Review by Fiona Duignan for MPM
My jaw has hit the floor; I’m grinning like an idiot and I cannot believe I have the pleasure, nay, the absolute honour, of reviewing Iron Maidens new album, ‘Senjutsu’ (which loosely translates from Japanese as ‘tactics and strategy’).
I’m all a-fluster because Maiden were my introduction to metal way back in the 80’s when I heard Live After Death and I was hooked. My love for this band has remained steadfast down through the decades. Now in 2021, Eddie is back, looking like the warrior he is, who worked his way into our hearts forever. I’ve cranked up the volume on the sound bar, hoofed up the bass and my fingers are flying over the keyboard as I listen to the 17th studio album by my rock idols.
In the fashion we have got used to from Maiden, we get straight into a track eight minutes long, Senjutsu (Smith/Harris), with a drum beat that seems to follow you around and those guitar strings taking you to what seems like a dark and mythical place, accompanying a sacred ritual and a chant like style in the breakdown. Nico must be in his element because it’s all about him and ‘the sound of distant drums’.
Stratego (Gers/Harris) treats us to different slightly sultry vocal from Bruce before he brings us back to familiar territory. The harmonies in the chorus solidify this track and Nico keeps us running alongside, and next thing you know, there is an incredible, groovy breakdown. Groovy is a strange word to use for a Maiden track, but that’s exactly what it feels like. Stratego is available to stream now
The Writing on the Wall (Smith/Dickinson) emerges with gentle Spanish or even a middle-eastern style string intro, then what sounds like a country/rock twist comes out of the speakers.
Only Maiden could mix these styles with such aplomb. And still, the blistering guitars are just insanely brilliant. This track was released in July after WOTW (who else was clueless?) teasers and intrigue and days later the album was announced. Tactics and strategy indeed. Fans were left frothing at the mouth in anticipation of the album, and it has definitely been worth the wait.
The intro to ‘Lost in a Lost World’ (Harris) left me speechless. A soft, choral quality and harmonies, bare strings and I genuinely didn’t know where it was going to go. Then kablam! We have a deadly hook, several breakdowns, melody and riffs…this almost 10 minute track has everything and does not disappoint.
Days of Future Past (Smith/Dickinson) for some reason made me feel like I was bouncing around in the mosh pit so it’s just as well it’s the shortest track on the album (four minutes though)! Perhaps I have lost the plot, but I don’t care. This is pure Maiden – riffs, big ass chorus, then a ripping guitar solo before Bruce comes back to us.
Another easy vocal and guitar intro and we are listening to The Time Machine (Gers/Harris). What I love about this track is the totally unexpected short riff and it really was a ‘wtf’ moment! But that’s what Maiden does – hooks you in and then gives you a surprise treat. Bruce’s vocals here are just sublime and watch out for the high note.
We then get into CD 2.
Darkest Hour (Smith/Dickinson) opens with the sound of the surf to gentle melodic guitars – in fact, could one dare attempt to label it as a power ballad? This one is about the lyrics and is almost anthemic, where you will get lost in the powerful guitar solo. Here, we are taken back to war and it may even make you feel a bit emotional.
The next three tracks are the brain-child of Steve Harris and they are epic, which also means they are long. I do recommend sitting back and just listen in awe.
Death of the Celts is another 10 minute track (I’m a Celt and still going strong!). The bass has a melodic quality to it and the track leans towards being complimentary to ‘The Clansman’. One of my colleagues described it as incredible and I have to agree.
With the opening notes of The Parchment, I felt like I was in somewhat familiar, albeit old, territory here. I’m not going to say which song it reminds me of (or at least the intro) – you figure it out!
I was almost sad when the track Hell on Earth finished, so I did what I always do with an Iron Maiden album. I hit play again and this time I sat back to listen with pleasure because I could, not because I was reviewing it.
What you might notice about this album, is that it’s not filled with high speed metal-esque riffs like their earlier material and several of the tracks lead in with a soft melody before blasting out the ever thudding bass, hammering drums, majestic triple guitar work and those famous vocals we know and love, enshrined in history lessons. However, you are bombarded with fine-tuned, unquestionably sensational, blistering fretwork where every note is crystal clear, yet still heavy so you don’t forget that you are listening to rock gods – there is no copy and paste job or a feeling of more of the same.
The musicality and exceptionally diverse skill of all the guys is, as always, right in your face from start to finish, creating yet another exhilarating and unique album for your collection.
In fact, I would go so far to say that Senjutsu is a masterpiece.
I remain in love with Iron Maiden.
Get Senjutsu here: https://www.ironmaiden.com/