on 2 September 2010
I'm a Powerslave man myself so yeah "yawn, yawn this album is not like my favorite etc etc". We all need to admit that Maiden have grown and developed as a band since whichever album or era we like best and that when the quality of the new stuff is this good we can sit back knowing Maiden are still on top of their game.
Iron Maiden are a stadium band these days and this latest album reflects that fact, and no that doesn't mean its self indulgent or bloated. What I'm getting at here is that '..Fontier' sounds like what it is, a top quality album from an experienced big venue band.
The stripped down sound of the eighties albums is there for you to listen to any time you wish, by listening to THOSE albums, but here in 2010 Iron Maiden are still giving us the sounds we all expect yet are not afraid to try a few new twists. Never at any point does 'The Final Frontier' feel lazy or re-heated, you always get the feeling your getting your money's worth and this is not a band just sitting back and letting their name sell an album they sleepwalked through.
So when thinking of buying this album ask yourself:- "Do I like good music that has been written and performed by a band that packs stadiums throughout the world or do I just like the odd early Iron Maiden album which granted was amazing but I can't expect them to only keep remaking my particular favorite in a career spanning decades."
Just buy this disc you'll enjoy it. With 'The Final Frontier' Iron Maiden have stayed true to their old fans but will continue to gain new one's and lets be fair that's why they are one of the biggest bands on earth.
on 10 August 2010
I've made a track-by-track review, but if you don't want to read everything, just skip to the Conclusion right after the 10th track.
1. "Satellite 15... The Final Frontier" (Smith, Harris)
Contrary to what you might have been led to believe by the official video, this song is actually 8:40 minutes long, half of it being a very, very, very unusual intro for Iron Maiden -- 4:40 minutes of an eerie piece of futuristic, space-like, void-feeling material, slow-paced but at the same time emanating disturbing melodies before those known hard-rock chords can soar. From then on it's the same thing you hear on the band's official video.
2. "El Dorado" (Smith, Harris, Dickinson)
Not much to say. It was the first song released, downloadable for free, so you know what to expect. I'm just very glad that it's probably the worst song on the album.
3. "Mother of Mercy" (Smith, Harris)
Rather slow-paced, not a rapid, furious & heavy-rhythm'ed as I had thought it would be before listening to it. It's a tune I actually wouldn't picture Iron Maiden coming up with. It's very Maiden in its simplicity, but at the same time the melody itself is not usual in terms of what we've witnessed in the past 15 years. Which is, I must say, something that pervades the entire album, this tendency to venture into the unexplored. It's an interesting song, but not much more than that. I'm glad it's just 5-minutes long, otherwise it would become quite boring.
4. "Coming Home" (Smith, Harris, Dickinson)
Wow, a balad. But this sounds very much like a Bruce Dickinson ballad, rather than an Iron Maiden one. Think "Tyranny of Souls" (the album), though (not "Accident of Birth"). Very catchy chorus, and a very nice melody throughout. I'm thinking the band will be playing this one live. Interesting progression at 3 minutes into the song, with a clean-sounding solo by Dave, with nothing but a reverb on it. Then Adrian comes in with some distortion on his solo, very beautiful melody lines as usual, and then it falls back to Bruce singing the chorus.
5. "The Alchemist" (Gers, Harris, Dickinson)
Truly, this has nothing to do with Bruce's homonymous song. Not quite unlike what's Maiden's done since 2000, however. This one's more forward than the previous tracks (Satellite 15 excepted), with a nice chorus too, mainly because of the guitar trio coming up with those harmonic combinations that completely fill out the background. There's also some modulation thrown in, which you don't see a lot in Maiden. I personally enjoy the guitar melody on the bridge and chorus for this song. Solo exclusively by Janick, followed by the 3 guitars. Falls back to the chorus and the song ends (very similar to the "Coming Home" approach).
6. "Isle of Avalon" (Smith, Harris)
If it weren't for the bass right in the beginning, you wouldn't guess this is a Maiden tune, even though it is somehow in synch with what the band's been doing since Kevin Shirley took up the production seat with the boys. Mysterious-like melody, but fast-paced intro, which holds on for a good 2 and a half minutes before it finally picks up at around 2:50, with an interesting vigor. It falls again to a certain mystery-ridden melody right after, before a short Dave Murray solo kicks in at around 3:40, followed by some solid rhythm-base session, and then by Adrian playing a little with what seem to be synthetizers (you may hear some Somewhere in Time-like material at this point, even though the song itself is far from that). You gotta think in terms of epic-like material, in the same line as Alexander the Great, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and Sign of the Cross. It's 9 minutes long, and it's one of those songs where you'll pay closer attention to the lyrics while some interesting tune plays in the background (and not the other way around). The chorus is very nice, however, and brings the melody forward.
7. "Starblind" (Smith, Harris, Dickinson)
This one's got a slow start, Bruce calmly pronouncing his words over a guitar melody. I thought it would be another slow song, but then some distortion guitars kick in, gladly. The main part of the song (not the bridge or chorus) is a very solid crescendo, whih sounds very amazing to me, and they build just the right amount of expectation. Bridge's very good too, and you know you got something good on your hands. It's hard to correctly describe this song. It's not fast, but it's not exactly slow-paced either. It's a very interesting tune, really, with a few unexpected twist and turns, and sometimes some of its distortion guitar levels sound as though they had nothing but a Fender-like sound to it, as if they had only had said Fender amp to provide heaviness (this goes mainly for Adrian or Janick). Adrian seems to have used synthetizers for his soloes, however -- with some mean reverb on them. Bruce does very well here, singing a solid tune with variations, going from low to high-pitched notes in the same sentence. There's some modulation present here, too. All in all it's a good song, and you may feel hooked even though it's almost 8-minutes long.
8. "The Talisman" (Gers, Harris)
Beautiful beginning. The production and general feel very closely resemble what you hear in "The Legacy" (A Matter if Life and Death's last track). This actually perdures for 2:20 minutes until some power rhythm guitars kick in with more solid, heavy riffs making the bed where Bruce seems to comfortably lie in. Very forward tune, which I thought somewhat lacking at times, because it's a long album, and some of the tunes (like "Mother of Mercy" and "Coming Home" being put together, one after the other) sort of gives you the feeling that things are somewhat slow for a while. Also, much like "Dance of Death" and "A Matter of Life and Death", this album is filled with little, slow acoustic intros that tend to make you feel like there isn't much punch or drive to it. "The Talisman" can show a lot of raw power, however, which is always a good thing when it comes to Maiden. Nice vocal melodies at around 5 minutes into the song, with great soloes right after. They remind me some of the material on "Fear is the Key", probably because of the vibrato unit/tremolo bar being used. Good song.
9. "The Man Who Would Be King" (Dave Murray, Harris)
Again slow intro. But nice follow-up, with solid bass chords underlying the guitar melody -- which, to be honest, remind me a lot of "Out of the Silent Planet". The drums come in, in a crescendo, and then we got some heavy, forward-sounding riffs and Bruce's vocal lines (which now remind me somewhat of "The Thin Line Between Love and Hate"). All in all this is a tune of its own, truly. As you reach 4 minutes, you will be listening to some really (really!) different material. I'm betting you could never guess this to be Iron Maiden. Very unlike what's been done in 30 years of history. You'll understand what I mean when you listen to this. At around 6 minutes, when Bruce sings again, his vocal lines remind me of Dance of Death's "Wildest Dreams". This song's 8-and-a-half minutes long, and it does feel long (unlike other, longer Iron Maiden tunes, I must say).
10. "When the Wild Wind Blows"
Last -- and longest -- song on the album. As usual, a slow-paced intro, but gladly, off the top of my head, it doesn't remind me of any other Maiden song. It's as if it wants to, but it doesn't. Beautiful tune, really, and great change of pace at around 3:40. Adrian comes in with a solo at 4:46, followed by Dave, and both melodies are tremendously beautiful. This is possibly the song with most potential on the whole album, and I'm very pleased to say that even though it's 11:01 minutes long, ranking as the 3rd longest Iron Maiden song -- the first since The X Factor album, released 15 years ago --, it is seriously addictive, and begs for another listen immediately. Due to its length, perhaps Maiden will refrain from playing it live. But if they could work out a way to play "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", I think they could definitely pull it off for this one. It's worth it.
So what's the verdict? Well, this is not the best Iron Maiden album ever released. But it is far from the worst. It is solid, much more coherent and consistent than anything they've done since "Brave New World". It has some of the most intriguing tunes I've ever listened in an Iron Maiden album. Very different material, and you get the feeling right from the start that the band is really trying to outdo themselves and come up with stuff that clearly stand in uncharted waters. Thankfully, they don't stray too far -- probably a product of Harris's traditional approach --, and they manage to unite tradition with exploration. The result is satisfactory, even though there is room for improvement. For example, since 1995 Harris seems intent on coming up with tunes that start with that same slow intro melody technique, which is a dangerous thing to do if it pervades an entire album. Which is the case with "The Final Frontier". Worse if it's been used so constantly in the last 5 albums (excluding present material, which would total 6 albums). I mean, if you take up Powerslave, Piece of Mind or anything before that (even Somewhere in Time) any one can see that you don't need to overuse it. My guess is that Harris started this approach very meekly with "Moonchild", perfected it throughout "No Prayer for the Dying" (the album), halted a little in "Fear of the Dark", but let it take full control from "The X Factor" onwards.
Generally, however, the album is a good listen and worth buying. If not for the honest attempt into reinveinting Iron Maiden and coming up with some new material, then at least for the sheer amount of music it proportionates (after all, this is one of the longest plays in the Maiden catalogue).
I feel very strongly about rating this album. I want to give it 5 stars, but won't, simply because the truth is that some of the material in it was too obvious to be dismissed as a necessity, and it could have been turned into something much better. So I had to somehow be impartial (or at least try to) when judging it. But in my heart, as a fan, it deserves 6 (yes, 6) stars simply because it is so honest in its composition, writing and in its lyrics. I don't see an Iron Maiden trying to cash in some big fat checks, as much as I see a group of people really giving their best shot at recreating or re-garnering some of that inventive energy that seemed to be lost for a while and that now is beginning to resurface after some good deal of soul searching.
I don't think many people will be disappointed in this album, especially those who actually liked the track "El Dorado" -- to me, the worst song on the album. They've got some great material here. Again, this is completely worth buying.
Up the Irons!
on 13 August 2010
Got mine early in the post - still can't believe that! Great stuff Amazon! Well, it's been nearly a three weeks since the album was launched, and I feel an update is in order on my thoughts on the album. While not quite as instant as "Brave New World" or as deep as "A Matter Of Life of Death", I can say it's better then the excellent, but slightly patchy "Dance of Death", the songs have reallt grown on me, many where in the first place I didn't think much of them, now I think they're awesome! Everyone is on top form, with some truly inspired guitar work from Adrian, Dave and Janick (many of the guitar licks I can't get out of my head!), plain awesome vocals from Bruce, the great chugging bass from Steve, and Nicko being well Nicko, which equals the best drummer in the business today. Special note must go to the front cover which is probably going to become one of the all time greats (got my Final Frontier T-shirt ready for the tour!!)
The first 5 tracks are definetly the "singles" songs, many destined to become concert classics, especially the title track with it's strange, kick ass opening before launching into an awesome piece of classic Maiden, "El Dorado" which grows on every listen (BTW it sounds way better then the free MP3 given away on the website) and "The Alchemist", which is a classic piece of triple axe attack . While at first I claimed "Mother of Mercy" and "Coming Home" were the least memorable tracks originally, I've found these are the ones that have grown on me the most - especially "Coming Home" which I think has the best, most memorable chrous on the album. All in all, the first half never lets up offering superb editions to the Maiden catalogue.
On recent listens I've found that the middle lags a little - "Isle of Avalon" in particular, mainly due to lack of a good chorus or a guitar hook, and feels like a couple of chorus could have been cut - not to say that's it's bad or anything, it's a very well played and powerfully sung piece and has a really cool opening riff, but for me personally on an album as great as this, this is the only one that drags it down, in way that "Brave New World" and "A Matter Of Life and Death" never had. I think part of the problem is that they try to fit too many lyrics into the song, which ironically for a song that is 9 minutes, doesn't really have a chance to breath. "Starblind" is an improvement, offering a very cool opening riff, with a great Dickinson chorus, and it links in with the whole space theme of the album. Still they're the weakest of the album - a shame considering the rest of the album has such momentum - but who knows a month's time I could have completely changed my mind about them and think they are just as great as the rest of the album!
However, the record earns back all it's accolades with the final 3 tracks, which all pass the 8 minute mark. These are some of the most complex songs Maiden have ever produced and are simply stunning, especially the final track "When The Wild Wind Blows". Coupled with the epic "The Talisman" and "The Man Who Would Be King" (Probably got my fav guitar sections on the whole album), the closing songs more then make up for the album's lagging middle, and in it's self earns the album five stars. The songs deal with classic Maiden themes of war, death, redemption and adventure, with stunning fantasy/sci-fi imagery to boot. To say the final tracks are dazzling is an understatement, and ones that could very well go down in Metal history. As for "When The Wild Wind Blows" I honestly think it's up there with the classic closers of past Maiden albums, such as "Hallowed Be Thy Name" or "To Tame A Land", and leaves you with an extended chill down your spine, similar to "A Matter Of Life and Death"'s closer "The Legacy". And that riff...man this one is going to become a classic - can't wait to hear it live!! The final three tracks completely save the album from maybe a 4 star review, and boot it right into 5.
In an age where metalcore is taking over and older bands are struggling to find their place, it's truly refreshing that a band like Maiden are still around to show how far the genre can be pushed, while putting their own unique stamp on it. Many older bands could just keep touring with the old songs and be very successful, yet Maiden are one of the few older bands still pushing the limits in their new albums, and not digging up the bones of the past. Despite a lagging middle, "The Final Frontier" is proof of this - long live Maiden!
1. Satellite 15... The Final Frontier - 10/10
2. El Dorado - 10/10
3. Mother of Mercy - 9/10
4. Coming Home - 10/10
5. The Alchemist - 9/10
6. Isle of Avalon - 7/10
7. Starblind - 8/10
8. The Talisman - 10/10
9. The Man Who Would Be King - 10/10
10. When The Wild Wind Blows - 10/10
on 5 March 2011
Ok, I seem to be in a minority here, because I love '80s Maiden, but I also have a grudging respect for Brave New World and Dance Of Death, and I absolutely loved A Matter Of Life And Death (which I thought was the most consistent album since Seventh Son...)
So...The Final Frontier. Well, it defied expectations, and for that I absolutely love it! Every time Maiden release an album, especially in recent years, they seem to create an expectation and then blow it out of the water. This is what they have done with this album - I didn't know how they would follow AMOLAD, but I thought more of the same would end up being disappointing. This is NOT the same! This seems to be almost a different band, and with a hunger that most current younger bands would envy - they have produced and performed an album that is completely fresh and unexpected, yet filled with passion and commitment, as well as some of the most original twists and turns of anything I have heard in recent years. Quite frankly it's a very brave move, and yet they carry it with conviction.
As regards the actual track list, just imagine the first (after the intro) song as being traditional Iron Maiden, then a gradual drift into the later stages, and finally a drift into unknown territory, followed by a sort of familiarity in the The Way The Wind Blows, as if to remind us who we're listening to.
All in all, an album that rewards the open-minded Iron Maiden fan, and will disappoint those who are still waiting for Piece Of Mind part x
on 31 December 2010
This is a review of the MP3 download version on Amazon and first off @ a bit rate of 256 I haven't noticed any degradation to the quality (that said I do most of my listening either in the car or on headphones rather than via a serious hi-fi system}.
In terms of the songs themselves, this album continues the high quality that the band have been delivering since Dickinson's return on Brave New World.
All of Maiden's signatures are on display from the jig-a-jig bass of Steve Harris through the interplay of multiple lead guitarists to Dickinson's distinctive vocals and belting choruses.
The song stuctures too are familiar with the album dominated by the now familiar longer songs (with only one clocking in under 5 minutes).
Thematically the lyrics are still oftenn about science fiction, fantasy or war and in that sense none of the songs would sound dreadfully out of place on 'Somewhere in Time'.
That said, the album doesn't lack ambition and the songwriting is a strong as anything the guys have produced throughout their long careers.
Indeed unlike some other long running rock bands they are still adding to their 'canon' of classic tracks.
There isn't really a bad track on the album but my current favourites are the opener 'Satellite..The Final Frontier', 'Mother of Mercy' and the last three 'The Talisman', 'The Man Who Would Be King' and 'When the Wild Wind Blows'.
Cracking stuff - long may they continue.
on 25 June 2016
Luckily for the band this really wasn't the 'final frontier' as many fans feared at the time, reaction to the Final Frontier was, and still is mixed, it isn't strong enough for Maiden to go out on as they teased, but not bad, great infact, better than dance of death and sitting comfortably underneath Brave New World and A Matter of Life and Death of New Maiden's progressive catalogue, and the succeeding tour provided the fantastic live album 'En Vivo'
Track 1: Satelite 15... The Final Frontier - Opening with the title track, that feels more like 2 tracks to be perfectly honest, whereas I love the almost cheesy, live anthemic feel to The Final Frontier, the prog alien that is Satelite 15 takes the high ground, it really is alien, intentionally, creepy and the distorted vocals create a hollow feeling inside that emphasise just how lost this explorer is, the true star here is McBrain's who's drumming has his whole heart put into it, and carries Satelite 15 into the Final Frontier, practically perfect as a snow opener
Track 2: El Dorado - Named after the treasure of the same name and derived from it, although it is applicable to any treasure to be honest, a light and punchy track that is a highlight among the album featuring some impressive key changes and production that isn't quite head banging, but appreciable
Track 3: Mother of Mercy - Not bad at all, but feels so long.. Honestly it's 5 and a half minutes that feel like 20, considering the 11 minute closer goes by in a hearbeat that isn't a good thing, the lyrics are the most interesting thing here and the musicianship/production, while impressive is forgettable
Track 4: Coming Home - I really do love this song, The Final Frontier excels at slow/mid paced tracks, lyrics and as an extension Dickinson shine here especially, with some incredibly emotional lyrics, that not only resonate with the band themselves but with any listener who's been away from home, a solo that echoes Smith's from Powerslave, whereas a very different track has that alternative jazz feel about them in the solos and it works magnificently
Track 5: The Alchemist - Resembling something from the better half of Dance of Death, it is a shorter, faster track, Dickinson feels like he isn't really going for it here, apart from his rhythmic delivery in the Chrous, not a standout here, the two which do however are drum and bass work, working in perfect harmony to create a heavy feeling typical of new Maiden, a good track regardless about the life and trajedy of the events that occurred around the life of John Dee
Track 6: Isle of Avalon - Honestly, not bad at all, but apart from an interesting intro that feels like a more airy Clairvoyant crossed with Lord of Light, derivative of it's own album and is honestly quite hard to talk about as a result, nothing stand out, nothing bad
Track 7: Starblind - Another track that I love along with Coming Home, a track that feels like what other songs here like Isle of Avalon, The Talisman and The Man Who Would Be King wish they were, and feel like they were aiming to be, incredibly lyrics that are massively emotional resonant without any real right to be, the 7 minutes never loose steam, great, clean production helps the track chug along, Dickinson's voice gives one of the albums best performances
Track 8: The Talisman - Too long for it's own good, Maiden seem to have written a fantastic intro and then just played until it wore out, which usually works but here it doesn't, theatrical throughout, the star is the guitar work of Smith, Murray and Gers and the Vocal work, all of those feel wasted by the end of the song, if it was more compacted, it would be much more enjoyable
Track 9: The Man Who Would Be King - continuing the trend of amazing intros that book you, The Man Who Would Be King opens with some magnificently intricate riffs, vocals reminiscent of the opening in Starblind or the closing moments of Dance of Death, this song is, yet again, not bad, but just not Maiden caliber, in it's length and production, definitely, but in terms of actual songwriting sadly it's not, feeling like a high end Blaze track from his solo career is how I would describe it, and perhaps it would suit his style more, The Man Who Would Be King, not bad but... I'm sick of saying this, not amazing
Track 10: When the Wild Wind Blows - A track that deserves it's length, finally, opening with literally wind and a very relaxing and tentative riff over some layered drum work, the track plays into a very solemn atmosphere, such forboding lyrics have never felt so comforting, funnily enough I can never fall asleep to music, whether it be orchestral or metal, this is the one song I've ever fell asleep too, and that doesn't mean it's boring, rather it's easy to listen too, in it's slow and mid paced sections, feeling very theatrical, even more than anything from the preceding albums, lyrics continue to perpetuate this and provide some.. Relatively subtle commentary, Dickinson's delivery is fantastic and the whole band perform the best they have on the entire album, The Guitar solo is riveting, much like the rest of the track, it is very 'metal' but never feels out of place thanks to incrediblely well accoustomed production, going through many passages, a track I never get bored of, a masterpiece, perhaps the only one on the album
Overall, The Final Frontier just leans passed the boundary of a great album, for every When the Wild Wind Blows, there is a The Man Who Would Be King, and that's a shame, consistency is just lost here, but since it really wasn't the end, it's not a lost cause and provides some truly fantastic tracks in it's runtime, if overall a tad too long, however, nobody could expect what was to come
on 14 October 2015
When I first got the album and had a listen I have to say I didn't think much of it.
Based on that I didn't go and see that tour, which I think was a mistake. Having got my hands on the En Vivo DVD, some of the songs that seemed to be slightly missing something came to life. I still think The Talisman on that DVD is a massive highlight (I can't imagine how Bruce sang that every night for week after week) and WTWWB and Satellite 15... both have far more power live. I still watch/listen to it regularly.
So, I would have given this 2.5/3 stars before the DVD came out. Having been motivated to give it a listen again more recently, I think it's a far better album than I gave it credit for originally. As usual the packaging is monstrous in its depictions and although Eddie has somewhat changed over the years he's still the best mascot out there. Everyone will have their favourite songs, so suffice to say there is plenty of good stuff there.
They do so many things right and sometimes it's easy to forget that when you're supplied with quality over and over again. An Iron Maiden album is up against some of its own pretty stiff competition and it's hard to rate it fairly as a single piece of work. They will always be compared with previous masterpieces (and they really were masterpieces), but sometimes we can get a little bit over-picky and can take things for granted.
on 13 August 2011
On first listeining to The Final Frontier it seemed hard listening but the more I have listened the more the Album has grown on me. From the opening notes of Satellite 15 - The Final Frontier to the very last notes of When the Wild Wind Blows this is Maiden at their most creative. For those who prefer their earlier Albums there are still tracks in the familiar Maiden style such as Mother of Mercy. Add to this Coming Home which is sure to become a Maiden anthem like Number of the Beast, Fear of the Dark and of course Iron Maiden. The intricate changes in Satellite 15 - The Final Frontier, The Man Who Would be King and When the Wild Wind Blows may be hard going at first but after listenining to them a number of times you can appreciate these complexities more. This Album is well worth purchasing.
on 19 October 2010
I've purposely waited a while to review this album, as my first impressions weren't great. On the strength of the first few listens, I initially thought that Maiden's creative roll of the last decade had finally come to an end. But, as with all Maiden's output since Bruce's return, "The Final Frontier" needs digestion and is a real grower. It just seemed to take longer for me this time, this is a highly-complex album. It's that complexity that I struggle with, it takes time to absorb but it always pays off in the end. Ultimately, however, Maiden have once again proven their uniqueness and class. There is a quality and intelligence to their output that is incomparable to anybody else in their genre. They are simply in a league of their own and easily make their nearest rivals seem positively Neanderthal in comparison (whoever they may be, I absolutely have no idea). Don't get me wrong, it's not all great. There's an abundance of lyrical howlers on this but, after a while, they seem to fit in to the overall framework. Leaving you questioning your initial cringes. There's also a prodigious amount of Maiden's trademark `gallops', that have been (thankfully) missing from recent output ("Lord Of Light" aside). But, even they seem to melt quite nicely into the whole affair after repeated immersion. Even the album's weakest songs (i.e. "Mother Of Mercy" and "Starblind") have great hooks and musical nuances that will rouse you from any temporary lethargy. Stand-out tracks here are "Satellite 15....The Final Frontier" (lengthy industrial intro segueing into the fast-paced title track, Nicko at his very best), "Coming Home" (catchy aeroplane ditty which wouldn't be out of place on Bruce's "Skunkworks" album), "The Talisman" and "The Man Who Would Be King" (two impressive, complex and weighty mini-epics). Finally, the closing blockbuster "When The Wild Wind Blows" is quite simply one of the best songs that Steve Harris has ever written. And that is, quite frankly, a hell of a boast. Overall, "The Final Frontier" is an ambitious, epic (again!!) and cohesive work that merits a lofty status in Maiden's catalogue. As a Maiden fan of 30 years (and counting) I rarely listen to anything pre-2000 these days, their last four albums have really redefined them and they show no signs of compromise or simply going through the motions. I suspect they'll be playing the whole thing on the 2011 tour (as they did for the last album) and I, for one, would welcome that. Although I do hate the cover, a band of Maiden's maturity and class really need to apply some subtlety to the cartoon imagery these days. But that's just my opinion. Nuff said.
on 26 August 2010
Firstly, to get it out of the way, I must gush about how great it is to have Iron Maiden back on top of their game, this far into their career. The album may say The Final Frontier but I hope we haven't heard the last of them just yet. Especially when they keep rolling out epics like these every 3 or 4 years. As someone whose first metal album was the awesome Piece of Mind (unaware that not all music was that good), it is such a great feeling to hear a new album that can compare to many of their classic `80s output. Secondly, this is not an album to devour on the first sitting. Give it a generous 5 or 6 spins. It'll be worth it. Only then will the album open up and reveal more than first expected.
I will now do one of those sad track-by-track reviews that will be far too long and involved and irrelevant as everyone else has already beaten me to it, but I feel that Iron Maiden deserve a bit of time spent when critiquing their work and I just want to do it , so there; it's not every day that you get to enjoy brand new material from one of the best bands on the planet.
Satellite 15...The Final Frontier - 10/10
Very proggy first half that explodes into one of the catchiest and hummable tracks they have written in years. Pure, classic Maiden, but with a fresh angle. It's not really comparable to any other album, it is wholly identifiable as a `new' Maiden track and it is breathtakingly good. Will begin many a live show.
ElDorado - 8/10
Nothing too special but an excellent, very `pre-Blaze' Maiden song; a bit dirty with some leery vocals from Bruce, but with a tune so catchy it matters not that what came before and what is to come is so much better. Fun Maiden.
Mother of Mercy - 7/10
Saying that, Mother of Mercy is quite hard to like as much as the others, despite it being a perfectly brilliant track. You need to give it a few spins to really appreciate it but it is one of the tracks that sticks the album together, bridges the gaps between the beginning and the middle and makes it sound a complete whole. It almost sounds like it could have fit on A Matter of Life & Death, especially as it concerns war. Middling, but no slouch.
Coming Home - 10/10
Oh em gee... This is a truly mammoth track. If this isn't a single then I will be shocked (although they're not really a `single' kind of band). On first listen it kind of passes you by but the more you hear it, the better it becomes. It's not groundbreaking, it is basically one of the simplest tracks here with a basic verse/chorus/solo etc structure, and is one of the shortest. It also is indicative of maybe their B-sides from the Somewhere in Time era (Reach Out, Juanita etc), while its real identity belongs with the first track as it is almost like new territory for Maiden. For such a simple sounding song, it is huge and is a new Maiden classic, along with The Final Frontier and ElDorado.
The Alchemist - 8.5/10
Not quite filler, as it is such an immediate and likeable song, but just missing out on being immortal. It's catchy, fast, tuneful and heavy. It finishes the first half of the album off perfectly and introduces the monster that succeeds it. As with the remainder of the album, it deserves a few listens to let the tune bed.
Isle of Avalon - 9.5/10
After the `single'-centred first half, we move into epic territory with the 9 minute second half opener. Swirling melodies and strong time changes abound and it must be listened to many times before appreciation is granted. Bruce is on top vocal form too. This is evidence why Maiden are now being revered by many. A truly dense, yet playful and exciting track. Stunning. More please.
Starblind - 10/10
I'll be shot down for this, but I believe that Starblind is one of the best tracks on the whole album. Many reviewers here and elsewhere do not seem to agree with me. Where I would have possibly jettisoned Mother of Mercy (although I wont), this behemoth of a song HAS to stay. It is simple but epic and has a driving force that sweeps clean through all of the other tracks. It is the energy of the chorus that overwhelms, together with some excellent percussion from Mr McBrain. It sticks with a rolling beat that chugs along through the entire song, which is where I can understand most people would have a problem as it could be conceived to be slightly dirgey and boring and the chorus is not so dissimilar from the preceding verse. But it is the small changes that give it its power. After everybody slated it, I was surprised that I grew to like it so much. It has the grungey tone of The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg, only faster.
The Talisman - 10/10
Like a parrot, I'll say it again - you need to give this some time. These last 5 tracks are all around the 8 minute plus size and cannot be absorbed with a single listen. It's taken me now about 6 or 7 listens to this track for me to really get to grips with it as a whole. It begins with a very Matter of Life and Death - y intro that lasts for about 2 and a half minutes before bursting into a swashbuckling Maiden gallop that doesn't stop, reaching the crescendo of `Westward, the tide.' The melodies and tunes are all very subtle here and are easily dismissed. Stick with this (I was less than enamored even after my 3rd listen) and it will be its own reward.
The Man Who Would Be King - 10/10
Another similar to The Talisman; long and worthy. Following the same epic format, it starts slow and erupts into a metallic saga. Again, the choruses are subtle but you will be humming them in your sleep before long. And the middle section is simply sublime. Very musical. Another huge track.
When The Wild Wind Blows - 10/10
Yet another massive song. 11 minutes of perfect melody with musical twists and turns that accentuate the title wonderfully. It is a sad song but one that suits the source material well. Those expecting another Rime of the Ancient Mariner will be disappointed and it will never eclipse that monster of a song but it carries the album to its end well, tying it all up with a somber tone. Again, it has to be heard to be appreciated.
Whew! The Final Frontier is the most coherent album, in terms of tone and content since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Musically it is closer to Somewhere in Time. It is not their heaviest album but it is certainly not lacking in power and it is definitely the most exciting collection of songs since Brave New World. Another total triumph for the Irons. 15 more please!