“What do you think about a samurai Eddie?” That was the question Iron Maiden bassist, co-lyricist, and all-around mastermind Steve Harris posed to his bandmates when he came up with the Japanese theme for the imagery and title track of the band’s 17th studio album, Senjutsu. Roughly translated, the term means “tactics and strategy,” but the idea of Maiden’s shape-shifting mascot, Eddie, in full samurai regalia was immediately appealing. “Let's face it, we've plundered a few cultures over the years with Eddie,” Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson tells Apple Music. “We had a Mayan Eddie and we've had a sci-fi one. We've had a space monster Eddie, an Egyptian Eddie, a mummy Eddie. We actually did have Eddie with a samurai sword on the Maiden Japan EP, but that was years and years ago. The band has always been quite popular in Japan, which is a pretty exotic place with a very rich samurai history. But most of the songs are unrelated.” Below, Dickinson comments on some of the album's highlights. “Senjutsu” “This starts out with some ominous drumbeats from what is intended to sound like those big Japanese taiko drums. Then Nicko [McBrain] comes in with this beat which is not the Keystone Cops, because I think we've got to the point where we feel confident enough that we can be dramatic without being in a hurry about it. And ‘Senjutsu’ has got drama all over it. To me, it builds and builds and builds. There’s a vocal fugue in the middle with echoes going over the top and then another vocal line. It resolves beautifully into this really magisterial vocal line as you get towards the latter half of the tune. Does it have a chorus? No. There's millions of different ones, all strung together. For the most part, the vocal is done in a two-part harmony. It's one of my favorite tracks, and it's going to be a great way to open a set live.” “Stratego” “Stratego is a board game. I’ve never played it, but it’s kind of similar to chess. I was doing a little bit of searching and discovered that Stratego was based on a French board game from the 19th century. That game was based on something called military chess. Japanese military chess, in turn, is a game called shogi. The characters are basically flat stones with Japanese calligraphy on them, each denoting a warrior of some description. You’ve got a black side and a white side, but it’s entirely possible for characters to change sides. Not only that, but they can also transform into a different character. It’s a game of strategy and tactics, but also betrayal and intrigue.” “The Writing on the Wall” “The song is basically in two parts, and the intro sets the scene. When I first heard it, I was thinking, ‘This is a bit Tarantino here. It’s a little bit desert.’ I could see a Mad Max scenario opening up. I think [guitarist] Adrian [Smith] already had the title and a great riff, so we worked the body of the song around that. I thought it was a great title for what’s going on in the world now. There's lots of things coming up like objects in the rearview mirror—they may be closer than they appear. There’s a lot of choices people need to make about what kind of world they want to live in. I wrote the song without trying to preach, but to say, ‘You can’t bury your head in the sand. This stuff will bite you if you don’t do something about it.’” “Lost in a Lost World” “At the beginning, you would believe that you accidentally wandered into The Moody Blues or Pink Floyd doing something in about 1973, with the layered vocals and things like that. We’ve never done anything as explicitly detailed as that before. But it doesn't last for that long before some fiend comes out and hits you over the head with a mallet and the track kicks in. And then it takes you on a journey to a fantastical world that has ceased to exist.” “Days of Future Past “This track is as close as you're going to get to Piece of Mind or Powerslave-era Maiden. Four minutes, super high-energy riff, big anthemic chorus, big vocals—all that. Incredible riff from Adrian, and basically no guitar solo. The lyric is a reimagining of the graphic novel Constantine, particularly the movie version with Keanu Reeves. It’s kind of an interesting setup, because there’s always the assumption that God is the good guy. In this scenario, God seems to be a manipulative narcissist. He’s almost like a psychopath: ‘I'm going to do all this horrible stuff to you, and then you just have to love me.’ How does that work? That’s what the song asks.” “Darkest Hour” “‘Darkest Hour’ refers not to just the movie about Winston Churchill—it’s about him as a person as well. A lot of people criticize Churchill because he made a lot of mistakes and did things people didn’t approve of. He was almost certainly a full-blown alcoholic, but a functioning one. He said horrible things about women. He did all these things that he would aptly be condemned for. But the bit that people forgive all that for—certainly, I do—is that he stood up to the Nazis and said, ‘No, these are barbarians. Even though the odds are stacked against us, we as a nation are going to resist.’ Half of his cabinet and government would’ve sided with the Nazis and done a deal. But he inspired the nation to do the right thing.” “The Parchment” “You really have to be careful about this one if you’re one of these people who likes flotation tanks and you’re going to put this one on in the headphones. It’s a processional, really. The end sounds like the emperor coming back, the prodigal son returning home after a long journey. But the whole middle section is absolutely hypnotic. It’s a monster track, but it's layer upon layer upon layer of different iterations and repetitions. If you get under the skin of it, it's really complex. I think Steve locked himself away for days to come up with this one. We had to learn it in pieces because it was the only way possible.” “Hell on Earth” “Steve is quite an unconventional personality. He's not an extroverted person—except onstage when he goes raving mad with a bass. But I think he feels a lot of things really deeply about the world he's in. The English band Blur had an album called Modern Life Is Rubbish, and I think Steve would concur with that sentiment and say, ‘What kind of world are we creating? Maybe I should just go to sleep. And then if I pass into the next life, maybe I'll come back and it's going to be better—because this place is hell on earth.’ But I don’t think he’s recommending accelerating your passage into the next world, because we’ve got a tour to do. But he’s genuinely concerned about stuff.”

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