It took six years for Iron Maiden to give a successor to the sprawling The Book of Souls (2015). When you think about it, that's not that long considering The Book of Souls was a double album, and its successor Senjutsu is too.
Taking into account a year and a half of pandemic during which everything has been running in slow motion, it's spectacular to see the band so productive, especially considering the age of its members, their many side activities, and a past that seems so full that one wonders...what else could the six rockers possibly give us?
Senjutsu gives us an answer to this question quite quickly: like AC/DC or the late Motörhead, the band's universe is now so marked out that it is "enough" for Maiden to tick boxes so that the songs they write sound like them and delight the fans. Of course, we're never subjected to 'automatic' sounding writing, but we have to admit that all the ingredients are there: the epic feeling, a few good cavalcades, twin guitars, the bass of the leader Steve Harris at the forefront, and a still classy Bruce Dickinson (vocals), in his role as master of ceremonies. Even Dickinson knows that today that his 63 years on earth and the cancer he emerged victorious from no longer allow him the vocal stunts of 1982, which shows the singers intelligence and artistic grace.
So, question: what do we make of all this? An ambitious record in terms of its length (the last three tracks peak at more than ten minutes each), which contains some great successes (the single The Writing on the Wall, or the magnificent Darkest Hour, both co-written by Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith), but also contains tracks that would have gained in efficiency by losing a few minutes with an adapted slimming program. There is a point where a riff repeated over and over again becomes redundant, even repetitive, and if Maiden's tracks were long and drawn out before, they are nowadays always longer.
Senjutsu is not a bad record, far from it, because Iron Maiden is far too smart (and too well rounded) a band to ever make a vain record or the famous "album of too much" that the bad guys are looking for whenever you talk about a "dinosaur band". This album is just part of a continuity that the band's absolute fans - and there are millions of them - will savour with a smile. The performance is already highly respectable.