Alcatrazz, V (Silver Lining Music 2021)

Los Angeles metal band Alcatrazz returns with their fifth long-player, simply titled V.

Alcatrazz started almost forty years ago in California. Its first phase lasted from about 1983 to 1987 when a hiatus ensued, but not before the band released three albums. Picking back up in 2007, a touring incarnation was in place for a few years. Most recently, Alcatrazz came together again on the edge of the pandemic, putting out the well-received Born Innocent album in 2020. And now, in rapid succession, we have V. The band is Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), Gary Shea (bass), Doogie White (vocals), Joe Stump (guitar), and Mark Benquechea (drums).

The opening song “Guardian Angel” has a real Iron Maiden feel to it, and I mean that in a good way. The delivery lays over on the radio-ready side, even with the ripping guitar shreds. The music is heavily layered and produced, resulting a very polished final product. It goes down smooth. A fine way to start the album.

The keyboards have a large presence throughout the set and they work well with the vocal style. In some ways it is like the second phase of Deep Purple except, again, more in the pop lane. The singer Doogie White is well known, after all, for his vocal performances with Rainbow and Rising Force (among others) so you recognize his signature sound immediately and the compositions are designed with synergy in mind. For me, the music is solidly created and the existence of big lead breaks makes every song worthwhile. Witness “Nightwatch.”

While the music does operate in a definable universe, it offers considerably variety, too. One of my favorite songs is the bluesy “House Of Lies,” and then there is the solemn heavy ballad “Dark Day For My Soul.” Rollicking tunes abound as well as in “Blackheart” and “Target.” There is an old school sensibility here that is tuned into a contemporaneous awareness that results in a new and unique sound. Recommended.

The new album is out now through Silver Lining Music in digipak, digital, and streaming formations.

Band photo by Alex Solca.

Links.

Alcatrazz website, http://www.alcatrazzofficial.com/

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

Silver Lining Music, http://sl-music.net/en/releases/259-artists/releases-alcatrazz/984-v

Alcatrazz, V (Silver Lining Music 2021)

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)