Album Review: Bruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project

Album Review: Bruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project

Hard Rock and Metal legend Bruce Dickinson is well and truly back, after almost 20 years since his last solo release, we have been given the gift of the incredibly theatrical and equally imaginative album ‘The Mandrake Project’.

The record is accompanied by a tie-in comic book series, written by Tony Lee and illustrated by Staz Johnson, the first issue of the sci-fi, occult drama comic series was released earlier this year and the following 11 will be issued quarterly (or in graphic novel form.) So it’s safe to say Bruce hasn’t run out of ideas yet. 10 tracks and just under an hour long, The Mandrake Project is a moving experience packed with atmosphere, narrative and sludgy guitar work.

Starting off strong with an brooding intro to ‘Afterglow of Ragnarok’ this track has a really dark energy and quickly leads into an incredibly melodic chorus before ending with a chanting of the songs title along with a head-banging riff, it really sets the album off a high with such a theatrical starting point it. Next up is 'Many Doors to Hell', a lot more progressive and more keyboard focussed track, though it maintains the same dark, mystifying feel, it’s definitely infectious and is sure to have the masses singing along upon their first listen.

Then onto 'Rain on the Graves', showing off Bruce’s storytelling focused vocals, detuned guitars and another ear-worm of a chorus, the track also includes Roy Z giving us what is probably the best guitar solo on the record. 'Resurrection Man' is a middling fun twist, with doom riffs and that classically entertaining Dickinson flair before soon picking up the pace with the shortest track on the album 'Finger in the Wounds', another showcase of Bruce's insanely powerful and dynamic vocal range, Maestro Mistheria's key's bring a lot to this track, already filled to the brim with character and dramatics in equal measure, I can safely say that it’s is definitely a highlight of the album.

Eternity Has Failed is a reworked sequel of ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ taken from Iron Maiden’s 2015 album ‘Book of Souls’ - which makes for not only quite familiar but a really interesting track to listen to, it’s heavier and slightly slower, beginning with a flute intro that adds to the song overall atmosphere, with Bruce Dickinson's clear and concise voice, leading into the well known heavy head-banging chorus and guitar solo. The grungy, galloping ‘Mistress of Mercy’ is 5 minutes long and absolutely packed with an energy that takes us back to 1997’s 'Accident of Birth'.

The last three tracks follow a slower, more dramatic theme, with the emotive 'Face In The Mirror' bringing us into a more sentimental ballad moment with a delicate subject matter before leading into 'Shadow of the Gods', with the first half of the track being much softer and slower than to be expected when listening to the initial tracks on the album, it then crescendos into a heavy chanting, raspy vocal performance and a much heavier and much more spirited ending before concluding with the 10 minute long, mysterious and melodic masterpiece ‘Sonata (Immortal Beloved)', a spiritual work of art, implementing proggy guitar work and more of those haunting drama-filled vocals.

It’s safe to say this is unmistakably a classic Bruce Dickinson vocal performance, although we have a definite different direction than what we would hear from an Iron Maiden record. Full of twists, epic ebbs and enchanting flows, the record is sure to birth several future live favourites. At 65 years old, having overcome a cancer diagnosis and still tearing up huge arenas, Bruce has got all the charisma and theatric flair of an entire army of men, The Mandrake Project is a diverse, immersive display of complexity, atmosphere and that typical Bruce vision that we've been patiently waiting for.

Track list:

01. Afterglow of Ragnarok

02. Many Doors to Hell

03. Rain on the Graves

04. Resurrection Man

05. Fingers in the Wounds

06. Eternity Has Failed

07. Mistress of Mercy

08. Face in the Mirror

09. Shadow of the Gods

10. Sonata (Immortal Beloved)

Rating: 9/10

Released: 1st March 2024

Released by: BMG Records

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