Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
Senjutsu is Iron Maiden’s first album since Bruce Dickinson fully recovered from a tumor in the back of his tongue. He has lost none of his vigor. Riding a galloping riff on the breathtaking “Statego”, it snaps and growls in a vortex of thundering percussion and violent guitar gusts. “The Writing on the Wall” is one of her most adventurous songs in years, an exciting spaghetti western that takes off its hat to the crunchy riffs of country musician Chris Stapleton.
Perhaps the best thing about Senjutsu is how much fun the band is having. It’s an album built to entertain, full of theater, full of music at the highest level. They keep things tidy on 10 tracks but if they indulge a little it is worth it. The 10-minute epic “Death of the Celts” begins with a blatant, ominous guitar motif, marches to war and then wreaks havoc with a thrashy, beating fight between Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain. The circle closes with the haunting guitar motif in the outro, as if examining the bodies of fallen warriors.
Throughout the album, the band seems to be fully aware of their veteran status. “Darkest Hour” refers to Winston Churchill; other tracks like “The Time Machine” and “Days of Future Past” deal with the inevitable passage of time. But there is also a resilience, both in Dickinson’s voice and in the energy in the performances. Senjutsu is an album that screams “not dead yet”. ROC
Manic street preachers – The ultra-lively lawsuit
An ambient hum opens The Ultra Vivid Lament. The first track, “Still Snowing In Sapporo”, is a mild post-rock song that chugs along pleasantly like a train on rails and travels through a diorama of the band’s 1993 tour of Japan. From then on, however, the Manic Street Preachers put nostalgia in the rearview mirror and present a 14th record set in the here and now.
“Orwellian” is the clearest example of this renewed focus on the present. The band’s penchant for apocalyptic imagery is set with a specific target, as James Dean Bradfield laments at times when “it feels impossible to choose sides” and a world where “words are at war and meanings are overlooked” . The song’s references to culture wars and cultural demolitions are obvious. It should come as little surprise; These are two themes that fit nicely into the trio’s past repertoire. Elsewhere on the album, they are aimed at a known target. “Don’t let these guys from Eton suggest that we are defeated” is one such glowing line on “Don’t Let The Night Divide Us”.
The Ultra Vivid Lament is the band’s first album designed on the piano rather than the guitar. It’s a trait that fits in nicely with the general mood of melancholy. As always with Manic Street Preachers, however, it’s not all doom and gloom. “Quest for Ancient Color” and “Happy Bored Alone” are reminiscent of drunken cradles with friends on the dance floor.
Fans will be grateful for “Blank Diary Entry” and “The Secret He Had Missed” – two tracks that demonstrate the band’s fine ear for duets. On the latter, the vocals of Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cumming play wonderfully with piano riffs that are reminiscent of Abba’s hit “Waterloo”.
It’s an album that sounds very little like their last, and in that sense – despite its myriad of reference points – The Ultra Vivid Lament is a Manic Street Preachers album through and through. A