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The Mandrake Project

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The Mandrake Project
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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: March 1st, 2024
Label: BMG
Genre: Heavy
1. Afterglow Of Ragnarok
2. Many Doors To Hell
3. Rain On The Graves
4. Resurrection Men
5. Fingers In The Wounds
6. Eternity Has Failed
7. Mistress Of Mercy
8. Face In The Mirror
9. Shadow Of The Gods
10. Sonata (Immortal Beloved)

Review by Vladimir on March 8, 2024.

Behold, The Mandrake Project! After 19 years, Bruce Dickinson finally returns to his solo work with a brand-new output in the form of his seventh full-length album The Mandrake Project, released on March 1st, 2024, via BMG Records. This album has been talked about a lot lately, and it has been screaming around every corner of the world from the moment it was teased with the pre-release singles that amped up fan expectations. So, is The Mandrake Project really an experience worth the try? Stay tuned to find out… 

From the get-go, the album already starts out pretty strong with 'Afterglow Of Ragnarok' that has already served its purpose as a fine album teaser, but the following 'Many Doors To Hell' and 'Rain On The Graves' is where you truly start to feel like this album is going somewhere and you don’t know where to exactly, because each of these songs has its own identity and sort of surprise factor that really makes you wonder what comes next. There is a big sense of storytelling and chapter progression as the album goes, presented in this turbulent ride to the strange and alien world created by the visionary mastermind within Bruce himself. Tracks such as 'Fingers In The Wounds' in particular is a perhaps a great example on the album that showcases some experimental ideas with grandiose keyboard sections and some sort of Egyptian scale melody, plus the song feels quite nostalgic because it gives you a bit of a throwback to Bruce Dickinson’s songs from the 90’s. Even though Bruce himself often avoids making songs that remind too much of Iron Maiden, there is however one exceptional song that does have that feel to it, the sixth track 'Eternity Has Failed' that sounds pretty awesome and much better than anything from "Senjutsu". Just when I thought that the album wasn’t going to surprise me with an emotional ballad with acoustic guitars that would make me question my own existence, the eight track 'Face In The Mirror' suddenly appears, with the lyrics in the chorus that speak a thousand words, and I would probably rank this song probably very high right next to 'Tears Of The Dragon'. The follow-up 'Shadow Of The Gods' is yet another ballad which radiates even more sorrow and anger, with the first half orienting more towards tragedy whereas the second half is all about aggression and frustration, but the final track 'Sonata (Immortal Beloved)' is such a powerful closing chapter that concludes the journey of The Mandrake Project

This album has a lot of various ideas that enriched the songwriting and made it feel quite dynamic and unexpecting, bouncing back and forth with themes of mythology, occultism and personal subjects, making every song shine on its own while also transforming the album into a big turbulent rollercoaster. This joyride certainly has a lot of interesting moments that a listener can embrace with all their heart, which goes far out from what one could expect after hearing the singles 'Afterglow Of Ragnarok' and 'Rain On The Graves'. Those singles have done a pretty good job as album teasers, but they didn’t exactly give away what the album sounds like because of the stylistic differences between songs, and that has often been the case of Bruce Dickinson’s solo work with a lot of variety and experimenting. The biggest highlight of this album is by far none other than Bruce Dickinson himself, who still delivers his powerful and magnificent vocal performance as if he hasn’t aged a day, plus his vocal contribution raises every song several bars higher and makes everything feel truly epic. The man is 65 years old for god’s sake and he still sings like he did 2-3 decades ago, and although some may not see that as a big thing, you can’t deny that the current state of his vocals speaks a lot about his dedication as an artist and that’s a fact. The production of The Mandrake Project is quite solid, even though it might be a bit too modern and overproduced for my taste, I still think it sounds amazing.

Bruce Dickinson’s return to his solo work with the highly anticipated The Mandrake Project turned out to be a very interesting and enjoyable output that exceeded all my expectations. Looking back at the album catalog of Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, I have to say that I never ended up feeling disappointed or unamused, and so comes this new album to rightfully take its place among his predecessors. I’d say that The Mandrake Project might be worthy to stand high with Accident At Birth and Chemical Wedding, but it would take me at least a couple of more album revisits in the coming years to conclude that unresolved subject. If you are willing to give this album a try, I’d say that you should definitely give it a go, especially if you are a diehard fan of both Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden discography. 

Rating: 8.4 out of 10