BRUCE DICKINSON Releases Music Video For New Solo Single, 'Rain On The Graves'
January 24, 2024
IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson has released his brand new single, "Rain On The Graves", accompanied by a thrilling video introducing Bruce's live band, comprising his long-term co-writer and producer Roy "Z" Ramirez, drummer Dave Moreno, bass player Tanya O'Callaghan and keyboard maestro Mistheria.
"Rain On The Graves" is the second single to be taken from Dickinson's forthcoming solo album "The Mandrake Project" which will be released on March 1 via BMG. Bruce and Roy recorded the LP largely at Los Angeles's Doom Room, with Roy doubling up as both guitarist and bassist. The recording lineup for "The Mandrake Project" was rounded out by Mistheria and Moreno, both of whom also featured on Bruce's last solo studio album, "Tyranny Of Souls", in 2005.
Riding on a towering guitar riff, with dramatic keyboards and a commanding vocal performance, "Rain On The Graves" was inspired by a rainy visit to Romantic poet William Wordsworth's grave in the Lake District. The song grew into a rumination on the nature of mortality and the deal with the Devil that artists have come to feel themselves making ever since Robert Johnson proved it worthwhile back in the 1930s.
"I had the chorus lyric since I visited Grasmere for a wedding back in 2012," explains Bruce, "and it wasn't difficult years later to create the rest of the song with so much rich imagery in my head!" It is a classic Dickinson/Roy Z collaboration; a catchy but heavy piece — full of melody but stripping out the spoken vocals of the verses in almost poetic fashion — maybe a further ode to the great wordsmith who inspired the title, somehow juxtaposed with music fit to raise the ghost of Robert Johnson at his metaphorical crossroads.
With a video shot entirely in a wintery Cornwall — again with director Ryan Mackfall — we get to see Bruce the actor, a preacher no less, making his own deal with the Devil and dragging his "House Band From Hell" into the bargain.
The follow-up single to the hugely acclaimed track "Afterglow Of Ragnarok", "Rain On The Graves" showcases the inventive, expansive and absorbing nature of "The Mandrake Project". Sonically heavy and rich in musical textures, the album sees Bruce bring to life a musical vision long in the making.
However, "The Mandrake Project" is not just an album. The comic book of the same name is a dark, adult story of power, abuse and a struggle for identity, set against the backdrop of scientific and occult genius. Created by Bruce, it is a collectable series of graphic novels scripted by Tony Lee ("Dr. Who"),stunningly illustrated by Staz Johnson ("2000AD") and with covers by industry heavyweight Bill Sienkiewicz for Z2 Comics, which will be released as 12 quarterly issues that will be collated into three annual graphic novels with the first coming at the end of 2024. The first individual episode was released in comic shops on January 17 and the special collectors' edition sold out within 48 hours of release.
In a recent interview with Brazil's A Rádio Rock, Bruce spoke about the inspiration for "The Mandrake Project". He said: "[In] 2014, I was gonna do a solo album, follow-up to 'Tyranny Of Souls'. And it was gonna be called 'If Eternity Should Fail'. And the title track I wrote, we did a demo of it, which is actually on the ['Afterglow Of Ragnarok'] single. I actually put the demo of 'If Eternity Should Fail' on the single, on the flip side of the single, so people could see, with the main track, how it evolved from the demo, from the beginning to the MAIDEN version. And because it ended up on [MAIDEN's 2015 album] 'The Book Of Souls', I went, 'Hmm, oh, well. Maybe I won't use it as the title track,' something else. But in any case, I had some other tracks we were working on, with Roy. So then, at the end of 2015, I got diagnosed with throat cancer. So that was a year before I could do anything. And the first thing I had to do was go and go tour with IRON MAIDEN to make up for the time we had lost. So that was 2017. And then I went, 'You know what? Let's go back to America. And, oh, COVID.' And that was three years of not being allowed to go into America. So it was five years —more than five years. I lost seven years of my life [laughs] during that. So in the meantime, the idea of the graphic novel… It was originally just gonna be one comic to do with the album, but the story had grown and changed, and so it became this 12-episode monster. And I was running ideas past a guy called Kurt Sutter, who wrote 'Sons Of Anarchy' and 'The Shield' and stuff. He's an amazing Hollywood writer…. 'Sons Of Anarchy' was the inspiration for the four bikers of the apocalypse in the video [for IRON MAIDEN's] 'The Writing On The Wall'. I wrote the script for that and was very involved in the production, and whilst I was doing it, I was Zooming with Kurt and I ran the idea of 'The Mandrake Project' past him. It wasn't called 'The Mandrake Project' then. We were doing this album and I had no idea what it was gonna be called. And I had this story, and I didn't know what to call the story. And I actually have no idea how I came up with 'The Mandrake Project'. Somewhere I have a piece of paper, and it's got some absolutely ridiculous ideas for the album title. I'm writing them down, 'What about calling it this? What about calling it this?', and just look at them all and go, 'Which one feels right?' And none of them felt right. And then… 'Mandrake' is such a great word. And, actually, has anybody done something [using the word] 'Mandrake'? The answer is no. I was amazed. There was a DEEP PURPLE song, 'Mandrake Root'. There's a French comic called Mandrake The Magician. And there was something called The Mandrake Project, but it was like a one-off drum-and-bass thing. And I thought, 'Well, that's not gonna be an issue.' So, 'The Mandrake Project'. I thought, 'That sounds really cool.' So I thought, 'Well, I could call the album and the comic 'The Mandrake Project'.' Because I had the story, but now calling it 'The Mandrake Project' — brilliant, now I can put that in there. So that's how it evolved — piece by piece by piece."
Dickinson went on to say that "The Mandrake Project" ended up being "like a continuation of what we had in 2014. Some of the songs were really quite fully formed," he explained. "I mean, 'Shadow Of The Gods' was basically finished almost. 'Sonata (Immortal Beloved)', the last track on the record, that is over 20 years old. And I'd even forgotten we'd done it. And it was just a demo. And one evening, Roy was playing me like a jam he'd done. He'd seen the movie 'Immortal Beloved', with Gary Oldman, about Beethoven, and he goes, 'You know what? I'm going to get a little tape loop of [Beethoven's] 'Moonlight' sonata and just play around with it and put some keyboards and put some guitars and make a little kind of ambient vibe.' And he played it to me and said, 'What do you think about this?' And I went, 'Oh, it sounds really trippy. I don't know what I'd sing over that. Let me have a go.' So I went in. I had no words, I had no melody, I had no idea what I was gonna sing. And I sang 80 percent of that song — made it up on the spot. Lyrics, spoken word — everything. I was just free associating. And we went, 'Oh, that's cool.' And I forgot about it. And then Z gave me some stuff. He said, 'I've got a load of demos here. I found a few more.' And that was on there. So Leana, my wife, heard it. She went, 'What's that?' I went, 'Well, it's just a demo we did.' She goes, 'It's amazing!' I went, 'Really?' I said, 'Don't you think it's a little bit trippy on there?' She goes, 'No! It's fantastic! You've gotta have that on the record.' So, I went, 'Okay. All right.' So we had to do a little bit of repair — there was no second verse. Because I sang the first verse and I was so, like, 'Wow, that sounds great. Oh, there's a chorus! I sang the chorus. God, that sounds brilliant.' And then the second verse continued. I was, like, 'Oh no. What do I say now? Oh, there's a chorus coming up. Hey.' And then I was back in the groove. So we had to create the second verse, and we had to do a couple of little fix-ups. But by and large, 80% of that take is the first take and the only take, with nothing written down at all. In fact, I had to listen to the song to write what the lyrics were. I didn't have them written down anywhere. It was just there."
Last month, Bruce told Brazil's Omelete about the lyrical concept for "The Mandrake Project": "So 'The Mandrake Project' is, one, is an album. It's the name of the album. The comic is a 12-episode graphic novel, kind of adult. There's lots of stuff in it — there's lots of sex and drugs and violence and all kinds of stuff. But it's basically a story about a guy who is looking for his identity, Dr. Necropolis. He's an orphan, he's a genius, and he hates it, and he hates life, but he's involved in The Mandrake Project. And The Mandrake Project aims to take the human soul at the point of death, capture it, store it and put it back in something else. And the guy that's running the project, Professor Lazarus, he has one vision of what's gonna happen with this technology, and Necropolis has other ideas. And on we go with the story."
Asked how he came up with the idea to mash together music and comics, Bruce said: "Well, I think they do kind of go together. They really do. Music and games, music and comics, comics and games, they're all related."
He continued: "Years ago, IRON MAIDEN, we were doing some cover art, and I said, 'Why don't we do a comic?', like the comics that I used to read when I was a kid… When I suggested doing some covers, comic covers, we did some single artwork for IRON MAIDEN, and I thought, 'You know what? This is kind of cool.' Then later, MAIDEN had a video game called 'Legacy Of The Beast'; we still do. But what came with a video game, somebody produced a series of comics. And I thought they looked fantastic, but they lacked a story. And that got me thinking, what if you had an album that had a story that could be turned into a comic and the two things would work together? As it happened, they've actually grown apart. So, the [original] album, in 2014, was gonna be one comic with the album — that's it. Then, COVID happened, other things happened, seven years went by, and I had a 12-episode graphic novel. And I went, 'I don't wanna restrict the album to being like a script for this.' These two things exist separately, but they inform each other. So you can look at the album and go, 'Oh, yeah, that's kind of related to the comic.' And you look at the comic and go, 'Oh, I see that might be a little bit related to the album,' but they're not dependent on each other. So you can buy the comic or you can buy the album — or both."
"The Mandrake Project" track listing:
01. Afterglow Of Ragnarok (05:45) 02. Many Doors To Hell (04:48) 03. Rain On The Graves (05:05) 04. Resurrection Men (06:24) 05. Fingers In The Wounds (03:39) 06. Eternity Has Failed (06:59) 07. Mistress Of Mercy (05:08) 08. Face In The Mirror (04:08) 09. Shadow Of The Gods (07:02) 10. Sonata (Immortal Beloved) (09:51)
Bruce has previously described lead single "Afterglow Of Ragnarok" as "a heavy song and there's a great big riff driving it… but there's also a real melody in the chorus that displays the light and shade that the rest of the album brings."
Directed by award-winning director Ryan Mackfall, written by Dickinson and acclaimed British writer Tony Lee (whose lengthy credits include "2000AD", DC and Marvel ranging from "Dr. Who" and "Star Trek" to "Spider Man" and "X-Men"),the film unveils Dr. Necropolis, the main protagonist at the heart of "The Mandrake Project". It also sets the scene for the story to come, reflecting the dark narrative contained in the eight-page comic book prequel which features in the seven-inch gatefold vinyl release of the single.
"The Mandrake Project" is not just an album, but a dark, adult story of power, abuse and a struggle for identity, set against the backdrop of scientific and occult genius. Created by Bruce Dickinson, the comic series is scripted by Tony Lee and stunningly illustrated by Staz Johnson for Z2 Comics, released as 12 quarterly issues that will be collected into three annual graphic novels.
Bruce Dickinson and his phenomenal band will bring the music of "The Mandrake Project" to life with a major headline tour this spring and summer.
Bruce's touring band features guitarist Roy Z, drummer Dave Moreno, bass player Tanya O'Callaghan and keyboard maestro Mistheria.
"The Mandrake Project" will be Dickinson's seventh solo album and his first since "Tyranny Of Souls" in 2005. It will be released via BMG worldwide on multiple formats.
Dickinson made his recording debut with IRON MAIDEN on the "Number Of The Beast" album in 1982. He quit the band in 1993 in order to pursue his solo career and was replaced by Blaze Bayley, who had previously been the lead singer of the metal band WOLFSBANE. After releasing two traditional metal albums with former MAIDEN guitarist Adrian Smith, Dickinson rejoined the band in 1999 along with Smith. Since then, Dickinson has only released one more solo album (the aforementioned "Tyranny Of Souls") but has previously said that his solo career is not over.
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