Iron Maiden, Senjutsu (Sanctuary Records 2021)

Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden release their seventeenth studio album, Senjutsu.

I first saw Iron Maiden in 1981 on their Killers tour. They were supporting Judas Priest at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio, and Whitesnake was also on the bill. I went to the show to see Judas Priest, mainly, but I had started listening to the Killers album a few days before the concert. Iron Maiden was the newest band so they went first. Somebody in an Eddie mask walked out on the stage and I didn’t know what that was all about at the time, but everybody started cheering and then the music started. I have been a diehard fan of Iron Maiden ever since.

The impact Iron Maiden has had on heavy music is immense. They have released so many albums that could be called pivotal in their history and they have been written off by the press just as many times. But they never left, did they. For me, the albums that had the greatest impact were The Number of the Beast (1982), Fear of the Dark (1992), and The Book of Souls (2015). Yeah, how about that, Maiden fans? Which three would you choose? It’s here where we sit down and start debating the merits of each and every one. But we’ll have to do that in person, so instead let’s take a quick look at the newest, Senjutsu.

There are ten tracks and the running time is 82 minutes so if you make a quick division that means there are a lot of long songs. Iron Maiden has never shied away from the extended form, and as their career has gone on they have really leaned into the concept. Strong and inventive compositions, from Steve Harris especially, deepen the musical expression and more than justify the running time. If anything, at the end I wish there was even more.

Clever and instantly memorable hooks on songs like “The Writing On The Wall” sink in immediately and are with you to stay – I made a mental list on the first listen through of the songs I hoped to hear live this year on the band’s tour, and it is a pretty long list. The lead work sounds fresh, Bruce Dickinson’s voice is in top form, and the rhythm is granite. Picking highlights from this long set is almost arbitrary because of the consistent quality throughout, but I’ll go ahead and do it anyway. Along with “The Writing On the Wall,” I have a sparkling affection for the relentless pulsing of “Lost In A Lost World,” the familiar finesse of “Death Of The Celts,” and the profound and sweeping thoroughgoing of “The Parchment.” There are no wrong turns anywhere on this album. Highly recommended.

Senjutsu is out now in digital, double CD, and triple vinyl versions. Tap the links below.

Links.

Iron Maiden website, https://www.ironmaiden.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ironmaiden

Iron Maiden Shop, https://666.ironmaiden.com/

Iron Maiden, Senjutsu (Sanctuary Records 2021)

Motörhead, No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith Box Set (BMG 2021)

Motörhead’s iconic live masterpiece No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith gets the deluxe treatment in a new 4-disc box set.

I don’t have to go on and on about Motörhead and how important that band is in the history of heavy music. And too, their monumental No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith album was huge back when it came out in 1981. It was the first Motörhead album I actually ever heard and it put me on track to be a lifelong fan. I am glad to know it continues to be revered and listened to and sought after.

And at the time, by the way, I didn’t like live albums much. A few years before, Kiss had a massive success with their second big live album Kiss Alive II, and I have to say I didn’t really like it much. I thought the studio versions of the songs were better and I didn’t channel anything extra from trying to listen to the music through the crowd noise on a record in my room. But Hammersmith was something different. It was all new to me at the time, and it is loaded with brain smashers coming, as it did, hot on the heels of Overkill, Bomber, On Parole, and Ace of Spades. I didn’t know what hit me, and after I got myself back together, I was never the same.

This new set is huge and includes a remastered version of the original album plus bonus tracks not included on that first record. In the big box, there are also complete recordings of the three shows that were used for the original album: Leeds Queens Hall on March 28, 1981 and Newcastle City Hall on March 29 and 30, 1981. There are also a bunch more bobs and whistles, one important entry being a previously unpublished interview. Much here to sort through and admire.

Is it too much Motörhead? Not for big fans of the band like me, but for regular metalheads, yeah, it probably is a little over the top. Still, it is worth listening to the remastered original album even if you don’t want to hear all three concerts because it sounds great in its new incarnation and it is classic metal music that never gets old. Recommended.

No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith Box Set is out now from BMG Records. Get yours before this one sells out.

Links.

Website, https://imotorhead.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMotorhead/

Motörhead, No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith Box Set (BMG 2021)

Motörhead, Louder Than Noise … Live In Berlin (Silver Lining Music 2021)

One of the best late-career concerts from Motörhead is now available for the reliving.

The storied history of Motörhead does need reiteration from me – their place in heavy metal history is foundational. I miss the band, and Lemmy, gone now these many years. One good thing about recorded music is you can always listen to it again.

Captured live in Berlin in 2012 during the Kings of the Road Tour, this full concert runs over an hour and features stalwart fan favorites as well as timelies. One surprising feature is the eight-minute “Overkill” closer when members of Anthrax join Motörhead on stage.

Every time I saw the band live it was a great show, and this is the long-running lineup I remember best with Lemmy, Phil Campbell, and Mikkey Dee. There is a companion video of the performance that is well done and comes along with the CD and in the bigger bundles. Since there will never be an opportunity to ever see the three play together again, the video is especially poignant.

Louder Than Noise … Live In Berlin is out now. There are choices to be made and they are all degrees of good. Recommended.

Links.

Website, https://imotorhead.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMotorhead

Motörhead, Louder Than Noise … Live In Berlin (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Saxon, Inspirations (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Iconic British heavy metal band Saxon releases a collection of cover songs from the musicians who have inspired them over the years.

One of the first bands you think of when somebody utters the phrase New Wave of British Heavy Metal is surely Saxon. Their first album (self-titled) came out in 1979 and they have powered forward ever since. It is astonishing. Having release more than twenty-four long-players now, plus many live sets, compilations, etc., the history of this band would require a book-length telling.

The album includes eleven tracks: “Paint It Black,” The Rolling Stones; “Paperback Writer,” The Beatles; “Stone Free,” Jimi Hendrix; “Bomber,” Motörhead; “Problem Child,” AC/DC; “Evil Woman,” Crow (covered by Black Sabbath); “Speed King,” Deep Purple; “The Rocker,” Thin Lizzy; “Immigrant Song,” Led Zeppelin; “See My Friends,” The Kinks; and “Hold The Line,” Toto.

That is quite a list, and there is at least one of those on there that looks like it might not belong. But they all do. Many of these songs, being classics, have been covered before by other bands and even still these new versions are most welcome additions to the history of those tunes. I especially like the ones that haven’t seen the re-recording much, or at all, for the novelty and also for the respect Saxon is paying those works.

Thin Lizzy is one of my all-time favorite bands, and hearing the pumped up version of “The Rocker” brought a smile. A cover of a cover is an oddity, but this new version of “Evil Woman” is a stone cold killer. That meandering bass line is amazing. I could do this for every song because there is something special about them all, but I’ll spare you that indulgence. But still, what about that Toto song? “Hold The Line” was a solid radio standard back in the day and it rocks as hard as it can here. The closer is the tune from the Kinks, and it is the closest thing to a ballad on the album. It is melancholy and mellow; a good song for last call.

Inspirations is a great walk down memory lane. The songs are well chosen and the new versions are full of vigor and renewed energy. Available now from Silver Lining Music, this is an album every metal fan needs to hear. Highly recommended.

Links.

Website, https://www.saxon747.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SaxonOfficial/

Saxon, Inspirations (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Accept, Too Mean To Die (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Continuing their decades long tear through heavy metal history, Accept release another monstrous album of relentless ingenuity.

Accept is an iconic band, seminal in its importance to the development of heavy music. The band’s first album came out in 1979, and they enjoyed a huge hits a couple years later with Balls To The Wall (1983) and Metal Heart (1985). Continuing through the decades, Accept released a steady stream popular albums.

The recent music from the band has been fast and wicked, even more than their earlier work. Blind Rage (2014) and especially The Rise Of Chaos (2017) are impossibly packed with interminable pummeling guitars and new looks and turns on hard music regularities. There have been some changes in the lineup, naturally, over the years. Wolf Hoffmann (guitar) was there at the start, and Mark Tornillo (vocals) has been on board for more than ten years. Uwe Lulis (guitar) and Christopher Williams (drums) are returning for more clinical incision, joined by newest-to-the band musicians Philip Shouse (guitar) and Martin Motnik (bass).

There are eleven meaty tracks on Too Mean To Die. “Zombie Apocalypse” starts like a mob of shambling dead staggering straight for you that suddenly switch from the slow George Romero zombies to the sprinting 28Days Later zombies. The piercing wiggle in the lead is a clandestine offset to the steady journalistic vocals. The title song hits second, and it will be a crowd pleaser when live music becomes a thing again with its catchy licks and singable chorus structure that is the perfect edifice to hang layered guitar shreds. “Overnight Sensation” adds mid-tempo depth to the set and plays as an honorific to compositions of the past. These three songs are a good overview of the themes and sentiments that recur on the album, combined and rearranged, sifted and separated throughout to create constant vibrant variation.

There are surprises that pop up here and there, like the Beethoven in “Symphony of Pain,” sounding great in the metal guitar interpretation. And there are a couple of songs on the slower side, too, like “The Best Is Yet To Come” and “The Undertaker.” The album goes out with a bang, raising the adrenaline levels with the roaring “Not My Problem” to set up the closer, the mystical instrumental “Samson and Delilah.” This is the sixteenth studio album from Accept – an extraordinary amount of music, and an even more impressive accomplishment when you listen to the new one a realize that band is blazing as bright as ever. Recommended.

Too Mean To Die is out now. Nuclear Blast has all the variants and merch.

Links.

Website, https://www.acceptworldwide.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/accepttheband

Nuclear Blast, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/products/sound/cd/cd/accept-too-mean-to-die.html

Accept, Too Mean To Die (Nuclear Blast 2021)

Armored Saint, Punching The Sky review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

For more than thirty five years, Armored Saint has been banging eardrums. They are back to do it again with Punching The Sky.

“March of the Saint” is the first song on the first album in 1984, March Of The Saint. It starts like a coronation march; a grand entrance. Then the guitars roll out and the 1980s metal vocals hit. That song has a fast tempo and a snappy lead break. What a great way to get started, and “Seducer” is on that album, too – one of my all-time favorites from Armored Saint. The band released three more albums through 1991 before taking a break for a while. They returned in 2000 with Revelation and formally reformed in 2006, releasing La Raza in 2010 and Win Hands Down in 2015. They have updated their sound over the years with new recording technology and so on but the heart of the band never strayed, and neither did their dedication to the idea of heavy metal.

The band for the new album is original members John Bush (vocals), Joey Vera (bass), Phil Sandoval (guitar), and Gonzo Sandoval (drums), who are joined once again by long-time guitarist Jeff Duncan. They lay down eleven big tracks for Punching The Sky, starting with “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” which has the album’s title in the refrain. The music is vigorous, infused with loud attitude to go along with the rumbling riffs and roaring lead guitar splits. “Bubble” is a contentious number with a more serious tone than many of the other songs, while “Lone Wolf” has a clandestine opening riff and “Fly in the Ointment” is more reflective. At every turn, Armored Saint delivers heavy music longtime fans will embrace and that will catch the attention of new listeners as well. Recommended.

Punching The Sky is out Friday, October 23rd from Metal Blade Records, where you can get merch bundles. Bandcamp is the quick way to grab the digital download.

Links.

Band website, http://armoredsaint.com

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/thearmoredsaint

Bandcamp, https://armoredsaint.bandcamp.com/

Metal Blade Records, https://www.metalblade.com/us/

Armored Saint, Punching The Sky review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Spellbook, Magick & Mischief review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

Spellbook is the new name for the band previously known as Witch Hazel (not Wytch Hazel from the UK), and they have a new album out: Magick & Mischief.

As Witch Hazel, the band released three albums. The style of those is similar to what you hear on the new one, but a little murkier in tone. Two of the earlier albums, Otherworldly (2018) and Forsaken Remedies (2012), are on Spotify and are definitely worth checking out. The band for the new release as Spellbook is Nate Tyson (vocals), Andy Craven (guitar), Selbert Lowe, Jr. (bass), and Nicholas Zinn (drums).

The music on Magick & Mischief has a foot planted firmly in the early 1980s. Back then I was listening to bands like Omen and their amazing Battle Cry album from 1984, and Fates Warning’s occult masterpiece Night on the Brocken (also from 1984). Demon, too, from 1981, with their poppier take on the subject, Night of the Demon. Memories of all these bands cascade over me listening to the new Spellbook. The 2020 take on this style of metal cast refreshing glances toward unlikely corners of music and combines creative ideas that make this music genuinely new even as it creates pristine nostalgic flashes.

The first song on the album is “Wands To The Sky,” the title leaving no question in the listener’s mind about the subject. A jazzy drum roll folds into a stabbing prog-like rock guitar set-up, followed by the distinctive retro vocals. Homage riffs can be heard here and in “Black Shadow” – that is part of the appeal. “Ominous Skies” leads in with a challenging bass line, and “Not Long For This World” presents a doom throng as its introduction. There is a magic theme here, an occult perspective, and yet also sprinkled in are songs like “Motorcade” and the big closer, “Dead Detectives,” which are surprises. The first three minutes of the latter has the same kind of feel as Side One of Alice Cooper’s Muscle of Love – if you don’t know what I am talking about, take twenty minutes and go listen to the first four songs of that old AC classic on Spotify. Spellbook shifts into a steady rock vamp in the second part of the 11+ minute opus, segue to a voiceover to further the narrative, some more rock, finally fading out on a rainy street. It is like going to a Broadway show, and it is a strange yet compelling way to tie up the threads of the album.

Out on September 25, digital, CD, and vinyl versions of Magick & Mischief can be had from Cruz Del Sur Music through Bandcamp and others. A heads up that the track “Amulet” appears to be different on the LP compared to the other versions. Completists take note.

Links.

https://spellbookband.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/spellbookband/

https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic/

https://cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com/

Spellbook, Magick & Mischief review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)