When reflecting on the career of Iron Maiden, a line from “The Book of Souls” perfectly describes the life of a diehard fan — “Accompany them on a journey with no end.” Whether “them” best defines the members of Iron Maiden, the band’s pseudo-religious following, or both, the “journey” is Maiden’s four decades of brilliance, which has no signs of stalling any time soon.

Iron Maiden’s latest arena tour features Ghost in the coveted opening slot. As perhaps the most significant heavy metal act of the 2010s, Ghost’s presence on Maiden’s tour felt like an affirmation of the Swedish cult’s immeasurable potential. With almost seven years having passed since Ghost released their debut album, Opus Eponymous, the band has solidified itself as a force whose sound can fill an arena.

With a powerful eight-song set, Ghost hit on all the dynamics of their sonic evolution. Like with any Maiden opener, the crowd’s reaction was mixed, but the confidence and stage presence of Ghost felt absolute. Frontman Papa Emeritus III offered a more guttural vocal approach on “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” and “Mummy Dust,” perhaps foreshadowing the “darker” direction of Ghost’s upcoming fourth studio album.

After the obligatory and celebrated blasting of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” through Newark, N.J.’s Prudential Center, the lights went out and Bruce Dickinson appeared behind a smoking cauldron to begin “If Eternity Should Fail.” Bruce’s voice was booming from note one and it didn’t let up one bit throughout Maiden’s 15-song set. After Maiden’s instrumental section burst onto the stage, they tackled a handful of Book of Souls tracks sandwiched by “Wrathchild” and Children of the Damned.”

With six tracks from The Book of Souls in Maiden’s collective holster, including the 10+ minute epics “The Red and the Black” and “The Book of Souls,” much of the night was dedicated to Maiden’s newest album. Out of all the fresh cuts, “The Great Unknown” may have translated best in a live setting and we could imagine the song sticking around for future tours. Dickinson even played with the crowd a little bit during the track, extending its conclusion to lightheartedly test the audience’s patience.

The incredible musicianship of Maiden’s five-man instrumental section was jaw-dropping throughout the night. The solo battles between guitarists Dave Murray (who has the smoothest legato in the business) and Adrian Smith (Maiden’s most relentless ripper) during “Powerslave” were mesmerizing and witnessing the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain is a testament to both men’s mastery with their weapons of choice. Of course, iconic mascot Eddie the Head made two welcome appearances during the show. Coming out for “The Book of Souls” and, as always, “Iron Maiden,” faces lit up around the arena for Eddie, with the giant robot version of him perhaps the most lifelike yet.

Though the New Jersey crowd wasn’t the loudest we’ve heard, Maiden’s singalong (or woah-along) anthems like “The Trooper” and “Fear of the Dark” remained as truly special moments, as was the chorus of 21st century favorite “Blood Brothers.” Once “Wasted Years” put a cap on the night with Adrian Smith’s lyrical wisdom, fans left the arena buzzing and passionately awaiting the next time they can share a night with one of the world’s greatest live bands.

Check out our exclusive photo gallery of Iron Maiden and Ghost’s June 7 gig above and be sure to check Maiden’s remaining North American tour dates.

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