Tyranny of Souls
posted on 4/2005 By:
There seems to be no shortage of pre-release praise for Tyranny of Souls, Bruce Dickinson’s first solo album in seven years. It has already received several glowing reviews, which have been gobbled up and further corroborated by several impatient, downloading fans. It’s no secret that it’s in vogue to belong to the “solo Bruce crushes Maiden” camp, and nothing makes some metal fans happier than feeling like they are part of a small group who are in the know, while the rest of us aren’t smart enough to catch on. No question, Dickinson has done some great work, but most fans will tell you that like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The Chemical Wedding is an undisputable masterpiece capable of holding its own with other classic albums, Maiden or otherwise. Tyranny of Souls doesn’t match the strides of those giant shoes, but can hardly be expected to. Much like the past couple Maiden albums, this album has moments of brilliance and mediocrity. On balance, it is a respectable and worthwhile album, but falls short of the “greatness” mantle that some seem so anxious to bestow upon it.
Aside from the inevitable comparisons to the mammoth The Chemical Wedding, what dogs Tyranny of Souls most is inconsistency. The album begins and ends well, but bogs down in the center. The dull ballad “Navigate the Seas of the Sun” kicks off this run of songs, and it is bracketed on the other side by the rocker “Devil on a Hog”. The song could easily have been on the weak Tattooed Millionaire, and the lyrics and vocal harmonies on the chorus are truly cringe worthy. The chorus of “River of Return” is classic Bruce, but can’t quite haul the mundane verse and 80’s riffing out of the doldrums. The melodic, guitar driven “Power of the Sun” fares better, and is easily the best of these four middle tracks.
Tyranny of Souls is an album begging to be resequenced by fans (Ipod, CD-R), because the run of average and less than that songs interrupt an otherwise formidable slab of metal. Dickinson, Roy Z and Co. do serious damage on the first four tracks, beginning with the intro track “Mars Within” and the first full song “Abduction”. The dense, heavy riffs provide a crunching framework for Dickinson’s undeniable pipes, and the ageless Air Raid Siren, unquestionably one of the most talented and iconic metal frontmen of all time, is in fine form on Tyranny of Souls. “Soul Intruders” begins with a basic but super fast riff and double bass, but the song slows to a more typical pace for the verse. Adrian Smith’s guitar work is missed, but Roy Z holds his own well. The only significant complaint about the guitar work is that the verses are sometimes plain, relying too often on basic muted power chords. This is definitely not the case on one of the highlights of the album, the last track of this opening portion of the album, “Kill Devil Hill”. Although only five minutes long, the song has an epic feel, as it packs dynamic changes and alternates between the rigid crunch of the verse and the open, swaying melody of the chorus. The end of Tyranny of Souls also absolutely smokes, but takes a somewhat different approach to achieve the same heaviness of the beginning of the album. The slower “Believel” and “A Tyranny of Souls” are forbidding, moody songs that build in swirling darkness before erupting in rounds of heavy riffing and Bruce’s soaring, mammoth voice.
Don’t waste your time arguing whether Tyranny of Souls is better/worse than Dance of Death. You will probably prefer one over the other, but despite some warts, both albums are efforts well worth the money of Dickinson/Maiden fans. It’s great to hear Dickinson continue to express his own voice via his solo career in spite of the resurgence of Iron Maiden. Lets hope that we do not have to wait another seven years for the next one.
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