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At last! After seven years of waiting, Mr. Bruce Dickinson has released his new solo work, where he is the pilot, not just a co-pilot. 'Tyranny of Souls' is the first studio album after monstrous 'The Chemical Wedding', which was released back in 1998. I must admit, that I waited for a 'The Chemical Wedding' style album. Pretty stupid expectation that was, since all of Bruce's albums have been different to previous one, and also to each other.
This time however, if comparing this to older albums, there's some familiar-sounding material. Well, somewhat similar sonic adventures, but still so different. After eerie intro 'Mars Within', 'Abduction' launches into speedy British heavy metal à la 'Silver Wings' from the man's "best of" album, meaning soaring vocals and guitar melodies. Another heavy metal piece 'Soul Intruders' begins with fast double kick drum work and shredding guitar, but slows down soon, which does not mean calming down. Well, partly a tad calmer but still total headbang material. 'Kill Devil Hill' is something I can't put into words. One of the most beautiful and atmospheric heavy metal songs I've experienced, plus it's totally catchy throughout. Heavy at first, calm at the end. Which nicely sets atmosphere for semi-acoustic 'Navigate the Seas of the Sun'. Now this is another beautiful and very emotional song, which grabbed me at the first listening. Bruce's voice is, of course, at its most intimate on these slow songs. 'River of no Return' is partly calm, partly heavy-as-fuck piece of emotionally loaded metal mixed with 1970's prog rock. 'Power of the Sun' is the second piece of fast heavy metal on this album. 'Devil on a Hog' harks back to rockier first steps of Bruce's solo career. Gloomier 'Believil' is not for my liking, thanks to its too close to Hollywood-horror style "eerieness". If that was too "Ozzy", 'Tyranny of Souls' sounds like Black Sabbath's title track at times, throwing in some British heavy metal stylings. The song's eerieness actualy works. Basically, 'Tyranny of Souls' takes good bits of 'The Chemical Wedding' and 'Accident of Birth' (1997), with an odd step to more rocking stuff. Anyways, this album is seamless, which it didn't feel on first five or so listens. I think this is musically widest album from Bruce. Once again, Roy Z was Bruce's partner in crime.
Bruce's voice is in good shape, believe me. Maybe he doesn't soar as high as in the early 1980's, but the man has total control of his voice. His lower voice is just magnificent, full of individual touches. Not that his higher voice isn't, no, but with lower ones he is able express more feelings. The best, most talented singer I have ever heard. And story tells he sung some parts while lying on a bed after injury! Lyricswise this is my stuff. Science fiction plays a big part here, but there's other themes too. On the intro, Bruce hollers after professor Quatermass... Okay, I'll give you a hint: Hammer Horror. 'Abduction' and 'Soul Intruders' deal with humanoids and aliens exploitating humans. 'Kill Devil Hill' tells story of Wright brothers, first successful aeroplane flying humans. 'Navigate...' tells a story about mankind, who have left the Earth to seek a new place to call home. On 'River...', two lovers are aboard a spaceship, but soon their love begins to break. Mankind and human being's lives, struggle and such themes are abound on the rest of the album. Even if many of the lyrics are written as sci-fi, they do have a real life meaning. Old demonic artwork is fantastic, but feels a bit weird with these lyrical themes, as every song has its own engraving.
Soundwise this is really organic. Bruce's voice is well audible, so every detail is heard. However, the voice isn't loud in the mix. Guitar and bass work varies quite a lot during the album, from very heavy and distorted vibrations to acoustic (even some Spanish guitar). Drum sound is also totally organic and good, but the beginning of 'Believil' has some lame snare production. Synths are varying and generally good. There's not too much of them, but they spice things up nicely. There's no trickery in the production. Someone may find it a bad thing, but it suits well with the music, where the sound is not the main thing.
How could I review this album well, as I am a fan of Mr. Dickinson? Maybe not totally unbiased. Anyways, if you think those words about the music could mean, that you could like this album, check it out immediately. Bruce Dickinson's voice has widened and his skill to use it is of course better than ever. So, if you have only heard something like 'The Trooper' or 'Wasted Years' from Iron Maiden, try this. 'Tyranny of Souls' is magnificent!