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TRACK LIST: 1. Senjutsu 8:20 2. Stratego 4:59 3. The Writing on the Wall 6:13 4. Lost in a Lost World 9:31 5. Days of Future Past 4:03 6. The Time Machine 7:09 7. Darkest Hour 7:20 8. Death of the Celts 10:20 9. The Parchment 12:39 10. Hell on Earth 11:19 LINEUP: Bruce Dickinson - vocals Dave Murray - guitars Adrian Smith - guitars Janick Gers - guitars Steve Harris - bass, keyboards Nicko McBrain - drums
Prolusion. UK band Iron Maiden are back with a new album - "Senjutsu" - which is the band's seventeenth studio production and their first new album since they released "Book of Souls" back in 2016. As with their previous production it is a double album, and Parlophone remains the label used for the release this time around as well.
Analysis. Iron Maiden are one of those bands that don't really need an introduction. They are among the few metal bands that everyone knows about, whether they have an interest in metal or not. Just about the only interesting aspect of a band of their stature is whether or not their latest album is interesting, as just about everything else is common knowledge. Iron Maiden have flirted with progressive rock throughout their career, which isn't all that surprising as several members of the band are in the right age to appreciate this style of music, and a few are more or less outspoken fans of if not the genre itself then at least prominent artists in and of the genre. They continue to flirt with progressive rock this time around as well, possibly entering the universe with a bit more than half a foot at times too, and as such this album is on par with the greater majority of the albums in their back catalogue. The music is unmistakably Iron Maiden from the opening notes kicks off and until the final notes fade out. This isn't a band that takes any major creative chances at this stage of their career, and while they possibly have a few more songs this time around that shies away from the tried and tested galloping bass line and epic guitar driven arrangements with harmony guitar solo details as an ongoing feature this isn't an adventurous production per se. The band knows what their fans expect, and they deliver just that. Iron Maiden are obviously too experienced to bother with strict replication of course, so there are plenty of finer nuances to enjoy and creative impulses of a more subtle and careful manner that has been added to create a subtle but distinct character for this specific production. Liberal use of careful, atmospheric laden opening and concluding sections is a key trait throughout this album, occasionally with interludes of a similar kind applied as well. Some of the guitar solo details have what may or may not be a folk music tinge to them in terms of the melody lines, and as a possibly more striking element the use of keyboards is at times a dominant trait throughout, often with the use of slightly exotic sounding motifs delivered by those and occasionally one of the guitars too to add a slightly otherworldly sheen to the proceedings. These latter details are ones that always makes a song sound more interesting to a western audience at least, tried and tested with success ever since psychedelic rock was popular way back in the day. The mix and production is, arguably, the most successful aspect of this new Iron Maiden album. Several of their modern age albums have sounded a bit off in that department, including their previous album "Book of Souls". "Senjutsu" is a step up in that department, and while not reaching the stellar heights of some of Maiden's classic albums handled by Martin Birch, they do come close at times on this occasion. Especially the calmer, atmospheric laden passages have a striking and compelling sound to them, and the elongated guitar solo runs are just about as high in regard in this context as far as I'm concerned at least. The songs themselves are a bit more of a hit and miss affair for me. For my taste in music there aren't any songs this time around that strikes me as an immediate fan favorite or a number that would easily fit into a concert set of the band's best songs. And even for the best this album has to offer, such as the classic energetic rockers 'Stratego' or the epic and majestic 'The Parchment', they just do not reach the highs Iron Maiden have managed to reach in the past. As an album experience, my opinion is that "Senjutsu" is a step down from their previous album "Book of Souls" in that regard. That being said, this isn't by any means a weak album either. None of the songs strikes me as being weak, even if the aforementioned mix and production alongside some fine guitar solo passages certainly manage to elevate a few of them up to a respectable level, but as an album experience this is a good one with moments of brilliance rather than a solid or a great one.
Conclusion. A new Iron Maiden album is always a matter of interest, especially among people of a certain age that started buying their albums back in the day when Paul Di'anno was their lead vocalist. Most Iron Maiden fans will appreciate what the band has to offer also on this latest album of theirs, as there are some strong tracks to enjoy and the mix and production makes it the best sounding Iron Maiden album for quite some time. As a total album experience I do find "Senjutsu" to be a bit so-so however, and from my perspective at least it is the fans that adore past albums such as "Somewhere in Time" and "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" that possibly will have the highest appreciation for the music explored on this album.
Progmessor: September 2021
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