Having made one of Heavy Metal's more storied and conspicuous careers worldwide, Bruce Dickinson has returned to collect some more heads and hearts and to satisfy his screaming fans (who obey his classic onstage command: "Scream for me!"). Like myself, those fans like his solo stuff much better than the stuff he's done with Maiden, especially recently. Well, the solo stuff's just a lot better.
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The album starts off with a classic-sounding anthem that will surely be heard chanted by audiences once this band goes on tour: 'Mars Within' - "What do you want from me?" I can see the fists pounding in the air already.
'Abduction' is being groomed as a single, and it surely does have some shredding guitar work. It's a masterfully crafted song. I think I'll have to chalk it up as an 'alien contemplation' metal classic to be played back-to-back with Blue Oyster Cult's 'E.T.I.' and 'Sole Survivor'.
One song here that gives us a panoramic taste of Bruce's whole solo career is the fifth track - 'Navigate the Seas of the Sun'. We get a taste of the Spanish guitar we enjoyed so well on 'Accident of Birth' and 'Balls to Picasso' as well as arcane themes and cosmic musings such as found on 'The Chemical Wedding'. Dickinson and Roy Z. co-wrote the whole album, and the songcraft is meticulous and rich.
On the very next track we get more of the meditations of 'TCW', plus the heavy guitars: 'The River of No Return'. The whole song is filled with foreboding and wrathful occultic warnings, in different modes: quiet, ominous verses and hellfire-and-brimstone choruses.
The 'Air Raid Siren's' voice is undiminished in its powre and majesty. He can still do it all. I think that, considering the involvement of Roy Z. in both Dickinson's and Halford's solo careers, they would make a helluva tour package. Throw in Ronnie James Dio and even Geoff Tate and Queensryche and you'll have an unstomppable machine of doom that will devour hundreds of thousands worldwide.
The real classic on the whole album, however, is the title track: 'A Tyranny of Souls'. The guitars are rollicking, heavy, and darkened with minor power chords that scorch the soul with hellfire. The lyrics are straight out of 'Accident of Birth' and the theme is made to piss off the fundestablishmentalists. In short, it's a surefire classic Heavy Metal anthem. It grinds, it pounds, it bangs your head and kicks your ass. It makes you crank it up. It sticks in your craw and it fucks your corpse with a large, burning stick.
Roy Z.'s guitar completes it as musical mastery in a song, complementing the rest of the song perfectly, creating a kind of anti-single they wouldn't dare play on the radio. It's too good; it's too smart, too heavy, too dramatic, too distracting. You can't do anything else while you listen to this song unless you're banging Jessica Biehl. You'll play it again and again, especially for its dramatic, infecetious chorus. Even though it's not a ballad, it may well bring out the lighters once he comes around for this album.
(If you're wondering how it sounds, think of a mixture of 'The Tower' from 'TCW' and one of its Japan-only bonus tracks, the magnificent and timeless 'Return of the King'.)
It has been said by this album's earliest reviewers that this album "doesn't quite meet expectations given the majesty of 'The Chemical Wedding'." However, having heard the whole thing in several listens, I will tell you that it's not at all inferior to that masterpiece. That album was a very difficult act to follow anyway. Yet Roy Z. and Bruce have delivered to MY expectations, and I'm an extremely discerning Metalhead.
Just go get this CD and prepare for the convulsions we all know. It's an aural orgasm of riffs, irreverence and DOOM.