Iron Maiden’s ever-evolving mascot Eddie – who has been present on sleeves since the metal titans’ 1980 self-titled debut – grimaces menacingly in the cover of ‘Senjutsu’. The iconic shape-shifter dons full samurai armour on the artwork, a nod to the inspiration Bruce Dickinson and the band have taken from the East for their 17th album.
There’s little thematic ground the metal titans haven’t covered in their lengthy career so far. Drawing heavily on history books and literature, we’ve had everything from Ancient Egypt with 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ and the dystopian future on 1986’s ‘Somewhere In Time’, right through to influences of Mayan beliefs on their last studio outing ‘The Book Of Souls’ in 2016.
Much like its predecessor, ‘Senjutsu’ comes as a double LP of truly epic proportions – sparing nothing in the way of detail or grandeur. The title loosely translates to ‘tactics and strategy’, but so much for that sentiment – the band had their campaign plans stopped in their tracks by the pandemic. Recorded in 2019 during a break from their ‘Legacy Of The Beast’ tour, the album was delayed and kept under lock and key for two years as the world ground to a halt.
It’s clear from the shuddering introduction of the title track though, that this album was always going to be worth the wait. The galloping eight-minute epic soars with all the band’s hallmarks, the triple-guitar line-up sounds as enthralling as ever while Dickinson sings like a man energised. The largest message though is a very simple one; Iron Maiden are back in business.
As they have done throughout their career, the band craft cinematic and vivid landscapes with each track. Lead single ‘The Writing On The Wall’ comes as a swaggering bluesy epic – and though written pre-pandemic, Dickinson’s lyricism feels deeply profound: “A tide of change is coming and that is what you fear / The earthquake is a-coming but you don’t want to hear.”
The album also revisits some of the band’s most dazzling moments in their career to date. The progressive 10-minute ‘Death Of The Celts’ feels like a spiritual partner to ‘The Clansmen’ with Steve Harris’ intricate melodic acoustic bass leading the way. Elsewhere ‘The Time Machine’ packs a mythical quality that would be comfortably at home on their ‘Dance Of Death’ album.
‘Senjutsu’, though, is an instant classic in Iron Maiden’s 41-year journey. The powerhouse metal sound that’s earned them a religious following in every far-flung corner of the globe remains firm. But here, they take things further; ultimately letting imaginations run wild in an album that’s more confident and idea-packed than ever before.
Release date: September 3