Album Review: Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project

Album Review: Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project
Reviewed by Tim Finch

This may be heresy to some but I am not really a fan of Iron Maiden, in their current state at least, they have become a bit bloated with long winded proggy albums far removed from their NWOBHM roots. I did flirt with Maiden for a short time, when Blaze was their frontman, and it was during that time that Bruce Dickinson’s original solo work crossed my path. I saw his solo show live in that period and it was nothing short of mesmerising; Bruce in his element with material to match.

This week, the next instalment of Bruce Dickinson’s solo work comes to light in the form of ‘The Mandrake Project’, a refreshing breath of air in the traditional British metal landscape.

‘Afterglow of Ragnarok’ opens the opus, one which many will have already heard thanks to regular rotation on the likes of Planet Rock. The haunting opening moments, dark and gloomy, slowly building the atmosphere that can easily sweep the listener away into Bruce’s world before the songs power really kicks in.

Album Review: Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project

With each song Dickinson carefully crafts a story, building the anticipation with musical elements that heighten the atmosphere. ‘Rain on the Graves’ has a wicked way of changing pace and direction to keep the listener enthralled, a chugging riff leads into a folk-esq spoken word piece before switching back again and then the anthemic chorus kicks in, prior to repeating the pattern again. It’s a way of constructing a song few others do and it works so well.

The Spanish guitar feel of ‘Resurrection Man’ gives the sound yet another layer whilst ‘Fingers in the Wounds’ feels absolutely huge with its keyboard elements adding volume in the all the right places. Later on the record keyboards take further prominence with the more subdued but no less powerful ‘Shadow of the Gods’, the piano and Bruce’s vocals taking centre stage for four whole minutes before any hint of guitar and pace kicks things up a few gears.

With a closing, near ten minute, opus of ‘Sonata (Immortal Beloved)’ rounding out this release we hear Bruce at his best, building a story and a song perfectly from the shadows through to an epic crescendo.

‘The Mandrake Project’ proves there’s life in this old dog yet. Removing himself from Iron Maidens world, Bruce and his fellow musicians have crafted an immaculate heavy album that explores themes beautifully whilst pushing the boundaries of sound to produce a magical sonic experience. To this group of musicians I tip my hat, a job well done.

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