Bruce Dickinson The Mandrake Project album cover

Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project (Album Review)

Bruce Dickinson 2024

As if the announcement of an Iron Maiden world tour is not exciting enough, fans are being treated to the birth of a new Bruce Dickinson solo album; a much rarer occurrence indeed. The Mandrake Project sees daylight on March 1, 2024 via BMG worldwide, marking the seventh time the Maiden frontman has released an album outside of the spectrum of his day job. Even more exhilarating for his supporters, The Mandrake Project comes to life a full nineteen years after Dickinson’s last outing, the well-received Tyranny of Souls album. The question will as always be, can the same sonic magic be conjured this many years later?

Bruce Dickinson has endured his share of hardship, triumph, and has scaled the ladder of human achievement in ways most people can only dream about. Underneath it all, ‘the kid born in a mining town in ‘58’ remains an inquisitive artist who loves a good Rock-n-Roll tune. Though his first foray into solo material saw him experimenting outside the parameters of traditional Heavy Metal, since then he has provided cutting edge and memorable tunes that some say outclass the work of post-classic era Iron Maiden itself.

Fans will wrestle with such comparisons, but lead single “Afterglow of Ragnarok” sees Dickinson coming at us with a broody, rocking number that is both catchy and darkly heavy. Roy Z (Roy Ramirez) again joins the singer, providing his crunchy guitar sound and production values. Keys (provided by Mistheria) garnish the straight-ahead simple rock of “Many Doors To Hell,” a builder that sees Dickinson’s voice get into that upper range the man loves so well. An earworm chorus completes this, and just like that fans know they are in for a treat.

The campy, but cool video for “Rain on the Graves” has made the rounds since being released back on January 25th, showing Dickinson greatly enjoys what he’s doing. The song’s swagger underlines this truth. Then an interesting choice sees Dickinson reimagining “If Eternity Should Fail” off of the 2015 Book of Souls album by Iron Maiden. Ominously titled “Eternity Has Failed,” it has a tad more muscle and Roy’s solo on it is a bit more tasty than that of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, but it is another version of a very good song, and does not blow the doors off the original by any stretch.

Reflecting on Dickinson’s past work for a moment, fans tend to agree that 2001’s A Chemical Wedding was his strongest solo effort to date. That stated, hearing a solemn song like “Shadow of the Gods” will have many rejoicing at the similarity in atmosphere. Dickinson lilts the verses beautifully, as the song quietly builds to crescendo. Gorgeous piano and guitar accompaniment uplift the Air Raid Siren’s majesty on the chorus. Dickinson still has the knack for these more sedate songs; his voice works very well as the main driving instrument in a song. The guitar break about halfway through sounds ballsy and full of potential energy. Releasing it into a far more Hard Rock verse, Dickinson is in command on this, one of the strongest songs on the album.

There are also songs like “Resurrection Man” where we see Dickinson challenging his range, as the chorus is not only high up the register, but also extremely robust. It is a heavy one with an interesting percussive accompaniment towards its conclusion. This is catchy stuff that demands the listener’s attention.

Moving along, the bottom-end swagger of “Mistress of Mercy” hearkens back to a song like “Freak” from 1998’s Accident of Birth album. It must be acknowledged that Roy’s guitar sounds crunchy. It’s a commanding tone that goes very well with Dickinson’s ringing voice. The solos wail, injecting the song with tremendous energy. It is another album highlight, along with the power ballad “Face In The Mirror,” which happens to be a very Iron Maiden-like number that one could see Steve Harris writing. Once again, a very Classic Rock and unique guitar lead helps solidify this very strong song.

Finally, the nearly ten-minute long closer “Sonata (Immortal Beloved)” meanders just a tad, and feels like it needs a more pronounced climactic section or two. Its dark loungey guitar soloing toward the end is very satisfying; Roy Z is a master of the craft. Apart from this observation, there are no major missteps on this album.

Overall, goes The Mandrake Project from strength to strength, and sits proudly amongst the aforementioned highlights of Bruce Dickinson’s storied solo career. For this reason, Cryptic Rock gives The Mandrake Project 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Bruce Dickinson The Mandrake Project album cover
Bruce Dickinson The Mandrake Project / BMG Worldwide (2024)

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