Every year tackling a title like Iron Maiden gets heavier and harder. What to expect? What to say? What am I listening to! Needless to deny. Like a child who opens a present at Christmas, it’s easy to be influenced, willingly or unwillingly, by the emotion of being among the first to hear and judge an album awaited by all (or almost) the metal world. So I have tried to draw conclusions using the tool I find most effective. Sincerity. After all, it is not so important that my opinion is unquestionable. It is and will remain only mine, since today you will hardly choose a record that will be released in just 3 days just for my review. Instead, enjoy reading what I’ve listened to and experienced and rate it yourself by commenting or using our stars to rate the record, depending on what your thoughts are.
I admit that even I was intrigued by the long length of the tracks from the beginning. A truly exotic title and cover that are still making us dream about what kind of stage we will be able to see on the tour that will accompany such a record. The work, as a whole, sounds absolutely Iron Maiden, those of the second wave. We are talking about titles from or after “Brave New World” to understand each other. Already on “X Factor” we understood how much the band was facing the compositional desire to be able to say more instrumentally with longer songs, structured and somehow progressive. You won’t hear a new “The Number Of The Beast” or a new “Powerlave”. In Senjutsu there is the progressive evolution of a band that does not need to ask and prove anything to anyone and continues its career with great honesty. You may like it or not, it may excite you, it may bore you – it will surely make you discuss and that’s the beauty of it. Surely you will find within the package, as many have already defined it, a classic-modern sound in 100% Iron Maiden style.
Senjutsu is a disc impossible to fail. Of course it will not be an essential album of their career, but we can breathe a sigh of relief to say that it is a great work. Many of the songs have a long duration and must be listened well, difficult that they can enter immediately in the head, but as a whole the album is easily appreciated. It will be hard to start getting to know Iron Maiden from a record like this, as it brings all the musical wisdom of 6 musicians who are making history. For the fans it will be a great comeback, awaited for 6 years now and even though it was composed before the pandemic, it came out in a really hallucinating historical period.
Here’s what I perceived at a first, but careful listening.
It’s exciting to hear Bruce’s vocal entry on a new, never-before-heard 8+ minute piece titled Senjutsu. An articulate piece and not particularly impressive. It seems to be constantly building up, never leaving, it’s a far cry from the old rides of the period that saw Iron Virgin at the compositional top with its hits in the 80s. Yet these minutes have flown and on sumptuous melodies we already leave the titletrack to move on to the next two tracks that by now we all already know.
The less convincing perhaps of the two singles already released, for a drumming perhaps not perfect, the guitars in the background cross in simple riffs and not excellent, (especially on the verse) the questionable choice (?) of the use until now rare of keyboards on a piece that could be one of the few classic pearls of this disc, yet it is a song rather immediate, with a great solo and I feel to save it. We are far from having to announce a disaster.
Writing On The Wall 6:14
The first single released. By now a planetary radio hit. Equipped with a more than successful videoclip, “Writing On The Wall” is a very unique piece that is 100% Maidenian. There are all the elements, from the pounding bass of Mr. Steve Harris, to the heavy metal riffs of the guitar trio Murray/Harris/Gers, including the initial arpeggio now more customary in the most recent records of the English band. There are also the snares never too fast, but always appreciated by the always smiling Nicko McBrain, but above all there is him, Bruce, with that timbre and his typical accent now unmistakable. You can turn up your nose, you can be refined, but in the end you will lie to yourself saying that this piece will not become an Iron Maiden classic.
Lost In a Lost World 9:32
We finally delve inside this album that definitely marks Iron Virgin’s transition to a more mature, or modern, reality. Call it what you will. There’s no denying that records after Dickinson’s return have another flavor. This is also confirmed by this track of a duration very close to 10 minutes. A track that begins quietly and acoustically, to continue with more pressing rhythms, really excellent and more than pleasant despite its various changes of pace. The keyboard is a bit invasive and once again it’s a bit artifactual as on Stratego.
Days Of Future Past 4:04
Great rhythms for maybe the most immediate and fast piece of the whole work. Incredibly successful solos and a Bruce in great shape. Once again I have to be redundant about the keyboards’ work. It’s a great idea to use them, but the choice of the sound and how artificial they are, precludes the success of each song, since it will be constant throughout the platter. It may also be that we are not used to hearing them so much in Maiden tracks. Nonetheless, a very good track.
The Time Machine 7:10
Once again bass and acoustic guitar enter slowly and without the need to write an intro to introduce the next track, along with a recitative and emotional Dickinson. “The Time Machine” starts off almost immediately and doesn’t manage to bore despite the long running time. An aside before the solo recalls the times of The X Factor. Excellent guitar interlacing and majestic drum fills by Nicko, solos worthy of the best Maiden, once again, perhaps the biggest flaw lies in those annoying keyboards, anything but evocative and orchestral. A real pity.
Darkest Hour 7:21
Darkest Hour for Iron Maiden lasts 7 minutes and 21 seconds and we are faced with an introspective track, but much more epic than what we heard in the albums of the late 90s. It’s nice to hear a Bruce who is aware of his voice and doesn’t throw himself on unnecessary high notes that are impossible to bring back live. We have a clean and ringing voice, worthy of a singer who still has a lot to prove to those who still doubt his gifts. Perhaps the piece that convinced me the most of this last effort. Almost a ballad, very different from “Wasting Love”, but in its entirety effective and exciting. A goosebump solo, a chilling performance. Really beautiful!
Death Of The Celts 10:20
Steve Harris is the star of this intro and it’s not the first time for sure. His metallic bass rumbles impetuously as we wait for “Death Of The Celts” to start. Personally, it’s a piece that didn’t shake me much, more than anything else because it lacks bite and between its changes and its long duration, it didn’t manage to communicate as much as other tracks that make up this Senjutsu, which is almost at its end.
The Parchment 12:39
We are towards the end of this album and the longer chapters are waiting for us. Good choice! We are in the future. If you want to skip tracks and not listen to them, you have the option to do so. “The Parchment” is a track that never really gets going, resulting, despite its pleasantness, in a tedious piece that could have been cut by its midpoint. In spite of its particular epicness (especially at the end), we are unfortunately not in front of an “Alexander The Great”, a “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” or an “Empire Of The Clouds”… as in the end maybe we all hoped.
Hell On Earth 11:19
The closing track has its intro and then it starts in a nice retro taste ride, full of surprises and with a Dickinson in the foreground. A very pompous production succeeds in making “Hell On Earth” a piece worth listening to over and over again. Maybe once again I have to admit that a few cuts here and there would have made this, like other tracks, definitely milestones of the band, but we can close the album with the desire to listen to it again and again. Now we will wait to be able to see how these tracks will sound live.