With three songs clocking in at more than 10 minutes — one at a walloping 18 — Iron Maiden’s double-disc The Book of Souls has all the makings of being an overblown slog. While it’s certainly outsized (and does crawl partway through disc two), the rock outfit’s 16th studio album is surprisingly engaging overall.
That 18-minute track, “Empire of the Clouds,” is actually a highlight, retelling the tale of a 1930 crash of an R101 British airship in France. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson packs his lyrics with colorful characters as the music moves from an extended piano-and-strings intro into a majestic pomp-rock instrumental. “Speed of Light,” another standout, is a concise, uptempo romp that’s all brazen bombast. “Let’s shoot the moon,” sings Dickinson as the band’s three guitarists dart in between and around his voice. On Souls, Maiden mostly hits its target.