British heavy-metal legends Iron Maiden have, as of Friday morning (August 14) officially unveiled their first new piece of material in five years, since 2010’s The Final Frontier. The track, entitled “Speed Of Light”, was released early Friday morning, accompanied by an excellent video on the band’s YouTube page. “Speed of Light” is the first cut from Maiden’s upcoming record The Book of Souls, due to be released on September 4. The release of the album has been complicated by lead singer Bruce Dickinson’s successful battle with cancer, but is now finally within our grasp and the excitement among the rock and metal community is palpable.
The track itself, in short, is excellent. It showcases Iron Maiden’s well-matured sound, honed after 30 years of songwriting, whilst bringing a whole host of new elements into play. One of these new elements is shown almost before the track itself has come into full swing, with drummer Nicko McBrain hammering on the cowbell to count in the song itself. The band does not overuse this piece of percussion, and avoids sliding into cliché, but it serves as a stark reminder that they are still trying new elements of music, this deep into their history.
The cowbell is followed by a scream from Dickinson, and an upbeat, crunchy guitar riff, leading straight into the main chorus. Upbeat really is the word here, with this particular adjective carrying the song, bringing a welcome change from the last two Iron Maiden albums, A Matter of Life and Death, and The Final Frontier, both of which dealt heavily with themes of death, war, and age, with scarcely a joyful moment to be found across 20 different songs. ‘Speed of Light’ brings back the happy energy which carried the band’s hits such as ‘Run to the Hills’ and ‘Number of the Beast’.
Despite the upbeat, casual nature of the track, “Speed of Light” still manages to showcase Iron Maiden’s move towards progressive rock, and away from traditional heavy metal. Although the song only clocks in at just over five minutes, it feels strangely epic. The sweeping choruses, and solos from each of Iron Maiden’s three guitarists all contribute to build towards a great climax, which is seen in the final few minutes of “Speed of Light”, with the lead chorus being repeated three times before the band breaks down and Dickinson proclaims “we slip into the night“, before the song ends.
If Iron Maiden do intend to slip into the night following The Book of Souls, then this is a fine way to go indeed. The Book of Souls is available to purchase on September 4, and you can check out the video for “Speed of Light” below.