Bruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project

Genre: Heavy Metal -

Say what you want about Bruce Dickinson, the man does not half ass things. He does many things and he whole asses all of them. It’s been almost two decades since his last solo album outside of Maiden, but even in all that time he’s still been working on this, The Mandrake Project, the seventh album released under his own name. As ever, Dickinson has multi instrumentalist Roy Z at his side to bring the album to life, and any fan of what the duo has done in the past will gladly dive head first into this new material. Dave Moreno (Puddle of Mudd) who lent his drums to the previous album (Tyranny of Souls, 2005) returns, and Mistheria has been recruited to lay some well placed, mood setting keys to complement Roy Z’s melodic guitars. Roy Z brings about riffs aplenty, thunderous and epic yet melodic and sublime to bring the story to life. The entire production feels much like a modern day successor to that massive classic The Chemical Wedding (1998); though scaled back in scope, The Mandrake Project delivers epicness aplenty, as well as an emotional narrative brought to life by Dickinson’s impeccable performance.

The jazzy, bluesy, faustian, yet rivetingly heavy Rain on the Graves might just be the highlight of the album. With its mad feel where things that shouldn’t work together, Rain on the Graves comes around to create a sum greater than its parts, howling madness at the moon. You’ll find the certified bangers during the first half of the album, while the latter part will delve toward introspection, longer pieces that – while still as heavy – evoke a softer side and balladry. Towards the end were gifted with Face in the Mirror, a ballad that evokes memories of Arc of Space and even Navigate the Seas of the Sun, that Roy Z guitar bringing the by now trademark touch that works so well alongside Dickinson’s evocative lyrics and soulful performance. A touch odd though, it’s followed by the album’s second ballad (or rather, by its semi-ballad) Shadow of the Gods, which starts out much the same before evolving into an epic piece de resistance to crown the album. Then of course, ten minute Sonata (Immortal Beloved) caps off the album in epic fashion; a sense of longing, of need and a reflection on the soul.

A familiar tune shows up in the shape of Eternity Has Failed, reworked to better fit the flow and feel - the pathos; the mythos - of the album from its Maiden counterpart If Eternity Should Fail. Here it’s a tighter, more bombastic take on the song, eerie darkness intact and with a refitted chorus. It might just be telling of the entire album; a deeply introspective, dark and bombastic piece of poetry and art in strokes of maddening riffs and enthralling melodic set pieces. As with the previous entries into Dickinson’s solo discography, The Mandrake Project deals with elements of occultism and mysticism, life and death and meaning. Inspired as Dickinson often is by Alesteir Crowley’s poetry and the art of William Blake, he brings poetry and darkness to the mythos he’s creating, alluding often to parts of his earlier discography and evoking feelings of despair and a sense of helplessness in an unending cosmos; a work of art at the crossroads of time.


Standout tracks: Rain on the Graves, Eternity Has Failed, Shadow of the Gods



Musikvideo: Bruce Dickinson - Rain on the Graves