Review by: Chris Hammond
Full Disclosure, I was late for the Iron Maiden bus. My first introduction to a full album of the band was 1992’s Fear of the Dark. Sure I had heard songs like “Run to the hills” and “Can I play with Madness” but never a full album. I’m not sure why this is other than as a kid I had to pick and choose what albums I bought with my limited income (allowance from my parents). I have since bought Maiden’s full discography and gone through at least each album twice.
What makes a great Iron Maiden album, well this answer is going be different for almost every person, but I’m sure most will say after listening exhaustion should set in. After you’ve recovered you should want to relisten to the album again and again.
Senjustu is a concept album of sorts (just look at Eddie in his Samurai armor on the cover). The songs all have a war theme to them, be it before, during, or after a conflict has taken place. On their seventeenth studio outing the members of Iron Maiden are a little bit slower, a little bit wiser, but don’t break much new ground (can they even at this point?).
The lead-off track Senjustu is just over eight minutes long and shows many different styles off during the song’s runtime. Nick Mcbrain’s drum thunder throughout. Solo riffs echo melodically and the track stays steadfast with the vocals of Dickinson. This is nothing new of course, but it sets the stage on what to expect from the rest of the album.
Stratego hits fast and hard, probably the strongest song on the album. It feels like Maiden and has a galloping marching pace to it. Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers shine on this track. I love the fact that although the song runs five minutes long, I rush to hit the repeat button, something I didn’t feel with the first song Senjustu.
The third track “The Writing on the Wall” is actually a little bit of a departure for the band. It is a soundtrack or score sort of song only made more powerful when accompanied by the music video (actually, it is better with the video). On its own, the song feels sort of misplaced in the Iron Maiden library. It’s very Saxon-ish, not bad, just nothing that will make one jump up and scream “MAIDEN, MAIDEN, MAIDEN”.
“Lost in a Lost World” starts off pretty weak (especially since the song is 9 plus minutes long). The guitars hit and Bruce starts his vocals. The blistering guitar work is probably the only reason I would relisten to this song in the future.
The next song is a conundrum. “Days of Future Past” is a good Iron Maiden song a time-travel song, but a song that feels like Iron Maiden has already done countless times before. This leads into the next track “The Time Machine”. Not a horrible song but, like the song before it is repetitive.
Now I would be blown away if the next song was a cover of their own song Deja Vu, but no it’s called “Darkest Hour”. I’m not sure what to think. I get an odd Queensryche vibe off this one. I don’t hate it at all, I’m just not sure if it would ever make it on a best of Iron Maiden playlist.
The next two songs on Senjustu are a combined 23 minutes long if that is any indication of what to expect. On “Death of the Celts”, Dickison’s vocals sound like he’s yelling at a dirty microwave (there is some weird heavy metal yodeling going on). I’m glad that this is mostly an instrumental track. “The Parchment” again, not a horrible song, just nothing that stands out at all and very tired feeling. This thing goes on for over twelve and a half minutes.
Finally, we’ve marched on to the final track (of the single-disc version of the album). “Hell on Earth” returns Maiden to their outstanding form. This is how to do an engaging long song and keep us listening. Sadly, these songs are few and far between on Senjustu. Most of the time it sounds like the gang is doing covers of their own library of songs or attempting to do the soundtrack for the total runtime of The Lord of the Rings films (including The Hobbit films). More doesn’t always mean better and longer doesn’t always satisfy.
Senjustu suffers from being the seventeenth album from a band on the tail end of their musical career. if this had been released in the mid-’80s or early ’90s, it would be groundbreaking stuff. It’s a been there, done that sort of thing with far too little standout material for Maiden fans to grab hold of.
Rating 3 Eddys out of 5 Eddys
Iron Maiden website
Senjustsu is out now in stores and online.