BRUCE DICKINSON - The Mandrake Project

February 26, 2024, a month ago

(BMG)

Nick Balazs

Rating: 9.0

review heavy metal bruce dickinson

BRUCE DICKINSON - The Mandrake Project

“Here is the soul of a man…” The soul of a solo career that lay dormant for nearly 20 years, but now has awakened. Bruce Dickinson has set aside the Maiden flag for the time being for the realization of his seventh studio album. Back with the ever dependable Roy Z at his side along with drummer Dave Moreno and keyboardist Mistheria, The Mandrake Project stands taller than the last decade of Maiden albums and is toe-to-toe with his best solo material. The master storyteller does it again.

The Mandrake Project is a logical progression and mixture of Chemical Wedding and Tyranny Of Souls with notes of his early material. It’s thundering heavy metal with some rockier moments and an overhead of nebulous darkness and mysticism. Some songs hit right away, like the robust opener and first single “Afterglow Of Ragnarok” with its unusual chorus and the brilliant follow-up in the Deep Purple-ish “Many Doors To Hell” – one of the best songs he’s ever written. “Mistress Of Mercy” possesses a feel akin to “Road To Hell” plus a main riff reminiscent of Velvet Revolver’s hit “Slither”. Second single “Rain On The Graves” is like a beefed up track from the Balls To Picasso-era and fits much better in the context of the album and while its chorus is simple and repetitive; it’s a definite earworm.

Others take more to sink in like “Resurrection Men” with a western type feel and a chorus with a rockier outlook that could have fit on Skunkworks. The song takes a turn in the middle section with a classic Black Sabbath groove with Bruce crushing it vocally. Second last tune “Shadow Of The Gods” is definitely William Blake inspired and broods with gloomy basslines as Bruce paints picture of a complicated world before exploding into electric guitars at the 4 minute mark with aggressive vocals; the softer concluding section harkens back to “Chemical Wedding” in its rhythm and vocals. These two songs are expertly crafted and grow upon each listen.

Special mention to “Eternity Has Failed”. The “original” version in this case and holds a better flow and groove to the chorus than the Maiden version found on The Book Of Souls. Easy to see why Steve Harris liked it so much.

Softer moments occur in the piano-led “Face In The Mirror”, a delicate cut with a barroom feel. No electric instrumentation found here! The symphonic “Fingers In The Wound” has more bounce to it and presents some unexpectedly vigorous musicianship. It settles nicely between “Resurrection Men” and “Eternity Has Failed”.

Closer “Sonata (Immortal Beloved)” is almost 10 minutes long and will be the most divisive. Strange keys and electric drums with a brooding bassline lead this cloudy, atmospheric, tune with a bleak chorus. It stays that way for the duration with punctuated, eerie guitar notes and finishes with a melancholic, bluesy solo. A dour closer, but leaves an impression.  

Bruce excelled in his vision and his vocal performance is off the charts. It is oozing with passion, creativity, and serves as another example why he is one of the best of all-time.



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