Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project Review


Bruce Dickinson has had a successful solo career, dating back to 1990’s Tattooed Millionaire. After he left Iron Maiden, Dickinson released several albums: Balls To Picasso (1994), Skunkworks (1996), Accident Of Birth (1997) and The Chemical Wedding (1998). After he rejoined Maiden there was one more solo effort, 2005’s Tyranny Of Souls. Now, nearly two decades after that album, Dickinson has teamed up with longtime collaborator Roy Z for The Mandrake Project.

In addition to an album, The Mandrake Project has also been turned in to a comic book series. The first of 12 quarterly issues was issued in January, and will be collected into three annual graphic novels. Dickinson will also be touring in support of the ambitious project this spring and summer.

The whole idea of a solo project is to do something different than your main project, and while his distinctive voice will make nearly anything sound like Iron Maiden, The Mandrake Project does branch in different directions.

“Afterglow Of Ragnarok” is the opening track and the album’s first single. It’s dark and dramatic, with a dynamic vocal performance from Dickinson. It’s both cinematic and catchy. “Rain On The Graves” is also dramatic, recounting a visit to poet William Wordsworth’s grave, with Dickinson’s vocals going from spoken word to full out belting.

Tracks like “Many Doors To Hell” are more straightforward and accessible with a singalong chorus. Resurrection Man” has a slower tempo with doomy riffs, while “Fingers In The Wounds,” the album’s shortest song at around 3 and a half minutes, adds piano for depth and atmosphere.

One of the more intriguing songs is “Eternity Has Failed.” It’s his original version of “If Eternity Should Fail” from Maiden’s 2015 The Book Of Souls. Dickinson’s version is a bit shorter, with added woodwinds to give it a more Ennio Morrocone vibe.

The second half of The Mandrake Project doesn’t lose any momentum. Having so much time to write the material has ensured that every song has been polished and fully developed. “Mistress Of Mercy” is raucous and groovy, driven by Roy Z’s potent riffs. “Face Of The Mirror” is a twangy, mostly acoustic number, and “Shadow Of The Gods” continues the mellow vibe before kicking in about halfway through, becoming much heavier.

The album’s closer is the nearly 10 minute epic “Sonata (Immortal Beloved).” It brings back the theatrical flavor, building to a dramatic peak before pulling back and ending in a peaceful, laid-back style. The songwriting on The Mandrake Project is impressive, each track painstakingly arranged with plenty of dynamics and variety.

Not surprisingly, Dickinson’s vocals are also impressive. At age 65 he still has ample power and range, and his varied approach makes the songs even more compelling. The Mandrake Project is one of Dickinson’s most well-rounded solo efforts, with one of metal’s most accomplished artists showing he still has plenty left in the tank.

(released March 1, 2024 on BMG)

Heavy Music HQ Rating:

Watch Bruce Dickinson – “Rain On The Graves” Video

One Response

  1. bobsala February 28, 2024

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