When a band has been around as long as Iron Maiden and released so many iconic albums, expectations are bound to be sky-high. The fact that Maiden’s recent albums have been good make the anticipation and expectations for Senjutsu stratospheric. While probably unfair, it’s nothing new for them. It was recorded in early 2019 and has literally been in a vault prior to release.
Early Iron Maiden albums were relatively streamlined, but started getting slightly longer over the years. Their last studio album, 2015’s The Book Of Souls, was a 90 plus minute double album. They look to the East on Senjutsu, another double album which has one fewer song and is about ten minutes shorter than The Book Of Souls.
As to the content of Senjutsu, frontman Bruce Dickinson says, “The songs are very varied, and some of them are quite long. There’s also one or two songs which sound pretty different to our usual style, and I think Maiden fans will be surprised – in a good way, I hope! “
The album is a mix of streamlined songs and more epic tracks. The sequencing of the album flows really well. The shorter songs are mixed in with the longer ones, with a trio of the album’s lengthiest tracks wrapping up the proceedings. The title track gets things started, an eight plus minute opus that sets up the framework of what’s to come.
“Stratego” is a catchy, radio-friendly number with hooks galore and a memorable guitar solo. The band’s triple guitar attack is in fine form on “The Writing On The Wall,” as is Dickinson’s voice. At age 63 he still hits plenty of high notes and has the vibrato and expressive delivery that helps take the songs to the next level.
“Lost In A Lost World” is dynamic, going from mellow and reserved to a soaring rocker. There are numerous anthemic, earworm chorus songs on the album such as “Days Of Future Past,” and the ones that aren’t immediately catchy still end up burrowing deep into the cortex after multiple listens.
The second disc has the lengthiest songs, with three in double digits. The atmospheric “The Darkest Hour” is a slow build, while the last few tracks have plenty of twists and turns, wrapping up with “Hell On Earth.”
Steve Harris carried much of the songwriting load on the album. He has sole songwriting credit on four of the ten songs and co-wrote three others. The remaining three were co-written by Dickinson and Adrian Smith.
80 plus minutes is a lot to absorb, but when it’s Iron Maiden it’s much easier. They are able to write lengthy songs that avoid monotony and too much repetition. They have a lot of experience with epic songwriting, and know how to make it engaging. Plus, who knows how many more albums they are going to make? The more quality Maiden music, the better, and Senjutsu adds to their long legacy of memorable albums.
(released September 3, 2021 on BMG)