ADRIAN THRILLS: There’s still Iron in their souls… Raucous new album shows the flame is burning for the old Maidens
Iron Maiden: Senjutsu (Parlophone)
Verdict: Heavy rock with staying power
Halsey: If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power (Capitol)
Verdict: Bold concept album
Rudimental: Ground Control (Asylum)
Verdict: Feelgood anthems
As a new band specialising in heavy metal at the height of punk in the 1970s, Iron Maiden always suspected they might be flying in the face of fashion.
Their refusal to follow trends has served them in good stead, though, as the rockers have spent decades packing out the world’s biggest stadiums.
Their latest album, Senjutsu, was recorded in 2019 — and put on hold for two years because of lockdown — but it reiterates their resilience.
It also confirms the sextet’s ability to inject artistry and personality into hard rock while throwing in unexpected twists.
As a new band specialising in heavy metal at the height of punk in the 1970s, Iron Maiden (pictured in 2019) always suspected they might be flying in the face of fashion
Like its predecessor, The Book Of Souls, it’s a double LP packed with galloping rhythms, high-octane hooks and frenzied guitar solos. But with detours into folk and progressive rock, it’s also the work of a group prepared to take risks.
Maiden’s prog-rock leanings date back to the 1980s, but they are particularly pronounced here, on their first album in six years.
The title is a Japanese phrase that translates as ‘tactics and strategy’ (a concept reinforced by some Samurai-themed artwork) and the ten tracks are punctuated by changes of mood and tempo.
At its core are four lengthy sagas written by bassist Steve Harris, who co-produces with long-term collaborator Kevin Shirley. Lost In A Lost World is typical. Opening as a soft, acoustic piece, it unfolds into a blustery rock number.
The dramatic gear changes are clunky at times, but the overall effect is mesmerising, owing as much to Mike Oldfield’s episodic Tubular Bells as it does to Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades.
With songs such as Days Of Future Past and The Time Machine — and sound-effects that include seagull cries, crashing waves and a light aeroplane — Senjutsu doesn’t shy away from ostentation.
Their latest album, Senjutsu, was recorded in 2019 — and put on hold for two years because of lockdown — but it reiterates their resilience
Like its predecessor, The Book Of Souls, it’s a double LP packed with galloping rhythms, high-octane hooks and frenzied guitar solos. Pictured: Iron Maiden perform in Sweden in 2018
But there’s a sense of purpose, too. Hell On Earth is an anti-war song, while The Writing On The Wall, co-written by singer Bruce Dickinson, uses apocalyptic images to warn about climate change.
Dickinson, 63, is a towering presence, his operatic range augmented by the triple guitar threat of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers.
On Days Of Future Past, his rawness is almost punky. On Darkest Hour, a ballad, his vocals are more measured.
The album ends with its longest track, The Parchment, a 13-minute epic that incorporates Eastern influences, metronomic rhythm guitar, spellbinding solos and a delicate finale.
It’s hard to think of another rock act that can combine raw energy with musical ambition quite like Maiden.
Halsey enjoys making bold statements, and the singer’s latest release is being billed as a concept album about ‘the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth’.
The arrival of the American’s first child is the starting point for songs that also address body positivity and sexuality with typical candour.
Halsey, 26, came out as non-binary in March and now uses both ‘she’ and ‘they’ pronouns — and the LP continues a habit of being open with fans.
The musician has also employed new producers, with Hollywood film composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — of industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails — an inspired choice.
Reznor and Ross won an Oscar for their new-age score to the Disney Pixar movie Soul, and their pulsating electronic rock provides a cinematic setting.
With parenthood supplying the narrative thread, piano ballad 1121 alludes to the date — November 21 last year — when Halsey first learned about the pregnancy.
Halsey (pictured in November 2019) enjoys making bold statements, and the singer’s latest release is being billed as an album about ‘the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth’
Halsey, 26, came out as non-binary in March and now uses both ‘she’ and ‘they’ pronouns — and the LP continues a habit of being open with fans
But the singer also wonders whether a life of traditional domesticity — ‘crystal glasses, picket fences, file taxes’ — is really a comfortable fit.
As with P!nk and Miley Cyrus, the transition to rock is pulled off with noisy aplomb, with nods to Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins.
There are cameos from drummer Dave Grohl and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, but the central voice is Halsey’s — one that should appeal to pop devotees and older rock fans, too.
East London dance act Rudimental turn to guest singers and rappers on their fourth album, Ground Control.
Singer-songwriters James Vincent McMorrow and Kareen Lomax are early contributors, with the latter evoking Tracy Chapman on the soulful Jumper.
But it’s the buoyant floor-fillers that should come into their own now Rudimental are touring again.
Former X Factor wannabe Ella Henderson asserts herself on Handle My Own, while soul singer Hamzaa teams up with London duo 2fox and a gospel choir on disco-ready Keep Your Head Up.
SIGRID GROWS UP AND IS BURNING BRIDGES WITH THE PAST
Delighted to be singing live again for the first time since the pandemic struck, Sigrid gears up for her second album with a new track, entitled Burning Bridges.
The Norwegian, who played last week’s Reading and Leeds Festivals, hinted at a weightier, more mature sound on her spring single, Mirror. Her latest effort, a break-up number, reiterates her growth.
Having gone through a divorce (from country singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly) during lockdown, Kacey Musgraves is in a reflective mood on Justified and Star-Crossed, two tracks from her imminent fifth album.
Sigrid, who played last week’s Reading and Leeds Festivals (pictured), hinted at a weightier, more mature sound on her spring single, Mirror. Her latest release reiterates her growth
Delighted to be singing live again for the first time since the pandemic struck, Sigrid gears up for her second album with a new track, entitled Burning Bridges
No longer the dime-store cowgirl of 2013’s Same Trailer Different Park, the Texan’s move from country to melancholy Americana mirrors the darker tone of her new material.
Ahead of his Las Vegas residency, which begins next month, Sting is also offering a taster for his new album, The Bridge.
His latest single, If It’s Love, is a breezy pop tune that likens his romantic feelings to the symptoms of a medical patient. The LP, out in November, features new material, plus Otis Redding and Harry Nilsson covers.
And Johnny Marr is promising a move towards electronic music on his forthcoming double album, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4. Long-time fans of the former Smiths guitarist’s glorious fretwork can rest easy, though.
His new single, Spirit, Power And Soul, features chiming guitars alongside energetic synths reminiscent of his 1980s Manchester peers, New Order.
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