Monday, September 20, 2021

The Rock Renaissance of the Modern Maiden

If there is one band that humanity can rely upon to navigate their way through the trenches of the ruthless British soundscape, it is the Mighty Maiden. While the heavy metal genre sadly departed from the UK charts around the same time that John Major came into Parliament, these metal innovators are still making headlines such as Iron Maiden lead Drake in battle for UK Number One album.’

Releasing music during a time where many of our most beloved 80s metal bands are attempting to breathe new life into their older, more iconic sounds, in a poor attempt to remain entrenched in the glory of their zenith, Iron Maiden has gifted us with a sound that is unquestionably Maiden—yet more compelling and mature than anything that we have heard from them before. 


So, what exactly is it about Iron Maiden that allows them to remain so damn relevant? For answers, we must look no further than the newest addition to their canon of illustrious studio albums. ‘Senjutsu' is 1 hour and 21 minutes of hair-raising cinematic magic. 


The album begins strongly with its title track, bestowing upon the reader a clear understanding of what to expect from the rest of the album. We are presented with a slow and heightening drum beat, courtesy of Nicko McBrain, indicating a typically Maiden-esque call to arms. What follows is an exciting Harris/Smith composition that not only flexes their enduring talent in creating electrifying guitar riffs but also signals the beginning of a new Maiden era; an era which audibly does not intend to sacrifice a single drop of their notorious grit. 


Despite the second track being uncharacteristically short for a Maiden song, Stratego continues to build the emotion and momentum that was brewing on the initial track. Manifesting itself as an allegory comparable in melancholy to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, we are introduced to our Japanese military warrior. They bewail: “How do you read a madman’s mind / Teach me the art of war / For I shall bring more than you bargained for.” Dickinson evokes in his listener the sort of melancholy that is inherent to any sort of warfare, reminding us of every soldier's perpetual lament. Speaking about ‘Stratego’ with Apple Music, the singer reminds us that war is “a game of strategy and tactics, but also betrayal and intrigue.”.


I know I do not only speak for myself when I state that this is the greatest aspect of Iron Maiden’s music. Not only are we gifted with great tunes that you could, quite literally, break your neck headbanging to, but every single sentence they preach is also filled with historical eminence and thought-provoking themes. 


The album proceeds to touch on themes of existentialism, determination and harrowing strategies of war—thematically, there really isn’t much terrain that this band cannot cover. The final track 'Hell on Earth' brings the album to an apocalyptic close. Coming in at 11 minutes and 19 seconds, the band depart from their listener with an epic comparable only to Virgil himself. With lyrics such as “In between the dark of hell on Earth / On the other side, I'll see again in heaven / So far away from this hell on Earth”, Harris’ existential side is evidently breaking through. I think that this track should be a lesson to all songwriters out there who want to end their albums on the highest note humanly possible—a cautionary tale against the war propaganda for the battle that is life. 


Abbie Cronin


Image: Iron maiden - Senjustu Official Album Artwork



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