As one of the pioneers of the new wave of British heavy metal, Iron Maiden should need no introduction. A classic band with some of the best heavy metal songs of all time, they’re also known specifically for their skill and creativity with epics like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and the song of the day today, “Empire of the Clouds” from their most recent album, 2015’s The Book of Souls.
First of all, Iron Maiden is not known for having piano in their music very often, or at all, so the piano melody at the beginning, as well as the later addition of strings, is a big surprise from this band and a welcome change-up from the norm. Also, it’s haunting as absolute hell. You can immediately feel from the beginning of the song that this will not have a happy ending. On top of this, the lyrics are very to-the-point, straightforwardly telling the listener in reasonable detail about many of the problems that resulted in the catastrophe, while still managing to be artful and poetic about it… a rare trick to pull off so eloquently, if I may say.
The song itself is one of Maiden’s longest at a whopping 18 minutes in length and it never gets tiring or repetitive, as is the problem with some of Iron Maiden’s other longer tracks. From beginning to end, the song has a story to tell and a melody in which to tell it, and our English favorites absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one.
If you’d like to know more about the R101 airship, check out this short but information-packed documentary: