If you ask me what my two favourite bands of all time are, the first answer I would give you is The Beatles. For second place, though it'd be a real struggle. The first of the two would be Death Grips and the second Iron Maiden. So, no doubt that my hype was through the roof when "Senjutsu", the British rock band's first record for six years, was announced. Over the years, Iron Maiden have delivered so many timeless rock classics, delivering a sound that is intoxicating in its raw power and energy. Hell, "The Number of the Beast", to this day, is one of my favourite albums of all time. On this album, the band, even at their old age, still continues to deliver on their new proggier direction from "The Book of Souls", employing yet another epic 81-minute runtime. Sonically, even when the tracks stretch to twelve minutes, the instrumentals rarely get stale; they always play directly into the album's epic scope, making for quite the experience. Whether it be returning more to their roots on more punchy cuts like the enthralling "Stratego" or aiming for a grander scope on the disc two tracks, the versatility and ambition that Iron Maiden displayed never failed to entice me, so, even when the experience got a little more forgettable, I was still able to find elements to invest in. Bottom line is, after all these years, Iron Maiden are still able to maintain a confident and firm control over their sound; they still sound atmospherically gripping. Dickinson's vocals, although a little bereft of the raw power he once had, plays into the scope really nicely; in short, they're epic. However, whilst, on the surface, this might be a solid record presenting that Iron Maiden, to a certain degree, still has their past brilliance, when a part of such a brilliant discography, the bar is raised even higher than usual and, on a couple of cuts here and there, this album just falls short of such a standard. Especially on the first disc, where the scope and ambition are a bit more understated, the execution of their ideas just feels a little flaccid. Some of the highs aren't as high as previous outings too - even "The Book of Souls" had higher adrenaline kicks than this. Were the best tracks great; absolutely, but did anything on here truly blow me away; no, not really. The lasting effect of some of the tracks, too, did get a bit underwhelming, which left gaps in my experience, in retrospect. When this album flies, it's majestic; it's a punchy and exciting display of this new chapter of Iron Maiden, even if a couple cuts get a bit forgettable. Iron Maiden's trip to feudal Japan on "Senjutsu", the newest chapter in one of rock's greatest novels, comes with its epic cuts reminiscent of the band's previous untouchable status, and, even if they are weighed down by some forgettable moments, the experience they created was enough to engage and even exhilarate me, at points.
Best Tracks: Stratego, Lost In A Lost World, Death Of The Celts
Worst Tracks: Senjutsu, The Writing On The Wall, Days Of Future Past