International Music Review From The First Half Of September 2021- Reviewed

Iron Maiden/ Senjutsu, Heavy Metal, Parlophone

Whenever Iron Maiden releases a new album, one knows what to expect in terms of sound, lyrics, and structure. Yet, each new effort springs up its share of gems, and Senjutsu is no exception.

Bruce Dickinson avoids high-pitched vocals, but his toned-down avatar suits the songs perfectly. The guitar trio of Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers belts out a series of trademark riff patterns, complete with melodic passages and tempo changes.

There are the expected 10-minute-plus opuses like Death Of The Celts, The Parchment, and Hell On Earth. And there are classic Maiden tracks like The Writing On The Wall and Lost In A Lost World, and typical lines like “And they need everyone at the wall, so the day of our judgment has now begun to fall” (on the title track).

Coming six years after The Book Of Souls, the album is most reminiscent of the 2000 record Brave New World. Yet again, they prove why they are the giants of British metal.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Kacey Musgraves/ Star-Crossed, Pop, UMG

On her 2018 album Golden Hour, American singer Kacey Musgraves sang about her romance and wedding with singer Ruston Kelly. Three years later, on Star-crossed, she focuses on the sorrows and aftermath of divorcing him.

Though Kacey maintains her country roots, the overall sound is more eclectic and pop-driven, with smooth harmonies, smart guitars, and lush synthesizers. The title track is a kind of introduction, as she sings, “Let me set the scene, two lovers ripped right at the seams”.

The song flow uses a narrative structure, often getting into nostalgia. On Good Wife, she sings, “God, help me be a good wife, ’cause he needs me”. On Justified, she sings, “Moving backward, hurt comes after, healing doesn’t happen in a straight line”.

On Angel, Kasey takes an introspective look at a relationship. What Doesn’t Kill Me goes, “I’ve been to hell and back, golden hour faded black”, and There Is A Light has an optimistic note about moving on. Over 15 songs, Star-crossed makes a connection.

Rating: 7/ 10

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Blues Traveler/ Traveler’s Blues, Blues-Rock, Round Hill Records

For over three decades, Blues Traveler has rarely gone wrong, both in live shows and studio albums. Its mix of blues-rock, the southern sound, folk and swamp music gets people on their toes, with strong guitars, keyboards and mind-blowing harmonica adding to the mix.

An album of covers of American blues classics was long overdue, and that forms a bulk of the new album Traveler’s Blues. Thus, Big Mama Thornton’s Ball And Chain, the Mississippi Sheiks’ Sitting On Top Of The World and JJ Cale’s Call Me The Breeze get a Traveler twist through vocalist John Popper’s turns.

There are a few surprises too, especially the Gnarls Barkley hit Crazy, which isn’t a standard but fits in well with vocalist Rita Wilson and jazz guitarist John Scofield chipping in. A take on Roadhouse Blues should keep the Doors fans happy.

Guests include popular acts Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, Keb Mo and Warren Haynes. There’s the right mix of nostalgia, variety and energy to make this perfect for a bluesy night out.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Kanye West/ Donda, Hip-Hop, Good-Def Jam

The main problem with Kanye West’s new album Donda is its length. At an hour and 48 minutes, with 27 songs, it rambles on for the most part. What a sharp contrast to its predecessor Jesus Is King, which was barely 27 minutes long.

Dedicated to his mother, it begins with the somewhat irritating Donda Chant, followed by Jay-Z’s namby-pamby appearance on Jail. The sound is his trademark mix of hip-hop and gospel, best exemplified on God-Breathed, Praise God, and Lord I Need You.

A couple of classy tracks stand out. The Weeknd’s vocals shine on Hurricane and Playboi Carti and Fivia Foreign pep up Off The Grid. Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton appears on Believe What I Say, and Lil Durk and Vory light up Jonah.

Sadly, monotony and incoherence creep in on the second half, and songs like Remote Control and Tell The Vision are out-of-place. Four songs have pointless sequels, and the attractive guest list doesn’t do much to help.

Rating: 5/ 10

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