Following 2015’s ‘Book of Souls‘ [has it really been that long?] the mighty Iron Maiden are back with a collection of ten brand new studio tracks, bridging an almost six-year gap between albums which has been the longest in the bands’ impressive legacy.
Firstly, it must be pointed out that ‘Senjutsu‘ very much carries the baton from where ‘Book…‘ left off with a tip of the hat to ‘Brave New World’s‘ template, and by that I mean, Maiden continues to expand on a more progressive journey with their arrangements.
Opening with the slow-paced title track, the bands’ ability to build layer upon layer of sonic arrangements is impressive by way of transporting the listener to another dimension and they most certainly achieve this here with the slow-building atmosphere and Dickinson’s all-to-familiar vocals.
I can’t help but wish the album opened with track two, ‘Stratego‘ instead which falls under the category of ‘classic‘ Maiden with Harris’s trademark galloping bassline thundering through the mix and brain-hacking chorus. A definite highlight on the album, and is also the second shortest track other than ‘Days of Future Past‘ out of the ten, clocking in at just under five minutes.
‘The Writing on the Wall‘ is a great example of the bands’ current transformation from their former years to the present day, albeit without losing the ability to construct vast storylines and unpredictable twists boasting a chorus that no doubt, you’ll find yourself humming day-after-day.
The overarching darkness of the album’s concept continues with ‘Lost in a Lost World‘ – a nine-and-a-half minute opus that presents a jump-perfect pace that will obviously shine in a live setting. A perfectly placed ‘Days of Future Past‘ makes its appearance here, offering a more familiar scenery for long-standing fans, carrying the album over the halfway mark.
It’s at this point that may cause some concern to said old-school Maiden fans. From ‘The Time Machine‘ through to the album closer, ‘Hell on Earth‘, there seems to be an evolution in the album’s story/concept, with a feeling of almost ‘Act II’ of a theatre performance.
The compositions are noticeably more expansive in arrangement and definitely in length with each song almost standing alone as its own entity. From ‘Darkest Hour‘ – one of the albums’ more slower-paced songs – to the ‘Death of the Celts‘ a Harris-penned behemoth loaded with tempo shifts, and that classic Dave Murray/Adrian Smith/Janick Gers guitar work can seem to somewhat drift aimlessly at times, but always sways back on course.
The final stretch of ‘Senjutsu‘ very much adopts a more soundscape approach with, ‘The Parchment‘, and incredibly catchy, ‘Hell on Earth‘ both rich in concept-driven motivation however presented with slow, melancholic, brooding progressive arrangements that again, tend to drift here and there.
Let’s face it if you’re looking for ‘Run to the Hills‘, or ‘Aces High‘, you’ll not find it on ‘Senjutsu‘. What you’ll find is a complex body of work that takes a more concentrated approach when listening. Dripping in visual props, deep storylines, and complex arrangements that are designed to transport the listener to other worlds, Iron Maiden are expanding their sound and evolving more so here, than on ‘Book...’.
Whether you’re along for the ride or not, is entirely your decision, however, bear in mind, Iron Maiden are the architects of some of the greatest Heavy Metal compositions ever written and will continue to explore, evolve and venture to sonic depths that most bands of their vintage are literally terrified to even consider, and something tells me that they are only beginning this leg of their journey.
‘Senjutsu‘ is out now. Pick up your copy from all good record stores.