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Album: Iron Maiden - Senjutsu | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Iron Maiden - Senjutsu

Album: Iron Maiden - Senjutsu

17 albums in and a slightly portly old Maiden has still got some sizzle in her

Iron Maiden are in very many senses as English, as camp and as ridiculous as Christmas pantomime, even down to the “HE’S BEHIND YOU!” looming of their vast onstage zombie mascot Eddie. Which is not to say there’s nothing to them: far from it.

Just like pantomime, their durability shows how much they speak to something deep and archetypal in their audience’s spirit. In some senses it’s that Englishness that underpins it – on this, their seventeenth album, as much as ever. For all the finesse and flamboyance of their playing, there is the spirit of an old Englishman painting model tanks in his shed in so much of their military history-obsessed songwriting (dominated as ever by bassist Steve Harris). 

Of course there’s more too, they’ve always dug into things like Egyptology, sci fi and so on, just like said old guy picking dog eared paperbacks up at the car boot and getting a new obsession. This time there’s a bit of conspiracy-edged apocalypse, a bit of Samurai action (the title, 戦術, loosely translated as “tactics and strategy”, makes it all seem a bit Warhammer In Japan), and as all this suggests, it’s very, very prog. But then Maiden always were prog, really; even their punk-edged first albums with Paul Di’Anno singing were a break from the bluesy roots of metal in the Seventies into twiddlier territory, and once Bruce Dickinson, who’s been the super operatic vocalist on and off since 1981, joined, they’ve always had gutsy ludicrousness, epic songs and OTT musicianship that’s up there with the proggiest.

But they’ve always had hooks, too, and they’ve not forgotten that on this album. In fact, all the way through it could very, very nearly be mid-eighties imperial phase Maiden. They are audibly ageing, however: compared to, say, Powerslave or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, the ponderous parts are longer, the riffs are less sprightly, Dickinson isn’t hitting quite such deranged high notes, and there’s just an altogether more portly sound with Harris’s extra keyboards thickening things out. If that sounds self-indulgent, well yes, it sort of is – but they are straight up entertainers too: just as much as any great panto team they understand timing, colour, hilarity, all the old school values that have kept them playing mega-stadia from Shanghai to San Salvador, and that’s all here, even if it lumbers a little in getting to it. And even if the old-guy-in-shed archetype has been soured a little by a certain Brexity air of late, when he’s got up in full panto gear, the good old showbiz sizzle soon makes you forget that.

@joemuggs

Hear "The Writing on the Wall":

 

For all the finesse and flamboyance of their playing, there is the spirit of an old Englishman painting model tanks in his shed

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3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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