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Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

Somewhere back in time, an Iron Maiden album would be purchased, listened to and the cover/lyrics digested, day after day after day, until the next album.

And I kept doing it like this up to their Bruce II era albums “Brave New World” released in 2000 and its follow up “Dance Of Death” released in 2003, along with the “Rock In Rio” and “Death On The Road” live releases.

And then things started to change. “A Matter Of Life and Death” released in 2006 and “The Final Frontier” released in 2010 are like unknown albums even though I own em and have heard them more than a few times.

“The Book Of Souls” album released in 2015 is one that I listened to a lot more and I also watched em playing half the album on tour, so it’s more familiar.

Now in 2021, we have “Senjutsu”.

A lot of the reviews I have read mention how there are no Dave Murray contributions to this album, in the same way reviews mentioned how Kirk Hammett didn’t have a co-write on “Death Magnetic”. But James Hetfield summed it up when he said, “Hammett’s riffs just weren’t there at that point in time”. And if Murray was struggling to be creative or stuck in a rut, lucky for Maiden, they have other songwriters who can step up in Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson, Janick Gers and of course, Steve Harris.

Kevin “Caveman” Shirley is producing and mixing again.

And once upon a time, Iron Maiden artwork was just Derek Riggs. Now it’s a team of artists. There is a person leading the Art Designs, there are illustrators, calligraphists and translators.

But Eddie still remains. The constant throughout it all.

“Senjutsu”

It’s an Adrian Smith and Steve Harris composition, and you can immediately hear the Smith riffage, its almost Tool like.

How good is the melodic lead in the Chorus?

The section from 3.30 to 5.20 is pure Tool in the way Nicko McBrain sets the groove with Steve Harris. But the way the guitars decorate the section is more metal and hard rock and Bruce Dickinson’s melodies also stay within the hard rock and metal domain.

The minute outro returns to the Tool groove while the guitars lay down riffs which could come from the “Gates of Babylon”. After eight minutes and twenty seconds, the title track is down.

“Stratego”

A Janick Gers and Harris composition with a riff that reminds me of the “Fear Of The Dark” album and songs like “Judas Be My Guide” with a bit of the Iron Maiden gallop chucked in.

Listen to the section from 1.28, which I think is the Chorus and how the vocal melody and the guitar melody are the same.

“The Writing on the Wall”

A Smith and Dickinson composition.

I like the Steve Earle – “Copperhead Road”/Aerosmith – “Hangman Jury” like influence in the intro and main riff, Then again “Scars” from Smith/Kotzen also comes to mind.

But my favourite part of the song is the lead break from Adrian Smith between 4.26 and 5.08. Its emotive and it gets me playing air guitar.

It brings back the same feeling of the solo in “2 Minutes To Midnight”, the section between 3.26 and 4.06. You know the section I’m talking about, as they build back up into the main riff.

“Lost in a Lost World”

Steve Harris equals nine minutes and thirty one seconds on this one.

The acoustic intro with the vocal reminds me of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and their song “From The Beginning”, which Dokken also covered on their “Dysfunctional” album.

At the 2 minute mark it blasts out into the typical Maiden metal sound.

Listen to the section between 3.38 and 4.14 and tell me if it reminds you of “The Evil Than Men Do” musically.

And I like it, especially the “Revelations” section straight afterwards.

As the song flows, the “Revelations” riff becomes the backing riff for a bunch of harmony solo’s that remind me of “The X Factor” and “Dance Of Death” albums.

The last minute, Harris showcases how tasty bass arpeggios can be when done right, with Synths, a Celtic inspired guitar line and a haunting vocal.

“Days of Future Past”

A Smith and Dickinson composition and the shortest song on the album at 4 minutes. It’s also my least favourite.

“The Time Machine”

The disc 1 closer.

It’s a 7 minute Gers and Harris composition. The fingerpicked clean tone intro gives way to another Southern Rock inspired riff at the 1.10 mark. If anything, Jethro Tull comes to mind.

At 3.11, the galloping feel is back and a Celtic like harmony lead kicks in, something which Maiden have done before, but still enjoyable to hear over and over again.

But the piece d resistance is that change at the 4.30 mark, it’s still in 4/4 but it sounds progressive. Then it goes into an ascending riff for a guitar solo.

At 5.24, the Celtic like harmonies are back and Dickinson kicks in with his melodies.

At 6.20, the Celtic harmony is played in clean tone and I’m thinking of “The Clansman”.

“Darkest Hour”

A Smith and Dickinson composition which clocks in at 7.20 and it’s the disc 2 opener.

The intro has echoes of “Paschendale” and I like it. At the minute mark, the verses kick in.

As soon as the Chorus kicks in, I’m reminded of “Tears Of A Dragon” from Dickinson’s solo career and I’m ready to break my desk.

At 4 minutes, the intro is back in and the lead break starts.

Wow. Brilliant.

I don’t have my CD delivered yet, but I am presuming it’s Smith on the lead break as he is the most technical of the three guitarists and the flow of the solo sounds like a nice worked out Smith solo, a song within a song.

And as the Chorus kicks back in, different melodic guitar leads lay underneath the vocal melody, bringing the song to a close.

“Death of the Celts”

Harris equals ten minutes and twenty seconds.

Again, Harris showcases how musical the bass guitar can be as the whole intro is driven by the bass.

But the song is way too long, lacking a distinctive vocal section and it does get boring.

However I do like the solo section from 7.20 to 7.50. I think it’s Smith and then Gers kicks in.

“The Parchment”

Harris bookends the album with songs over 10 minutes. On this one, Harris equals 12:39.

The start of this song reminds me of “Sign Of The Cross”.

Guitar wise, there is a Ritchie Blackmore “Rainbow” influence.

And how good is that head banging verse riff?

The lead section that starts from 6.40 is familiar and I like it. It comes back in at the 9.28 mark.

The song speeds up for the last three minutes, as different shred lead breaks kick in. But by the end of it, it also could have used some editing.

“Hell on Earth”

The closer, in which Harris equals 11:19.

I think they should have done away with “Death Of The Celts” and “The Parchment” and gone straight into this for after “Darkest Hour”.

The intro is haunting, yet familiar, reminding me of “Alexander The Great” and “Seventh Son”.

At 2.16, the Maiden brand of rock and metal kicks in. The galloping riffs are there and a Celtic like harmony lead is also there.

At 2.49 to 3.08, there is a melodic lead which is a favourite.

The vocals kick in at 3.31.

The chorus (I think it’s a Chorus) comes in at 5 minutes.

Man, check out that section from 9.10 to 9.40. Those harmony guitars are perfect and sing-a-long like.

Then the song quietens down and returns to the haunting intro, reminding me again of “Alexander The Great” and “Seventh Son”.

And the album ends. Iron Maiden is like an old friend that returns for a visit now and then.

So welcome back old friend, let’s have a drink and catch up.

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