Iron Maiden - Senjutsu

I did try with 'Senjutsu.' I've played it far more than the last two albums and still I can't find anything to resonate with, yet another frustrating outing from the band with no end in sight.

Iron Maiden - Senjutsu
ARTIST: Iron Maiden
ALBUM: Senjutsu
LABEL: Parlophone
SERIAL: Various
YEAR: 2021

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Flag England
LINEUP: Bruce Dickinson - vocals * Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers - guitars * Steve Harris - bass * Nicko McBrain - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Senjutsu * 02 Stratego * 03 The Writing On The Wall * 04 Lost In A Lost World * 05 Days Of Future Past * 06 The Time Machine * 07 Darkest Hour * 08 Death Of The Celts * 09 The Parchment * 10 Hell On Earth

RATING: Score of 20%
WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

Over the years in certain circles it's become sacrilegious to denounce Iron Maiden, this site obviously not one of them. To some everything they do is the work of legend, the band seemingly demigods capable of doing no wrong. How this happened I'm unsure, but the trend seemed to begin when Bruce Dickinson rejoined the band in 1999.

The six albums released since 2000 have had a steady stream of admirers fawning over them, with newest album 'Senjutsu' receiving the same type of acclaim since its release last week. Apparently Maiden have once again redefined heavy metal, the genius of Steve Harris reaching fever pitch.

Over the years of course I've battered Maiden's new albums, deservedly so in my opinion. It would be easy to do the same to 'Senjutsu' but I feel this album warrants a more in depth analysis to dissect why it's largely another tepid, dull and overrated release from the aging legends.

Apparently this album was recorded in 2019, but due to COVID the band opted against releasing it last year. Perhaps they were unhappy with the results and had to tighten a few things up, the pandemic giving them a perfect excuse to shelve it. If this was the case I'm not sure why, the album mostly sounding like a series of impromptu jams the band recorded and decided to release as a joke.

The Irons once again opted for the stale production of Kevin Shirley, who has yet to capture anything dynamic or exciting from the band. To nobody's surprise, the album is yet another epic affair, clocking in at almost 90 minutes, the last three tracks alone running 34 minutes. It's expected at this point, as Harris attempts to convince the world of his songwriting prowess, a storyteller on par with early 70's Yes or Genesis.

Iron Maiden Band pic 2021

The Songs

'Senjutsu' - The title track is one of the more palatable offerings, simply because it doesn't take five minutes to get going. The main riff is suitably metallic and the promise is evident, but eventually let down by a chorus that doesn't suit the menace of the verses. The song sadly drags on for at least three minutes too long, reaching an unnecessary eight minutes plus.

'Stratego' - The most traditional Maiden sounding track on offer, offering some gallop in the riffs but with none of the heaviness of old. However at five minutes it's at least an easier listen that most of the endless dirges on offer. Why Maiden cannot make an album comprised of tracks like this is unclear.

'The Writing On The Wall' - As the opening single this was widely panned and deservedly so. The pace is unbearable and the riffs have a somewhat country twang in places that sound out of place. I must have listened to this a dozen times and I still can't remember how it goes by heart. For a Dickinson/Smith composition this is mediocre.

'Lost In A Lost World' - Perhaps this is the 'traditional' Maiden style I should refer to. Long winded atmospheric intro that lasts several minutes, followed by the obligatory 'heavy' section and faceless guitar solos. This is the point where the album becomes background noise, devoid of life or character.

'Days Of Future Past' - At four minutes this song seems like a miracle, the chorus being the only one I can recall off the top of my head after multiple listens. It's no classic, but still a welcome respite from the endless epics.

'The Time Machine' - The lyrics to this track are as pretentious as it gets, long winded tosh like 'Wrought with no anger, wrought with no fear, Devilish children playing here.' Musically there's some nods to the 80's, with prominent keyboards in the mix. For all we know this track could have been written in 1995 and hauled from the depths as the band runs out of ideas.

'Darkest Hour' - The third Dickinson/Smith penned track is a ponderous affair that goes nowhere fast. It's so boring it almost draws anger. It's nothing that hasn't been heard multiple times before, with zero edge or even AOR appeal.

'Death Of The Celts' - The first of three consecutive ten minute plus tracks, all written by Harris alone naturally. In 1998 Maiden released 'The Clansman' with Blaze Bayley at the helm and at the time it was pilloried as a heavy metal cliché by a band who was washed up. Some 23 years later we have 'Death Of The Celts' which from what I'm reading online is a sure masterpiece of the genre and some of Maiden's best work. What alternate world am I living in? What I can't quite fathom is why these types of dull epics are suddenly Maiden at their best, when once upon a time they took a beating for them. The lyrics are quite shocking, as Harris does his best to rhyme, cue the likes of:

'Wayward thunder over rain,
Giving me time to think again
Send to their graves on this day
Silent where the battle dead lay'

Genius, pure genius. The song is what you'd expect, another mess musically, taking in at least a dozen tangents along the way with a host of guitar solos that I can barely understand who's playing what. Harris tries to evoke the spirit of the Celtic warrior, but it's even more cornball than Manowar at their worst. But we're expected to take it very seriously, because this is IRON MAIDEN after all.

'The Parchment' - At 12 minutes this is the longest of the epics with an unexpected slow, lulling intro, Maiden at their most original. It takes an even more unexpected turn with a half-baked orchestral heavier section, the band entering new ground. The first time I heard this track I forgot it was on, that's how boring this is. It's simply background noise, surely the result of Harris turning on 'record' and the band playing whatever came in their heads. The lyrics read like Harris was plundering Shakespeare, far too wordy and Dickinson struggling to get his voice around them. I used to think tracks like 'The Unbeliever' were bad, but this is the pinnacle of Maiden's descent into prog rock hell. They try to speed it up during the last two minutes, but by that point it's far too late.

'Hell On Earth' - An obvious joke is listening to this album repeatedly and having the experience be as the song title states. This one's 11 minutes and starts as always with a slow two minute intro, before the ever tiresome 'heaviness' kicks in. My disdain for this album at this point is at an all-time high, the formula so burned out it can't get any worse. There's nothing to highlight here, it's another song forgotten once heard and indistinguishable from anything this band has done in the last 20 years or so.

In Summary

I honestly believe the people who vigorously defend Maiden and their current, endless direction are lying to themselves. They want to believe this album is legendary and Maiden have never been better. Does anyone really think if they were given the choice of another 'Senjutsu' or 'Number Of The Beast' they'd pick the former? But all over I see people say 'I don't want 'Powerslave Part 2' or something equally ludicrous. Apparently they have no issue with 'The Book Of Souls Part 6' though.

I did try with 'Senjutsu.' I've played it far more than the last two albums and still I can't find anything to resonate with. Wading through the album is a chore, a very miserable one. It shouldn't be that way. But Maiden are content in their old age to serve this slop up, the band having lost all their working class charm years ago. They want to be a scholar's metal band it appears, eschewing the frivolous days of 'Hooks In You' or 'From Here To Eternity.' Another frustrating outing from the band, with no end in sight.

Video

Stratego


The Writing On The Wall


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Comments

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    I'm also active on a footy forum, where they happen to have a "music I'm listening to at the moment" section. A user revealed he was listening to Hell On Earth right now and labelling it a "new Maiden anthem". I've yet to receive a reply to my comment that the basic core of that song might be ok, but that there's no justification for dragging this out to 11:20 minutes...

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    Top notch review, you got the words down hard and straight - just like a big old nail being thumped into a 18th century wooden coffin. It was needed, man. 12 times I've listened to this album straight through and the only thing that's stuck in my head is the chorus to 'Days Of Future Past', which unsurprisingly is the shortest track on offer. There's something wrong with that result, gotta be. But who's to blame: me or Maiden? Well, I say them. The band have lost it, man, their dynamics and songwriting ability are dead in a grave. The music they create is lumpen, overwrought, devoid of energy. Listening to this album is like climbing Mt Everest in a blizzard. By the 5th or 6th track my body, soul and brain are battered beyond repair - or hope. I just want to lay down in the snow and let death take me to a better world, one where Iron Maiden is still capable of writing a precise epic metal tale in 4 to five minutes - like their 1990 classic 'Run Silent Run Deep'.

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