IRON MAIDEN - “Senjutsu”
By Colonel Angus
I have been an IRON MAIDEN from almost the beginning starting my journey upon the release of “Killers”. Over the course of four decades the band’s music (along with some members) has changed but for me, they have always consistently delivered compelling and interesting albums. I loved their last release, “Book of Souls”, and thought that some of their epic pieces was a great addition into an already great cannon of work. I can’t believe I will be reviewing their 17th studio album as it only seems like yesterday that I discovered the NWOBHM.
“Senjutsu” as a whole is another great record that I feel represents the newer MAIDEN sound which started with 2006’s “A Matter of Life and Death”. From the opening tribal beats of the title track to the haunting guitar ending of “Hell on Earth”, there really isn’t a bad tune on the disk. Obviously, some cuts are better than others with the best ones being on the first CD. Just as I was surprised with "Empire of the Clouds" on the last record, I was surprised (pleasantly!) with the first single “The Writing on the Wall”. It has a little bit of a southern rock flavor here and there which is a new element into their sound and it works great on the track. “Stratego” is another great galloping tune in typical MAIDEN style and “The Parchment” is the standout song on Disk 2, with its epic feel and some great guitar work from the boys. In fact, all the guitar solos throughout are perfect with not one note out of place. Bruce Dickinson sounds fantastic as well and his voice has kept up through the years. All in all, more than a solid release from the pioneers of the NWOBHM.
Now for the part where I get picky. Being a fan for so long, I reserve the right to pick apart certain aspects not to my liking. For starters, I think the band could have shaved off a couple of minutes to have all the songs fit on one disk. There are certain intros and outros that could have been shortened to achieve this. Which brings me to second point; they need a different producer. Kevin Shirley is a fine producer but I think the band need someone who can bring a fresh set of ears to the proceedings. Look at what Andy Sneap has done for JUDAS PRIEST or Nick Raskulinecz for RUSH. Both have brought out the best in those bands and I feel that Shirley sits back and records instead of refining the tunes. That’s my opinion and that may be the type of relationship MAIDENhave with him but I think they are shortchanging themselves by not having a critical ear produce them.
My last little quibble is that too many of the tracks start with a very similar slow intros. This was started on “A Matter of Life and Death” and it has continued since. These intros don’t really add much to the songs and makes the listener feel like they have heard it before. I know it may seem like I am praising the album on the first paragraph and then tearing it apart in the second paragraph but I’m nitpicking because I have been a fan for so long and feel very invested in the band (both financially and emotionally). I will say this, “Senjutsu” is not in my top 5 IRON MAIDEN records but it is definitely in my top 10. It will most certainly be in my top 10 of 2021 and that speaks to the quality of this release.