Not so much a book as an encyclopaedia, the five year gestation period for this album has brought us to this unveiling of an absolute feast of classic metal music on either double CD or triple vinyl. On such a grand scale there’s much to take in and absorb, it kind of automatically demands repeat listens to get your head around.
They’ve obviously got the confidence in themselves and their fans to undertake this epic that is firmly rooted in their latter day progressive take on heavy metal, although it has enough of their trademark galloping triplet energy to get those head banging muscles twitching too.
It starts fast enough with great sing-along gems “If Eternity Should Fall” and “Speed of Light” but at 8 and 5 minutes plus respectively they are hardly throw away before getting proper operatic with “The Red and the Black”, with a “whoah” refrain that seems almost designed to rouse arena/stadium masses.
There’s long sections of their mid paced chugging, classic dual (or even triple given their expanded line-up) guitar harmonies that really sing to you, and measured soloing to add colour. Depending on your mood it might be that either these drawn out riffs carry you along or start to drag after a bit, whether within the individual songs or in the sum total of the vast scale of the album.
I do feel at times that these great theatrics of storytelling with Bruce’s strident vocals that sometimes they have lost the lyrical detail that you used to know by heart in their earlier classics, but then you get to the stunning closer, the 18 minutes of “Empire of Clouds” being their longest ever song, and it just works: true tales of the doomed airship ride just being an all-encompassing, enthralling and exciting journey through riff progressions and emotion stirring vocal hooks.
All in all I think definitely one of their strongest recent works, dive into the Book, read at length and at your pleasure.