Heavy metal legends IRON MAIDEN need no introduction to their extensive career. The past 40+ years has seen the band dominate the world with some of the most dedicated and adoring fans ever seen. It’s no surprise when you’re delivered giant classics such as The Number Of The Beast, Seventh Son of A Seventh Son, Powerslave and many more – not to mention the effort that goes into their live performances. Now, here to add another album to their legacy is their seventeenth studio album, Senjutsu.
Over the years we have seen many incarnations of the legendary heavy metal band, their sound remaining instantly identifiable and yet delivering layers of new progressions throughout the eras. What the 21st century IRON MAIDEN have put on the table is more prog-esque compositions and a more mature attitude in arrangements when binding each member’s unique sound together. The latest addition to their catalogue is, of course, no different in moving away from this approach; another classic has been forged before it has barely even seen the light of day.
Opening with the title-track, the recognisable drum-work of Nicko McBrain sets the tone for the mid-tempo based riffs until the bellowing vocals of Bruce Dickinson kick in. As he sings each note of the last days of an empire, it’s hard to think that this is a man who has just recorded his first album since recovering from throat cancer. Whilst the effects of his power are noticeable in moments throughout the album, it doesn’t have that great of an impact, another testament to his talent that he has been able to maintain the strong quality of his vocals.
Throughout the album, there are definitely moments in which this could have been placed more down the A Matter Of Life And Death-era for IRON MAIDEN. It doesn’t draw away from the progression of The Book Of Souls, but it does add a little refreshment to a time where the six-piece were potentially at their heaviest dynamically. Stratego, Days Of Future Past, and particularly the intro guitar-work with the melancholic underlying vocals of Dickinson on The Time Machine before diving into a level of chaos where all the resemblances are worn most.
That overall tone, again, doesn’t draw away from any of the progression that the band have made with each album. There might be similarities in each release but there are also key factors in what makes them exciting, something which explains why they’re one of the most-loved heavy metal bands of all time. Take their first released single, The Writing On The Wall, for example — southern-groove influenced riffs take the centre stage and offer a spirited moment on the album. The overall dynamics and tones, particularly in the stunning guitar solos, all bare resemblance to the formula we know, that little touch on the southern-esque compositions however add something a little new and unique. The phrase ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ is applicable here, and IRON MAIDEN knows this, but they just like to add a lick of fresh paint each time around to make sure it doesn’t start to get old.
Whilst long-epics are a given through an IRON MAIDEN album, Senjutsu does feel a little more drawn out and patience here is a virtue. At just over 1 hour 20 minutes long, it’s somewhat a marathon in length, especially when faced with the final three songs. Clocking in at over 10, 11 and 12 minutes each, it’s here where you will be graced with extensively long minutes of trading guitar solos, epic drum fills, thick and groovy underlying bass lines and as ever, the ‘got to sing along’ vocals of Dickinson. Again, patience is your friend here, Death Of The Celts potentially being the most drawn out considering there is a five minute period of consistent guitar solo switches.
As Hell On Earth closes the album, despite the length of the album and the previous two songs, it feels as though no time has passed. With a darker and more emotive vibe surrounding the song, this is where you know the band are masters at what they do. Their placements are always on a top-tier, they know you have been taken on this journey and each final track from them has to be the closing of a chapter, that is exactly what this closing title has done. The guitar harmonies glide with one another, gracefully and delicately moving out the way to make room for potentially the strongest vocals from Dickinson on the album. As far as closing tracks from IRON MAIDEN go, this is one of their most stand-out choices, it is a frenzy of some of the best playing the band has done in recent years. From the layering of the guitar solos to the heavy-weight bass lines, the hooks which make you belt your heart out and the meticulous drumming, this is the textbook display of how IRON MAIDEN can piece together an epic just like a jigsaw puzzle.
There aren’t many artists out there who can have such a distinguishable sound and yet still come out with something new enough it creates excitement each time – IRON MAIDEN are different. Senjutsu is crazy; it’s outrageously long, it’s got everything your heart desires and then some. It is an album in which displays IRON MAIDEN’s best song writing in recent years, proving again why they can still smash record sales and fill huge venues worldwide after so much time doing what they do. Senjutsu proves just how crucial this band has been, are, and continues to be to heavy metal. If you want to know why this band of almost 50 years is so special, just take a listen to this.
Senjutsu is out now via Parlophone Records.
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