First off, I want to ease the worries that The Book of Souls has maintained a high rating because of the Maiden fanboys. I can assure you this is not the case, this is a legitimately good album, and this comes from someone who is absolutely not a fanboy in the slightest. I do like Iron Maiden as much as the next metal fan, they were one of the first bands I listened to when started getting into metal. I think that Powerslave and especially Seventh Son of a Seventh Son are masterpieces in metal history. But I also think Maiden has done A LOT of mediocre and only pretty good work, not even including the disaster that was Virtual IX. However I do think it’s impressive how much an extremely old band has managed to stay relevant with good music even 35 years after their first album. However this is the first album Maiden has put out in which I feel was a step in a new direction. With the exception of Seventh Son and Powerslave, Maiden’s work was stayed mostly to a formula of just plain good heavy metal, of varying quality of course. Even Brave New World didn’t feel like anything super new, as much as just an announcement that Iron Maiden was back to making good music again. Progressive Metal has been a tag on most of Iron Maiden’s albums since Seventh Son, however I don’t think it fully fit in any of those other albums. Sure there were bits of pieces of that genre tag in each, but it never felt fully realized to it’s full potential. This is the first album that feels realized. At first, it’s mostly subtle things, like the spanish influences in the acoustic guitar intros, or the multiple tempo changes, or the sometimes complex riffing. It felt new, which is surprising coming from such an ancient band. But then it all comes to a fitting conclusion in what is one of the best tracks of the year. The finale “Empire of the Clouds” is an 18 minute, monolithic masterpiece that finally takes all of what Iron Maiden has tried to do with it’s progressive metal aspects, and finally realizes it to it’s fullest potential. Unfortunately, this track comes after already hearing almost 75 minutes of music. If there is one major issue with this album, it’s the length. There’s almost never a justification for an album being an hour and a half long. Because no matter how good the music is, unless there is a mass amount of variation, the listener is going to get tired. I actually had to take a break at around track 8 because my brain was starting to fry a bit. Because while all of these tracks work well, fantastic even, as individual songs, clumped together it feels like an overdose. It’s one epic ballad after another with no break, all of which, while being distinctly different, are in a very similar style. I feel like if Maiden had cut out about 3 or 4 tracks, this would’ve been a substantially better listening experience. The Book of Souls feels like if someone gave you a tub of really good vanilla ice cream. Not the greatest ice cream ever, but really damn good none the less. And then you take a few bites of it, and you’re like “wow, this is great!”. So then you eat some and you feel pretty satisfied. But then the person who gave you the ice cream tells you that you have to finish the entire tub or else he’ll, I don’t know, force you to watch Adam Sandler movies for 6 hours (the new ones). So you’re forced to eat the whole tub and while yes, the ice cream you’re eating is great, eventually you’re going to get sick of it, especially eating it in one sitting. It turns out the bottom layer is actually this amazing ice cream with [Insert ice cream topping you like here]. And while you’re happy to get to it, by the time you do, you’re so full on ice cream you can’t fully enjoy it. Despite my questionable analogy, this is Iron Maiden’s best work since Seventh Son, and absolutely deserves all the hype it’s getting. It feels like Iron Maiden is going much larger in scope, which I feel is a step in the right direction. I only wish there had been a little addition by subtraction.