Bruce Dickinson / The Mandrake Project: A Resonant Masterpiece Unveiled

Bruce Dickinson has never done anything by halves. Throughout his working life, he has launched himself into every endeavour with 1000 per cent passion, intensity and good old-fashioned hard graft. Why would The Mandrake Project be any different?

Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project (BMG)

Release Date: 1 March 2024

Words: Brian Boyle

Rattling off his sideline adventures is impressively jaw-dropping but also enough to inspire the average nine-to-five or, on the other hand, send you into a deep pit of inadequacy.

Not content with just being the theatrical frontman of the greatest Heavy Metal band of all time, the Iron Maiden yodeller’s many bowstrings include airline pilot, screenwriter, brewer, novelist, public speaker, solo artist, international fencer, businessman, podcaster, and for all we know, gynaecologist/landscape gardener.

His ventures in the solo arena have not been a top priority since 2005’s Tyranny Of Souls. But just shy of two decades on, the ever-youthful 65-year-old returns to go it alone with the mysteriously titled The Mandrake Project.

Bruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project. UK Tour and First single announced.
Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project.

This is far from something Dickinson has whipped together in six weeks with lyrics scribbled on hotel napkins. This has been on a low heat for ten years, simmering away while he entertained the masses with Harris and co.

So what’s the concept about? The Mandrake Project is just your everyday story about taking the human soul at the point of death and placing the soul into something else.

Wait, there is more.

The head honcho of the project, Professor Lazarus, has his own vision of the project technology. But there’s another guy, one Dr Necropolis, an orphan genius. He has other ideas altogether. Bloody hell. For all you comic book aficionados, this is all to tie in with a 12-issue limited series.

But if concepts and comics don’t float your boat, you are still left with a Heavy Metal album sung by the finest voice of the genre, and that is what the majority will be most interested in.

That said, when you spin the wonderfully epic opener Afterglow Of Ragnorak a few times, it’s hard not to imagine what might play out on colourful sheets of A4.

This album comes with a weighty expectation, and this is how you meet that from the off: thunderous drums, a doom-laden riff and some menacing Dickinson vocals.

Fans of the Balls To Picasso, Accident Of Birth, The Chemical Wedding and Tyranny Of Souls albums will rejoice in knowing that the fruitful working relationship with long-time collaborator Roy Z has continued into this album. Their unified fire is positively flaming right through Many Doors To Hell, a track that hypnotises with its Ghost-ish intro and a thoroughbred melodic Metal chorus.

How do you follow that, you ask? With another grandiose epic, of course. To get the full effect of Rain On The Graves, you have the luxury of clicking on YouTube for the slightly tongue-in-cheek promo video.

While it starts as a bit of Carry On/Classic British Horror with Dickinson dressed as a frightened old priest shuffling through a graveyard clutching a crucifix, the mammoth composition is no piss-take. The relentless cinematic vibe coursing the song has the rather engrossing mini-film making perfect sense.

Bruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project - Rain On The Graves is out.
Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project.

Being a concept album, don’t be surprised if Dickinson plays The Mandrake Project in its entirety on his upcoming tour. With a primo touring band, including Ireland’s spellbinding bassist Tanya O’Callaghan, primed and ready, there is no way you can see the likes of Resurrection Men and Fingers In The Wounds not working in the live arena.

Given their apparent frosty relationship over the years, it’s hard to imagine Steve Harris asking Bruce Dickinson permission for anything. But after hearing the demo for Eternity Has Failed, which was always intended for solo purposes, a humble request was made to include it on Iron Maiden’s 2015 album The Book Of Souls, which became If Eternity Should Fail.

Vocally, they are both majestic. But even with the three guitar dousing from Smith, Murray, Gers and the customary Steve Harris gallop, Dickinson’s original vision for the song packs a harder punch and just about wins the bout on points.

Mistress Of Mercy is another one that would not have been out of place on a Maiden album, certainly in the reunion era. But Roy Z’s superior production gives these songs their identity, far from Dickinson’s regular employment.

Tender and sentimental are not words bandied around the Metal genre much, but Dickinson is a man of many layers. His subtle and compelling vocal on Face In The Mirror might not sit well with some dyed-in-the-wool headbangers but added in with Roy Z strumming some delicate Flamenco-type notes; this is a revelation. [no pun intended].

Naturally, Dickinson has been talking this album up. He is no Arthur Daley trying to flog you a rusty old shitheap. His excitement is clear in pre-release interviews, and he is right to be. It is not every day he gets to let loose some bona fide Death Metal vocals like he does on Shadow Of The Gods.

The only slow burner is the ten-minute closer Sonata (Immortal Beloved). It is still all part of the story, so you may need a comic book to help you through it. Failing that, you can enjoy Roy Z’s David Gilmour-ish notes, which lead out the song beautifully.

Ten years ago, after being diagnosed with throat cancer, there was a chance we wouldn’t hear the great Bruce Dickinson sing again. But we are dealing with Heavy Metal’s very own Superman here.

There was no form of kryptonite going to keep this man down.

Here we have Bruce Dickinson, firing on all cylinders, pistons a pumpin’ and spoiling us with The Mandrake Project, a titanic and resonating piece of work.

Bruce Dickinson – The Mandrake Project Tour tickets are still on sale from here.

The Mandrake Project album pre-orders can be made from here.

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18may7:00 pmBruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project | GlasgowBarrowlands

19may7:00 pmBruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project | ManchesterO2 Academy

21may7:00 pmBruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project | SwanseaSwansea Arena

23may7:00 pmBruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project | NottinghamRock City

24may7:00 pmBruce Dickinson - The Mandrake Project | LondonO2 Forum Kentish Town

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