Please post reviews and thoughts on Senjutsu here

srfc

Ancient Mariner
Can anyone remember in which interview it was stated that Hell On Earth was inspired by child soldiers and the Middle East conflicts?

Don't know the interview, but the child soldiers bit is outright stated in the lyrics.
 

Vaenyr

Nomad
Don't know the interview, but the child soldiers bit is outright stated in the lyrics.
That's what I'm trying to argue on Reddit :D
Was talking with someone about the lyrics, who thinks that the song is about "Age Of Innocence"-esquq ramblings, "old man yelling at cloud" style. They think Steve is complaining about modern day Britain and that the child soldiers could just be a metaphor.
I'm pretty sure that in some interview it was stated that it actually means literal child soldiers, but I couldn't find it so far.
 

Spaldy

Ancient Mariner
That's what I'm trying to argue on Reddit :D
Was talking with someone about the lyrics, who thinks that the song is about "Age Of Innocence"-esquq ramblings, "old man yelling at cloud" style. They think Steve is complaining about modern day Britain and that the child soldiers could just be a metaphor.
I'm pretty sure that in some interview it was stated that it actually means literal child soldiers, but I couldn't find it so far.
Since Steve hasn't given much or any interviews about the album I'm skeptical if this question will ever be answered.
 

Vaenyr

Nomad
Since Steve hasn't given much or any interviews about the album I'm skeptical if this question will ever be answered.
It was probably an interview with Bruce, but he has a habit of contradicting himself sometimes, so there's that.
 

Zare

Uniformly distributed hostility
I'm pretty sure that in some interview it was stated that it actually means literal child soldiers

Well that's as old as history itself..

Personally it reminds me more of Africa, 'dark Africa'(*), from Liberia and then down diagonally, Chad, Nigeria, Zair, Rwanda... A platoon of 12 y.o naked children armed with AKs hooked on heroin. Second association is from 9th company the movie, so Afghanistan. I think these are two prime examples of contemporary history. But in Afghanistan these kids would be guards and they would be left with an AK and a mag and they'd camp in abandoned village for days to lure some 'enemy' in the trap. In Africa these kids are the death squads.

(*) the size of this continent is immense, once you fly over it you realize how much the projection on the map screws with it. The term we use to denote the huge guts and all the places in it that aren't touristy - which tend to be maritime countries as most exposed Africa is Mediterranean anyway. No infrastructure, no economy, sparse population and medieval levels of public health/hygiene and overall quality of life.

As I've written in the charts thread about upcoming bands - this is the thing we've been normalized to. There has been talk about fates of African peoples, 50 years and more of nothing much but talk from talking heads. There's still warlords and there's still ebola outbreaks. Say for example that Purple took this topic to heart, but 50 years ago, the drive from it, back then, could make them more novel, more rebellious and more successful. But after 50 years of our entire society doing nothing but grinding my grey matter with aimless pointless discussion, last thing I want to hear from my speakers today is barks at the moon.
 
Well that's as old as history itself..

Personally it reminds me more of Africa, 'dark Africa'(*), from Liberia and then down diagonally, Chad, Nigeria, Zair, Rwanda... A platoon of 12 y.o naked children armed with AKs hooked on heroin. Second association is from 9th company the movie, so Afghanistan. I think these are two prime examples of contemporary history. But in Afghanistan these kids would be guards and they would be left with an AK and a mag and they'd camp in abandoned village for days to lure some 'enemy' in the trap. In Africa these kids are the death squads.

(*) the size of this continent is immense, once you fly over it you realize how much the projection on the map screws with it. The term we use to denote the huge guts and all the places in it that aren't touristy - which tend to be maritime countries as most exposed Africa is Mediterranean anyway. No infrastructure, no economy, sparse population and medieval levels of public health/hygiene and overall quality of life.

As I've written in the charts thread about upcoming bands - this is the thing we've been normalized to. There has been talk about fates of African peoples, 50 years and more of nothing much but talk from talking heads. There's still warlords and there's still ebola outbreaks. Say for example that Purple took this topic to heart, but 50 years ago, the drive from it, back then, could make them more novel, more rebellious and more successful. But after 50 years of our entire society doing nothing but grinding my grey matter with aimless pointless discussion, last thing I want to hear from my speakers today is barks at the moon.
What on earth are you talking about? And what the heck is 'dark Africa', exactly?

Fifty years ago, a great deal of African states were barely a few years out of European colonisation. Some were still colonised in fact.

There are warlords in many parts of the world, certainly not just Africa, as indeed there are child soldiers in different wars around the world.
 

LooseCannon

Enterprise-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
I think I'm finally in a place where I can review Senjutsu somewhat fairly.

I'm an Iron Maiden fan. Anyone who knows me knows this to be true. I'm sitting at my desk, wearing a t-shirt from The Book of Souls World Tour, while I am surrounded by flags with Eddie's visage peering down at me. A small Macfarlane Live After Death Eddie is sitting on top of my computer's tower, and I have a relief of the Trooper Eddie mounted over my bed. All the albums are on my dresser, where they don't get played, because I don't own any CD drives anymore - but they're there, just so I know they're there.

I might be more than just an Iron Maiden fan. I might be a hardcore, true Iron Maiden fan. Oh, sure, there's tracks I don't like (The Apparition, looking at you, you stinky little bastard) and there might be tracks that are commonly loved that I think are highly overrated (Caught Somewhere in Time), but in general, I can spin any Iron Maiden album and enjoy the experience. I can appreciate the dark and moody tones of The X Factor and the more progressive layered repetitions on Virtual XI. I can get into the synth-laden Somewhere in Time and headbang to the brutal rawness and simplicity on Killers. Why is that important, when it comes to Senjutsu? Because it's impossible to avoid the conclusion that this album was written for me, or for someone exactly like me.

Like The Book of Souls before it, Senjutsu is a titan of an album, spread across two CDs and baring multiple 10+ minute songs. Much like the earliest Iron Maiden albums, this album is a Steve Harris playground. A few Smith-Dickinson tracks interrupt the flow of Harris-penned songs, and those tracks tend to be shorter than Steve's contributions. It's also not an accessible album. Three of the tracks are fairly straightforward - Stratego, Days of Future Past, and The Writing on the Wall, although the latter is not a normal Iron Maiden-sounding song. Otherwise, each song presents challenges that draw on forty years of previous songwriting, building towards a new crescendo of music for a tenured, yet still quite strong, band.

Starting the album with the title track was an interesting move. Senjutsu, the song, is a massive feeling sound. Sonically, it sounds like war put to vinyl, with huge drums rumbling all over the track, leading into a strong marching sound led by a procession from Harris and the guitarists. Bruce is all over the song, moving to the chorus with a crescendo, a rallying cry backed by synths and with layered vocals that sounds fresh for the band, but is certainly anchored in the past. A true monster of a track, I cannot wait to see this one live. 10/10.

Next up is the second single, Stratego. This track is more of a quick dash, not bothering to change time, simply rocking hard. Janick is the primary writer here, but Stratego doesn't sound much like his other short tracks. This one was a great choice for a single, maintaining the classic Maiden song with a new spin. Legitimately one of the best short tracks in years, potentially since Rainmaker on Dance of Death. 10/10.

The Writing on the Wall is something a little different for Iron Maiden, perhaps an artifact of Adrian Smith's sonic experimentation. A heavily blues-influenced riff leads us on a story, with a strongly lyric focused song that allows Bruce to soar and emote across the music. There's no surprise that the band selected this for a unique, expensive, and well-produced video, giving us a million easter eggs at the same time as revealing new music. If I have a qualm with this song, it's not the quality - it's an 8/10, a really good song - but the placement before the song that comes after it.

Speaking of that song, Lost in a Lost World is a very interesting track. This one digs back to the 90s, where Steve resurrects a lot of the musical feeling from The X Factor and Virtual XI to patch together several bits into a song that maybe doesn't quite hit the mark. There's parts of it I really love, specifically the chorus and middle instrumental part - but the beginning of it is a challenge, as are some of the verses. The subject matter is relevant, and Steve's touch on a disadvantage people is moving, but I don't think the song works as well as he wants it to. 6/10.

Days of Future Past speeds us back up with another Smith/Dickinson rocker. This one is good, nice chorus, not particularly memorable for me. I enjoy it when I'm listening to it, but it slips from my memory when I'm done. 7/10, might round up to an 8 because the chorus is really catchy.

The next song is the album's standard Gers/Harris epic, although on Senjutsu the pair have chosen to keep it a little tighter, clocking in at barely over seven minutes. This one's a journey down the somewhat-by-the-numbers Gers/Harris style, if a little shorter and more varied, yet the simple fact of the matter is that somewhat-by-the-numbers formula has hit every single time, and it does again here. I'm not so sure on the lyrics, but this is one song that I just love spinning. 9/10.

We jump onto Disc 2 with Darkest Hour, a lamentful ballad about Winston Churchill's first term as Prime Minister, and to be honest, this one lands a little off. The further we get from the events of the war, the more we question who Churchill really was, and I don't think any sort of uncritical worship is healthy. That said, it's technically proficient and Bruce packs on the emotion. The waves on the beach intro/outro is one of the few moments in this album that I really wish it'd hurry along - even the stuff I don't like in Lost in a Lost World is at least interesting. If I want a Maiden ballad, I'll probably just go listen to Coming Home. 6/10.

The Steve Triad to end the album is a bold choice, and here's where things get really rewarding for a true Iron Maiden fan. Everything until now could very well be something for an average album listener. Hell, you cut off the last three songs and you basically have a 1980s Iron Maiden album, in terms of time and song construction, if not musically. Death of the Celts is going to be for you, the hardcore Maiden fan. This one keys back to The Clansman with a few musical queues, but is very much Steve's attempt at something like Empire of the Clouds, a folk tale turned metal. The instrumental touches on some Harris tunes of the past without being too referential, but I think the biggest concern here is that it never gets out of second gear. 8/10.

The Parchment. Oh man, doesn't that intro sound fucking evil? It's one of the most evil sounds Maiden's produced in years. It builds up to this brilliant crescendos. This is like what Phantom of the Opera would sound and feel like if Steve wrote it today. This one's the best track on the album, great lyrics, and a fantastic mood. I especially love the verses around 7-8-9 minutes. Again, referential to previous Steve works without being derivative. Some killer solos. This one's still unpacking but I love everything I find. 10/10.

And that brings us to Hell on Earth, which is some sort of heavy metal lament for the world, Steve's concerns for humanity manifested. He uses a little Gers-like intro/outro, doesn't he? Still good. Some nice tempo here, but the key part is the end. "Love in anger, life in danger/lost in anger, life in danger". Damn, Steve. 10/10.

That probably adds up to, what, a 84/100? That's still a very, very solid A rating for this album. It's fantastic, and while the opinion will change on many songs here, I am sure those four tentpole tracks - Senjutsu, Stratego, The Parchment, and Hell on Earth - are going to enter my personal pantheon of all time songs. That this music, this mature, deep, thoughtful, yet unbelievably heavy album can be made by a bunch of pension-age men is baffling to me, but here it is, demanding we listen and feel and think deeper on it every time.
 

Zare

Uniformly distributed hostility
What on earth are you talking about? And what the heck is 'dark Africa', exactly?

Fifty years ago, a great deal of African states were barely a few years out of European colonisation. Some were still colonised in fact.

There are warlords in many parts of the world, certainly not just Africa, as indeed there are child soldiers in different wars around the world.

You quote my text that can't be more unambiguous and ask me what I'm talking about? Can't you read English?

I wrote there are different scenarios of child usage in wars today (as always), but only the ones found in deep Africa are the most frightening.
If you want to dispute my claims then find me an example of General Buttnaked's army or ebola outbreak from somewhere else.

European colonisation is the half the cause if not more. Did you read Heart of Darkness?

Joshua Milton Blahyi (born September 30, 1971), better known by his nom de guerre General Butt Naked, is a former commander of forces under the wider control of Liberian warlord Roosevelt Johnson.[1] Blahyi was known for his violence and atrocities during the First Liberian Civil War in the early 1990s. Once described as "the most evil man in the world", Blahyi said in 2008 that he killed at least 20,000 people and carried out regular human sacrifice and cannibalism of children

Btw. we can stop with this offtopic and its not even a topic for me, I mentioned it due to something else.
 
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You quote my text that can't be more unambiguous and ask me what I'm talking about? Can't you read English?

I wrote there are different scenarios of child usage in wars today (as always), but only the ones found in deep Africa are the most frightening.
If you want to dispute my claims then find me an example of General Buttnaked's army or ebola outbreak from somewhere else.

European colonisation is the half the cause if not more. Did you read Heart of Darkness?



Btw. we can stop with this offtopic and its not even a topic for me, I mentioned it due to something else.
You post seems completely off topic and you seem to think the issue of child soldiers is somehow 'worse' in Africa.

Usage of child soldiers in middle eastern and asian conflicts is also well documented.

Not only have I read 'Heart of Darkness', I am the author of a book on how the legacies of empires continue to afflict different continents, including sub-Saharan Africa. Which is where, incidentally, my parents were born. I bristle at these kind of generalisations around Africa as a 'dark' place riven by wars. Parts of it are and parts of it are not - which is similar to other continents.

Alas, this is off topic so no more.
 

Josh

Ancient Mariner
I’d say the intro on The Parchment is a mix between Ravel’s Bolero and I’m Gonna Be by The Proclaimers. Pure evil!

Agreed and Bruce makes this song so good. Sings it perfectly. It's a just a great solid tune that stays streamlined with great melodies until they go off at the end.
 

Vaenyr

Nomad
I gotta admit, my very first reaction to the first couple of seconds of The Parchment was "Manowar!" because of the slow gallop on a bass :ninja:
 

Gk1

Here I sit in a serenade of glory!
After repeated listens I am afraid that the Parchment needs some cutting down. Still miles better than what Steve did for around 30 years now.
 

Perun

Περούν Παντοκράτωρ
Staff member
So, Senjutsu.

I probably listened to this album in full six or seven times in total, and to some individual tracks a few more times, but obviously it hasn't entirely sunk in yet. I'm not in a rush either, I have the rest of my life to listen to this album. Nevertheless, I think it's not too early to record my initial thoughts.

Senjutsu - I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this track. When I listened to the album the first few times, I was kind of waiting for it to "kick in" as a traditional album opener would. I guess this has to do with the experience of Sattelite 15/TFF and If Eternity Should Fail, which have lengthy intros before the actual song starts. It took me time to get used to the fact that I'm not listening to an intro but to the song as it is, because it is a highly unusual opening track. It is majestic and melodic, and I like that a lot, but I still subconsciously wait for them to hit the speed pedal while listening to it.

Stratego - This one is a lot of fun and extremely catchy, but it also feels somewhat superficial, especially after the very heavy opener. I find myself struggling to say terribly much about it, it's pretty much a heavy metal song as they are meant to be.

The Writing on the Wall - Somehow I can't help but think of this as the third opening track to the album, which probably has to do with the fact that I was already familiar with it and Stratego before the album was released. I like this one a lot, probably more than most people here, if only because it's a pretty cool and different thing for Maiden to do that doesn't take itself too seriously either. And there's the emotional attachment to it for being the first new Maiden song in half an aeon.

Lost in a Lost World - Well, what can I say? One of the reasons I love Maiden is because I love Harris epics, and this one has all the trademarks while still feeling fresh in many ways. Thank you for existing, Steve.

Days of Future Past - When I read the advance reviews, I expected this to be a throwaway rocker in the vein of The Pilgrim or The Alchemist, and I almost dismissed it that way on the first few listens (as those who were in the listening party with me know), but then one the third or fourth listen it suddenly blindsided me. What an opening! What a riff to follow it! What a vengeful Bruce, what a chorus, what a totally unexpected, new type of instrumental section! This is the sort of song I did not expect Maiden to have in them anymore. I honestly wouldn't have thought this early on, but this might be my favourite song from the album for now.

The Time Machine - What I said about Lost in a Lost World about Steve applies to Janick on this one. It's basically a best-of of Jan's songwriting and I'm not complaining. As I said during our listening party: "This is the type of song you would expect somebody to write who on stage would prance and throw his guitar around."

Darkest Hour - Going back to the advance reviews, this was the song I was looking forward to the most, and it's the one piece of this album that disappointed me. It's not bad, but it does not deliver all the grandeur it promises. It should crescendo into a real epic explosion, but it never really leaves the terrain of a power ballad, and the fact that we get some drum references to The Longest Day cannot cover that up. I think it's because the chorus is a bit too mellow for the build-up. Sure, Adrian will be Adrian in the solo and the song is melodic enough, but is it ever more than an upgrade of Man of Sorrows (the Bruce song)?

Death of the Celts - The outlook of a Steve trilogy to close the album intrigued me, and I can already say that I wasn't disappointed at all. Steve has had Celtic melodies in his epics before, but he was never as thorough and consequential as in this song. This time around the Celtic impact isn't just in the guitar melodies but goes on throughout the song in rhythm and vocal melody, which is something I had always wanted to hear but never dared to hope from Maiden. Well, here it is, and yes, I'm happy with it.

The Parchment - This was the song I was the most afraid of when I read reviews comparing it to Fear is the Key and describing it as meandering. Well, I needn't have worried. This is an extremely powerful and engaging epic that, in a way, goes all over the place but not in a chaotic or clueless way, but in one that showcases everything that Maiden is about.

Hell on Earth - Well of course, after all this, there can only be one way to close this album, and that is with the Harris epic to end all Harris epics, and that is exactly what we get. As of now, I can't say anything about it that hasn't been said yet and I'll just leave you with the statement that of course this is my favourite from the album, and how could it not be?

Conclusion: The album is a bit slow to start, the first three songs wouldn't really be missing if they weren't there, but they don't drag the album down either. But once it kicks in it absolutely rips. This is the most Iron Maiden album that Iron Maiden have ever released, if that makes any sense, it has everything that makes the band so great and I love it. I look forward to many hours yet to spend with it.
 

Poto

Ancient Mariner
Hell on Earth - Well of course, after all this, there can only be one way to close this album, and that is with the Harris epic to end all Harris epics, and that is exactly what we get. As of now, I can't say anything about it that hasn't been said yet and I'll just leave you with the statement that of course this is my favourite from the album, and how could it not be?
I feel like this is the song Steve has wanted to write for a long time, and now he finally got it 100% right.
 
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