Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Iron Maiden

Senjutsu

Heavy Metal

Released: 3rd September 2021

via Parlophone

Like a lot of metalheads worldwide, my music taste was heavily shaped by Iron Maiden and the influence they’ve had on the metal world since. I feel safe in saying the majority of British metal bands were influenced by the iconic titans. Yet, like any other massive cultural media phenomena, the internet discourse seems to be rife with opinions about their output in recent years. I’ve met fans of the band that haven’t listened to them since Somewhere In Time, some stopped coming back to the band from Brave New World and others, like myself, have always stuck by the band and all their releases all the way to this latest release. Senjutsu is the seventeenth feature length album from Iron Maiden and, like all their releases of recent years, appears to have split the fanbase down the middle. Some proclaim this is a disappointing follow to 2015’s The Book Of Souls, some saying this is their best work in years and some dismissing the fact that they actually have put out a new album as they stopped coming back to Iron Maiden some time ago. So, what do I think?

I found Senjutsu to be a pretty pleasant listening experience. There’s that special quality to it that only Iron Maiden can seem to bring to an album. The lyrical themes that run through the course of the entire album. Music that complements the subject matter they’re singing about and guitar solos that still blow my mind in how they find complexity in simplicity. Obviously, the album is really well produced, at this point they have been through the album making process so much that you really can’t point to any glaring flaws. Also they brought Kevin Shirley back to produce, who has been working with them since Brave New World in 2000. So, obviously the album sounds amazing. Also, Steve Harris is behind all of the songs from a writing standpoint, and if anyone should know what Iron Maiden should sound like, Harris is really the guy. So for all things technical, this is, for lack of a better term, an Iron Maiden album. Yet, this album feels like such a different world from The Book of Souls, not bad, different.

To be honest, on first listening, not a lot feels that different. It feels like the grandiose music that they have been famous for so long. Yet, I couldn’t keep my enthusiasm going for the entire 80 or so minutes of the run time. Sure, there are a couple of standout songs. My personal favourites being “Days of Future Past”, “ Lost in a Lost World” and “Stratego”. However, I don’t think it comes together as an album that well. All of the songs run the same themes, concepts, and ideas, the songs are well written, but when put all together in an album the songs don’t feel like they naturally fall into place. That can really be blamed on the opening track, which is the title track “Senjutsu”. It’s a meandering plodding song that wears off it’s welcome pretty quick. Where I feel a song with a little bit more energy like the aforementioned “Stratego” would have worked better to hype you up for the rest of the album. And it keeps going like that for a little while. The whole album has some pacing issues and to listen to the album for the full run time, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself dropping off it a little.

Still, I feel the song quality is there. Put some of the harder hitters into a live set mixed with some of the other Maiden standards and I think they’ll work pretty darn well. The powerful command of “The Writing on the Wall” would sound a lot better following something like “Wasted Years” and I think that’s ultimately the way I’m choosing to look at this album. More songs that they can interweave into their set lists rather than an individual listening experience unto itself. Iron Maiden has been in my life since I was a little kid and listening to them will always transport me back to being a little kid excited to discover their music. I will probably always get excited to hear new music from them because they always deliver that one special new song into my life that no other band will ever bring and for that, I will always love them. As for Senjutsu… Well, I can’t say it’s my favourite, nor can I fully dismiss it. It shows that even seventeen albums in, music is always a work in progress and no one has the formula fully nailed. Not even a band as immortal as Iron Maiden.

7/10

Mick Birchall

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: