It’s almost impossible for an Iron Maiden fan to take the news of a new album without starting to imagine what the British band’s next tour will be like. This perception is somewhat provoked by the monster Eddie, the group’s mascot since the 1980s.
A figure between the comic and the scary, with his skull face, Eddie appears on the cover of each new record, receiving a different costume and setting. Since the beginning of fame, the shows have been religiously celebrated by fans, who are waiting for the moment in the presentation when an animated robot of Eddie must appear on stage, each season more gigantic and sophisticated.
“Senjutsu”, the album that will be released on Friday, the 3rd, requires admirers of the biggest heavy rock band on the planet to focus their attention only on the audio of the disc’s ten tracks. It will take a lot of patience to be able to see the group on stage again.
“We still don’t know how the tour will be resumed”, says guitarist Adrian Smith, in the band’s first interview with the Brazilian press about the new album. “We started recording the album in France, back in 2019. We had to postpone the release, but now the songs will be there for everyone to hear.”
With 40 Iron Maiden shows already performed in Brazil, he admits a special relationship with the country. “We want to go back. It’s great to go to Brazil and play — and play football! Steve Harris still plays very well,” he says, laughing, which casts serious doubts on his colleague’s real football talent. “But seriously, it’s frustrating to see the pandemic turn everything upside down.”
The group’s seventeenth studio album, “Senjutsu” arrives six years after the previous one, “The Book of Souls”. It is the longest interval recorded to date between the band’s albums.
For Smith, the right time to record is when you have good songs, simple as that. According to the guitarist, a new project is faced with two challenges. “Trying to sound different from what we’ve done before is the great motivation, but it comes with the desire to repeat the intensity of previous works.”
It is undeniable that Iron Maiden are looking for different directions. The newer tracks have a longer duration and there is an obvious effort to bring out an epic tone. Fast, dark-themed songs are giving way to complex songs.
Smith agrees that some songs from “Senjutsu” are going to be difficult to play live. Three of them are over ten minutes long, and he is amused by the current joke about Iron Maiden making longer and longer songs to give all the guitarists time to perform their solos.
In addition to Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers wield guitars and regularly collaborate on song partnerships, although bassist Steve Harris, who has owned the band since its founding, and vocalist Bruce Dickinson are the main songwriters. Drummer Nicko McBrain completes the current team.
Dickinson has complained in an interview that he doesn’t like to hear so many discussions about the presence of very long songs. Smith reveals that this time he even felt in the group the desire to resume shorter tracks, as in the old and well-known phase of “The Number of the Beast”.
“See that ‘The Writing on the Wall’ is six minutes, ‘Days of Future Past’ is just over four. But there is no rule. When Bruce and Steve have a lot of ideas related to a theme, it gets bigger, but packed with melody, harmony.”
Recently, the press has reported that war is the big theme in the lyrics of this new album — but Smith disagrees. “I don’t know if it’s so correct,” he says. “I think the focus is on the world in
turbulence, which already existed before the arrival of the pandemic, but has now made everything worse.”
Despite the reluctance to assume “Senjutsu” as a kind of heavy metal “The Art of War”, the impression is reinforced by seeing the album’s cover design, the music videos starting to come out and the Japanese medieval warrior armor worn by Eddie.
“The Writing on the Wall”, previously released as a digital single with an animated clip, was enthusiastically received by fans.
“She has a folk feeling that we’ve never shown before,” says Smith, author of the track alongside Harris. It’s one of a few songs on the album that can be played at shows alongside metal anthems like “The Number of the Beast”, “Fear of the Dark” or “Two Minutes to Midnight” with equal impact, without the heavy pandemonium Maiden’s customary is broken.
Smith and Harris together wrote three more tracks on the album: “Days of Future Past”, “Senjutsu” and “Darkest Hour”. He also says he loves “Stratego,” written by Harris and Gers, referring to it as “a really cool song” — or a really cool song.
There are many songs on the new record with the potential to gain space in the band’s pantheon. Talking about Iron Maiden’s legacy, turning his gaze to all the albums, Smith doesn’t see any of them with harsh criticism. “Sometimes you have a song here or there that wasn’t really a hit, but all the records seem to me to be valuable every time, each one in its own way,” he says.
In addition to dragging out the record’s post-production process, the pandemic creates this enigma for the new tour. In normal times, a Japanese medieval setting would be a strong bet for the look at the shows. Uncertainty is detrimental to the band, who devote a lot of time to the creative and logistical parts of their mega tours,
conducted on the group’s plane, often flown by Dickinson himself.
Smith says that he really can’t say anything about the next steps and regrets that the professional and personal lives of all members continue to be governed by health protocols against the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re still friends, but it’s natural that, in the last few years, we’ve seen each other less. The family of each one grows, this requires more time. But when we meet, the enthusiasm is the same. We are like brothers who don’t always need to see each other to stay connected. As long as we believe we can make good new music, we’ll be together.”
Artist Iron Maiden.
Record company Warner Music
Launch Friday (3), on digital platforms