Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

This article first appeared in StereoLife Magazine, a HiFi publication that offers “A Daily Dose of Audiophilism”.

Rating: 8/10

Never before have Iron Maiden fans had to wait so long for a new release from their favorite band. A lot has changed in the world during the six years that have passed since the release of “The Book Of Souls”, so one could quietly hope for changes in the Englishmen’s work as well. And since the release of the “Brave New World” over two decades ago, they give malcontents a lot of reasons to complain – mainly because the band still plays the same stuff. And even though I’m a fan of Iron Maiden’s music, I have to admit there’s some validity to that.

The first announcement of “Senjutsu” – “The Writing On The Wall” – could give hope for a big breath of fresh air. The very surroundings associated with the premiere of the song aroused a lot of excitement. There were announcements on the Internet, the official countdown, and finally the premiere on YouTube, where fans could listen to the new recording at the same time, sharing their feelings live. The majority of these were very positive, and there’s nothing surprising about that. “The Writing On The Wall” steered the band from heavy metal tracks into the area of hard rock with progressive elements. It sounds really fresh and interesting. Bruce Dickinson is still doing very well on the mic, and the icing on the cake of the song is its chorus – incredibly catchy, making you want to listen to “The Writing On The Wall” several times. The second track promoting the upcoming release brought the dreamers down to earth in a brutal way. “Stratego” is just a typical Iron Maiden song, and at times not of the highest quality. Mediocre verses are saved by catchy choruses, where the vocalist shows much more of his skills. In the second part of the song, we can also hear a pretty cool guitar solo.

Due to the fact that “Stratego” does not thrill like the first announcement while listening to it, you can focus on other elements. And at this point, it was easy to notice that clearly, something is wrong here. It’s the production of the recording, which is simply inept. “Stratego” is flat and muffled, which deprives it of all the dynamics and liveliness. Many people complained about the mastering of “The Book Of Souls”, but in comparison with “Stratego”, it seems to be a masterpiece of the industry. The producer killed a very decent recording. The song itself is not so bad, and it will probably gain a lot during the concerts.

“Senjutsu” contains one less track than “The Book Of Souls” and is shorter by over 10 minutes. Besides, already on paper, you can see a lot of similarities, mainly when it comes to the duration of individual compositions. The new release rarely surprises the listener and in the vast majority, it consists of elements that we know very well for many years. The shortest “Days Of Future Past” is more lively, which will certainly work at concerts, especially that it shows Dickinson in a very good form. A similar role on the album could be played by “Lost In A Lost World” if it was shortened by half, eliminating a few lengthy fragments.

A screenshot from “The Writing On The Wall” music video.

This is where we come to the element that will surely divide fans and skeptics. Just like in the case of the previous few releases, also on “Senjutsu” we will find quite a few fragments dragging on forever, leading only to the fact that the newest album does not fit on one disc. It’s mainly about the last three tracks lasting almost 35 minutes altogether. As a lifelong Iron Maiden fan, I can easily listen to them, but I’ll also understand people who will come to the conclusion that there’s more excitement in staring at a paint drying on the wall than listening to this trio. The passages drag on and on, encouraging us to sleep rather than to listen. And it’s this dragging apart from duplicity and totally botched production that can be considered the biggest problem of “Senjutsu”. Fans of the band have already got used to the first two accusations and can safely cross them out, but it’s impossible to pass by this unfortunate production indifferently. I really don’t know how people with decades of experience in recording music could claim that the final result of their work sounds cool.

Advertisements for the new album in New York’s Times Square.

Putting the sound aside, “Senjutsu” will be a very good release for Iron Maiden fans. To the skeptics, the new album will provide arguments to say that the Brits produced yet another boring album, very similar to the previous ones. Other music lovers probably won’t be encouraged to get to know the band’s earlier work by such tracks as “The Parchment” or “Death Of The Celts”. My assessment of “Senjutsu” is based on the musical value of the release, but also to a large extent on a kind of sentiment built over the years. Those who do not know Iron Maiden can safely deduct one mark from my rating, and skeptics – at least two. Finally, it is worth mentioning a very nice deluxe edition, which is only a few dollars more expensive than the regular plastic box. If you would like to buy the new Iron Maiden album in a physical version, it is definitely worth it, because you get a completely different product for a small extra charge.

The band during a concert in Tallinn, Estonia.

Album info

Artist: Iron Maiden
Title: Senjutsu
Label: Parlophone
Released: 2021
Genre: Heavy Metal
Length: 81:53

For more, visit StereoLife Magazine, a HiFi publication that offers “A Daily Dose of Audiophilism“.

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