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Iron Maiden - Senjutsu CD (album) cover

SENJUTSU

Iron Maiden

 

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3.68 | 133 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Very few bands succeed in getting me excited about releasing a new album since there is so much music to discover that was released over the decades prior and i have no need to be current or contemporarily "correct," however there are a few bands that just seem to have won me over and remain relevant despite having been on the scene for decades. IRON MAIDEN is certainly a band that has cast its spell on me and continues to enchant me with its musical style that has been a fascinating mishmash of metal, punk, prog and other elements since its self-titled debut emerged in 1980. While there are many classic bands like Deep Purple, Yes and Metallica that were once all time favorite bands, their new products are so pathetically weak that i cringe when i hear that they are actually contemplating a relevancy in the modern era! Well, that's not the case with IRON MAIDEN.

This band has always been a cut above the competition and over time has virtually established itself as the pinnacle of heavy metal longevity having churned out one excellent album after another and although it's true that these guys may not be up to the level as their classic seven album run, they still manage to unleash an unexpected surprise that while not their peak always seems to satisfy. Such is the case with the band's 17th studio album SENJUTSU which in Japanese ( 戦術 ) loosely translates as "tactics and strategy" and the first time the mighty MAIDEN has used a Japanese theme since its lesser known live EP "Maiden Japan" was released all the way back in 1981. However this time around, MAIDEN implements Japanese music sounds (such as the taiko drumming on the title track) and subject matter.

So? what about this new album? How does it stack up against the classics of the past? How is it relevant for the modern world of metal? Does it even matter? Well, after a few spins of actually buying this double CD set i have to say, awesome! OK, let's just get this out of the way right now. IRON MAIDEN clearly peaked in the 1980s with its masterpiece "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son" and has never topped that crowning achievement and all the six albums that preceded for that matter which are unabashed classics of metal as well that have likewise never been topped but that does not mean for a minute that IRON MAIDEN are not relevant or enjoyable even in the third decade of the 21st century where metal has branched off into myriad mind-numbing directions. MAIDEN clearly established its core sound in the 1980s and has been simply refining and recycling those ideas ever since. But for me it totally works!

When it comes to aging bands that are clearly using past ideas to perpetuate a longevity in the metal universe there are a few trends i've noticed. Firstly, aging bands try to be relevant in the brave new world and try to tackle trends that they have no business doing so. Think, Queensryche of the 90s, well hell many 80s bands trying to become more "alternative" in the 90s! Then there are bands like Judas Priest that decided to go full on prog. Well, "Nostradamus" was a complete shit show and ultimately they reverted back to their classic 80s sound. And then there are those bands that just never change. You know the ones. They had their heyday in the 1990s and have had umpteen renditions of the classic album that everyone revers so deeply. But then there's IRON MAIDEN which somehow manages to be classic and new at the same time. Playing it somewhat safe yet taking a few risks.

SENJUTSU is the perfect modern representation of IRON MAIDEN really and an excellent followup to "The Book Of Souls" which for the most part simply cannibalized its past glory in the form of riffs, melodies and subject matter and crafted an unthinkable double album that followed another double album! That little tidbit which is both the boon and bane of this band who having achieved unthinkable success really has no fucks left to give and sallies forth like nobody's business. This leads us to the fact that musicians who have the financial success to do what they want may not always coincide with what the fans want. Granted that IRON MAIDEN has been very generous in not getting too "out there" for their fans and keeping a consistent sound for all these decades but still many will deem this band as one that has become irrelevant as they approach retirement age. I beg to differ. Unlike many a band of the modern era who has traversed a multi-decade career, i find IRON MAIDEN to be extraordinarily adept at walking the razors edge as they run to the hills.

OK, get to the friggin album already! In short it won't win over any haters but will surely please fans who have incorporated this band's overall sound into their musical lexicon. SENJUTSU is a very atmospheric album and sounds like an extended version of the atmospheric parts of "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son." One of the complaints is that this album doesn't have enough metal in it. It is true that it's lacking the sizzling solos and riffing frenzies of the past but still retains the classic MAIDEN compositional fortitude. Side one is pretty strong with all those classic ear worms that MAIDEN has always had a penchant towards and continues even in the modern era. Bruce Dickinson's vocals seem as strong as ever although a bit less energetic than in the past. That could be said for the entire band. They have slowed down a bit but without the aggro-metal angst of the past, however it makes the compositions sounds even stronger and reveals MAIDEN as masters of compositional fortitude with the metal virtuosity simply icing on the cake.

Side two is by far the less exciting of the two sides. Padded with 10-minute plus tracks minus the opening "Darkest Hour," side two is more of a jamming session whereas side one is more about extended variations. Thinks of this like George Harrison's "All Things Will Pass" metal style and you'll get over it. Even the extended metal jams are IRON MAIDEN style and given the interesting musical scales and band interplay, i still find these jams satisfying musical experiences. Yeah, IRON MAIDEN is past its prime. So friggin' what! I'm more impressed that these guys are still making music that i find enjoyable well into their sixties! These days metal is more than just playing fast and loud and IRON MAIDEN is holding a space for 80s metal while other bands are expanding into unthinkable creative metal madness. While many bands of this stature simply release albums as an excuse for a tour, i have to say that i find each and every album released by IRON MAIDEN to be quite enjoyable even if not on the same level. True i'm like others and don't love the Blaze Bailey years but i can't say that any Dickinson album isn't enjoyable on some level and this one is no exception. In fact this one has delivered an unthinkable return value! Long live MAIDEN!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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