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You're not 70s Genesis, do true albums with balls - 99%

MidnightWalker89, September 13th, 2021

After months of silence, with rumors about a new album recorded in Paris, we were invited to the “Belshazzar's Feast”, an elaborate strategy to introduce to the first single. Then came an announcement with the true title album, release dates, the video-lyric single and the whole album release, but not before releasing several pills such as the song titles alongside their length, composers and cover art. These givens always arouse the most diverse, heated debates among followers and not-so fans. Once with the album in our hands, one thing is clear: if someone thought they're going to move away from the creative trail they were walking in 21st century, you're very wrong. Those extended developments, the acoustic intros, the long songs (sometimes misunderstood as progressive) that accompanied them since the distant “The X Factor”, are present in detriment of straightforward songs we miss sometimes. That doesn't mean I prefer one over the other, as I understand that both prototypes of songwritings are protagonists in their history. I'd like to hear a beginning with fast-paced drums a la “Be Quick or Be Dead”, but I admit “Hell on Earth” is still accurate as it has managed to stand my hair on end like Harris hadn't done for years.

These guys definitely do what they want. They write songs the kind they want and record them in the most comfortable way and of course there will be somebody who likes it more or less. However, their status as a cult band and playing to ever-growing audiences gives them the privilege of being able to bill what they want without depending on anyone, neither fashions nor opinions outside their inner circle. Creativity or the result of a brand that works, edit what you edit? Each one will find their answer. Of course, folks can't help but be thrilled by McBrain and Harris's eternal galloping, the recognizable guitars of the three friends or Dickinson's lines.

Senjutsu surprises with a prevailing mid-paced oblivious to what we can expect on an Iron Maiden album. Everything is marked to the taiko beat, the Japanese drums that appear as an introduction marking the beat which everything will develop then. I like the bridge and chorus, both not exempt from epicness thanks to Bruce's performance, whose vocal melody stands underneath while the guitar is accompanying. It's an eight-minute journey that ends up with the first galloping of the well-known Stratego, a very old-school song whose classic three-chord sequences in stanzas and refrains are colored by the guitar melodies, in this case, bent. The Writing on the Wall enchants off with the western vibe thanks to the distinctly country guitars of Adrian Smith alongside the plethoric Dickinson's vocal lines who face it firmly with his characteristic timbre. The videoclip has multiple references to their history, the horsemen of the Apocalypse and the ironic English humor which they're so given to criticizing and caricaturing themselves (as well as the love they profess for their country and the institutions that represent them) are a marvel that further magnifies such a cool composition. I've been listening to it since it came out and I can say that the more I do, the more I like.

Lost in a Lost World has a ballad-like beginning with Bruce singing very sweet (watch out for those delicate choruses that crown off each end of the verse) that later turns into a very rockish hook, with a somewhat simplistic yet recycled riff. Days of Future Past has Adrian's stamp since the characteristic main riff where he draws ties as a complement to the fundamental chord, passing by that verse rhythm and palm muting in order to invite his mates to play it in their own way. They truly add melodic nuances that ultimately complement the so characteristic sound of the three guitarists as always. The interlude with the three chorus notes is highlighted by the synthesizer which results in curiosity just before facing the final chorus.

If the previous one had the characteristic Smith style, The Time Machine has that of a Janick Gers who proposes a recycled The Talisman intro that turns into a curious semi-acoustic chorus, to say the least. Then the song takes another course, tempo and time signature, with the characteristic gallop appearing as the absolute protagonist. Darkest Hour is yet another example of their love for history, literature and cinema; proving that they know how to bring all the drama it contains within rock and heavy metal. From the most balladic part until how they charge up emotionally (picking up speed and then losing it), the superb solo guitar work is the most outstanding in years (especially just before reaching the last chorus) and it's also remarkable the tremendous rubric when Dickinson puts himself in the shoes of Winston Churchill.

Arry stuff almost reaches 35 minutes and they're the zenith of Senjutsu. As always, for someone it'll be an unbearable annoyance or a blessed glory for others. It's clear that the bass player feels happy composing this type of epics and he finds the ideal scenic motifs to represent them. Death of the Celts has a folk touch melodically interpreted on the well-known resource of tonic, fifth and eighth arpeggios, with certain reminiscences of The Clansman in its development. The Parchment, as if Harris was inspired by Maurice Ravel's Bolero, caught my attention for the way the instruments enter as the bass and synthesizer get in line first. They use the guitar melodies again as the common thread, using them to color the voices and others to mark the step between each part, something understandable if we see how it results too heavy for some listeners. Finally, what I consider the best beast, Hell On Earth is overwhelming as Harris has signed one of his best solo projects in the last 25 years, highlighting his beautiful melodies while Bruce grows every time he does his appearance. Nothing new, but a good one. Very good indeed. So much so that if it was their last album (hope I'm not ominous about this) it would be a magnificent icing on their career.

And this is ultimately Senjutsu, another debtor album that the band has been in this not-so-new millennium, with both rock and heavy metal overtones. Both speed, aggressiveness and freshness gave way to measure and good taste long ago, but it's about how to enjoy both, with the musical protagonism centered on Harris (outstanding), Smith (contributing some novel notes) and to a lesser extent Gers (very archetypal). I miss some song with the Dickinson stamp (he contributes impressive lyrics though) or Murray. But that, hopefully, we'll have in the next chapter of this story.

Probably the hit they were looking for. We went through albums with ups and downs and apparently they hit their mark by achieving the music they wanted, but applying a refined formula which results in greater variety and cohesion. For me, these same mixed feelings happen to me with Deep Purple since both bands have their identity stamp and no one can replicate or imitate them. They also have in common that, despite the passing of years, still know how to entertain us with their music. Although Infinite will never surpass Burn or Machine Head, in the same way Senjutsu never get over Powerslave or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.