IRON MAIDEN — Senjutsu (review)

IRON MAIDEN — Senjutsu album cover Album · 2021 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
adg211288
Senjutsu (2021) is the seventeenth full-length studio album by UK NWoBHM legends Iron Maiden. The album marks a close to what has been their longest gap between studio albums to date, the last being The Book of Souls (2015). The same line-up that has been present since Brave New World (2000) still remains: Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Steve Harris (bass), Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers (guitars) and Nicko McBrain (drums). Like The Book of Souls before it, Senjutsu is a double album. Similar design in cover artwork would also suggest an intentional relationship between the two, with mascot Eddie evolving from a tribal incarnation to one inspired by Japanese Samurai.

The music on Senjutsu is unmistakeably that of Iron Maiden in their modern day incarnation. Perhaps a little less overtly influenced by progressive rock/metal even in the album's longer songs like the trio of ten plus minute closers, Death of the Celts, The Parchment and Hell on Earth, but the progressive subtleties are there for those prepared to listen for them. Subtle is a good word to describe the entire album. It's not in your face. It's more of a slow burn than the band's most well known back catalogue, even when you compare the lead single The Writing on the Wall to its counterpart from The Book of Souls, Speed of Light. Iron Maiden have opted to avoid their more faster paced material on the album as well.

While in all Senjutsu actually sounds like a rather unique entry in the Iron Maiden discography, there are certainly hints present in the release that conjure up recollections of past Iron Maiden albums. Personally I hear moments that could easily have been part of A Matter of Life and Death (2006), The Final Frontier (2010) and even Virtual XI (1998), the latter most obvious in the aforementioned Death of the Celts, which could easily be a companion song to The Clansman.

One thing that Senjutsu does extremely well is how well the material flows together. Iron Maiden are not typically one of those bands that can be called 'album artists', as no matter how good the albums taken as a whole are, there are always songs that stand out individually, be they the singles chosen to promote it, or otherwise. I feel like it would be saying something negative about Senjutsu to suggest that it is otherwise here, but this definitely comes across as more of a work that functions best when considered as a whole. Greater than the sum of its parts, if you like.

The band's instrumental performance is on point and Dickinson is also on fine form. As always, the production values of Kevin Shirley may leave something to be desired compared to those of the late Martin Birch, but the production of the album is consistent with that of other post-Birch Iron Maiden, to the point that I would not even think to mention the production in this review if I didn't keep seeing grumblings about it since Senjutsu was released. I don't get that. Senjutsu sounds exactly like I'd expect an Iron Maiden album to sound like in 2021.

While it is perhaps clear that Senjutsu won't become the favourite Iron Maiden album of either myself or many others, at this point in their career, seventeen albums in and over forty years since the release of their debut Iron Maiden (1980), I don't need it to be. I need it to be another great album that proves that the lads have still got it. And guess what?

They have.
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adg211288 wrote:
29 days ago
Dance of Death is an underrated masterpiece. Just putting that out there.
Tupan wrote:
30 days ago
I see a strange pattern in the 21st century Maiden: they release a (often very) good album, like BNW and AMOLAD interpolated with some not so great ones, like DoD and TFF.
Pekka wrote:
31 days ago
The intro to Hell on Earth is one of the definite highlights of the album, so to each their own. The overall tempo has come down a lot since the 80s, so for this album's purposes I consider Stratego and Days of Future Past the "fast" songs that bring diversity.
UMUR wrote:
31 days ago
A couple of faster tracks would certainly have helped, but it still wouldn´t help on the long and slow building epic tracks. As an example listen to the 3 minutes long intro to "Hell on Earth". Long drawn and tedious stuff. Maiden used to be masters of long progressive structured tracks (To Tame a Land, Alexander the Great, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Powerslave...etc.), but the difference is those tracks packed action and energy, while most of the latter day epics are just slow...slow, and uneventful.
31 days ago
I like it quite a lot too, but I think it does get a bit samey in one listen because all the songs are midpaced. I do miss one or two faster songs TBH.
UMUR wrote:
31 days ago
...finally someone else who isn´t full of praise. I agree I think it sounds a little tired and honestly I´m pretty bored by this album.
Tupan wrote:
31 days ago
I think it's a bit tired... Need to listen more though
Pekka wrote:
31 days ago
I get a lot of X Factor vibes from this album, and that's a positive. An excellent work, right now I'm placing it 4th on the list of new century Maiden albums after BNW, AMOLAD and the Book of Souls.
Nightfly wrote:
32 days ago
I like it and pretty much agree with most of what you say. Haven't made up my mind yet if I prefer it to The Book Of Souls. Certainly not in your face but a quality album for sure.

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