Iron Maiden: Senjutsu review – an ambitious, eccentric masterpiece

Maiden’s creative renaissance continues in style with this playfully bombastic metal epic

In recent years Iron Maiden have gone through a remarkable creative renaissance. Typified by epic prog-leaning arrangements and ambitious melodic dynamism, modern era Maiden – of which Senjutsu is a prime example – is eccentric, bombastic heavy metal at its finest.

The cover of Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu.
The cover of Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu Photograph: PR

The band (one of the most notoriously tight-lipped camps in metal) recorded Senjutsu in early 2019 during a break in their Legacy of the Beast tour, managing to keep it under wraps throughout the pandemic. Their second double album, Senjutsu is as ambitious and heavy as its predecessor (2015’s The Book of Souls), but tempered by a more windswept, melancholic vibe, alongside some of their most fiendishly complex melodies to date.

It opens with the title track, an ominous tribal drum pattern giving way to a soaring mid-tempo rocker. Bruce Dickinson’s voice has taken on a pleasingly oaken quality with age, powerful bass notes accentuated as he sings of the last, bloody days of a fantastical empire. The Writing on the Wall is a first for Maiden – an easygoing, southern rock-inflected groove – while Lost in a Lost World opens with gentle acoustic strumming and some wobbly Planet Caravan-esque vocal reverb before settling on a capering lead riff.

Indeed, this folksy, playful element (primary songwriter Steve Harris is a big Jethro Tull fan) appears throughout Senjutsu; the album has a palpably ancient bearing that calls to mind castle barricades, mud-caked peasants and heroic derring-do. The wonderfully overblown Death of the Celts – a 10-minute epic that takes in acoustic finger picking, trademark gallop and a lyric discussing ancient battle topography – is a case in point, teetering thrillingly just on the edge of high-camp Spinal Tap absurdity; album closer Hell on Earth, meanwhile, traverses darker emotional waters. This is stunning escape-velocity songwriting that proves – yet again – that Maiden’s true golden age is their current one.


Harry Sword

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Iron Maiden’s 30 greatest songs – ranked!
As The Number of the Beast turns 40 – and is set to crash back into the charts – we appraise the best of the band who brought epic, bloody storytelling to heavy metal

Alexis Petridis

25, Mar, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
Iron Maiden review – Spitfires, hell and a rallying cry for freedom
The heavy metal heroes stage their most extravagant show to date, an anti-war opera full of pyrotechnics, swordfights and monastic chanting

Dave Simpson

01, Aug, 2018 @12:30 PM

Article image
Iron Maiden – review

Iron Maiden's lumbering new prog monsters, such as When the Wild Wind Blows, pale beside early headbangers Running Free and Iron Maiden – but the show never lets up, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

25, Jul, 2011 @5:15 PM

Iron Maiden, Twickenham, London

Twickenham, London

Jamie Thomson

09, Jul, 2008 @11:58 PM

Article image
'It had to be raw and dangerous' – Def Leppard, Saxon and Venom on 80s British metal
Inspired by punk’s energy, the new wave of British heavy metal helped put the ‘snot and piss’ back into rock music. Forty years on, its leading players tell the story

Michael Hann

16, May, 2019 @1:35 PM

Article image
Iron Maiden review – metal mavericks embrace the dark arts of metal silliness
Steaming cauldrons and drum riser acrobatics … Bruce Dickinson and co’s languid brand of British heavy metal shows no signs of rust

Dave Simpson

21, May, 2017 @11:31 AM

Article image
Iron Maiden sue video game company for $2m over Ion Maiden game
Band argue that game ‘is attempting to trade off on Iron Maiden’s notoriety’ and is confusing customers

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

30, May, 2019 @8:48 AM

Iron Maiden, Arena, Newcastle

Arena, Newcastle

Alexis Petridis

05, Dec, 2003 @10:31 AM

Iron Maiden, Newcastle Arena

Newcastle Arena

Dave Simpson

19, Dec, 2006 @12:07 AM

Article image
Iron Maiden: 'Fame is the excrement of creativity'

What happened when Maiden superfan Frank Turner met his hero Bruce Dickinson? Mark Beaumont listens in to the singers' rants about music snobs, big egos and Autocues

Mark Beaumont

19, Jun, 2014 @3:00 PM