5 things we learnt from Iron Maiden's Book of Souls
Iron Maiden are back on 4 September with album number 16, Book of Souls. We've had our mitts on the record for a few weeks now and here's a few things we've learnt along the way.
There's some funky as hell drum work
We know that Nicko has never been a straight-up 100% metal drummer. Yes, he is one of the finest metal drummers around, but there has always been more to his playing not too far beneath the surface.
This is mainly thanks to his musical upbringing. In his early days on the session scene you could find Nicko playing jazz, funk, blues and just about everything and anything else.
That continues to shine through today. Opener 'If Eternity Should Fail' packs some real funky ride work, 'The Red and the Black' combines galloping bass pedal, stepped hats and thunderous snare and 'When The River Runs Deep' brings more funk and a gloriously thick groove.
It rocks as hard as you'd hope
Yes, there are some proggy moments, there's tracks that clock in way over the ten minute mark, but there's also some raw, rough and ready rockers.
'Speed of Light' and 'Death or Glory' in particular are real bruisers, what Nicko describes as, 'head down, meet you at the end' tracks. These dovetail perfectly with tracks like 'Empire of the Clouds', an 18-minute, piano-led side to Maiden that they waited 16 albums to show us.
Nicko's still got it
Nicko McBrain is 63 years old, but let's make no mistake, he still plays like a man half his age. On Book of Souls Nicko shows no sign of slowing down, instead he grabs riffs by the scruff of their neck and drags them through with brute force and expert technicality in equal measure.
It's a beast
And that's an understatement. This double-disc epic clocks in at 92 minutes. As Nicko recently told us, it's like an entire gig! This is clearly a band that does what the hell it likes, and thankfully for us just because the running time has ramped up, the quality control hasn't dropped a jot. Phew.
Nicko still has a huge kit, and he's not afraid to use it
That massive kit ain't just for show, y'know. Nicko may have six million toms and twice as many cymbals, but you can hear a ton of tones on Book of Souls.
There's the explosive use of China that makes the verse of the title track, for starters. Nicko recently told us that the China smashes on every off beat were inspired by Bonham, and Bonzo would be proud of this drum track.
Then there's the trademark Nicko tom fills, 'Speed of Light' especially benefits from his quick-fire tom rolls. Oh yes, and there's also the little matter of Nicko busting out the cowbell! For a split second Maiden sound like early '90s Guns 'N Roses as Nicko counts in 'Speed of Light' with his trusty cowbell. Nice. Very nice.
For much more on Maiden and Nicko look out for forthcoming issues of Rhythm.