BRUCE DICKINSON – The Mandrake Project (2024)

Bruce Dickinson showed the world he was able to win the duel with Steve Harris when he wasn't in the band (Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding are better than almost the entire Iron Maiden catalogue after the 90s) so after trying with Hard Rock and Grunge (the first 3 albums) he's free again to experiment here and there (a little too much, in some parts, in my opinion), but let's talk about the songs of "The Mandrake Project", once again produced and directed with the help from Roy Z, a crucial part of Bruce's solo career, and not only in terms of guitars.

01) Afterglow Of Ragnarok 
It was the first single of the album, a sort of dark and mysterious track and lyrics. I really like the chorus and the riffs and the song is not bad at all even if it's not among the best singles of Bruce's career. But I don't want to be picky... A good start, overall.

02) Many Doors To Hell 
It is a happier tune than the previous one and for some reason, it brings me back to Skunkworks, in some moments, and to Accident of Birth in others. One of my favourite songs on the album, with powerful drumming and good vocals, even if I will never understand why Bruce keeps singing in tones like when he was 25 years old. Top track #2

03) Rain On The Graves 
It was the second, odd, single. I find it extremely interesting and with a very "Dickinson" chorus (in the word "Rain" he still shows the world how to sing Heavy Metal), but overall I find it a little too long and honestly I stopped listening to it, despite the initial enthusiasm.

04) Resurrection Men 
I've read positive opinions about this song. For me, it's among the worst Bruce ever published. I like the Western weird part, but the song develops like when I play with Logic (the software) , I don't know how to continue a song and I put random stuff. A weird verse (is Bruce even singing in tune?!?), a horrible chorus, a boring Black Sabbath part from nowhere with a 0 dynamic drum track, and an insignificant bridge. Sorry Bruce, but this song to me is a disaster. SKIP TRACK

05) Fingers In The Wounds
Whatever after the previous track would have been better and I find this one very interesting. Cinematic atmosphere (thanks to keys by the Italian keyboardist Mistheria), a good verse/ chorus, and even an ethnic part. One of the best tracks on the album.

06) Eternity Has Failed
We already know this one as the opener of The Book of Souls, Iron Maiden. Steve Harris asked Bruce to do what he did with "Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter" more than 30 years ago. The songs are obviously very similar in every aspect but I prefer the Maiden one for the solo section.

07) Mistress Of Mercy
There is already a Mother of Mercy, and it's one of the worst songs in the Maiden catalogue, in my opinion. Mistress of Mercy is luckily better and takes me back to the "Accident of Birth" period, my favourite. A simple Heavy metal song, very direct and uptempo, with a killer guitar riff and no-frills vocals. Top Track #1

08) Face In The Mirror
A very simple and delicate ballad with Bruce singing this time with no excess. The vocal lines (and the piano) remind me of The Empire of the Cloud, from the Book of Souls. The song is not bad at all but in my opinion, it would need something to step up, It's like something is missing.

09) Shadow Of The Gods
It starts as a slow ballad that evolves during the second part with a very cool riff, to go back again to the atmosphere of the first part. Not bad at all, and with very good moments, reminding me of something From Tyranny of Souls (and again, with very good keys/synth parts) but I feel like something is missing in this one as well, in my opinion, especially for a 7-minute song.

10) Sonata (Immortal Beloved)
Almost 10 minutes for this one and another ballad, this time reminding me of the atmospheres (and some vocal lines/chord progression) of The Chemical Wedding. The song was partially recorded during that period, in fact. The chorus is one of the best parts of the entire album, in my opinion, and Sonata would have been the best song on the album if shortened and with a more definite structure. Despite that, it's my Top track #3

I find "The Mandrake Project" a strange album. I really like the fact that Bruce is free to experiment with all his influence but I find the album not very homogenous (but could it be with a gestation of 20 years?), and it sounds more like a compilation to my ears (also, why the 3 ballads are all at the end?). Definitely an interesting album but overall not one of his best works.

Rating 65/100

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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