Reviewed: October, 2021
Released: 2021, Parlaphone
Average Rating: 4 /5
Reviewer: The Metal-Rules.com team
Once in a while an album comes out that is so anticipated we here at Metal-Rules.com join forces to write a collective review. Naturally, Iron Maiden falls into this category. Please enjoy what our various staff members had to say about Iron Maiden’s 17th studio album.
Buddy Hicks 5/ 5
The metal event of the year has finally arrived! The mighty Iron Maiden have gifted us metal faithful with their 17th studio album, SENJUTSU. Yet again, the British legends prove that age is truly just a number and there is plenty of life left in old Eddie after all!
The first question people ask me about this album is, “Does it sound like classic Maiden?”. Only Iron Maiden sound like Iron Maiden. Period. So, yes, this does sound like “classic” Maiden. But, if you’re looking for PEACE OF MIND 2, POWERSLAVE 2, SOMEWHERE IN TIME 2, or SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON 2, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a very dense, textured collection delivered by the highest of metal royalty. This album is a fantastic blend of ingredients from the 80’s glory days and the new millennium reunion era with dynamic and fresh new ideas added to create one the band’s darker, more atmospheric works.
Let me be crystal clear about SENJUTSU. If you are looking for a collection full of the breakneck tempo galloping rockers that Maiden are famous for, you will be disappointed. There are a few glimpses of those here and there, but so much more exists for us to discover. The soundscapes created here are sprawling, and it takes several listens to fully appreciate the intricacies and nuances meticulously placed in each song by these master songsmiths. This album is best listened to when it can be given complete undivided attention. Every song delivers something new with each subsequent listen. Dissecting and analyzing each song would take hours upon hours and pages upon pages. As of right now, standout tracks are “The Writing On The Wall”, “Days Of Future Past”, “Darkest Hour”, and “The Parchment”.
What more can be said about these legendary musicians that hasn’t already been said? The vocals are as powerful as ever. The guitars are dynamic and full of emotion. The bass and drums are pure perfection, as always. On SENJUTSU, Maiden don’t go back to the tried-and-true formula of the mid 80’s classics. And, at this point in their career, they don’t have to. They have given us a mature, thought-provoking set of masterfully crafted tunes that are meant to be savored slowly like a fine wine. Be patient with this one. Sit back, relax, and let Maiden take you on a voyage that only Maiden can take you on.
Brat 2.5 / 5
My first listen of the new material from “Senjutsu” was in random order through Spotify while on my 1.5-hour commute to work. My first thought was, ‘When should a legacy band retire from the recording?’.
After a thorough listen to the entire album in the intended order plus a few more runs, my question still remained with an additional one, ‘Have Iron Maiden albums always been like this?’ Surely not.
While the album is unmistakably IRON MAIDEN, it is slowed-paced and almost doom-like. Dickinson’s melody lines are almost monotonous. Was he just not into it? Have his stupendous vocal abilities of the past dissipated?
“Senjutsu” lacks an iconic IRON MAIDEN anthem. If I had to pick a stand out track on the album, it would be the “Hell on Earth”, but overall I do not hear high nor lows; shade nor colour; contrasts nor highlights. One for devoted fans only, I fear.
Elitist Metalhead 4/5
Iron Maiden needs no introduction. They have had an incredible career spanning 45 plus years and is a name that is synonymous with heavy metal. From their humble beginnings in 1975 in London, England up to now they have kept touring and making music. For most metalheads, Maiden’s career is divided into to eras. For some reason the Di’Anno era as well as Bruce’s first go with the band is one half of their career. Then there is the Blaze era….which I don’t talk about….ever. Then there is the post Bruce reunion era. Honestly, the band began to lose me after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I could tell the magic was just not there. Bruce leaving was just inevitable. However, when his return was announced I was so stoked only to feel like the air was let out of my tires with Brave New World. What happened? I’ll tell you…..Kevin Shirley!
Fast forward to 2021 and the announcement of a new Iron Maiden album and a teaser single called “The Writing on the Wall.” What was this? Not only did Keven Shirley beat the metal out of THE metal band of all metal bands but he turned them into Lynyrd Skynyrd?? What was this abomination? Thankfully they released “Stratego” not long after and I at least could sigh a relief that the entire album was not like that. Once I got the album into my hands I was ready for anything. Imagine how elated I was when I actually finished hearing the whole album. That whole Lynyrd Maiden thing was just one song and to skip it would not be a tedious task.
The next thing that worried me was another double album worth of material. Book of Souls was bloated and way too long and I was afraid that this would suffer from the same condition. However, the big difference here is the songs. They are long and epic but they are well written and not as repetitive as they have previously been. Songs like “Lost in a Lost World” and “The Time Machine” are simply Maiden brilliance with the latter being one of my favorite songs on the album. The second album sees some of the most ambitious work that Maiden has ever taken up. “Death of the Celts” is absolutely incredible with some of the best solo work on the album. The closer, “Hell on Earth” is another incredible Maiden song and even sounds like leftovers from Seventh Son.
Finally a post Bruce reunion album I can listen to. It’s not flawless. Bruce sounds better than he has in years but he still sounds like he is struggling in places. Plus Ive been saying it since Bruce came back that I wish they would find another producer. Kevin Shirley’s production makes the guitars sound to thin and tame…as if Iron Maiden were dad rock. This is Iron Maiden and they play heavy metal! Can we use Sneap next time?
Clocking in at 81 minutes, SENJUTSU is the second longest Iron Maiden album after THE BOOK OF SOULS. Kevin Shirley continues to handle production and mixing duties. The band also returned to Guillaume Tell Studio in Paris, where THE BOOK OF SOULS and BRAVE NEW WORLD were recorded. Part of any new Iron Maiden unboxing and listening experience is becoming immersed in the album art, and Mark Wilkinson delivers his second Iron Maiden LP album cover. Eddie, as a fearsome Samurai is one of the top non-Derek Riggs offerings. The album art is just one of many examples that Maiden is not completely content to sit on their laurels and allow legacy to propel the Maiden ship forward (though there is some of that), but to continue to innovate, obsess and deliver the best products that they can at this stage of their career.
The album’s first single, the Harris/Smith penned tune “The Writing on the Wall” demonstrates a willingness to change and experiment. The opening riff recalls Ennio Morricone’s classic film soundtracks with a “Blaze of Glory” feel before moving into more familiar Maiden territory, and one of the best guitar solos on the album. Similarly, after a standard quiet Maiden intro of the type patented and unremitting since the Blaze Bayley days, “The Time Machine” shifts to a catchy and rare major key, helping to distinguish it from much of the pack.
While subtle variety and interspersions of things like folk can be spotted, there is no shortage of rehash and repackaging of what has been delivered over the last three of four albums. The chorus chords on “Lost in a Lost World” are “The Wicker Man” all over again and much of the song revisits that classic tune. “Death of The Celts” recalls the lumbering buildup of “The Clansman” without the freedom payoff. Listen closely and you will spot the “To Tame a Land” riff in “The Parchment.” However, Maiden has frequently borrowed and lifted from their past material, whether it be lyrically (“Aces High, “Tailgunner”), or musically, and ultimately this is a small gripe.
There was speculation among press and fans that THE BOOK OF SOULS had the feel of being the band’s last album. Thankfully, that was not the case. SENJUTSU is not without flaws, but overall, any Maiden fan should rejoice that the band continues to release high quality albums, much of it inspired and kick-ass. The solo trade offs between the three guitarists on “The Parchment” are fantastic. Bruce, despite his age and health issues sounds great, even without being able to hit the higher ranges of his youth. Like most Maiden albums, appreciation and assimilation require multiple listens, and considering the six-year gap between this album and THE BOOK OF SOULS, I look forward to many enjoyable listens to come.
Iron Maiden are legends, can do what they want, and we will love them regardless. For some of us, that love is strongly tied to their 80’s albums. That said, Senjutsu is the best they have done since 2000’s Brave New World. At the twilight of their musical career, this is better than I expected they would release.
Iron Maiden is in the running for being the best metal band with the most boring and dragged out clean intros for songs. Only 3 of the 10 songs on here do not have a tiresome intro! And surprise, those three are the best songs on the album: Senjutsu, Stratego (more direct, more upbeat yet mid-tempo – best song on album), and Days of Future Past (has some epic rocking riffage near the beginning, a bit more upbeat one of the better tracks). They are also some of the albums’ shorter songs. The problem, calling them “upbeat” is only in comparison to the rest of the album which is often bloated, slow, and sometimes sleepy. The saving grace for the long songs is they mostly have interesting parts in them that wake you up for a bit. The slow plodding nature of their songs is nothing new, so if you’ve loved what they’ve done since 2000, you will still love this. The other criticism is the sad sounding and lifeless mix. The guitars lack any fire and crunch and the bass is too loud – as always.
Despite my crankyass complaining, I do really love them and the album is good. It’s just not where my head is at as I have never liked much slow music and have never liked many clean long drawn out intros.
Iron Maiden have released a new studio album. Τhis is the important thing here. After the a six year gap (the longest in their history), the band delivers new stuff under the title SENJUTSU (that is tactics and strategy). It contains almost 82 minutes of new Iron Maiden songs that the shortest of those is about 4-5 minutes (just two out of ten!).
All the songs are very carefully and ‘strategically’ composed. The keyboards contribute to an epic atmosphere and consolidate the majestic powerfullness of the guitars. Bruce Dickinson did a perfect job and reminds us why he is the exemplum of a metal frontman. Songs like “Hell on Earth”, “The Writing on the Wall”, “Stratego” would be loved more by the fans. I would like to see these songs to be performed live. Tell me, how many bands can you recall in your mind that after 40 years of activity and 16 studio albums, they would have release one of the best albums of their career? This is the best Iron Maiden album after the return of Bruce. If it would the last Iron Maiden album, that would be the perfect end.
John Haseltine 5/5
I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised when Iron Maiden announced the release date for their latest album this year. As a die-hard Maiden fan, we have become accustomed to their release schedule over the years, and yes, I figured there was to be yet another live DVD pumped out first.
To my delight, we get SENJUTSU! I will not get into all the specifics of this album with this short collective review here. As a fan, I have come to expect nothing but the best from the boys. Whether the songs are catchy enough or even good enough to set on repeat is usually another story. SENJUTSU hits the mark here. A great follow-up to the magical release, THE BOOK OF SOULS. This album has yet to leave my ears since its release date. (Sorry to all the others I need to get done.)
With all the hype and expectations leading up to the release, many of us were left wondering what “surprises” we were in for on the album. Well, some of you may hear them, and some may not. To me, SENJUTSU is right where Iron Maiden should be musically. This is an utterly superb album by one of the best in the business and my all-time favorite band.
Now, do I wish, like many Maiden fans do, that they would make some music reminiscent of some of the early days’ ala, KILLERS, THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST, or POWERSLAVE? Sure I do. But this is where the band is at, and I am perfectly fine with that. UP THE IRONS!
JP 2.5/ 5
In a word…underwhelming. As much as it pains me to say, I’m slowly coming to the realization that I’m just not that big of an Iron Maiden fan anymore. It’s been over two decades and six studio albums since Bruce rejoined and it has never been the same. The hype around BRAVE NEW WORLD was immense and it was a good album, but did not fully provide what I was looking for in the comeback. Going forward through time, every Maiden album has this excitement and energy surrounding the new album and each time I felt less enthusiastic beforehand and always slightly disappointed after. It came to a head somewhere around 2014. BOOK OF SOULS was on the horizon and I thought to myself, “Maybe THIS is the album where they shed the long, slow songs and make a short, fast, METAL album. They are done with their ‘prog’ phase and BOOK OF SOULS will kill!” Nope. How wrong I was. They delivered one of the longest, slowest albums of their career. At that point I suppose I just stopped caring. Now in 2021, after sitting on the completed album for two years, they deliver SENJUTSU.
Now that I’ve heard the album and formed my own opinion, I allowed myself to read some reviews and many people talk about how Iron Maiden is prog or has prog influences. A colleague of mine commented that just because a band has long songs does not mean they are ‘prog’. Very true. I’m also seeing reviews with words like, ’slow’, bloated’, ‘filler’, ‘long-winded’ etc, these are never good descriptors. I feel much the same. However, let’s focus on the positive. Iron Maiden has defined their signature style and written and recorded an Iron Maiden album. Back in 1995 when Harris took full control of the band you could hear the early development of the ‘new’ style as far back as THE X-FACTOR. How much I like the again ‘new’ (since 2000!) direction is a different thing.
SENJUTSU is average. It’s good. It has lots of mood, atmosphere, tempos changes, new sounds that we haven’t heard from Maiden as much. Bruce despite singing in a lower range still kills it. I always also pleasantly surprised some of the fiery solos as well. However, ‘average’ just doesn’t cut it for me and Iron Maiden. I want and expect ‘world-class’ like we had all through the 80’s. SENJUTSU is a safe, familiar album and when it comes to Heavy Metal that is not the greatest endorsement. There are few flashes of something different like the country twang of the first couple of minutes of ‘Writing On The Wall’. It’s cool but it could have fit on Bon Jovi’s ‘BLAZE OF GLORY album back in 1990. I can’t not enjoy an Iron Maiden, but I certainly can’t be automatically blown away by it either, just because it is Iron Maiden. They just don’t have the fire anymore. This might sound cruel but only Iron Maiden (or Kevin Shirley) can make three guitars sound like half a guitar for much of the time.
I suppose it is telling that my enthusiasm for Maiden has waned over the years. I had SENJUTSU for three weeks before I even bothered to listen to it. So many other new albums (that came out about the same time) from bands I was excited about, bands I KNEW would not let me down, bands I listened to first; Rage, Brainstorm, Ravenous, Paradox, Blazon Stone, Royal Hunt, the list goes on. Iron Maiden just can’t (or won’t) compete with the younger, hungrier bands, they don’t want to. They don’t have to. Their legacy is assured. I think my colleague ‘The Baron’ put it best, and he gave me permission to steal his quote; “This is The Iron Maiden album I expected, not the Iron Maiden I wanted.”
Manos 4 / 5
The Irons are back!!! Yes that’s no bullshit they really are. 17 albums some gold, some platinum, a 45+ year old career, thousands of shows, live recordings, dozens of singles and without a doubt one of the most successful bands along with the likes of Metallica, Ozzy and Judas Priest.
I don’t think there’s a single metal fan out there that hasn’t heard at least an album from these dudes. Maiden have become the golden standard that almost all metal bands compare to. Music legacy and impact are massive, their stage presence and gigs legendary. Starting from mid ‘70s as a humble bar band to becoming an arena world class act capable of filling out stadiums with ease. With influences heavily rooted in the ‘70s but with a mindset of becoming faster and heavier from the mentors and always push the bar a little bit further. I don’t think I need to say more about these guys.
So it’s five years after the brilliant “Book of Souls” and they’re back with their newest offering with the cryptic title “Senjutsu” (which loosely translates from Japanese to tactics and strategy). An album that was recorded in 2019 but for some reason was shelved for to be released in 2020 a plan that went to hell when the dreadful pandemic brought everything to a full stop. No more gigs, no more getting in touch with fans. So in these “modern” times where music means shit and there’s little to no money to be made from releasing physical media the album was delayed for 2+ years!
So what does “Senjutsu” sound like? Surprise surprise it’s an Iron Maiden album! Is it close the much beloved glory days of the seven (to many people myself included) or nine albums? Well let’s be honest here. The answer is no. But considering the unfathomable heights the band has reached regarding creativity even the worst moments are still golden or at least silver and yes “Virutal XI“ is excluded.
There’s no point of talking about musicianship since there’s nothing that can be said for people that created the measure of what most of us consider how a skilled musician should be, but I have to mention that Bruce sounds rougher here. His phrasing is of course second to none but his vocals at times sound less flexible compared to previous album. The high notes are there but it feels that Bruce was kinda out of practice when he hit the recording room. Please don’t start the bashing straight away without considering that this guy is a one of the best front men in the genre and probably one of the best showmen in music, so when you’re that good demands can get high and naive fans (like myself) tend to forget even our idols grow up.
Kevin “Caveman” Shirley is again responsible for the mix bringing an “organic” sound but damn I miss some sound variety. A mix that would give Maiden a harder edge when it comes to guitar sound making them sound if not more modern at least more aggressive. I just dream of what a guy like Andy Sneap or Jen Bogren would have done instead.
Senjutsu has plenty of surprises up its sleeve. Songs like “The Writings on the Wall”, “Stratego”, “Days of Future” are instantly favorites. While others like more “Darkest hour”, “The Parchment” & “The Time Machine” are mostly slow burners. If I could wish for something it would for Maiden to have composed smaller songs with 3 of them going above 10’ but let’s face people all members are in their mid ‘60s while Nicko McBrain is pushing 70 so I don’t think we will ever get to hear an album filled with tunes like “Aces High”. Irons have reached a point in their career that have nothing to prove to the fans or even themselves. Their goal is to create music they love listening to and this means mostly mid tempo stuff that feel like a prog metal but in reality it’s not.
So is this album worth it? Fuck yes it does, but that doesn’t mean it’s their finest moment but definitely will spark countless of debates between hardcore Maiden junkies and devoted haters which simply means that even you love it or love hating it “Senjutsu” has already left it’s mark in the face of music. I simply can’t wait of seeing these guys play live so UP THE FUCKING IRONS one more time!