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Iron Maiden - Senjutsu Award winner

Iron Maiden
Senjutsu
by Kevin Lewis at 05 October 2021, 1:08 PM

IRON MAIDEN is a British heavy metal band. One of the mainstays of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), they have been around for 45 years and show no signs of wavering or slowing down. “Senjutsu,” their seventeenth studio album, was released via Sanctuary Records on September 3, 2021. True to form, heavy metal and history meet again, both informing and entertaining the legions of fans.

Once again, this is a two-disc release, continuing the trend started on “Book of Souls”. Disc One is six songs and Disc Two has four. Both contain 40 minutes of epic IRON MAIDEN sonic bliss. There is a lot to unpack on this record. First off, it is classic IRON MAIDEN. There is no doubt who wrote and performed this record. The battles detailed are, of course, different than other albums. There is a lot of history in the world and it is fraught with epic battles. Oh, and there is some post-apocalyptic imagery as well.

The title track comes first. “Senjutsu” is eight minutes of Chinese grit and determination to hold the wall. The song inspired on of the best Eddie’s in recent memory. That is a samurai to absolutely fear. And the song is excellent as well. The pounding drums start the song, the bass and guitars come screaming in, the riff starts and the song just rocks. Bruce sounds as good as ever. The lyric imagery is supported by musical tones and tempos. In other words, everything you would expect.

Stratego” comes next. Nicko is as solid on the drums now as he was on Piece Of Mind. The guitar fills over the riff add so much texture to the song. Steve continues to play bass like he always has, sometimes supporting the rhythm, sometimes acting like a fourth guitar, mirroring the riff like a boss.

Next, we have “The Writing on The Wall,” six-minutes of killer song with an animated video that is packed full of imagery and wonder. The song talks of an apocalypse that ends the world as we knew it, but which we all saw coming. Dictators and despots rule a vast wasteland. In the video, the four bikers of the apocalypse ride in and rescue Adam and Eve, possibly trying to restart humanity hoping we might get it right this time. The signature vocals with the trademark guitars make this song one that needs to be done live. This needs to be experienced, not just heard.

And if you might be thinking the IRON MAIDEN is just a formulaic band that does the same thing over and over, “Lost in A Lost World” comes along and has a nice melodic intro where Bruce goes breathier with his vocals to start. Not to fear, the song hits hard after that intro. Similarly, “Death of The Celts” has an intriguing vocal pattern. There is less Bruce belting and more melodic vocals and tones. The guitars are muted, the bass is more present and the drums are gentle tapping, not pounding thunder.

At over 12 minutes, “The Parchment” is the longest song on the record. Starting slow, it builds through layers of epic sound. Have a bit of a Middle Eastern/North African feel, the song is every bit as bombastic as the rest of the record. The lyrics seem to speak of ancient scrolls and text that detail biblical themes and tones. Much of this record feels like it’s talking about how the end of times is approaching, mostly due to our violence and wickedness. Or maybe they are just recapping the dumpster fire that was the year 2020….

The album ends with “Hell on Earth,” a 10 minute piece on, you guessed it, war and wicked people trying to force their will on others. It mentions child soldiers, which Africa is notorious for, but did not start there. When a warring tribe is out of adults to fight their battles, they have to recruit younger. Again, war is not the answer, it’s just another problem, created by man to dominate others for nothing but power, usually in the name of God. Will we ever learn? Not likely.

IRON MAIDEN continues to experiment with their sound, but never stray away from what made them famous in the first place. The complex rhythms, the progressive shifts, the power metal, the in-depth lyrics, they are all present. There are some keyboards added to expand the breadth of emotion within the tunes. The extended instrumental sections, replete with trade off guitar solos and harmonies, a long-standing part of the mystique that is IRON MAIDEN, are present. The galloping bass, the pounding drums, it’s all here.

The lyrical content is as complex and thought provoking as ever. Much reads like a history lesson, but some of the issues and wars are current. The reasoning is also very much the same now as it ever was. People fight for power, but couch it in religion, hoping to make their followers believe the leader is righteous, not just self-righteous. This story is told as only IRON MAIDEN can. The music and lyrics spark imagery in the listeners mind, creating scenes in the mind that play along with the music. Each song is a story.

Is it any wonder IRON MAIDEN fans are loyal? Once again, the band has delivered an epic masterpiece that delights and enthralls the masses. After seventeen records, they are just as creative and innovative as they ever have been. As IRON MAIDEN approaches their fiftieth anniversary, one can only wonder what comes next? How will they top this? The only thing I know is, somehow, they will.

Songwriting:  10
Musicianship:  10
Memorability:  10
Production:  10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Senjutsu
2. Stratego
3. The Writing on The Wall
4. Lost in A Lost World
5. Days of Future Past
6. The Time Machine
Disc Two
1. Darkest Hour
2. Death of The Celts
3. The Parchment
4. Hell on Earth
Lineup:
Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
Steve Harris – Bass/Keyboards
Nicko McBrain – Drums
Dave Murray – Guitar
Adrian Smith – Guitar
Janick Gers – Guitar
Record Label: Sanctuary Records
     


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