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It is hard to believe that is seven years since Bruce Dickinson dropped the intense and stylish heavy metal album ‘The Chemical Wedding’ into the laps of metal listeners throughout the world. Boasting heavy and grandiose pieces of metal the fans were treated to what has been called his greatest work.
So now, in 2005, Bruce finally fulfils his promise to go back and record a new solo album with ‘A tyranny of souls’. But has he managed to keep the style that brought him the immense success last time around, or has he changed it and given the fans something new and diverse? The answer to this question is synthesis.
‘Mars Within’ is nothing more than an intro, boasting an eerie and dark soundtrack while Bruce calls out a lost professor, almost like a child chanting after a dream. This is immediately followed by a thunderous drum roll and skin flaying riff that opens the song ‘Abduction’ At first one could be forgiven for thinking that they were listening to a ‘lamb of god’ record, yes it is that modern. However the song oozes classic metal and Bruce’s vocals sound sharper and more crystal than anything he recorded during the 1990’s.
‘Soul Intruders’ follows in a similar style boasting some thunderous double bass and guitar riffs that are very thrashy and totally unexpected from a Bruce record. Singing about riding the winds of time and so forth this track has a very good vibe running through it and possessing a chorus that immediately harks back to ‘star children’ from 1996 record ‘Accident of Birth’.
‘Kill Devil Hill’, however, begins with a very symphonic guitar tone and is backed by quiet tapping of the cymbals. Just as you think this will be a slow number a tom roll smashes the silence and Bruce’s soaring voice serenades the track with wonderful notes. Bruce’s love of flight is no more apparent than on this song, singing about the maiden voyage of the ‘wright’ brothers. While this track lacks speed, Bruce’s voice just holds you in a transfix and the constant slaloming leads and riffs hold you fixed in place.
What follows next totally catches you out, slow acoustic strumming and jazzy snare rolls introduce the albums centrepiece ‘Navigate the seas of the sun’. With a topic about space travel Bruce sings in a very clean and soaring voice. This song sounds very much like ‘tears of the dragon’ and boy does it have the same power. Lovely Spanish guitar solos and beautiful keys serenade Bruce’s vocal journey beyond the stars, while totally unexpected in terms of what came before it, this song is just beautiful and a very apt middle track.
Following such a song would never be easy and ‘river of no return’ begins with tight and sludgy riffs that hark back to early 90’s rock. As a song it would be easy to dismiss this as filler, but Bruce’s voice just gives it such a power that should not be there, it is almost magical that he is able to produce such stunning singing. Not very memorable, yet a lovely song all the same.
Beginning with a very strange vocal solo that almost sounds like an outtake ‘Power of the sun’ begins with a swift and visceral guitar attack that seems alike ‘freak’ from AOB, yet has the sludgy and heavy riffing of TCW. While nothing special as a track it has a good groove and is again a good example of Bruce’s ability on vocals that Roy has produced from him on this record.
… and then it gets weird. Beginning with a riff that instantly harks back to ‘tattooed millionaire’ “Devil on a hog” comes at you in a vein that is pure 80’s rock. Bruce has said in a recent interview this was deliberate with the idea of the devil riding on a Harley Davidson across the stars pulling women. It is very much a parody of a song and is pure fun, indeed one could say Bruce parodies himself with lyrics like ‘I’m not the retiring kind.’ A surprise, but like ‘navigate…’ a very welcome one.
What follows this are two tracks that hark back to doomy and slow origins of metal. ‘Believil’ has a vibe that is very similar to that of the ‘Holy Diver’ record by Dio. It would be very easy to see the great leather lunged one himself singing this track and as a song it is very good. A slab of old doom twinged metal, very welcome indeed.
…And so we are led onto the closing title track ‘A tyranny of souls’ and boy what an ending, this begins with a vibe that is reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s eponymous signature song. Much like ‘the alchemist’ at the end of ‘chemical wedding’ Bruce returns to the beginning of the album at the start of this song, rechanting the name of the mysterious professor from ‘mars within’. This song has incredible attacking riffs that while slow, just scream metal. Bruce’s vocals are also very similar to those used on the title track to CW with lots of exaggerated malice and darkness to them.
The album isn’t as fast as you would believe from the opening songs, nor is it as heavy as you would have expected from a follow up to ‘The Chemical Wedding’. But what this album has is musical prowess from all angles. Roy Z seems to benefit very much from having Bruce in the studio and likewise Bruce’s voice soars free of the straining live conditions forced upon them during the last two Iron Maiden records. In its place comes an album packing power and oozing style. For those who are not fans of Maiden or Bruce there is not much here that will encourage you to listen, but for those who are I suggest checking this out.