1. The Fate of the World on Our Shoulders
2. Existential Terror
3. Necromantic Fantasies
IRON MAIDEN – SENJUTSU
Track Listing :
Iron Maiden are not the first band you’d think of to be stealth-bombing fans with an album almost out of nowhere, but the (for them) short-notice arrival of Senjutsu has been one of 2021’s finest surprises so far. That isn’t to say the content or format of the veteran metallers’ 17th studio album is altogether shocking.
Like 2015’s THE BOOK of SOULS , this is a sprawling double album and, like most of Maiden’s 21st century output, it gives their more epic and progressive tendencies free rein. This is no longer news and if it’s purely punchy ’80s anthems you crave, there will probably be another period-piece themed tour along shortly. For now, the Devil is in the deep-delve details and this is simply one of the finest collections of songs they’ve released in the latter part of their career.
They certainly know how to make an entrance. The title-track is easily their finest opener since The Wicker Man from 2000’s Brave New World, and one of the heaviest tracks they’ve ever cut, opening on dramatic war drums and one of their chunkiest ever riffs. It’s not fast, but there’s an unstoppable sense of momentum as the song glides and stomps with a stately elegance. Stratego giddies things up to a familiar gallop and is as compact as modern Maiden gets, driven by simple refrains and clean melodic leads. Then The Writing On The Wall throws a wonderful curveball, with heavy blues-rock guitars and a blazing solo. This one is credited to Bruce and Adrian, and could easily have slotted into Bruce’s late-’90s solo album The Chemical Wedding – which is very much a complement.
Elsewhere Lost In A Lost World is both melancholy and progressive. There are a number of sudden gear changes but ultimately it’s driven more by emotion than its impressive technical chops. Days Of Future Past is another relatively straightforward mid-tempo rocker, while The Time Machine has an unconventional but effective structure built on a choppy melodic riff. Darkest Hour revisits Winston Churchill and WWII in a far more reflective manner than the breakneck speed of Aces High, and then it’s time to pour a long one and settle back for the final trio.
Death Of The Celts is up first and is instantly evocative of The Clansman, not just in its subject matter but also the see-sawing vocal melodies and folky motifs. The Parchment brings in another seriously heavy riff – by Maiden standards at least – with an insistent repetition that gets into your head in the best possible way. There’s a whiff of POWER SLAVE’S most bombastic moments, especially as it builds through some fine operatic wails into a more frantic instrumental race to the finish. Finally, Hell On Earth brings things to a rather plaintive conclusion, with Bruce intoning, ‘On the other side I’ll see you again in heaven/ Far away from this hell on Earth.’
It’s not the most uplifting of endings, but this is very much an invigorated-sounding Iron Maiden. Senjutsu is simultaneously more diverse than its predecessor but somehow manages to concentrate its punches. It’s the sound of a band that continues to strive when it’s already honed its craft to perfection and it’s got a samurai Eddie on the cover. What more do you need?
SEPULTURA – APES OF GOD
New SINGLE Release
SEETHER – WASTELAND (E.P)
- What Would You Do?
- Will It Ever End
- Feast Or Famine
- Wasteland (Alternate Version)
Despite the success that the band has had over the years I have always thought that Seether are a muchly under-rated band. When it comes to hard rock there isn’t much that these guys haven’t achieved, and let’s be honest no hard rock compilation is complete without tracks like Remedy or Fake It being included.
As a song-writer Shaun Morgan has always worn his heart on his sleeve – don’t believe me then go back and listen to Broken, and perhaps that becomes even more apparent when you take a listen to their brand new EP – titled Wasteland – The Purgatory EP.
This isn’t just an EP to showcase their brilliant new singe Wasteland it also contains three tracks that are good enough to be singles yet as Morgan playfully calls them “B-Sides that we couldn’t include on Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.” When you are writing songs this good and calling them B-Sides then you are certainly showing a certain amount of brilliance when it comes to song-writing.
As a track itself Wasteland is a gut-wrenching listen when you actually listen to the lyrics and that comes to the fore even more with the final track of the EP which is a re-worked alternative version of the track. It is slowed down and includes piano and cello which in a way only enhances the pained lyrics.
The normal version though is everything that you have come to expect from Seether. It’s catchy yet brutal and sees Morgan deliver a scream that is among the best. Hands down this will go down in history as one of Seether’s best songs.
Then there is the great rock sound of What Would You Do which again is a deeply personal track that soon has the listener exploring their own inner demons. Will It Ever End is deceiptfully slow at the start but then gives way to the more brutal side of Seether while Feast Or Famine has single written all over it. It is purely catchy hard rock that deserves a life of its own.
Wasteland – The Purgatory EP is a sheer piece of brilliance from Seether. Once again the under-rated mastery of this band is there for all to see and I know I will be listening to this EP over and over for a long time to come.
THE OFFSPRING – LET THE BAD TIMES ROLL
1. This Is Not Utopia
2. Let the Bad Times Roll
3. Behind Your Walls
4. Army of One
5. Breaking These Bones
6. Coming for You
7. We Never Have Sex Anymore
8. In the Hall of the Mountain King
9. The Opioid Diaries
10. Hassan Chop
It has been a long nine years since The Offspring released their last album, Days Go By. Conflicts with a previous label, Columbia, contributed to the delay, as did the pandemic. Originally scheduled for release in 2020, Let The Bad Times Roll would’ve felt timely last year and is slightly dated now—but it’s better late than never.
The Offspring had plenty of time to work on this album, which should have led to more robust songs. However, more often than not they feel half-baked in premise amid a dissonant sound. At times, Dexter Holland and lead guitarist Noodles waiver back and forth on wanting to experiment with jazz, pop and orchestral elements—only to sharply jerk the audience back to their earlier skate-punk sound from albums like Smash and Ixnay On The Hombre. Still, while Let The Bad Times Roll is late to the table, the things the album gets right, it gets perfectly right.
The album opens strong with “This Is Not Utopia,” which melodically shares some things in common with “Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell,” albeit with a different sociopolitical focus, particularly on how media and hysteria feed into the distinctly American fear-culture zeitgeist that has come to define the country over the last 20 years. The title track expands its political focus with a satirical takedown of the Trump administration, yet the critique comes a bit late, more than three months into a new presidency. The song delivers a pop-rock aesthetic with a more upbeat and bouncy melody to contrast the cynical lyrics, diverging greatly from the previous song.
“Behind Your Walls” begins with a soft solo electric guitar melody that expands into a somber and longing song that details the story of two people, one whom is closing off from the world and the narrator due to an increasingly negative outlook, while the narrator is desperately attempting to reach them.
“Army Of One” is a fusion of surf-rock with punk, delivering an anthemic call to action from the listener—almost as if to say that even if the odds are against us, we need to fight the good fight. “Coming For You,” which was first released as a single in 2015, follows the more hard-rock influence of later Offspring albums like Rise and Fall and Rage and Grace. It has a marching tempo accentuated with clapping, a la “Rock and Roll” and is a tailor-made sports anthem.
The album’s low point comes in the form of “We Never Have Sex Anymore,” a bizarre, jazz-influenced number that details insecurities of an empty marriage. It’s almost as if Dexter Holland rewrote “Self Esteem,” but for an aging demographic of impotent boomers who are teetering on divorce. Holland awkwardly wails about his desire to be hated by his wife if he can’t sleep with her.
We then get into the bizarre addition of a cover of the classical 1875 composition “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” a minute-long track that goes… exactly how you’d expect it to. It’s not unenjoyable or terribly done, but its placement on the album lacks any connection to its other themes. Was it meant as a joke? Unclear. But it derails the flow of the album.
Returning to traditional punk aesthetics, “The Opioid Diaries” is a scathing critique of the opioid crisis in the U.S., and the tendency of medical providers to push pills in lieu of quality care. There’s a marching pace guitar breakdown about halfway through, and while it doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the song, it doesn’t hurt it either. “Hassan Chop” continues to deliver the older-styled Offspring sound, with Holland delivering half-spoken and half-screamed vocal performance as opposed to melody. It’s perfect for moshers to thrash around in the pit. The album also includes a new version of hit “Gone Away,” over a serene piano melody with orchestral backing on the chorus.
COUNTING CROWS – BUTTER MIRACLE
- The Tall Grass
- Elevator Boots
- Angel of 14thStreet
- Bobby and the Rat-Kings
Their latest creative spurt is ‘Butter Miracle Suite One’, a four-track suite that’s simultaneously nothing like the band has done before but also familiar in all the right places. The 19-minute body of work plays as a continuous suite so it’s a real shame that ‘Elevator Boots’ was chopped out of it for use as a single. Hearing it out of the sequence really doesn’t do it justice and fans won’t understand how it’s supposed to be consumed, until they hear it in its rightful place as the second song in ‘Butter Miracle Suite One’.
The suite kicks off with ‘The Tall Grass’, and once Duritz’s vocal arrives less than 20 seconds in, you’ll get those goosebumps that only he can give you. The first 90 seconds of ‘The Tall Grass’ makes you think you’re in for an acoustic ballad, with a light electro-feel, but then the track transforms into a completely different beast as Duritz’s voice increases in intensity, with the heartbreaking lyrics telling of the long-term damage childhood trauma can have. As the song begins to wind down, a piano melody takes over as ‘Elevator Boots’ begins and Duritz delivers an ode to loving rock’n’roll. It’s packed with affection and harks back to the sound that made the band a global phenomenon.
‘Angel of 14th Street’ ups the tempo a little and for me, it’s the finest of the four songs here. Duritz tells the story of a woman who moves from California to New York. The song draws parallels with Duritz’s personal journey and his own struggles with mental illness. The backing vocals an injection of soul and the whole thing is produced to perfection. You need to put headphones on and crank up the volume to really appreciate everything that’s going on. Also who doesn’t love a sax solo?
‘Bobby and the Rat-Kings’ is ushered in by a huge guitar solo and finds Duritz embracing his inner Jim Steinman. The song sounds like it could have been recorded during Steinman’s ground-breaking work with Meat Loaf. The rock influence is front and centre as the lyrics explore being a music fan, and the backing vocals add depth. The middle of the song breaks down to a piano melody and it’s another goosebump moment as Duritz unleashes that grit and emotion his voice possesses.
Counting Crows have always operated in their own league and they continue to do so with ‘Butter Miracle Suite One’. The collection is a reminder of just how good the band is when they’re on top form and this is the best music they’ve released in a while. The 19 minutes whizz by but thankfully there’s so much in there to unpack, you’ll need to have plenty of listens to fully appreciate it. With a potential ‘Suite Two’ in the future, I’m already keeping everything crossed that it becomes a reality.
GOJIRA – FORTITUDE
- Born for One Thing
- Another World
- Hold On
- New Found
- The Chant
- Into The Storm
Record label: RoadRunner Records
Release date: 30th April 2021
Gojira never seemed like a band built for the mainstream. A cult act, yes, they have taken a strand of metal so obviously built for the underground and dragged it kicking and screaming into the sunlight. It’s a long while since Gojira could legitimately be called a death metal band, but they’ve retained an uncompromising sense of self that has not always been the most accessible. Dense, complex and oblique, they’ve nevertheless hammered their way to the forefront of modern metal relying on quality and sheer bloody-mindedness.
It’s still built around a solid steel core, with opener Born for One Thing arriving on a slow build of taut dynamics. It also has that stretched, echoing melody thing they do so well, but when the riffs catch fire they’re truly vicious. Only two songs in the first departure hits, as Amazonia addresses the devastation of deforestation via a crunching groove peppered with indigenous instrumentation that’s straight out of Sepultura’s Roots-era playbook.
Follow-up Another World is more classic Gojira, with that drilling technicality slicing through the middle, but it also has big sing-along hooks that you could picture levelling an arena. Into The Storm is even more anthemic, but it’s the set-piece double-act of Fortitude and The Chant that head into new roof-raising territory. The title-track has a campfire groove and the loosest vibe they’ve ever allowed themselves while The Chant is a huge bluesy hymnal that the band describes as a ‘healing ritual’. It proves you don’t have to unleash the heaviest matter of the universe to have power and this is set to be a very special moment when live shows and especially festivals are a thing again.
Lyrically they’ve emerged from the introspection and meditations on mortality that characterized Magma, turning back out to the world around them. Despite the fact that mankind appears to be lurching towards disaster, though, the overall feeling is not despondency, or even rage. Instead there’s a sense of hope and positivity – an invocation of the power that still resides in both the individual and the collective as the planet faces an existential crisis.
This is an important album, not only because it extends Gojira’s palette and cements their place as one of metal’s most skilled and uncompromising bands. They’re also one of the most inspiring as they call for strength, for action and above all for fortitude. Hang in there, and Gojira will be right beside you.
FOO FIGHTERS – MEDICINE AT MIDNIGHT
- Making It a Fire
- Shame Shame
- Waiting On a War
- Medicine at Midnight
- No Son of Mine
- Holding Poison
- Chasing Birds
- Love Dies Young
Record label: RCA & Roswell Records
Release date: 5th February 2021
The nine-song 36 minute Medicine at Midnight does swallow a different muse for the band, not too far off the beaten path though, as the album entertains their usual fare along with some David Bowie, Motorhead, and a submission for consideration as one of the best Foo Fighters songs. The staying power of the oddities left to the individual listener.
Medicine at Midnight opens with “Making a Fire” offering a groovy melody for the most part but the background choir returns, melting hard rock into some type of kids’ rock. I thought the mini choir was a one and done for the last album and tour but none too surprising considering Grohl referred to the four girls as “members of the band” during their livestream a few months ago in this quick exchange reminiscent of high school flirting. Might want to nip that one in the bud real quick.
The first single released months ago in Shame Shame really grows on you. A dynamic song and welcome entry after the opening track. “Cloudspotter” delivers a guitar-driven modern 70s vibe with a definite hook. Catchy and fun, this one keeps it real.
The softer side of Foo Fighters compliments them well, thus the list needs updating to now include “Waiting On a War” Grohl doesn’t scream his way through it, not once, and the easy harmony complimented by a bevy of strings eventually turns into a solid heavier rocker as the band finishes with a melodic bang.
The lyrics emotionally contemplative – but without further explanation – suggest Grohl taking stock, wondering about life, and if his success no longer fills an empty void: “Just a boy with nowhere left to go / Fell in love with a voice on the radio / Is there more to this than that.” The lamenting recalls when Tom Brady said in a 60 Minutes interview,” Why do I still have three super bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me.” Instead, Grohl states the lyrics stemmed from a conversation he had with his daughter which reminded him of his own fears growing up in the Cold Way era.
The title track follows with a very catchy arrangement, moved along by Nate Mendel’s bass, evoking David Bowie, then Foo change gears to a refined Motorhead song but one that actually holds down a distinct melody in “No Son of Mine.” Easy money says Grohl screams all the way through this one when performed live. “Holding Poison” turns a bit gimmicky after a solid start, sounds a bit familiar and invites the choir back for a few measures so feel free to move on. Bowie fully returns for “Chasing Birds” in this straight outta the 60s vibe that might have Foo Fans scratching their heads but the uncanny resemblance is so well done “Chasing Birds” could double as a missing Bowie track. Grohl can’t scream his way through this one!
Leave the second best for last in “Love Dies Young.” Why can’t this band just record songs like this and call it an album? Straight forward rock song, with a vigorous melody and overall executed effectively.
EVANESCENCE – THE BITTER TRUTH
- Without a Sound
- Take Cover
- WOY Bells
- Smurfs on Fire
- Blind Belief
- Music Box
- Red Stickers
- Avocado Cream
- Yeah Right
- Back to The Future
- On My Own
Record label: BMG
Release date: 25th March 2021