Senjutsu : review of the 17th studio album of Iron Maidon
What is the most respected metal band by the public, the fans, the peers, the press in 2021 and for many, many decades ? Is it Metallica ? Black Sabbath ? The Germans of Rammstein ? The masked of Slipknot ? No, none of them have the international scope or recognition of the British Iron Maiden. The band, led mainly by Steve Harris (bass), Adrian Smith (guitar), and Bruce Dickinson (vocals), has been active since 1975 and has not had any real setbacks in its musical career. Even if the years 94 to 99 were difficult due to the departure of Dickinson and Smith on other projects, the band’s stature never lost too much.
And in 2021, the old-timers of the NWOHW are back with their 17th studio album. So ? What is it worth? ?
I’m not one to judge a music album quickly. I need several listenings, even if I got hooked, to be convinced. Hence this article several weeks or even months after its release. Extenuating circumstance: I received my vinyl rather late because like a ball and chain, I had bought other pre-orders at Napalm releasing much later in September 2021… Fortunately that the streaming exists to compensate for the wait to receive a good old physical format !
A double (CD) / triple (LP) quite long
What strikes you right away is the order of the tracks: less than ten minutes for the first seven tracks, then three songs longer than ten minutes in a row. And even two tracks of less than 5 minutes ! Six years after The Book of Souls, which I loved, Senjutsu presents a slightly different structure. It is technically shorter than the previous album but when you listen to it, it seems longer, stretched out.
I can’t say that this is my favorite Maiden album. I find it below The Books of Souls which I found more varied, even if less mastered. The reason ? Maybe Senjutsu is less original and less striking.
Beware, Iron Maiden is too well surrounded to release what could be called one album too many. Senjutsu is very correct, it lacks maybe a little bit of explosiveness and especially an anthem of its own.
Senjutsu made me feel like a guilty pleasure. The one to listen to 80 minutes of music of very good quality but without genius. Time I could just as easily have spent discovering promising young artists who don’t have the exposure or visibility of Maiden. But as an inveterate fan, it was impossible to miss the last album and to listen to it several times 😉
Review title to title
Senjutsu’s introduction of Senjutsu confirms that Maiden will never come out of a very progressive sound again and that they are getting old. The music is very soaring on 8 minutes and puts the listener in excellent conditions for the following.
The album really starts on the track Stratego which goes back to a more classic and epic style like Iron Maiden with Steve Harris’s bass which is very present. The construction of the title is rather traditional and Dickinson shows that he is always present to accompany with his high voice, a guitar that has no limits.
The Writing On The Wall is the first single released in the summer of 2021. The riff and the chorus are catchy but become too repetitive over the 6 minutes of the song. Still, the guitar interplay works well, and it’s Bruce’s storytelling that holds it all together.
Lost In A Lost World is a first good surprise for Senjutsu. The originality sought is there: a strange effect on the voice of Bruce Dickinson makes a very western effect on the whole fits very well with the theme. That during 2 minutes to return on more traditional sound.
Surprisingly, Days Of Future Past is for me the real highlight of this double album. The guitar riff is original, and stays in your head. The chorus is a real hit. The guitar solo is efficient because it is short and intense.
Note that this is the shortest song of the album ! Coincidence ? I don’t think so.
The Time Machine relies again on Bruce Dickinson’s ability to tell a story. Musically interesting on the constant changes of scales but is unfortunately too repetitive to be memorable.
The second disc opens with Darkest Hour which is a quiet ballad that reminds with pleasure the great hours of Fear Of The Dark. Composed by Dickinson and Smith, it is the third best track of the album, and it is funny to note that the three best tracks are from the same two authors: The Writing On The Wall, Days Of Future Past and Darkest Hour.
The last 35 minutes of Senjutsu are dedicated to the great Steve Harris as composer. Each track is over ten minutes long. It starts with Death Of The Celts is an echo that tells a war story, a theme that Maiden has enjoyed for decades.
We always remain on a very prog style which could decline to the infinity the main riff.
Then follows The Parchment which, in the same vein, see the guitarists express themselves without complex during several minutes. It declines without genius and we listen with a guilty pleasure of groupie. Same thing on the final track Hell On Earth.
Conclusion ? Iron Maidon produces an album of very high musical quality but which doesn’t transpire genius. Indeed, they don’t have anything to prove anymore, and creativity is maybe hard to find after 46 years of career. Fortunately, the band is at the top level to not release a bad album.
If we compare with another recent release, Beast Of Gévaudant from Powerwolf, it is much better.