November 2, 2005

CD Review: Bruce Dickinson - Tyranny of Souls

In between gargantuan tours with Iron Maiden it seems Bruce still found some down time. Time that he put to good use working on and releasing a new solo album, Tyranny of Souls. After a few listens I have to say that it is an excellent album in the power metal tradition. It is similar to Iron Maiden but not too similar as to seem a retread. Bruce and crew have crafted a first rate excursion into the realm of souls.

Before going further, I am going to admit something that at times pains me, but other times allows me to listen with the exuberance of youth. I got into music at a late age, missing the glory years of power metal in the 1980's. I was hung up in hair metal for awhile, and it still holds a special place in my heart. There are also a number of bands I didn't listen too, or started with even later, never for any particular reason. Iron Maiden is one of them. I have since become a fan of Maiden. Going a step further, I had never listened to any of Dickinson's solo work prior to Tyranny of Souls.

Tyranny of Souls starts strong and takes the listener on a ride through the metal world. There is something about Dickinson's voice that is powerful, timeless, and just flat out rocks. He has been singing for over 25 years and still has an incredible range and impeccable control.

The album kicks into gear with the opening track, "Abduction," striking with a metallic fury of guitars and drums with Bruce in full aggressive mode rising above. That is followed by the thrashy opening of "Soul Intruders." Dickinson's voice again lashing out above the Maiden-ish riffing. Next up is "Kill Devil Hill," an epic of demonic proportions, it is reminiscent of old school Iron Maiden with Bruce singing of a battle to end all battles.

The next track on the album offers up a drastic change of pace from the earlier levels of metal, it also puts Bruce Dickinson's versatility on display. "Navigate the Seas of the Sun" presents an introspective journey of discovery. It also shows us a different side of the legendary singer, a more laid back and quiet side that is not as evidenced in his Maiden work.

The second half of the album gets off to a bit of a stumble with "River of No Return." It seems to be an attempt at bridging the gap between the excellent track prior and the next which moves back into the heavier realm. "Power of the Sun" is a strong song in it's heaviness, but it strikes as a bit of a generic turn. Next up is a rock song that loses a bit of the metal edge and lands in the realm of radio hard rock, still " Devil on a Hog" is fun, it adds a softer aura that could lead to a fun sing along live.

The penultimate track is "Believel," its opening has a very evil feeling to it. This may sound strange, but the singing to open the track reminds me a lot of Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, strange, I know. It moves into what sounds like a cross between Maiden and a darker Judas Priest song. It plays out as a warning, evil exists in all of us. The album closes with the title song, "Tyranny of Souls." It opens with a deceptively evil sounding guitar with Bruce's ominous voice coming in over it. It is a heavy track featuring bursts of fury amidst the ominous evil.

Bottomline. This is well worth a spin. It may not be as strong classic Maiden, but still delivers the metallic goods. This is a breath of fresh air in a scene that is devoid of much real metal. It also proves how strong Bruce's voice is after all these years. The range may have been reduced a little, but it still puts many out there to shame. This will fill the metallic void you may be feeling.



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