Monday 6 September 2021

Album Review: IRON MAIDEN - Senjutsu


01. Senjutsu
02. Stratego
03. The Writing On The Wall
04. Lost In A Lost World
05. Days Of Future Past
06. The Time Machine
07. Darkest Hour
08. Death Of The Celts
09. The Parchment
10. Hell On Earth

As a huge fan since childhood, the prospect of a new Iron Maiden album is always exciting to me, and like many other fans around the world, I'm going to buy it regardless of what it sounds like. Their last few albums have been very enjoyable with a few absolute gems amongst them, but I'd be lying if I said I loved the releases of the last two decades as much as the first seven albums. Maybe it's a little unfair to expect so much, as those early albums are some of the greatest and most influential Heavy Metal albums ever made. Maybe it's my age, as it's usually the music we adore as teenagers that resonates with us the most through our lives? 

Modern Maiden has seen a huge decrease in short, snappy singles and a move towards epics that are rarely under eight minutes long. I loved their classic Rime of the Ancient Mariner when I was a kid because it was a true epic, telling a story and musically weaving through interesting parts, keeping me engaged throughout. However, some of their modern epics are nowhere near as good, with lots of excess fat that I believe should have been trimmed, and a few tracks that, dare I say, are just plain boring.

I was hoping that Iron Maiden would go back to writing some songs that were under five minutes, but deep down I knew that was unlikely. When I saw the track-list unveiled for the first time, my heart sank a little bit. There are only ten songs on Senjutsu, but they needed two CDs to accommodate them all. 

Like its recent predecessors, this is a bloated album with lots of familiar sounding intros that seem to go on forever. If they had a producer who the band respected and trusted enough to make cuts, quite a few of these songs could have been easily halved in length without losing anything integral. I honestly believe they'd have been improved by some smart editing down. Regardless, this didn't happen and Senjutsu is what it is.

Now I've had my rant, this is still a very good album. Most of these songs to take a few listens to let the hooks really soak in and to get the most from them. It's easy to see why The Writing On The Wall was chosen as the first single, being the most instantly accessible and commercial track on here. It has a Southern Rock/Blues riff that is unusual for Maiden, yet this fuses seamlessly with their regular sound. It's classic Maiden with a massive refreshing twist. Incidentally, the music video is really cool too.

Opening with the cinematic title track, the band sound on top form. I don't want to overuse the word 'epic', but yeah. It's epic. Stratego takes us to more familiar territories with Iron Maiden's signature gallop, plenty of energy, and a huge chorus. Another favourite of mine is the powerful Days Of Future Past, which wounds like it could have been on their Brave New World album. The 'folky' Death Of The Celts is another highlight but seems to borrow a little too much musically from their classic The Clansman.

My overall favourite may well be the final track, Hell On Earth. When it finally kicks in after over two minutes of intro, it reveals some of that real maiden magic. The melodic lead work that weaves with the vocal lines is absolutely divine. Yes, it didn't need to be over eleven minutes, but it is a magnificent song nonetheless.

Senjutsu isn't the album that I wanted but at this point in their career and lives, I'm grateful to get any new Iron Maiden full stop. In fairness, the more I listen to it, the more I'm starting to like it. 


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