The 17th studio album by the legendary British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, called Senjutsu, was released on September 3, 2021 on the Parlophone Records label. The material was recorded in Paris at Guillaume Tell studio. Once again Kevin Shirley became the producer and Steve Harris, the band’s leader, bassist and main composer, co-produced. Since Bruce and Adrian’s return to the band and the recording of Brave New World in 2000, Kevin Shirley has been producing all Maiden albums.
The cover for the Samurai-themed album was drawn by Mark Wilkinson, and the idea itself was invented by Steve Harris. The length of the record, as compared to the previous one, was slightly reduced, being about 82 minutes, i.e. the album itself is presented on a double CD and on triple vinyl.
Prior to the album’s release, the band unveiled two singles, The Writing on the Wall, which featured an animated music video and Stratego.
Bruce Dickinson said in an interview that the album is very varied, there are very long songs, but there will also be unusual things, in a good way.
So, the album, hidden by the musicians from the public until the day of its official release, is now available. The record was one of the most anticipated this year. Firstly, the status of the band, which can be called the best in heavy metal, and secondly, the last album the band released as far back as 2015.
The album is called Senjutsu, which can be translated as “strategy and tactics”. And what exactly is the strategy of Iron Maiden since 2000 all the fans know. Yes, with the return of Bruce and Adrian a lot has changed in the band: there are three guitarists, the brilliant vocalist came back, the producer changed, the approach to creativity changed and the style changed a bit – the band started to use progressive elements. If the album of 2000 mostly consisted of hit compositions which at once became classics, the later ones became less and less. The complexity and duration of the compositions were increasing, but the spark that had been on the albums of the 80’s was gone. Maiden concentrated on perfecting their signature sound and enhancing their already excellent technique, becoming an elite prog heavy metal band. Whatever album the band records, they do it flawlessly – that is true professionalism. The important thing here is that the band doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. They proved everything in the 80’s and 90’s by releasing amazing work, and now they do what they think is right.
So, the main theme of the new album is war and everything connected with it: loss, despair, bitterness of loss, history of mankind, Armageddon, destruction of civilization, personal feelings, etc.
Senjutsu. The album’s title track is also the album opener for a full 8 minutes, beginning with the unsettling sounds of a drum. The composition is one of the best on the record and quite original for the band’s work, with a slow tempo, great drumming technique by Nicko and a surprisingly beautiful vocal melody. The authors of the composition are Smith and Harris.
Stratego. The second composition by Gers and Harris, called pretty much the same as the first. One of the shortest and most powerful themes on the album, in the usual style of the band nowadays. In my opinion, this is the one that should have been put first. The song will surely be played at the concerts.
The Writing On The Wall. This song made a lot of noise in the Internet as the first single of the album, and also a very interesting animated video was made for it. The song written by Smith and Dickinson clearly stands out from the general picture of the album musically and is obviously atypical for Iron Maiden. The song is influenced by blues-rock and in that sense would look better in Dickinson’s solo. Nevertheless, it looks good as the highlight of the whole work.
Lost In A Lost World. Harris’ first epic composition on the album is over 9 minutes long. The composition is quite interesting technically, but it is too long. In general on the album there are a lot of introductions to the compositions of 1.5 – 2 minutes each.
Days Of Future Past. Another song by Smith and Dickinson, the shortest on the album. It’s quite a good action song in the vein of old Iron Maiden with an interesting chorus, which should become one of the band’s live hits.
The Time Machine. The song, written by Gers and Harris, has a rather complex structure with changing tempos and interesting melodies.
Darkest Hour. Another composition written by Smith and Dickinson is the gem of the album and it is a powerful ballad about the events of World War II. The song has a beautiful melody and a very beautiful solo.
And then there are three lengthy and epic compositions written by Steve Harris. The first of which is Death of the Celts, a war anthem about the death of the Celts and even filled with some folk melodic motifs. The Parchment is the longest track on the album and in my opinion the most musically complex, containing many bright and memorable moments, somewhat reminiscent of the epics of the 80’s band. The final epic, Hell On Earth, is one of the best compositions of the album and sums up the whole narrative.
To sum it up, the album is quite long and complex, but much more diverse and interesting than some of its predecessors. To get into it completely, to understand and comprehend the ideas in it one or two times of quick listening is obviously not enough. And I wouldn’t be in a hurry to give it any grade, time will give it.
Musically, one is in awe of the virtuosity of the whole band. They have created many wonderful melodies and fantastic guitar solos, smoothly flowing into each other. The rhythm section is flawless as always. And this is the kind of band that has been on the scene for over 40 years and still makes music with sincere heart and passion. It’s frustrating that Dave didn’t write a single song for the record. Yes, Bruce Dickinson’s voice is not what it was in his youth, but for a sixty-three year old man who has fought cancer, had surgeries, to have such unbridled energy both in the studio and on stage, that alone deserves a lot of respect.
All in all, the band recorded a great album, and it is guaranteed to please true fans of the band, and it was recorded exactly for such fans.