Unlike so many of their peers, Iron Maiden is a band that refuses to rest on their laurels. Instead, they keep pumping out “new” music while others stick to the tried and tested method of playing all the hits. They proved the thunder was still there when the 2015 double serving of the Book of Souls. After six years they push the possibilities even further Senjutsu. As in the Book of souls, the two-disc Senjutsu (Japanese for “tactics and strategy”) is less of a “heavy metal” album than “progressive metal” with longer, more complex arrangements wrapped around dark, cerebral themes.
With an arsenal of three guitarists – Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers – backed by the powerful rhythm section of bassist Steve Harris on bass and drummer Nick McBrain, Maiden’s music can’t help but sound great and epic in scope and execution. Senjutsu provides the right platform for the group’s less raw and refined songs, paired with Bruce Dickinson’s dominant vocals to create exploratory, adventurous synopses that swim eloquently through Celtic-inspired waves and suction.
Witness the ghost of “The Writing On The Wall” sustaining a fundamental riff before it evolves and changes to give Dickinson space to share his disturbing messages of gloom and doom. The theme song and “Stratego” rise and rise like the best Maiden hymns. On the other hand, “Lost In A Lost World” and “The Time Machine” could be two of the album’s more seductive tracks that criss-cross the steps and fly away in tangents that drag Murray, Smith, Gers and Harris a bar or two before stepping in turns another imaginative direction to experience a happy disaster of notes and pasta. Few bands can do this kind of sleight of hand as brilliantly as Iron Maiden.
Both “Darkest Hour” and “Death Of The Celts” are earthy, pastoral walks with atmospheric touches and stylish cans that make you ponder the end of days with a strange mixture of fear and hope. Then “The Perchment” and “Hell On Earth”, the “long tracks” of the album, lose themselves as the music plunges into a wondrous detour that brings Iron Maiden’s galvanized guitar attack into the center ring. Dickinson speaks texts inspired by world events, war, peace and apocalypse – as a collective power and strength gain momentum before galloping into the stratosphere.
Recorded in Paris with Kevin Shirley and Steve Harris as producers, Senjutsu is an ambitious endeavor for a band that already has a huge legion of fans and admirers. You must credit the members of Iron Maiden for not giving in to nostalgia trips and staying hungry enough to move forward with creative expansion and untapped sources of the imagination. An inevitable trip around the world behind Senjutsu, The band will undoubtedly add songs to their setlist and should cement their place as a milestone in the Iron Maiden catalog.
~ Shawn Perry