Senjutsu / Iron Maiden still the grandmasters of the Heavy Metal album
3 September 2021
If England had managed to beat Italy in the final of Euro 2020 and finally ended decades of anti-climax, for many, it still wouldn’t eclipse the event that is the release of a new Iron Maiden album.
Iron Maiden – Senjutsu (Parlophone Records)
Release Date: 3 September 2021
Words: Brian Boyle
That statement might result in a fit of the giggles from Maiden illiterate’s or Three Lions fanatics. Still, with the exception of maybe AC/DC, Metallica and the consistently beige U2, there’s pretty much no one who can announce a new album and, in turn, cause a worldwide tremor of anticipation and have your left ventricle pumping blood like there’s no tomorrow.
But what sets Maiden apart is that they’ve never been darlings of the mainstream. Yes, they are marketed impeccably, but their music is created for them, and their religiously loyal global fanbase, and not one note, lyric or chorus is aimed at seducing commercial radio stations.
And it’s not just about the virgin listen of new music, the unveiling of a new Eddie, the fresh album artwork, plus those unrivalled gatefold pieces of vinyl just make the euphoria greater.
100 million+ record sales
With over 100 million in record sales to date, Senjutsu is their seventeenth studio album and, in turn, carries on their passionate dedication to create new music. Once again, Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley is the man entrusted with production duties, with commander-in-chief Steve Harris casting his eagle eye as co-pilot.
Recorded in Paris in 2019, opener and title track Senjutsu doesn’t stick with tradition by blowing the doors off the hinges. Instead, we have Nicko McBrain’s brilliantly measured tribal-like drumming, some heavy-boned riffs and a battle call of a chorus. A mammoth Samurai themed song that deserves to go down as one of their greatest epics.
Stratego sticks more to the rulebook with that signature gallop racing away with Bruce Dickinson’s beautifully ageing pipes, providing us with a rampaging balance of expertly sculpted melodic Metal.
The Writing On The Wall
When the album teaser The Writing On The Wall was let loose out of the safe, it received wide-eyed reactions as not many Maiden tunes flirt with Country and Southern Rock. There’s even a big vibe of Bad Company’s Feel Like Makin’ Love laying a solid foundation, possibly due to co-writer Adrian Smith’s love of the Classic Rock legends.
And it’s the aforementioned Mr Smith who owns this track and casts out what is arguably one of the finest guitar solos of his career.
Majestic, regal riffs
Clocking in at just under ten minutes, Lost In A Lost World opens its doors with slick acoustic guitar, atmospheric keyboards and some layered haunting vocals, then bursts to life with that classic Maiden stomp fuelling the majestic, regal riffs.
If you are looking for a track that could be classed as a throwback to the band’s ’80s era, Days Of Future Past would not be out of place on Piece Of Mind or Powerslave, no pretension, but bruising and frill-free.
While some still baulk at the band’s prominent Prog leanings, those who embrace it will have a field day with the intricate tapestries on The Time Machine, which seamlessly intertwines with Maiden’s signature sound.
At times describing an Iron Maiden track as a ballad is like putting a target on your back, but with the Dickinson/Smith penned Darkest Hour, there is no denying the infectious melodies and slow fist-pumping chorus.
Revisiting the Winston Churchill WWII theme, it does spark comparisons to The Final Frontier’s Coming Home and is sure to realise its brilliance when hopefully road tested.
The odds on Steve Harris ever scoring a hat trick for his beloved West Ham United are at this stage stacked against him. But on the last 34 plus minutes, he rattles the back of the albums net with a trio of cinematic screamers.
The Parchment and Hell On Earth are just classic Harris, visionary, enthralling and delightfully complex. Out of the three, it is the bloodthirsty Death Of The Celts where the legendary bassist shows the depth of his penmanship. The medieval, folk-infused intro tears up a bombardment of Celtic riffing where Smith, Gers and Murray sound as virtuosic as ever.
And Dickinson is the only man who could unroll the brilliantly scripted lyrics and have your mind light up with a barrage of battle imagery.
If you are looking for more reassurance that the world is slowly returning to normality, well, Iron Maiden have just produced another masterpiece.
Senjutsu can be ordered from ironmaiden.lnk.to/Senjutsu
1. Senjutsu (Smith/Harris) 8:20
2. Stratego (Gers/Harris) 4:59
3. The Writing On The Wall (Smith/Dickinson) 6:13
4. Lost In A Lost World (Harris) 9:31
5. Days Of Future Past (Smith/Dickinson) 4:03
6. The Time Machine (Gers/Harris) 7:09
7. Darkest Hour (Smith/Dickinson) 7:20
8. Death Of The Celts (Harris) 10:20
9. The Parchment (Harris) 12:39
10. Hell On Earth (Harris) 11.19