Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project [Album Review]

Review: James Schmidt

There are only a few vocalists in rock and metal that have such distinctive and iconic voices that they are instantly recognisable no matter what they are singing.  Rob Halford, Ozzy, Lemmy and above all, the human air raid siren himself, Bruce Dickinson.  (yeah, I’m sure you can think of more, but feel like arguing about it this evening!)

For the best part of the last 40 years (excluding a few years in the 90’s) Bruce has been the on-stage focal point of arguably the biggest metal band on earth.  (again, yes, I know Metallica have sold more albums, but in metal circles they don’t command half the respect that Maiden does).  The downside of this (for Bruce) is that it will always be hard for him to distinguish himself musically outside of Maiden.

Fortunately, Bruce understands the need to separate himself from musically from Iron Maiden on his solo offerings.  Over the course of 7 solo albums Bruce has built an impressive set of songs that would easily stand strong beside anything released by his “day job”.

For his latest outing, Bruce has once again teamed up with guitarist and producer Roy Z to create a guitar heavy masterpiece which is equal parts concept album and soundtrack to a 12-part comic series.

Lead Single “Afterglow of Ragnarok” is a perfect example of Bruce’s wide and compelling artistic vision.  It’s no secret that Bruce has his fingers in a LOT of pies – Singer, Song writer, swordsman, pilot, writer, storyteller and film maker. It is clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the realisation of the artistic vision.  I for one are keen to see how the music video links in with the comic series.

The follow up single “Rain on the Graves” features a stunningly crafted music video by Ryan Mackfall which perfectly complements the mid paced chugging guitar line and Bruce delivering some of his most menacing vocals of his career.

An interesting choice for the album is a reworked version of the 2015 Maiden track “If Eternity Should Fail” as “Eternity Has Failed”.  The song picks up where maiden left off and manages to provide the next step in the story but with a stronger nod towards the heavier tones of Roy Z.

Top picks for me from the album are the at times stomping and other time Spanish influenced “Resurrection Men”, the epic and almost AOR feel of “Fingers in the Wounds” and the straightforward stomping “Many Doors to Hell”.

When most people are eyeing off a retirement, Bruce only seems to be getting busier and busier and if “The Mandrake Project” is any indication, even if Maiden hangs up their collective hats, we are still going to be getting great Dickenson albums for a long time yet.

‘The Mandrake Project’ is a deeper look into the darker side of legendary vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s creativity outside Iron Maiden. What lies there is a snarling beast with big gnashing teeth ready to sweep you away with its heavy riffs and master storytelling.

The Mandrake Project will be Dickinson’s seventh solo album. It will be released via BMG worldwide on multiple formats March 1st.