On first glance at the bloody cover art of new album Senjetsu you might expect a handful of attack-your-throat, vicious heavy metal-type songs from Iron Maiden; This couldn’t be further from what is going on behind that cover art. Senjetsu is a very emotionally charged, melodic record that takes from hard rock and heavy metal charms and blends them amazingly into one fantastic Iron Maiden record. This band has, for forty-plus years always been their own musical leader and this continues with a batch of new songs that, while keeping the band’s traditional tropes, add just a touch more broth to their song writing stew.
Leading off with the title track, the song keeps up a pounding, percussive voodoo drum-like backbeat (i’m not sure Nicko McBrain hits the hi-hat anywhere in the song) with a haunting and heavy batch of melodies that are both instant and convincing. Bruce Dickinson‘s voice is completely in control as captain of the ship and he gives one hell of a vocal performance right out of the gate. Some really attacking lead guitar work falls into the spell of the song in spots and it all comes together nicely. A somewhat odd lead off track from a delivery standpoint, it does however set the tone for the record – that Maiden will delve wherever they want to delve. Production has been an issue at times for Maiden since Martin Birch’s retirement decades ago but I really find the sound of the record this go round to be perfectly fitting; Kevin Shirley has delivered a dreamlike production that lets you get easily lost in the music on hand.
Track 2, Stratego, is a more recognisable type Maiden song with an instant guitar hook and that Steve Harris bass string rumble. It’s easily the most ‘by the book’ song on the record (that must be why I like it most- Ed). The ‘floating keyboard’ tones hover alongside the guitars and add that extra touch of depth. The Writing on the Wall is an acoustic guitar tinged song that lyrically shows the state of our world today; a very emotional song with a nod to current life going forward and its sorrows. Some southern rock-type moments musically are welcomed and smooth out the ‘dark road ahead’ lyrical vibes of the song. Lost in a Lost World keeps the vibe dark, although musically this one leaves me a bit short. All the chips are in the bag, but the overall vibe of the song makes it my least favourite track on the record. For me, the album really gets rolling after this one.
Days of Future Past (Bruce did mention the Moody Blues might have crept into their sound here and there this go ’round) is an instant one with some really cool riffing and a good driving vibe. Again those rising keyboards/guitars set up a nice chorus before a cool guitar solo section that leads to a nice subdued third act of the song which is the icing on top. good stuff!
However, best song honours this time go to The Time Machine. This Janick Gers/Steve Harris-penned number just works from start to finish. When the melodies find you its a very mystical and magical journey; A classic iron maiden middle part takes it to an even higher plateau, and then you get even more as the song just weaves and turns this way and that with changes and lead breaks. This is my favourite track on the record for sure!
Next up is Darkest Hour’, and Dickinson’s best vocal on the record. Another dark tune that is packed with emotional, heart tugging riffing, it’s real ‘think of life, think of death’-type stuff. Power chords and climbing vocals are the things on hand with this one – almost a ballad, it is at once moving, driving and fantastic! Death of the Celts sees Harris put his entire musical stamp on everything. The song title alone should tell you the vibe of this one; a nice intro that isn’t overplayed leads into a war charged type vocal/band delivery, followed by a cool middle break that takes us to jamville. The song explodes to even heavier jams as it goes on, and at ten minutes in length you’ll get a whole lot of Iron Maiden’ness…
The Parchment is next, and gets the gong for heaviest song on the record. I hear a cross between Perfect Strangers-era Deep Purple and Gates of Babylon from Rainbow in the vibe of this song – really cool stuff. This one will go down intense as fuck live. The haunt is still on within the riffs and the downbeat vibe does find some sort of ‘happier moments’ near songs end where the guitars get to open up and rock out a bit. really good stuff!
The album closes with Hell on Earth, and the Harris-penned track is full of emotion and some great melodies especially in the second half of the song. It’s a fantastic closer that brings all the Maiden magic to an end this go round.
To wrap it all up the whole record as I mentioned has a dreamlike state to it. I hear hints of the Seventh Son era all the way through to Book of Souls if I was asked for comparisons. I didn’t wanna go into too deep a detail with the songs as every listener should get there own vibe for them, and as I’ve said in past Maiden talk of newer song material, if you’re looking for The Trooper’ or Two Minutes to Midnight-type stuff you’ll not find it here. The band is on a whole ‘nother plain now, a deep, emotional type musical world that for me is constantly pulling my emotions to and fro with a soundtrack type aura to everything I’ve seen and will see in life. If you jumped off the train long ago it’s understood, but if you’re still on the train what a ride it is! Hats off to Iron Maiden, my favourite band of all time. One that doesn’t rest on past success and just keeps on doing what it wants to do. See you upfront at the gigs – up the fucking Irons!
Senjutsu releases on September 3rd.