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Bruce Dickinson 'The Mandrake Project' Album Review By The Metal Voice

Updated: Feb 20


The Mandrake Project is the upcoming seventh solo studio album by Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson that will be released on March 1, 2024. Surprisingly it has been 18 years since Bruce's last solo album with writing partner/producer/guitarist Roy Z.


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Video Review


The Mandrake Project is a concept album. It's a dark story about power, abuse and a struggle for identity, set against the backdrop of scientific and occult genius...Ok. Accompanying the album is a comic book that was created by Bruce Dickinson, scripted by Tony Lee with stunning illustrations by Staz Johnson for Z2 Comics. The series features 12 episodes that collect into three graphic novels and was launched on Jan 2024.


By Jimmy Kay


Here is my opening Statement about this album 'I'm Going to go Broke on the amount of money I need to spend on Music in 2024'. This is the Bruce album I have been waiting for since the 90's, FINALLY! A Masterpiece! If you want 'Run to the Hills' or 'Wrathchild' or 'Powerslave' this is not for you, walk away ok don't walk away....Kidding. Keep Reading.


The songs on this album have hints from the last three Bruce solo album but nothing really sounds repeated. There are more musical similarities between Accident of Birth (1997), The Chemical Wedding (1998) and Tyranny of Souls (2005) than this album. It stands on it's own.


Once again Bruce and Roy Z have proven that the legacy acts are the ones leading the charge in regards to inspirational, quality metal music. They show us metal is not dead and everything has not been done. The Proof is in the Jello pudding. I am calling it now, 'The Mandrake project' is the album of the year 2024!


This album is ten years in the making and sometimes the danger of sitting on pieces of music for too long can work against you. Genres, styles and tastes of music change throughout the decade and this can mess with the artists perspective as they start to second guess what they have done or doing. Can someone say Chinese Democracy'? However this is not the case for Bruce and Roy.


'Afterglow of Ragnarok'

The album first single, which we have all heard by now sets the tone for the rest of the album. Roy Z production on this song and the rest of the album, is big and a natural continuation of Bruce's last three releases. But bigger, bolder and better. All instruments and vocals seem to be well placed in the mix. Roy Z's guitar work thick and down tuned with a unique heavy tone. As for Bruce's singing, he start off somewhat aggressive, as he begins to tell the tale and then opens up with a big epic melancholic (is that a word?) chorus. A compact prog rock track. 10/10


 'Many Doors To Hell'

Here is where Bruce with Maiden and Bruce as a solo artist differ today. Maiden on their last few releases have somewhat suffered (still great though) with long repetitive tracks, a rough shall we saw Caveman production and Bruce sometimes just yelling over three guitars. On 'Many Doors To hell' we get quite the opposite. Memorable, mid pace groove, in and out with a sonicgasm production and a beautiful midsection. Floating lead guitar work by Roy Z. Straightforward upbeat track. 9-10


'Rain On The Graves'

The second single's vocal vibe on the verse is a spoken wordish style similar to 'The Devil Went down to Georgia' ( by The Charles Daniels Band) and an Ian Gillanisque Deep Purple musical feel. Towering Guitar and dramatic keyboard moments throughout. The song is a grower. Lyrically was inspired by Bruce's rainy visit to Romantic poet William Wordsworth's grave in the Lake. This second single has somewhat divided and polarized the Bruce camp into the I love it and why is he doing this song this is not 'Where Eagles Dare'? For me 9-10


'Resurrection Men'

Starts off with a bit of flamenco guitar and Latin rhythmic beats (Roy Z heritage). Bruce then soars into the verse and the chorus at the top of his vocal range. But wait the song then takes a left turn into a Doom passage (metal a la Sabbath) with a thick guitar and bass tone (Geezer is that you?) and the drums plodding along. Then yet another left turn into an atmospheric sequence and back to the flamenco guitar work like the start of the song. Brilliantly executed 10-10


'Fingers In The Wounds'

It begins with a mid to slow paced symphonic sound. Then goes into a 'Man of Sorrows' dramatic vocal line but the chorus is bigger and richer. Roy Z pulls out yet another trick as the mid section changes to an Arabic groove with slide guitar. Well done again 10-10


'Eternity Has Failed'

Yep, a cover of the Iron Maiden song 'If Eternity should fail' (Book of Souls) which was a cover by Bruce and Roy Z originally. Song is very similar to the original however this version sonically sounds better. I also did notice the lyrics were alternates as well in some places. Instead of "If Eternity SHOULD Fail 'Eternity HAS Failed' - "What I enjoyed about the track is how the keyboards replaced some of the guitars on Maiden version which makes the song still heavy yet more balanced. 9-10


'Mistress Of Mercy'

This song kicks it up a notch in terms of tempo. The track kind of reminds me of Bruce's first band Samson. Anthemic in ways as the gang vocals kick off at he end of the song. Also the song has a 'Machine Men' feel from 'The Chemical Wedding' or Maybe a hint of 'The Tower' from 'Chemical Wedding' groove. A straightforward song with a catchy chorus with some cool fusion chaotic jazz guitar and drum work, especially on the outro. 10-10


'Face In The Mirror'

Things slow down here and we get another 'Man of Sorrow' (Accident of Birth Album) part 2b. This might be my least favorite track as it just does not work for me on the chorus. The verse has a nice build up but when it goes into the chorus it just sounds like been here done that. The song just does not stand up compared to the rest of the album. Lyrics seems somewhat predicable. Not a terrible song. Reminds me a bit of Accident of Birth 's "Taking the Queen". The saving grace is the wonderful acoustic guitar solo. 7-10


'Shadow Of The Gods'

Song stars off with a beautiful piano passage, similar to Maiden's 'Empire of the clouds'. Bruce is crooning dramatically on what starts off as a ballad. Then about halfway though turns into an upbeat Black Sabbath hypnotic riff with Bruce barking out the lyrics. The song clocks at 7:02 and might turn off 'The Trooper' hardcore Maiden fans. But for me this is the genius of Bruce as he jumps out of the box with his I don't give a crap what anyone thinks attitude. Words to Describe. Emotional, Atmospheric, Bombastic, Prog 90's.


Sonata (Immortal Beloved)

Another slow song (this makes it three, in total). Starts off with a slow techno beat and whining minor key vocal. Guitar solo seems similar to Scorpions 'White China'. Beautiful track, Eerie, elegant and completely out of the box. The Goosebumps stuff as Bruce cries 'SAVE ME NOW, SAVE ME NOW' Some spoken word to add to the drama. Great way to close off the album. ABSOLUTLY BRILLIANT. Song clocks at 9:51 10-10


Closing thoughts. Again this is the album I have been waiting for from Bruce since he started his solo career but the ultra hardcore Maiden fans who want another 'Aces High' will whine and cry too many slow songs!


Bruce's legions as well as open minded metalheads who can enjoy variety with twist and turns will love it! Pass the Kleenex.


Album of the year for 2024, I'm calling it now 9.2-10


PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN MCMURTRIE


Tracklisting

The Mandrake Project – tracklisting

Afterglow Of Ragnarok (05.45)

Many Doors To Hell (04.48)

Rain On The Graves (05.05)

Resurrection Men (06.24)

Fingers In The Wounds (03.39)

Eternity Has Failed (06.59)

Mistress Of Mercy (05.08)

Face In The Mirror (04.08)

Shadow Of The Gods (07.02)

Sonata (Immortal Beloved) (09.51)


Bruce Dickinson's band

Roz Z guitars

Tanya O Callaghan Bass

Dave Moreno Drums

Mistheria Keyboards


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