IRON MAIDEN — Senjutsu (review)

IRON MAIDEN — Senjutsu album cover Album · 2021 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
"Senjutsu" is the 17th full-length studio album by UK heavy metal act Iron Maiden. The album was released through Parlophone BMG in September 2021. The material featured on the album was actually already recorded in early 2019 in Paris, France with producer Kevin Shirley (same studio and producer as used on "The Book of Souls" from 2015), but as a consequence of a heavy touring schedule and the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak meant the band sat on the album and kept quiet about having recorded it for over two years.

"Senjutsu" is a double album release, featuring 10 tracks and a total playing time of 81:53 minutes. Disc 1 features 6 tracks and disc 2 features 4 tracks. The album features quite a few lenghty tracks, and disc 2 features no less than 3 tracks exceeding 10 minutes in length. It´s almost needless to say that "Senjutsu" sees Iron Maiden continuing to pursue the more progressive, atmospheric, and slow building songwriting approach of most of their post-2000 releases. The pace is predominently mid-paced and even slow at times, and you won´t find many uptempo moments on "Senjutsu". With three guitarists in the lineup the tracks are often layered and intriguing in terms of the guitarist trio complimenting each other, and as the tracks also often feature keyboards, the album is loaded with epic atmospheric moments. Lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson has molded the melody lines to suit him singing in a lower register, which is probably wise considering his age. Although he is still a force to be reckoned with, reaching those really high notes is not something he does that often on "Senjutsu" (although he can still sing in pretty high registers when needed). While the always busy rhythm section of drummer Nicko McBrain and bassist Steve Harris deliver a tight and organic attack, the generally low pace of the songs do have a power sucking effect on their contributions.

Disc 1 opens with two rather uninspired mid-paced tracks in the title track and "Stratego". The former is a slow and repetitive track and the latter isn´t particularly memorable either. Thankfully "The Writing on the Wall" is a pretty great track, showing that Iron Maiden can still develop their sound and try new things which still make sense within the boundaries of their musical style. The almost 10 minutes long "Lost in a Lost World" follows and again it´s a slow building epic track, which features some great moments, but is ultimately a little too long and honestly a bit dull. "Days of Future Past" and "Time Machine" don´t really rock the boat either (the latter features a nice main lead theme, which is repeated quite a lot through the song, but that´s about it for the positives), and upon conclusion it´s only "The Writing on the Wall", which stands out on disc 1 as something a little out of the ordinary for Iron Maiden.

Disc 2 opens with "Darkest Hour", which is another relatively unremarkable track, and the same can be said about the 10:20 minutes long "Death of the Celts", which follows. Massive epic tracks featuring many layers of guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, and vocals, but they aren´t the most accessible nor the most memorable tracks. The album concludes with two more lengthy tracks in the 12:39 minutes long "The Parchment" and the 11:19 minutes long "Hell on Earth". Both are slow building and progressive structured songs, which are solid, but nothing out of the ordinary for post-2000 Iron Maiden. It´s the type of material the band could write in their sleep, and being Iron Maiden the end result is of course of a high quality, but there is a long way from delivering something solid to delivering something excellent.

"Senjutsu" features a dark and a little murky sounding production, and I have to say that I don´t think Shirley did a particularly great job producing the album. The sound doesn´t suit the material that well and it´s like the songs don´t open up to the listener but instead remain in an inaccessible format. As if it isn´t enough that the generally slow-to mid-paced tracks often suck the energy out of the performances, the sound production further enhances the feeling that the songwriting and the playing are relatively uninspired. It´s not that it isn´t a professional sound production job, but Iron Maiden´s music would by now prosper from a different production approach.

So upon conclusion "Senjutsu" is not really the triumphant return that fans have been waiting for the last 6 years. It´s a solid heavy metal album with progressive songwriting structures and ideas, performed by a seasoned crew, but the album does not feature the most inspired compositions, and the lack of pace tends to suck the energy from the tracks and the performances, and when the sound production doesn´t manage to help the material shine either, we´re left with a solid but not great effort, and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is probably me being a little too nice.
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Vim Fuego wrote:
48 days ago
I've listened to it twice, and I just can't get enthusiastic enough to listen to it again.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
48 days ago
This one was a 3 star upon first listen but slowly grew on me after about 5 spins. I think i bumped it up to 4 just because it has a decent return value but still a much weaker offering than Book Of Souls for sure.


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