Iron Maiden Unleash ‘Senjutsu,’ Their Best Album in Decades

IRON MAIDEN- 2021 Photo copyright by JOHN McMURTRIE

When bands reach a certain age, it becomes tempting, if not downright obligatory, to rest on their laurels and become nostalgia acts. Sure, they might release new music every few years. But for the most part, the new music exists as but a pale shadow of their former glory, giving them the excuse to hit the road once more and cater to fans still hungry for the hits of decades past.

But while it isn’t particularly rare anymore for a band to have a staying power edging ever closer to the five decade mark, it’s getting rarer for a band with that longevity to remain relevant outside the touring circuit. New albums from old bands rarely meet the high bars set years ago, willing as we are to forgive them. Rarer, still, is the album that kicks as much ass as Iron Maiden’s latest, Senjutsu.

Far from resting on the success of their past, Iron Maiden has released their best album since Brave New World. Senjutsu is a towering work of heavy metal intensity that’s as good as anything the band has ever done before. Face melting, mind bending, and ear shredding, their latest is a testament not only to their storied history but also their continuing talent and relevance in the metal world.

Little time is wasted in proving themselves. The album’s opening title track is an immediate reminder that Iron Maiden, despite members staring in the face of 70 years old, is still not a band to trifle with. Ranking among the band’s best tracks, “Senjutsu” is an ear grabbing assault and powerful opening salvo for the band. Driven by the tribalistic pounding of Nicko McBain on drums, Maiden play like a band with something to prove.

And prove it they do. Layered with powerful riffs, complex composition, and Steve Harris’s legendary bass lines, the album opener is a gauntlet throwing masterpiece that sets the tone for the album to come. And there’s no misleading here. Hard as “Senjustsu” the rest of this two-disc collection largely lives up to promises made by track one.

The album’s weakest links come in the form of its already released singles, “Stratego” and “The Writing on the Wall,” featured on the Stratego EP from earlier this summer. While the tracks might be comparatively weak against the rest of the album, they’re by no means bad. As a band, Iron Maiden has always been adept at allowing different fans to enjoy different styles, each with their own twist on the band’s general formula. These two tracks veer more into the hard rock milieu but still offer the band’s layered songwriting and playing.

With over 80 minutes across two discs, Senjutsu certainly offers a little something for all their fans. Fans of Iron Maiden’s epic, prog-metal tracks will be more than pleased with band’s offerings; many of Senjutsu’s tracks approach, and in many cases exceed, the 10-minute mark, including the three songs that close out the album, “Death of the Celts,” “The Parchment,” and “Hell on Earth.” All three are masterclasses in how to write and sustain epic tracks without falling into the trap of being repetitive and boring.

“The Parchment,” especially, is proof positive that Harris and the boys have lost very little over the years. The 12-and-a-half-minute penultimate track is everything that’s ever been great about Iron Maiden—epic tracks, killer riffs, ripping solos, complex rhythms and composition—in a single track. It, alongside the title track, proves that the band is more than capable of extending the shadow of their legacy deep into the 21st century.

Meanwhile, fans of anthemic Iron Maiden can look forward to “Days of Future Past,” a track that feels ready made for 40,000 screaming fans. One can almost see Bruce Dickinson handing the mic to the audience to sing along with the chorus in a set sandwiched between “Run to the Hills” and “Be Quick or Be Dead.”

Throughout it all, Iron Maiden never forgets what makes them one of the best and most enduring acts in heavy metal. Senjutsu is an album that respects the lineage and history of the band without rehashing previous works. The result is one of the best albums of the band’s entire career, one that stands tall next to Fear of the Dark and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. It’s a stunning accomplishment for any band, let alone a band on their 17th album in nearly 50 years.

Then again, Iron Maiden have never been the kind of band willing to coast on their past glory. No, they’re a band for whom glory is an ongoing pursuit. And boy, have they found it.

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18 Responses

  1. It certainly stands next to Fear of the Dark and Seventh Son…, but tall? Those are perhaps my least favorite Maiden albums (not counting the Blaze stuff, which I don’t consider Maiden). The new album is portentous, overlong, and a complete yawn-fest, excepting the first song. Almost fell asleep just trying to write this reply.

    1. To all the haters,don’t like it don’t listen. Fair warning you visit Max,you’ll hear Senjutsu from the driveway!?

    1. Oh my God. They should stop releasing albums if this is the new trend. Boring boring zzzzz. Been a Maiden fan since day 1. But this album….really shows their age and loss of creativity. 6 years for this? They should stop.

  2. Im 39 and listened to maiden since Somewhere in Time. Once Met Bruce if you could Believe it when I was nineteen with my killers banner outside of Much music for the awards in 2001 the night after they played an amazing concert for Brave New World when Bruce came back thank God. THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST IRON MAIDEN ALBUM IVE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE AND I CRIED TWICE , WAS OVERWHELMED WITH JOY THE WHOLE ALBUM THROUGH. MY GOD , THANK YOU TO MY FAVORITE BAND IN THE WORLD FOR MAKING MY STRESSFUL LIFE FEEL NOT SO BAD AND MAKING ME FEEL AND SMILE ONCE AGAIN!!! IM CRYING AGAIN. UP THE FUCKING IRONS FIR LIFE!!!!!!

  3. Yeah i agree, almost a complete waste of time. This is 60-70 year old version of heavy metal in 2021?? Crazy weak, this is hard rock, some country and 2.6% metal. Gtfo here with this shi*. Just my opinion, but the writing is on the wall to call it over .again , imo

  4. Over bloated junk. If the songs were interesting I wouldn’t mind if they were 20 minutes long, but they’re pretty basic uninspired crap. There are some good moment in “The Parchment”, “Hell on Earth” and “The Time Machine” but not enough to make me play this ever again. 2.5 star worthy.

  5. Metalvic engage your brain son its the best maiden album since brave new world or have you started listening to bls and all that rap shite

    1. I you are complaining about the length of the track you are no Maiden fan at all. Everyone succumb nowadays to short commercialized music track. A superb album indeed. the best since Bruce returned.

  6. Best maiden album since ssoass absolute class from start to finish.
    Love death of the cells, the time machine. Just brilliant.

    Metal Vic you know nothing about music I’m afraid.

    1. Give it a few more spins! It surely needs 5+ to grow on you (provided you’re ready to receive the message)! Not sure what those of you that tore it apart 1-2 days after it was released were willing to invest into it (apart from the $). This is a different beast from their 80s stuff, and I was an instant convert back in 1984 (and love the di’Anno years just as much) but after a few dozen spins this ranks with their best work, easily. Everything I love about Maiden is here! Up the irons ?

  7. Best album since Brave New World, with some epic progressive tunes like Lost In A Lost World, The Time Machine and The Parchment. Bruce sounds amazing as does Nicko’s drums. It’s also nice to hear Steve pretty high in the mix as well. He is truly inspirational on Death of the Celts. Excellent album.

  8. Far better than the last two albums which I found quite boring, Senjutsu rivals my fav Maiden album, AMOLAD.

  9. If you don’t like this album you don’t like metal. You don’t like music. You don’t like electric guitar. It reminds me of one of my favorite films, Once Upon A Time In The West. That film is about 3 hours long. It’s meticulously crafted. I’ve heard people say “it’s too long!”
    That just completely misses the point. This is art, it doesn’t give a fuck about time. I feel bad for all those people who have no appreciation for stuff like this, be it an album or a film.

  10. I you are complaining about the length of the track you are no Maiden fan at all. Everyone succumb nowadays to short commercialized music track. A superb album indeed. the best since Bruce returned.

  11. It’s not their best album in decades I have loved iron maiden since I first heard powerslave in 1984.

    They have now become a steve Harris puppet band the albums now over 80 minutes long and to hard to take.

    Become boring since the final frontier.

  12. LOL. I love the fanboy freakouts in the comment section! “You don’t like this album, you ain’t a Maiden fan.” Uh-huh.
    I would say this is the best album they’ve put out since Brave New World, but that was the best album they had put out since Somewhere in Time.
    As to the comment ‘give it a few more spins. It needs 5+ to grow on you’, that pretty much sums up a meh album.
    Go back and listen to Killers (or any album up to Somewhere in Time really). Every single song on Killers is fantastic and you don’t have to wait for 10+ minutes for any of the bloody songs to end. I was hooked on that album the very first time I heard it.
    There are a couple of fantastic songs on this album, but “bloated” is a good description for the last 3 songs that come in at almost 34 minutes. The entire Killers album put out in Britain (10 songs) was 38 minutes.
    I’d rather have 10 fantastic, fast songs than 3 looooong songs that kind of sound phoned in. Trademark maiden sound: check. Galloping guitars, check. Opera singing Bruce: check. Okay, this puppy is done.

  13. It seems every time a classic rock band puts out an album, it’s either hailed as “the best they’ve done since [insert album name from decades ago]” or written off as rubbish. In my book, the “best they’ve done since [Seventh Son/Brave New World/etc.]” are Matter of Life and Death and Final Frontier (from 2006 and 2010), and this one is a decent, enjoyable album with some interesting divergences from their familiar sound (“Senjutsu” and “Writing on the Wall”) and plenty of similarity to recent and older stuff. (Interestingly enough, the “older” references I hear seem to be to the unpopular late 90s “Blaze-era” material). The fact that some of the more critical “fans” don’t seem to like even “Seventh Son” (from over 30 years ago and the band’s heyday, and considered the band’s masterpiece by many fans) shows that “opinions vary.” And for those who criticize the length of the album and songs-Iron Maiden’s Powerslave was 50 min (as much as a vinyl would hold) and half the songs were over 6 min, with the longest at 13 1/2. While I agree I don’t need a 75-minute “load” or ever Dream Theater album to be 78 minutes, Iron Maiden songs have enough individual identity (at least for me) to keep the journey interesting.

    I’m happy a mainstream music reviewer is even acknowledging a new Iron Maiden album, let alone giving it a good review. (Although if someone is reading this who is new to the band-start with their 80s stuff like Piece of Mind and Powerslave!)

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