Album Review – Iron Maiden / Senjutsu (2021)

Behold another masterpiece by the one and only Iron Maiden with its 82 minutes of tactics, strategy, war, resilience and determination in the form of majestic Heavy Metal.

5.0rating

iron-maiden-senjutsu-2021“Have you seen the writing on the wall?”

The wait is finally over. After nearly six years, Senjutsu (or 戦術 in Japanese, loosely translated as “tactics and strategy”), the seventeenth studio album by British Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden, has finally seen the light of day, and let me tell you each second waiting for such masterpiece was absolutely worth it. Marking the longest gap between two Iron Maiden studio albums following The Book of Souls from 2015, Senjutsu is also the band’s second double album, again using their original logotype (with the extended letters R, M and N) like in The Book of Souls, their first studio album since their 1984 cult album Powerslave to have no songwriting contributions from Dave Murray in any way, and the first since their 1998 opus Virtual XI to feature multiple songs written by Steve Harris alone. Once again recorded at Studios Guillaume Tell in Paris, produced by Kevin Shirley, co-produced by Steve Harris, and displaying a formidable samurai version of our beloved Eddie on the artwork designed by Mark Wilkinson (with the name of the album rendered on the right side of the cover art by the actual vertical Japanese spelling of “senjutsu” and on the left side by a font reminiscent of Japanese characters), Senjutsu takes the band back to the darker and edgier sound from albums the likes of The X-Factor, A Matter of Life and Death, The Final Frontier and The Book of Souls, showcasing another brilliant work done by the unstoppable Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain.

Traditional Japanese drums ignite the obscure and introspective title-track Senjutsu, offering us Maidenmaniacs over eight minutes of epicness to properly kick things off with Bruce already mesmerizing us all with his unique voice. Moreover, I love how his vocals walk hand in hand with the guitars by Dave, Adrian and Janick, not to mention the song’s ritualistic vibe (similar to what they did in their previous album with “If Eternity Should Fail”), followed by the already known tune Stratego with its lyrics full of metaphors about how hard it is for anyone to face their own lives (“How do you read a madman’s mind / Teach me the art of war / For I shall bring more / Than you bargained for”), while Nicko and Steve take care of that amazing galloping sound that became the band’s trademark, not to mention the song’s stunning guitar solos. Then we have The Writing on the Wall, the first single of the album which you might have probably listened to countless times already, where a country and southern vibe together with its catchy-as-hell chorus declaimed by Bruce (“Have you seen the writing on the wall / Have you seen that writing / Can you see the riders on the storm / Can you see them riding / Can you see them riding… Riding next to you”) turn it into the perfect option for hitting the road with your loved ones.

Lost in a Lost World brings forward another sinister intro to the sound of acoustic guitars that feels like it was taken from one of Bruce’s solo albums, exploding into a fusion of The X-Factor, Brave New World and A Matter of Life and Death with a lot of elements from Progressive Rock and Metal added to their core sonority, and with Steve’s bass lines being superb as usual, punching you right in your face, whereas back to a heavier sound we’re treated to the mid-tempo, rockin’ feast titled Days of Future Past, again blending classic Iron Maiden with Bruce’s solo material and displaying an amazing job done by the band’s guitar triumvirate accompanied by the pounding drums by an inspired Nicko. Needless to say, it will sound amazing if added to their live performances. Then beginning in a similar way as The Final Frontier’s “The Talisman”, The Time Machine presents a more cadenced pace with the background keys by Steve complementing the sharp work by the guitar boys, evolving into a sick galloping and diverse extravaganza halfway through it; and the sound of the ocean brings comfort to our hearts before Iron Maiden once again hypnotize us all in Darkest Hour, a somber ballad in the vein of A Matter of Life and Death’s “Out of the Shadows” but with a stronger vibe, all spiced up by their undisputed, soulful guitar solos.

iron-maiden-senjutsu-super-deluxe-boxset

Iron Maiden Senjutsu Super Deluxe Boxset

The last batch of songs from Senjutsu was entirely written by Steve Harris, and let me tell you it’s a flawless lesson in rock and metal music, starting with his undisputed bass lines in Death of the Celts, being gradually joined by Nicko and the rest of the crew. What a bold, multi-layered metal voyage by the band, overflowing epicness, progressiveness and electricity nonstop, spearheaded by the rumbling kitchen by Steve and Nicko, of course. And you better get ready for over 12 minutes of majestic Heavy Metal in the form of The Parchment, once again beginning in a serene, cryptic manner and evolving into a very progressive mid-tempo sound. Bruce’s vocals are utterly imposing and epic from start to finish, with Dave, Janick and Adrian being on total fire with their stringed axes. And lastly, Hell on Earth is a song that gave me goosebumps from the very first second, as soon as I started listening to it, feeling like “The Aftermath” from The X-Factor but at the same time a lot more intricate and powerful, with Steve and Nicko taking the lead while Dave, Adrian and Janick deliver sheer melody through their incendiary riffs, providing Bruce all he needs to flawlessly tell the story proposed in the song until all fades into the unknown in a somber and climatic manner. In other words, thank you, Mr. Steve Harris, for being so awesome.

iron-maiden-2021To be fair, there are no actual words I can choose to describe all the darkness, the energy, the details and the intricacy found in Senjutsu. It’s simply incredible how Iron Maiden managed to deliver such masterpiece without sounding outdated, repetitive or bland after so many decades on the road, leaving us all eager for another studio album, for their next tour, for more Eddies and so on, even knowing all members are in their 60’s already (as a matter of fact, Nicko is almost 70). Not only that, the way they promoted the new album on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube from day one, including the fun ride that was “Belshazzar’s Feast” (a story from the Book of Daniel in the Bible, also known as ​“the story of the writing on the wall”, with the initials WOTW cropping up in a lot of Iron Maiden-related places), was beyond entertaining, proving the band trespassed the barriers of music with Senjutsu. Furthermore, this is also one of those situations where buying the physical album, despite the fact we live in a digital world, is almost mandatory, especially if you go for the Super Deluxe Boxset, or even better, for the FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box, which will deserve its own review as soon as I receive it next week. And now please excuse me, as I need to get back to Senjutsu and listen to it another billion times on a loop for the foreseeable future, just the way it’s supposed to be when the band in question is the almighty Iron Maiden.

Best moments of the album: Senjutsu, Days of Future Past, Death of the Celts, The Parchment and Hell on Earth.

Worst moments of the album: I’m still trying to find one.

Released in 2021 Parlophone/Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG

Track listing 
1. Senjutsu 8:20
2. Stratego 4:59
3. The Writing on the Wall 6:13
4. Lost in a Lost World 9:31
5. Days of Future Past 4:03
6. The Time Machine 7:09
7. Darkest Hour 7:20
8. Death of the Celts 10:20
9. The Parchment 12:39
10. Hell on Earth 11:19

FC Exclusive Limited Edition Collectors Box/Super Deluxe Boxset Bonus Disc (Blu-ray)
1.The Writing on the Wall documentary

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass, keyboards
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

Collectibles Review – Iron Maiden’s The Studio Collection – Remastered (Deluxe Edition)

Do you want to make an Iron Maiden fan truly happy? How about giving that person a deluxe edition of five of the band’s most beloved albums, including a figurine and a patch?

4.5rating

iron-maiden-4th-batch-the-studio-collection-remasteredIf there are still a few Iron Maiden albums missing in your personal collection and you want to complete it before Senjutsu is released on September 3, or if you want to give an extra touch of awesomeness to your memorabilia, our third (and probably last) special review in preparation for the band’s highly anticipated seventeenth studio album will not only focus on The Studio Collection – Remastered, released back in 2018/2019, but more specifically on the DELUXE EDITION of five of the band’s most beloved albums, those being Fear of the Dark, A Matter of Life and Death, The Number of the Beast, Somewhere in Time, and Live After Death, which also come with a kick-ass figurine, a very cool patch, and of course the remastered versions of the albums in digipak CD format, because as you all know it’s all about the music in the end.

Covering Iron Maiden’s sixteen-strong studio albums across their career to date, plus what’s in my humble opinion the best live album of all time, the recordings were taken from the same remasters as the 2015 hi-res digital releases and with the track listing matching the original UK releases, all reissued by Parlophone Records (or BMG in the United States). The albums from The Studio Collection series were released chronologically in batches of four (as you can see below), plus Live After Death which was released separately, with one CD from each batch of releases also optionally available in a specially artworked box featuring the aforementioned 1:24 scale figurine and the exclusive patch. “We’ve wanted to revisit these for a long time and I was delighted with the remastering we did in 2015. I thought it was the best that our albums have ever sounded and it was only right that we made them available on CD now too,” said the one and only Mr. Steve Harris.

First batch
Iron Maiden / Killers / The Number Of The Beast (option of standard or collectors boxset edition including TNOTB Eddie figurine and patch) / Piece Of Mind

Second batch
Powerslave / Somewhere In Time (standard/collectors) / Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son / No Prayer For The Dying

Third batch
Fear Of The Dark (standard/collectors) / The X Factor / Virtual XI / Brave New World

Fourth batch
Dance Of Death / A Matter Of Life And Death (standard/collectors) / The Final Frontier / The Book Of Souls (not remastered, but appearing in digipak for the first time)

fear-of-the-dark-2015-remaster-deluxe-edition03The remasters are an amazing choice for newcomers to the world of Iron Maiden or to fans whose CD’s or LP’s are not in good condition anymore due to the repeated plays, but even if you feel your collection is already complete I think there’s still room for the collectors/deluxe edition including the figurine and the patch. The figurine is pretty much an “add-on” to the Legacy of the Beast figurines collection, being made of the same material and displaying the same size and finishing, which means if you’re collecting those then this is the only way you have to complete your Legacy of the Beast set, as the figurines from the deluxe editions are not sold separately anywhere (unless you go to eBay, of course, but then it’s up to you how much you’re willing to pay for those). Regarding the patch, they’re beautiful and will make your metal vest shine even more whenever you’re wearing it, with the only “issue” being the fact they’re iron-on patches, not sew-on ones, which means it will be almost impossible to take them out if by any chance you decide to move them to a new vest or jacket. Not a big deal, but it’s important to keep that in mind if you’re a patch lover.

fear-of-the-dark-2015-remaster-deluxe-edition02You can find all five deluxe edition boxes on Amazon Canada, for example, but pay good attention to the prices as they vary from around 25 to 90 Canadian dollars based on the availability of each item. Furthermore, you can also try your luck on other online stores worldwide such as Siren Records, Waterloo Records and Easy Street Records, which might not have all five albums but will be very helpful if you don’t have any issues buying from multiple sellers. And as the delivery is quite fast in all cases, you’ll have plenty of time to listen to all of the remastered albums, add the patches to your vest, place your new figurines together with your other items such as the Funkos from Funko Pop! Rocks: Iron Maiden (Wave I), drink a nice pint of Red ‘N’ Black, and be more than ready to blow your speakers with the release of Senjutsu on September 3! Does that sound like a good plan to you?

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Album Review – Iron Maiden / The Book Of Souls (2015)

As you read through the pages of The Book Of Souls you’ll inevitably realize that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all, no matter how far.

Rating1

Iron Maiden_The Book of Souls“Here is the soul of a man…”

Unless you were one of the luckiest bastards in the world who joined Mr. Bruce Dickinson on a special 737 flight from Cardiff, UK to Paris, France on August 26 to hear in its entirety the brand new album by Heavy Metal titans Iron Maiden, the 92-minute Mayan-inspired masterpiece The Book Of Souls, I’m pretty sure you have been suffering lately from several “withdrawal symptoms” such as anxiety, palpitations, restlessness and poor concentration, counting every second left until today to close that excruciating five-year gap since their 2010 album The Final Frontier. However, you can definitely relax now, because the band’s first ever double studio album is not only ass-kicking, but so dense and multi-layered we have enough Iron Maiden at their finest to soothe our souls for the next five decades or so.

Furthermore, there are so many noteworthy details surrounding The Book Of Souls it’s hard to summarize everything in just a few lines. For instance, the album was recorded at Studios Guillaume Tell in Paris, the same studio used for their 2000 release Brave New World, with several songs being written and recorded immediately after to give them a live and fresh taste. Also, the album cover features the original version of the Iron Maiden logo, not used on a studio album since their 1995 release The X Factor. And finally, although The Book Of Souls is not a concept album, many songs have references to the human soul, mortality and death, depicted in the artwork as the idiosyncratic “Eddie Sapiens” by English illustrator Mark Wilkinson, who by the way has already worked with other music icons such as Marillion, Fish and Judas Priest, as well as with Iron Maiden themselves in previous works like Best of the ‘B’ Sides and the single The Wicker Man. In addition, the band hired Mayanist scholar Simon Martin, who also translated the song titles into hieroglyphs, to validate the accuracy of the artwork. If there’s a band that pays attention to every single detail in their albums, that’s undoubtedly Iron Maiden.

Nevertheless, it’s when the music starts that we’re all reminded why we love these British veterans so much, and in the case of The Book Of Souls there’s A LOT of music for us Maidenmaniacs to relish. Starting with the first disc, the intro in the excellent If Eternity Should Fail already gave me goosebumps, and besides, it’s really comforting to see that Mr. Bruce Dickinson’s voice continues to be stunning after his battle against cancer (even knowing the album was recorded before his treatment started). After that it’s pure Iron Maiden, which means powerful riffs, galloping bass and drums, and a gripping storyline, with the creepy narration at the end (“the harvester of souls”) reminding me of what Bruce did in some of the songs from his excellent solo album The Chemical Wedding. And if you think this is a lengthy song with its imposing eight minutes, let me remind you it’s only the fourth one in terms of duration. Moving on to the next track, it’s not Iron Maiden if you cannot enjoy some extra freebies such as a behind-the-scenes exclusive footage of an official video or playing a special game inspired by a song, which is the case in the high-octane Speed of Light, where Hard Rock is taken to the next level with the help of some dashing cowbell, Bruce’s vibrant screams and a fuckin’ awesome rhythm led by Iron Maiden’s guitar triumvirate formed by Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, taking us fans back in time to a Piece of Mind-ish musicality with a touch of Brave New World. Moreover, this electric tune has that type of chorus you’ll be singing nonstop in the shower, in your car, at work, school and anywhere else in the world with your fists in the air and a huge smile on your face (“Shadows in the stars / We will not return / Humanity won’t save us / At the speed of light / Shadows in the stars / We will not return / Humanity won’t save us / We’re slippin’ through the night”).

Iron MaidenThe Great Unknown, which reminds me of some of the songs from The X-Factor but with the addition of the high-end progressiveness found in their latest albums (especially The Final Frontier), showcases the always superb Nicko McBrain firing his unique beats and fills, as well as another eerie story told by Bruce, keeping The Book Of Souls at an incredible level of quality. But it’s from The Red and the Black on that the album becomes a brilliant tribute to Heavy Metal. No words can describe the verve of its intro, and it doesn’t matter if you consider it old school or more contemporary Iron Maiden, as long as you acknowledge its awesomeness. It’s obviously another masterful and epic creation by the one and only Mr. Steve Harris, with highlights to the combination of Steve’s flawless bass lines and Dave’s, Janick’s and Adrian’s riffs and solos. I can’t wait to scream its electrifying “Ooh-Oooh! Ooh-Oooh!” together with the band when I see them live next year (if they play it, of course), and while some people might complain this song is too long, I prefer complaining it has “only” 13 minutes. Too short for its greatness, don’t you agree?

With hints of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and their Punk Rock attitude from Iron Maiden and Killers, the fast-paced tune When the River Runs Deep, written by Adrian and Steve, truly makes my blood run wild, and I’m certain that if this song was part of any of their old albums it would have become an all-time classic without a shadow of a doubt. Bruce and Nicko are absolutely on fire, making me wonder if they’re really over 50 years old as they sound like they’re in their 20’s, so fiery their performances are. Then closing the first album we have the title-track, The Book of Souls, exhaling beauty from its melancholic intro to the poetry in its lyrics. Everything was meticulously put together by the whole band in this song, which has actually two distinct parts if you pay good attention, the first composed by a grandiose and marching rhythm enhanced by the keyboards in the background, while the second is a lot faster and heavier, showcasing Maiden’s traditional guitar riffs and solos until the songs fades to a somber and calm ending.

In order to properly kick off the second disc and tear the house down, Adrian and Bruce got together to craft another fighting anthem the likes of The Duellists entitled Death or Glory, the perfect soundtrack to an epic battle movie where nothing sounds out of place, with highlights to its exciting backing vocals, blazin’ guitar solos and a potent battlefield sonority. Truth be told, I can’t stop banging my head and playing air bass guitar to this straightforward tune, which is also the case in Shadows of the Valley and its “Wasted Years 2.0” intro, another strong candidate for their live performances. Despite beginning in a very similar way as one of their biggest classics of all time, it ends up following a pattern closer to songs such as “The Fallen Angel” and “Montségur”, mainly due to its characteristic galloping bass guitar and Nicko’s solid drumming. One thing I love doing while listening to Iron Maiden is closing my eyes and absorbing the story Bruce is telling me while the other band members generate a thrilling ambience, and let me tell you this song is perfect for that.

Iron Maiden’s Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet, also known as Queen of the Skies

Iron Maiden’s Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet, also known as Queen of the Skies

Tears of a Clown, a reverent Heavy Rock tribute to one of the most important actors in the world, Mr. Robin Williams (R.I.P.), is a lot more inclined to Bruce’s solo career, and albeit its instrumental parts sound very cohesive what really stands out in this song is the story told through its lyrics. And The Man of Sorrows, which also sounds closer to something Bruce would do on his own rather than with Iron Maiden (it was written by Steve and Dave, by the way), is completely different from Accident of Birth’s “Man of Sorrows” regardless of their almost identical names. It starts as a heavy ballad, evolving to a darker, more progressive and more melodic musicality than usual, increasing its complexity and impact on the listener.

And last but not least, Empire of the Clouds, featuring Bruce on piano for the first time ever and based on the historic crash of the titanic airship R101 in 1930, replaces “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as the band’s longest song ever at 18 minutes in duration. It is perhaps the most melancholic and sorrowful song ever composed by the band, and as we all know they have the guts to play something like this live I bet it will be part of their upcoming setlist next year for our purest delectation. Bruce gives a History lesson about the R101 during the whole song, taking its epicness to the second power, with the music perfectly representing the audacity, dreams and failure involved in that important historical fact. Additionally, after nine minutes it becomes a music voyage full of changes in rhythm, progressive passages and symphonic elements, culminating in a gentle and passionate climax that closes The Book Of Souls with a flourish.

In summary, Iron Maiden triumphed once again (as if anyone is really surprised with that), delivering a bold, venturous and elaborate album that will keep them atop the highest mountains of heavy music, consequently attracting more and more fans to their extensive family and keeping Heavy Metal strong and relevant for many years to come. Now all we have to do is wait patiently for their gigantic world tour next year on board of their Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet (aka Queen of the Skies), listening to The Book Of Souls over and over again until then. And as you read through the pages of the new epic album by Heavy Metal’s greatest band of all time, you’ll inevitably realize that Iron Maiden’s gonna get you, and you, and you, and you, and all of you… no matter how far.

Best moments of the album: The Red and the Black, When the River Runs Deep, Death or Glory, Shadows of the Valley and Empire of the Clouds.

Worst moments of the album: WHAT!?

Released in 2015 Parlophone/Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG

Track listing
Disc one
1. If Eternity Should Fail 8:28
2. Speed of Light 5:01
3. The Great Unknown 6:37
4. The Red and the Black 13:33
5. When the River Runs Deep 5:52
6. The Book of Souls 10:27

Disc two
1. Death or Glory 5:13
2. Shadows of the Valley 7:32
3. Tears of a Clown 4:59
4. The Man of Sorrows 6:28
5. Empire of the Clouds 18:01

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals, piano on “Empire of the Clouds”
Steve Harris – bass, keyboards
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums