Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Final Frontier

In the world of metal, Iron Maiden has the distinction of being one of the few bands to put out quality material decades after their formation. Since the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith in 2000 with the excellent album Brave New World, the band has been on a major upswing. These middle aged metal gods are ready to impress once again with The Final Frontier. It is the band's longest album at 76:34 and possibly their most ambitious. The Final Frontier does a rather remarkable job at being a versatile album. The album starts out with a very strange introduction, Sattelite 15, that sounds atmospheric and creepy. The track is unlike anything Maiden has done before and while it is successful as an introduction, it isn't something I would listen to repeatedly. Eventually, the track fades into the first true Maiden song on the album: the title track. There is nothing especially complex about this song but it is catchy and has some good riffs thrown in. One thing to notice here is Maiden's annoying habit of repeating the same words over and over again (Bruce sings "The Final Frontier" repeatedly for a good portion of the song). This doesn't matter in the long run because the song is still very enjoyable. Up next comes the first single off the album: El Dorado. This song is the epitome of a grower. The opening bassline is reminiscent of Barracuda and then the guitars kick in to deliver a catchy groove. Most of the song is pretty decent but Bruce's singing leaves something to be desired. He doesn't sound like his usual "air raid siren" self. Instead, he balances between the lines of singing and talking throughout the whole thing. Track number 3, Mother of Mercy, invokes the same dark war atmosphere that was prevalent on A Matter of Life and Death and some riffs in particular are flat out awesome. After this crushing war song comes Bruce's lone composition with Coming Home. This song is great. It features great singing, nice guitar hooks, good lyrics and one of Maiden's catchiest choruses in a long time. Up next is The Alchemist. This song reminds me a lot of Seventh Son era Maiden. It has its moments but I wouldn't call the track a standout. Isle of Avalon is the first long track on the album, clocking in at 9:06. If I have to pick any song that really didn't do it for me on the whole album, this is it. The soft intro lasts far too long and isn't catchy enough to keep me interested. Luckily, the next song, Starblind, is an enjoyable listen. The chorus is somewhat annoying to me for some reason but the track is good. At this point, the album has gotten past its straightforward stage and transitions to the last 3 epic songs. The Talisman impresses on repeat listens with its lyrical voyage and fantastic chorus. The Man Who Would Be King is up next and it is merely decent. The tempo changes seem kind of forced and it isn't particularly interesting. What follows is easily the best song on the album and one of Maiden's best compositions ever. When the Wild Wind Blows is a juggernaut of a song. The tempo changes are smooth, the tale told is great (even though some of the lyrics are a bit vague), Bruce sounds as passionate as ever, the guitar solos sound awesome, Steve's bass is fantastic. Everything about the song is as beautiful, epic and amazing as anything Iron Maiden has ever written. Overall, The Final Frontier is another great album from a band that is arguably more relevant than it has ever been. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Very good review, been meaning to get back into Maiden.