Iron Maiden: Senjutsu-2021.

Harry Sword:

In recent years Iron Maiden have gone through a remarkable creative renaissance. Typified by epic prog-leaning arrangements and ambitious melodic dynamism, modern era Maiden – of which Senjutsu is a prime example – is eccentric, bombastic heavy metal at its finest.

The cover of Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu.
The cover of Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu

The band (one of the most notoriously tight-lipped camps in metal) recorded Senjutsu in early 2019 during a break in their Legacy of the Beast tour, managing to keep it under wraps throughout the pandemic. Their second double album, Senjutsu is as ambitious and heavy as its predecessor (2015’s The Book of Souls), but tempered by a more windswept, melancholic vibe, alongside some of their most fiendishly complex melodies to date.

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Steve Harris
Bass (1975-present), Keyboards (1997-present)
See also: British Lion, ex-Gypsy’s Kiss, ex-Smiler
Dave Murray
Guitars (1976-1977, 1978-present)
See also: ex-Hear ‘n Aid, ex-Urchin, ex-Electric Gas, ex-Legend, ex-Stone Free, ex-The Secret
Adrian Smith
Guitars (1980-1990, 1999-present)
See also: ex-Hear ‘n Aid, ex-Urchin, Primal Rock Rebellion, Smith/Kotzen, ex-Bruce Dickinson, ex-A.S.A.P., ex-Adrian Smith’s Blues Band, ex-Broadway Brats, ex-Evil Ways, ex-Psycho Motel, ex-Stone Free, ex-The Entire Population of Hackney / The Sherman Tankers
Bruce Dickinson
Vocals (1981-1993, 1999-present)
See also: Bruce Dickinson, ex-Samson, ex-Speed, ex-Shots, ex-Styx
Nicko McBrain
Drums (1982-present)
See also: ex-WhoCares, ex-Nicko McBrain, The McBrainiacs, ex-Trust, ex-Lionheart, ex-McKitty, ex-Pat Travers Band, ex-Streetwalkers, ex-Stretch, ex-The Entire Population of Hackney / The Sherman Tankers
Janick Gers
Guitars (1990-present)
See also: ex-Gogmagog, ex-White Spirit, ex-Bruce Dickinson, ex-Gillan
Disc 1
1.Senjutsu08:20  Show lyrics
2.Stratego04:59  Show lyrics
3.The Writing on the Wall06:13  Show lyrics
4.Lost in a Lost World09:31  Show lyrics
5.Days of Future Past04:03  Show lyrics
6.The Time Machine07:09  Show lyrics
Disc 2
1.Darkest Hour07:20  Show lyrics
2.Death of the Celts10:20  Show lyrics
3.The Parchment12:39  Show lyrics
4.Hell on Earth11:19  Show lyrics

One thought on “Iron Maiden: Senjutsu-2021.

  1. MaidenMartin, September 4th, 2021

    It seems like it was forever ago that Iron Maiden released their 16th studio album, The Book Of Souls, and to some extent you can argue that it was. 6 years have passed since we last heard new material from arguably the world’s most notable heavy metal act, and it would be fair to say that the world has gone through a lot of changes since. Going through the traces of a pandemic that never seems to end, political worries around the world and regular climat issues… It’s definitely a different world (pun intended) that Iron Maiden operated in when they decided it was time to release their 17th studio album, Senjutsu.

    The arrival of Senjutsu can be described as a bit of fresh air in a world desperate for something to grab. With all the uncertainties in the world, it’s stimulating and relieving to see that the Irons haven’t been musically affected but instead continues as if nothing has ever happened. Senjutsu can be described as a continutation of the musical journey that the band started with the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith in 1999 as all the trademarks of modern Iron Maiden are in place: Extended song lenghts, progressive tendencies and unconventional song structures. This is a recipe that has divided Iron Maiden’s fanbase for over 20 years and judging by the content of the album and the already existing reviews, Senjutsu is unlikely to change that.

    Does this continuation mean that Senjutsu is an uninnovative, safe and predictable album? Yes and no. As I have already said, the trademarks of modern Iron Maiden can easily be found. One of the album’s singles, ”Stratego”, has a distinct, classic Iron Maiden sound, complete with a steady galloping riff, memorable vocal lines and a chorus to die for. Being 1 of only 2 songs that clocks in below the 5 minute mark, the song definitely stands out as one of the highlights of the album and one of the best short Iron Maiden songs in the last 20 years. Elsewhere, ”The Time Machine” can be described as a vintage modern Iron Maiden song with it’s acustic intro, memorable vocal lines and awesome, ”crowd-jumping” middle section. The fact that something so familiar can sound so fresh and inspiring is a perfect example of how well Iron Maiden has aged musically.

    Despite all these familiarities, there is still room for some exploration into new musical realms on the album. The lead single of the album,”The Writing On The Wall”, has a somewhat folky vibe, and while not completely sold on it at first, it has grown on me and become a solid, enjoyable track. Another odd ball is ”Darkest Hour”, which can be described as a semi-ballad similiar to ”Wasting Love” from Fear Of The Dark. While not paying that much attention to it at first, I have started to appreciate it and to understand it’s purpose. Containing perhaps the best lyrics on the album and a strong chorus, ”Darkest Hour” feels like a more mature, serious version of ”Wasting Love”, and it’s nice to see that Iron Maiden still can write some mellow, softer tracks once in a while.

    However, the experimentation and willingness to try new things doesn’t become clearer than on the album’s title track and opening track, ”Senjutsu”. I have to give this song a separate section because all I can say is… WOW! Buildning on the japenese themes surrounding the album cover and the album’s overall concept, this song sees Iron Maiden taking more of a doomy, militaristic approach. It’s dark, it’s sinister and most of all: It’s heavy as hell! As soon as the first riff enters the loudspeakers, you can tell that there is some serious stuff going on. All the mockery is gone as Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain are back to once again make a musical stand. The galloping drumming of Nicko McBrain has been thrown out in this song and replaced by a drum pattern that gives the impression of marching into battle and defending your territory. ​The lyrics are thereafter and nothing describes the atmsophere of the song better than this part.

    Beat the warning the sound of the drums
    Set the beacons afire for them all
    Call to arms all the men far and wide
    Have to fight now for dynasty pride at stake

    The invaders repel from the north
    Keep out nomads who come from the plains
    Northern grasslands awash with them all
    Blocking the tribes that invade from the south of us

    Senjutsu may not be the most immediate and upliftning album opener of all time and has already created division among the Iron Maiden fans, but if you read the lyrics and places the song in the context of the album, you can easily understand why it’s the first one. It sets the tone perfectly and makes the listener uncertain of what to expect. I have given this song infinite praise and I will continue to do so. This is not only one of the band’s best songs in the last 20 years, but also one of their best songs overall and their best album opener since ”The Wicker Man”. It’s absolutely phenomenal!

    A separate section also has to be made for the album’s last 3 songs. What makes Senjutsu stand out is the amount of tracks bassist and band leader Steve Harris has written on his own. After only writing 1 song per album by himself on the last 5 Iron Maiden albums, he wrote 4 on Senjutsu, thus cementing himself as the band’s creative force. 3 of these songs are over 10 minutes and also take up the last 3 slots on the album, thus leaving the last 30+ minutes of the album on one songwriter’s shoulders. Luckily, Steve Harris is a genius and he knows excactly what needs to be done to make these epics work. They all have their own identity and are all formed around different sounds of the Iron Maiden spectrum:

    ”Death Of The Celts” is more or less a Clansman-clone but without the sing-along chorus, and while the latter is notable for it’s instrumental prominance, ”Death Of The Celts” is more notable for it’s vocal performace, at least as far as I’m concerned. That’s an uplifting surprise and makes the song a nice complement to it’s older brother. This is arguably Bruce Dickinson’s finest moment on the album and will most likely be well-recieved live.

    ”The Parchement” has a sound that takes the listener back to The Book Of Souls with it’s dark, epic atmosphere and melodic mastery. The vocals in this song is absolutely phenomenal and the words are sung with a precision that is almost scary. This is probably my favorite song on the album together with the title track and a modern day Maiden classic.

    ”Hell On Earth” closes the album in a saddened and atmospherical way. It takes the listener back to The Final Frontier and it’s closer ”When The Wild Wind Blows”, but it does so without sounding like a straight rip off. The intro/outro in this song is perhaps the best moment on the album and the vocal delivery by Bruce Dickinson is also a major highlight.

    I have to give Steve Harris a huge amount of praise for these 3 songs. It’s remarkable how he, after all these years and all these epics, continues to put out new epics like they are on the assembly line. That’s a true sign of a genius and a well-accomplished musician and songwriter. Bravo Steve!

    As a whole, Iron Maiden have once again proved that they are musically relevant and capable of delivering quality heavy metal despite the fact that they are 40 years into their career, They continue to age but they do so in a worthy and sophisticated way, acting like true role models for younger bands. Even though Senjutsu is more or less a continuation of what the band has done in the last 20 years, the music is of such high quality that it still feels like a fresh, unique listen. It tries some new things here and there but it always stays in the traditional Iron Maiden realm and gives us some new classics in “Senjutsu”, “Stratego, “The Writing On The Wall, “The Parchment” and “Hell On Earth”. If you want Iron Maiden to return to the 4-5-minutes, straight-forward heavy metal anthems that made them a heavy metal staple in the 80s, Senjutsu probably isn’t an album that will suit your preferences. However, if you (like me) appreciate the band’s musical evolution and delve into more progressive and complex territories, Senjutsu will serve as a nice addition to the other 5 albums that the band has released in the last 20 years.


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