IRON MAIDEN's BRUCE DICKINSON on his "really, really extraordinary" new solo album | Revolver

IRON MAIDEN's BRUCE DICKINSON on his "really, really extraordinary" new solo album

Metal singer heralds 'The Mandrake Project'
bruce dickinson 2024 PROMO iron maiden, John McMurtrie
photograph by John McMurtrie

"It has long been obvious to me that comics and metal should be related," says Bruce Dickinson, as he holds court with Revolver in a room overlooking New York's Central Park.

Which is why, the longtime Iron Maiden frontman admits, he was a little disappointed with Legacy of the Beast, the comic his band released in conjunction with the video game of the same name.

"The graphics were great, but there was no real story there, and I thought that was a bit of a waste. But then I thought, You know what? If I did an album, maybe I could do a comic with the album — and maybe the album would be the story of the comic. OK, let me think of a story, then…"

Dickinson did just that, which is why his new Roy Z-produced album The Mandrake Project — his first solo LP since 2005's Tyranny of Souls — has a comic of the same name to go with it.

Of course, never one to do things by half-measures, Dickinson teamed up with writer Tony Lee, artist Staz Johnson, cover artist Bill Sienkiewicz and Z2 Comics to create not just a single-issue tie-in, but 12 quarterly issues that will eventually be collected into three annual graphic novels.

The saga revolves around one Dr. Necropolis, a drug-taking, occult-obsessed, tattooed twenty-something scientist involved in the Mandrake Project, a clandestine project that involves harvesting souls from dying rich people and storing them until they can be reinserted into new healthy bodies.

The comic is dark, intense, amusing and at times quite moving — and the same can be said for Dickinson's new album.

From the explosive opening track "Afterglow of Ragnarok" to the deeply emotional 10-minute closer "Sonata (Immortal Beloved)," The Mandrake Project is a high-impact roller coaster ride that may well be Dickinson and guitarist Roy Z — whose creative partnership stretches back to Dickinson's 1994 album Balls to Picasso — finest collaboration to date.

But even though the video for "Ragnarok" features Dr. Necropolis and dramatizes some scenes from the comic's first episode, Dickinson wants to make it very clear that the album is not a soundtrack to the comic; nor, for that matter, were the events and story lines of the comic at all dictated by the album's songs.

"Roy and I had been working on the album going back to 2014, and as excited as I was about the idea of the comic, I thought that there's no way I'd want the album to be a slave to it. And that decision freed me up to do whatever I like with the record. It's got enough links to the comic; the analogy I use is like two freestanding trees that are linked at the roots.

"One of the things I really love about the album is that we have an album full of stealth emotion here," he continues. "It takes you to a lot of places emotionally you're not expecting to go, and that's extremely rare for a metal album. I genuinely feel that we've done something — probably unwittingly — that's really, really extraordinary.

"I mean, not just saying that 'cause I've got a big head; when I listen to the record, I actually feel humbled by it. I'm like, 'How did we do that?'"

This article is excerpted from a story in an upcoming print issue of Revolver.