron Maiden have been experts at for the last thirty years.  Slowburning, epic songs that build from quiet and thoughtful to full speed gallops, before returning to quiet, without feeling forced.  One thing that you can’t help but notice is the sheer quality of the guitar work from original member Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers (the former White Spirit and Gillan six-stringer who has now been with Maiden for something like a quarter of a century, but still feels like the new boy!), all underpinned and anchored by Steve Harris’s throbbing, galloping bass.

The Great Unknown comes in as the second track on this side of The Pond, and Steve begins this number in rather regal bass fashion.  The urgency is there, the in-your-face delivery is there – in fact, it’s ALL there, folks.  All we need to do is listen!  It occurred to me during my first listen of this track that NOBODY screams/yells at you/us like Bruce.  About 5 minutes in there is a contemplative shift of sorts, and …Unknown begins to sound like a different song, hell, even a different band, up to the fade-out. “And the world has fallen/And we stand alone” – kind of prophetic lyrics, but then they do that occasionally, don’t they?

Up next is my favourite track from the album – The Red and The Black. Kicks off with Spanish-style guitars and then kicks into a high octane, thumping, thrumming wall of glorious, multi-coloured sound. Seriously, it is an aural orgasm. You know how Maiden have a back catalogue full of songs that you can just jump and down to, singing “woaoh ah ohhh oh!” along with a slamming guitar line and drums that are just right where it’s at (Lars Ulrich can piss off, Nicko is king FOREVER) THIS IS THAT TRACK. It’s just perfection. I can’t even begin to tell you how perfect it is – it jumps to being my number three favourite Maiden track (Fear of the Dark and Number of The Beast are at 1 and 2. Incidentally Can I Play With Madness is fourth). It’s also a glorious 13 minutes long. There’s always a risk with long tracks that they’ll get boring halfway through. Not so, with this one. It’s 13.33 minutes of sheer perfection.

The Red and the Black is up fourth here in the expanse that is Nebraska too, and I don’t know that a bigger track has been heard (at least not to these ears) in quite some time.  Steve begins the proceedings again, I believe, though these ears MAY be a bit untrained.  Any bass players out there that would be willing to express their opinion(s) would be more than welcome!  Emotions and guitar solos are running high on this track as well, and at about the ten-minute mark things shift to a more uptempo rendering.  At ten-and-a-half the repetition, though oh-so-subtle, is the only thing that takes away from the track.  Repetition CAN be cool, methinks.  Perhaps in another world, repetition is all the rage!  At twelve minutes in we do another shift to that world-famous, globe-trotting gallop, and then Steve ends things, kind of like he did at the beginning – you remember, back at the beginning of this track?

There’s some very interesting guitar work on this one, acting as a mirror to Bruce’s melody line, playing along to his singing, matching him note-for-note.  The wash of keyboards in the background adds colour and depth without overwhelming anything else.  Probably the most striking thing is that, four songs in, with nothing clocking in at less than five minutes (most either pushing or exceeding 10 minutes) none of these have overstayed their welcome or sounded forced.  It’s really looking like Iron Maiden have completed their transformation from meat-and-potatoes NWOBHM to a fully-fledged Prog Metal band of the type the likes of Dream Theater can only dream of being.  The Red And The Black is just one of the tracks that reinforces that.  Then there’s the gear shift at around nine minutes in that just makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

When The River Runs Deep should then be an instant disappointment, following such an epic little adventure. However it isn’t. The Red and The Black has a peaceful finish to it and then When The River Runs Deep slams right into your face with a full-on start, and no build up. It’s “only” 5:52 long (there’s only one track shorter than 5 minutes on the whole album and it comes in at 4:58), and I’m sure there’s some cowbell in it. Just the right amount, it doesn’t need more. We’ve got Her Majesty’s Right Royal Air Raid Siren, Bruce Dickinson after all.

When The River Runs Deep is one of those classic Iron Maiden songs.  Unmistakeable.  Riffs, vocals and solos… all perfectly weighted and placed.

I found myself immensely enjoying US track 7, When the River Runs Deep, which in Maiden World is short but sweet at only about six minutes, but still an excellent track, with a super fucking bad-ass main riff and some soloing featuring one of those wah/crybaby pedals (I’m thinking probably Janick there).  The solos abound on this and all of the tracks.

The Book of Souls is the last track of Disc One for those with a physical copy here in the UK and track 6 for those with a digital version. It’s a 10 minute long epic, and it’s best listened to by sitting back and closing your eyes and letting it wash over you.  While you headbang, obviously.

Now then.  The title track.  The Book Of Souls.  Is it epic?  Yes.  Somewhat surprisingly, the keyboards are a lot further forward in the mix than you’d expect.  Again, that raises a wry smile, but it turns the song into something huge.  Then the pedal goes down at the halfway point and the goosebumps are back.  The soloing again is incredible.  Guitar afficianados bang on about Vai, Satriani, Friedman and Malmsteen… but if you want guitar heroics that actually serve the song, you really can’t do any better than Murray, Smith and Gers.  The energy and imagination in this track alone put bands twenty years younger to shame.  THIS is how you do Prog Metal.  Yes, you can do all the Proggy twiddly bits, but you remember the Metal.  

The title track, which you will find in penultimate position Stateside, begins life as it ends, with some positively heavenly acoustic guitar work.  Since when do these guys deploy such subtle weaponry?  I haven’t heard it on any tracks since, oh, say the last album?  All kidding aside, dear readers, The Book of Souls is a piece of work that needs to be heard to be believed.  It is incredible – it is fantastic.  It is, as Bruce intones, the “food of all the gods“.  Their are many sweet solos, and the crybaby pedal is broken out again.

Disc 2 kicks off with Death Or Glory and is an instantly upbeat faster paced (and shorter) track than The Book of Souls. It’s fairly punchy, with memorable lyrics, and is again, bound to be a crowd pleaser, but I got distracted listening to it and forgot to write anything. (Elfie! – T’Gaffer)

Death or Glory, which occupies the eighth slot here, features another big rock intro, complete with more wicked vocals and even a couple of paradiddles (getting a bit technical there, Rick! – T’Gaffer) from Nicko.  We get the full package here, folks, with no less than three guitar solos to boot!

Now this is what an album opener should sound like.  Yet Death Or Glory could be classed as the opener for “Side 2”.  This one’s got the Maiden swagger all over it.  This really is the sound of Iron Maiden in full flight, and it is truly majestic.  The goosebumps are back again as soon as they get to the bridge.  If you don’t get the urge to get out your air guitar about three minutes in, you have no soul.  On any other album, this would be the highlight track… but as my colleagues have already mentioned, this album is something special…

Shadows Of The Valley follows Death Or Glory in the UK, and again it’s fairly fast paced. Disc One may be all slow build up songs that then smack you in the face, Disc Two is full of boiling over tracks who have already reached a full head of steam by the time they start. I can’t put my finger on which previous release this track puts me in mind of, but whichever one it is, they’ve done it before. This seems to be a subtle re-working than an entirely new track. Still, bloody good though.

Unlike the UK version,  Shadows of the Valley is the album opener on the Stateside version.  I can hear Steve REALLY well, and of course that classic Maiden gallop is there.  Nicko’s drumwork is wonderful, I might add, and I can hear that beautiful ting ting ting of his cymbal(s).  Bruce is in wonderful form, considering his recent bout (Bruce wins!) with cancer, and there are plenty of guitar solos to go around.  “Into the valley of death“, Bruce intones, which we should realize takes on a completely different perspective, again considering Dickinson’s brush with the Reaper.

They’re at it again on Shadows Of The Valley!  Another slab of classic Maiden.  Bruce is singing out of his skin… which is truly amazing when you consider that, when this was recorded, he had a tumour “the size of a golfball” on his tongue.  There’s the hint of an Eastern influence on the riffing.  Those solos… as I type this, the song is playing and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing on end.  This one is going to go down a storm at the live shows.

Tears of a Clown is the albums shortest track coming in at a mere 4.58. It’s also (apparently) based on Robin Williams’ death in 2014. The opening guitars don’t quite ring right for me – they’re a little off beat somehow, but then it improves.  The opening lyrics:

All along 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

…are absolutely heartbreaking and a very poignant reminder of the complexities of mental health. It is, a solid tribute both to Robin Williams (assuming the story is true) and to those battling mental health stigma everywhere. Never let it be said that Maiden are scared to tackle the hard subjects. And unlike a lot of bands they manage to do it in a non-sensationalist way as well.

It’s absolutely spot-on.  Despite the somewhat cliched title, the song itself is pretty much perfect.  Lyrically poignant… and that guitar work.  I know, I keep coming back to it, but this triple attack from Messrs Gers, Murray and Smith is truly awe inspiring, and there’s no hyperbole in that.  Each and every time, the soloing is incredible.

Tears of a Clown is the shortest track on board here, at just under five minutes, but it is no less cooler than the remainder of the tracks.  It features a wickedly cool intro, and is probably a perfect example of the stop-start, proggy time signature freak-outs that our parents warned us would screw up our ears and the rhythm of our hearts!  More of the wah-pedal being stepped on, which I ALWAYS enjoy, as well.

The Man of Sorrows isn’t any more cheerful and is the penultimate track of the album which also is seemingly based on a mental health theme. It’s probably the most haunting track on the album, and has  slower paced verses and vocals that really let Bruce’s range go to work. Like all Maiden tracks there’s a fairly long vocal free intermission in the middle. Always a pleasure to listen to musicians who are skilled at what they do making some melodies work their asses off.

The Man of Sorrows has a sweet guitar opening, weighing in as track 6 in the US, and an extremely cool ending as well, with a slamming pounder of a riff (1:30), more galloping (2:00), and more guitar solos (4:00/4:30).

Finally, the album comes ot a glorious close with The Empire Of The Clouds. Written solely by Bruce (as was If Eternity Should Fail), it boots Rime of The Ancient Mariner from the longest Maiden track slot, being as Rime is a mere 13 minutes long, and Clouds comes in at 18.01. It also features Bruce on the piano and begins with a distinctly unMaidenish piano intro. This is not a headbanger, this a Lie Back And Enjoy It. And it’s beautiful. There’s even a violin. Or something with strings at any rate. Anyway, it’s a gloriously fitting closer to an album that has been a long time in the making.

Empire of the Clouds (US track 3!) pretty much sums up the definition of epic, and even when faced with other standard side-long prog tracks, it does NOT lack whatsoever.  There is plenty of pomp and circumstance, Stürm und Drang, as it were, and you know it’s going to be an absolute monster when there are keys and strings involved!  The introduction features a beautiful piano piece, and about a minute in we get some gorgeous violin work.  Two minutes in, we get some powerful vocals.  You don’t really hear your first taste of guitar until about three-and-a-half minutes in!  At the four-minute mark, things get decidedly heavier.  This one is positively hair-raising – I literally had gooseflesh during my first listening to it!  Again, plenty of lead guitar work to go around, and the big Nicko shift (7 minutes in) is interesting to say the least.  If one were to look in Webster’s (or the Oxford English Dictionary for those of us on this side of The Pond! – T’Gaffer) under ‘vocal prowess’, then there would be a big picture of Bruce there with this track!  There are transitions a-plenty as well, and at fifteen minutes in, you would swear we were listening to a different track again!  Towards the end, at about 17 minutes in, as the track begins to fade out, we get more of that ‘grand’ piano stuff.  This track in particular kind of says it all, and could even be indicative of a Maiden ‘formula’, if there were one!

So after 1600-odd words of my waffling at you, what do I think of The Book of Souls? Well, frankly I think it’s a continuation of a 40 year long career standard. There’s not many bands who can consistently turn out excellent albums. Iron Maiden are one of those bands. Longterm fans won’t be disappointed and new fans will be left wanting more. I’m rating this album 5/5 but only because Carl won’t let me rate it as an 11. (Just this once, I might let you do that, Suzi – T’Gaffer)

It’s been five years since The Final Frontier (which I have to admit was something of a disappointment).  The question that has to be asked is, “Has it been worth the wait?”  The answer has to be, and can only be in the affirmative.  If you’re going to call this a “comeback” album, it’s been the best return since Osiris.  This is a band that, even after nearly 40 years, are capable of working magic.  Not content with nostalgia trips, this is a band that is pushing forward and pushing forward hard.  It’s likely we will never see the like of Iron Maiden again, and the credit for that lies firmly in the hands of Steve “Bomber” Harris.  He put this band together.  He’s the lynchpin that holds this band together.  His drive, determination and sheer ability to pick exactly the right musicians to fit his vision have absolutely come to full fruition with The Book Of Souls.  Every single note played on this incredible record just proves that Iron Maiden are the greatest Heavy Metal band in the world.  Ever.

If you disagree, you’re wrong.  It’s as simple as that.  Full marks.  Album of the fucking DECADE.  UP THE IRONS!

For those of you whose musical orbit does not land in Maiden Land, this may NOT be for you.  However, for those of you who are about to Rock, as we all do from time to time, this is the stuff right here!  I am in complete agreement with my cohort, Suzi – at the very least, highest marks with two thumbs straight the hell up!

(P.S Maiden for Bloodstock 2016 alright? Please don’t let them Download, I don’t want to deal with the tweenagers)

ironmaidenbookofsoulsgroupshot

*****(******)/5

Wyrd Ways Rock Show CCCXIII

Bloodstock… for those of you who’ve just got home, here’s a reminder of the weekend.  Think of it as an aural postcard from The Wyrd Ways Rock Show to you.  If you didn’t go, this is what you missed…

As someone who probably downloads from this website, you get the Broadcast Edition of the show.  If you decide to support the making of the show by becoming a Member Subscriber, you get the full show at a higher bitrate and therefore better quality as well as access to the Members Only pages of the Wyrd Ways Rock Show website.  For details about how to become a subscriber as well as the latest in Rock and Metal news and reviews, head over to http://www.wyrdwaysrs.com.

The broadcast version of The Wyrd Ways Rock Show appears on The Wall every Monday at 11pm GMT and Planet Mosh every Thursday at 6pm GMT.

If you are in a band and want your music on The Wyrd Ways Rock Show Presents: Shock Of The New compilation (which will be free to download), email either myself or Suzi with the relevant details.

So without further ado, here’s the playlist, complete with iTunes and Amazon Digital links:

Delain – Your Body Is A Battleground (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Armored Saint – With A Full Head Of Steam (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Overkill – Where There’s Smoke (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Sabaton – Night Witches (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Trivium – Silence In The Snow (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Knock Out Kaine Interview
Knock Out Kaine – 16 Grams Of Heart Attack (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Martyr De Mona – Nothing Sacred (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Godsized – Bleed On The Inside (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Mordred – The Baroness (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Jettblack – Explode (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Savage Messiah – Cross Of Babylon (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Xerath – Death Defiant (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Korpiklaani – Pilli On Pajusta Tehty (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Suzi’s Bloodstock Picks 1: Red RumRise From The Deep (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Suzi’s Bloodstock Picks 2: Mortishead – Blood Drive
Suzi’s Bloodstock Picks 3: Silas – Art of The Cure (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Suzi’s Bloodstock Picks 4: Chaos Trigger – Me and My Flamethrower
Suzi’s Bloodstock Picks 5: Divine Solace – Beyond The Stars
Suzi’s Bloodstock Picks 6: Scarred – Cinder (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Endeavour – Drowning Memory (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Triaxis Interview
Triaxis – Ministry Of Truth (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Old Rake – Guitarists Playing Guitars (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Lawnmower Deth – Satan’s Trampoline (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Onslaught – 66Fuckin’6 (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Wolf – Shark Attack (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Orange Goblin – Scorpionica (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Sepultura – Sepultura Under My Skin (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Ensiferum – Two Of Spades (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Black Label Society – Damn The Flood (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)
Rob Zombie – Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga (iTunes) (Amazon Digital)