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The metal world weighs in on Iron Maiden's Senjutsu

The metal world weighs in on Iron Maiden's Senjutsu
(Image credit: Press/Timo Jaeger/Matteo Fabbiani)

Seventeen albums in, Senjutsu shows Iron Maiden aren't dialling back their ambitious scope even as they close in on the five-decade mark. Clocking in at almost 82-minutes, the record was described by Metal Hammer's Joe Daly as an "electrifying, cinematic masterpiece", while Classic Rock's Dave Ling concluded it was "a remarkable album from a band that still has plenty to say and offer". 

Striking a balance between the epic, grandiose structures of 2015's The Book of Souls and the galloping anthems that made them heavy metal titans, we thought it best to get the final verdict from bands and individuals whose lives have been irrevocably changed by one of metal's most iconic bands. 

Metal Hammer line break

Herman Li, Dragonforce

 “I started listening to Iron Maiden in 1988. It’s crazy to think about how many albums they have released since then, and how their albums have served as the soundtrack to so much of my life. It won’t surprise anyone to hear that I think Iron Maiden are the best heavy metal band ever.

For a longtime fan like myself, Senjutsu is exactly what I’m looking for. This is a real heavy metal album. That means it has long, epic songs, loads of melodies, great singing and awesome guitar solos. If you don’t like those things, you probably don’t really like heavy metal.”

Herman Lee, Dragonforce

(Image credit: Timo Jaeger)

Oscar Dronjak, Hammerfall

“Full disclosure: there is a lot to like about this album if you’re an Iron Maiden fan, especially if you think they still are as great as they ever were in the studio. In many ways, Senjutsu is a continuation of their previous record, The Book Of Souls, and that is a good thing.

Clocking in at a ridiculous 81:53 for 10 tracks though puts a lot of pressure on the listener’s focus and attention span. There isn’t a clunker among them, and each song contains a multitude of the stuff the Brits have been well known for throughout their career. This is a damn good Iron Maiden album, make no mistake about that! But with an average length of over eight minutes (!) per track it can be difficult to choose a favourite after only a few listens. 

For me, the singles – especially Stratego – stood out immediately, but my guess is this is an album that will divulge a lot of wonderful musical secrets the deeper you get into it. And I, for one, can’t wait to find out!”

Hammerfall Oscar Dronjak

(Image credit: Napalm Records)

Erlend Hjelvik, HJELVIK/ex-Kvelertak

 “It’s the million-pound question: is Senjutsu, ‘Senjuts-eewww’ or ‘Senjuts-oooooh?’ Things start off with the brooding, war-drum heavy Mesopotamian-sounding title track. It chimes in at over eight minutes, as if to say, ‘Hey sonny boy, sit your ass down, put away that goddamn smart phone for once and listen!’ “The Japanese theme kicks in on Stratego, which has an awesome, 80s anime theme song vibe. Just try picturing the chorus being sung in Japanese and you’ll see what I mean. Kudos to Bruce for writing an homage to this excellent classic board game (watch out for that pesky Marshal).

The train keeps rolling with The Writing On The Wall and its Southern-fried twang, which I must say sounds really refreshing and is a direction I hope to hear Iron Maiden explore more. A friend of mine texted and asked if the band had stolen the riff from one of my old Kvelertak songs, Evig Vandrar. I'm sure they did, the bastards! Which only confirms my suspicions that the Maiden gang are some sort of immortal vampires, feeding off the lifeblood of younger weaker bands and thus keeping themselves on top of the game forever…

Days Of Future Past starts out with a deliciously creepy melody, which reminds me a lot of Eye Of The Witch by King Diamond. When that melody creeps back in at the end, it's a pure ‘chef's kiss’ moment. The next big highlight, Death Of The Celts, gave me goosebumps straight away with its magical, Enya-esque intro that culminates in a mythological metal tour de force.

The musicianship on this album is impeccable, as one has grown accustomed to, and the mix is easy on the ears while still sounding heavy. The synths are a welcome touch, too. I’m impressed that these old gents can churn out over 80 minutes of high calibre metal that never ceases to hold your attention. Let there be no doubt about it, Senjuts-OOOOOOH is incredible! Here’s to hoping that Iron Maiden will keep listeners locked in their cold, spiky grasp for years to come, cheers!”

Hjelvik

(Image credit: Nuclear Blast)

Roel van Helden, Powerwolf

“The first album I ever bought as an 11-year-old getting into metal was Iron Maiden’s Fear Of The Dark, so I can’t help but see – or rather hear – Senjutsu through rose-coloured glasses. Bruce Dickinson sings in the opening lines of Senjutsu about ‘…the sound of the drums’. That is automatically something I, as a drummer recording albums, notice first. And it’s great! The whole production sounds organic and natural. Kudos to producer Kevin Shirley and of course the man himself, Nicko McBrain.

The beginning of Lost In A Lost World reminds me of Bruce’s solo albums, which is a very good thing. Those albums – especially Accident Of Birth and The Chemical Wedding – are underappreciated! Days Of Future Past is only four minutes long – a rarity these days for Maiden. A good old compact rocker the way I love it.

I’m sorry for all you non-drummers reading this, but The Time Machine has a 3-2 Son Clave Latin rhythm in the verses. Maiden are going samba! But it’s still 110% Maiden, thank God (or thank metal, depending on your religion…). Darkest Hour is one of the slowest songs Maiden ever did; it’s a good semi-ballad to balance the album. The verses remind me of Wasting Love (from Fear Of The Dark).

Death Of The Celts is the first of three, over-10-minute songs closing the album. I love the intro with its great basslines, typical for many songs on The X Factor, another underappreciated album. The Celtic feel of the song creates some more welcome variation, which is necessary with an album over 80 minutes long.

“I’m very happy with this album. In 2022, Powerwolf will be playing some support shows for Iron Maiden. So let’s hope we have these strange times and this terrible virus somewhat behind us by that time, so that we can enjoy Maiden once again with tens of thousands of our metal brothers and sisters. And hopefully I can meet my heroes, whose music has been guiding me for 30 years!”

Roel van Helden, Powerwolf

(Image credit: Matteo Fabbiani)

Brian Slagel, Chairman/CEO Metal Blade

“My favourite band of all time is Iron Maiden. I was a big fan of The Book Of Souls, and The Red And The Black is in my all-time Top 10 list of Maiden songs. So this album had a lot to live up to! Senjutsu lives up to it and it gets better with every listen. My first listen I liked it, but was not sure how much I liked it. Now after my fifth listen, I am really getting into it. I love all the songs, with Stratego, The Parchment and Hell On Earth being my top three so far. It makes me so happy as a fan that these guys are still creating music at such a high level.

“It is a really long album, so give it some time. You might need to warm up to it a bit. The lyrics are all you would expect from a classic Maiden album like this. Steve Harris has the bulk of the songs, with the last three all his, and over 10 minutes each! It’s really a tour de force of classic Iron Maiden, with amazing songs and packaging. Long live Eddie and Iron Maiden – Up The Irons!”

Metal Blade CEO Brian Slagel

(Image credit: Metal Blade)

Senjutsu is out now via Parlophone. The epic story of Senjutsu is told within the pages of the new issue of Classic Rock, which is in stores now and available to buy online