Guitar tactics and musical strategy
15 September 2021-
Iron Maiden are a name everyone knows even if you don't know anything about heavy metal. With good reason: they've been rocking for over 4 decades, and they're now back for more!
Before we forget: we are very much aware that you might have expected a review of Drake‘s record-shattering 6th studio album, Certified Lover Boy. And we will probably get to it, but the thing is we’ve talked about the Drake phenomenon in general and Drake / Kanye (West) battle in particular so much in recent weeks that we figured we’d go for something slightly different today. And you might say that we found it.
Iron Maiden are about as opposite to Drake as one can be: the band are bona fide musical veterans — i.e. old enough to be retirees in most professions —, they hail from the old continent (more specifically the UK, in case you didn’t know that part) and they play music that is very much non-urban — in the modern acception of the word. No, their sound is notoriously one of the most heavy that metal has come up with over the decades. Building on the revolution sparked by the likes of Black Sabbath, rising to superstardom along with the likes of Judas Priest and Def Leppard, inspiring the likes of Metallica, Megadeth or Pantera in their wake, let’s just say that Iron Maiden are in pretty great — and loud — company when it comes to building a pantheon of heavy metal.
What is interesting for a band with a 45-year long career, 17 studio albums under the hood and a host of global arena tours across the globe is that the guys are still very much here to rock. And, unlike fellow legends like AC/DC, who arguably share the same aspirations, this does not necessarily mean that the band intends to apply the same formula again and again. Building on the incredible melodic strength of their compositions, on the sheer power of their guitar licks and on the otherworldly vocal skills of lead singer Bruce Dickinson, the lads want to keep surprising you — and rocking you to your core, as it were.
This implies the release of brand new album Senjutsu, whose mysterious title (which apparently has to do with tactics and strategy) only equals its absolute grandiosity. Think about it: 10 tracks for a total of nearly 82 minutes; only Kanye does better than that (sorry, had to say that line). This means that this actually constitutes a double LP, with the second disc featuring 4 songs, only one of which is under 10 minutes. And there’s absolute no filler here: instead, you are served with masterfully composed, produced and performed rock anthems, with varying degrees of intensity but a shared degree of sophistication. Take lead single “The Writing On The Wall”: it almost feels like you are listening to a movie, with a beginning, middle and end. Or “Death Of The Celts”: band leader Steve Harris‘ buddies subtly combine traditional, folk-sounding elements along with thundering guitar riffs for an homage that is more than that — a celebration, more like. Finally, you have album closer and all around second longest track “Hell On Earth”, which sounds like a mini-concerto of its own. One hell of an epitaph.
If you want to hear refreshingly powerful heavy metal played by deceptively ancient musicians, this is it. And everyone took notice: the album reached #3 on the Billboard charts this week — behind Drake and Kanye, of course. In their native UK, Iron Maiden came second. Before Kanye.