Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
A new release from Iron Maiden is a very big deal in the heavy metal world. They are one of the few genuinely globe straddling bands who unite all factions under the banner of glorious, galloping traditional metal.
Now that the band are locked into this album every three years cycle it always seems to take an eternity for that moment of ecstasy to arrive, when you get your hands on the album, check out what the latest incarnation of Eddie looks like and have a quick glance at the lyrics and artwork in the booklet as you put the CD in the tray and push the play button.
A glance at the back of the CD will tell you that Maiden have not abandoned their recent formula of loooong songs, with only one that's under five minutes in length. But speaking as someone who adored the dark, brooding excess of A Matter Of Life And Death this didn't cause too much concern.
In fact, I actually admired the way the band have grown old gracefully, adding all sorts of epic touches to their music and allowed themselves to stretch out and expand their musical palate. I was very much looking forward to seeing where Messer's Smith, Murray and Gers were going to take their ever growing understanding and dynamics backed by the steadfast Harris songwriting/bass playing and the versatile McBrain drumming.
The three Maiden albums since long term frontman Bruce Dickinson's return have all been uniform in starting with a thundering, fast paced opener that seemed to proclaim "Here we are ladies and gentlemen, Iron Maiden's gonna get ya all over again!"
The Final Frontier however begins with something different altogether; a grooving, futuristic sounding bass line backed up with a pounding drum fill and some guitar squeals. This continues for around two and a half minutes until Bruce begins to intone some scene setting lyrics. If this sounds a little bizarre, it is, and it's also pretty irritating if truth be told. It reminds me of the intro to Dickinson's last album (Tyranny Of Souls), which I skip every time I listen to it.
Alas Maiden have seen to it that we are condemned to listen to this dementing intro as they have tacked first track proper "The Final Frontier" onto the end of reason.
If the title track flowed perfectly from the intro (which in entitled "Satellite 15") then this might make sense. But no, there is an awkward and jarring transition from the angular rhythm of "Satellite 15" to the up-beat, mid tempo rock of The Final Frontier
So not a great start then, but at least the title track restores some semblance of normality, with its upbeat nature and traditional Maiden styling. It's not quite as pedal to the metal as say "The Wicker Man" but it is a solid number. The repetitive nature of the chorus is perhaps initially grating but you will soon find yourself singing along with Brucie with great abandon. Even if it does lead to you having the phrase "The final front-ear, It's the final front-ear" lodged in your brain for days.
As the opener ends there is yet another jarring moment when second track "El Dorado" begins with a "rock out" or a "rock-in" if you prefer. This track was released as a free downloadable teaser for the album and hearing it for the first time drunk at two in the morning I wasn't very impressed.
Sadly after many times of hearing it stone cold sober I'm no more moved. It's long-winded, repetitive and lacking in memorable dynamics. Even when the chorus kicks in around the three-minute mark it fails to make much of an impression.
This shaky start continues with "Mother Of Mercy", its one of the shorter songs but still plods along with Dickinson sounding like he is singing through a blocked nose in the chorus.
It was at this point when I started to panic; looking at the track list I could see that there was a fair amount of music left but what if Maiden had finally lost it? Lost that vital spark that made their music so important.
But just as I began to panic, along came a soothing hymn in the form of the Smith/'Arry/Dickinson written "Coming Home". This stirring song is about returning back from a journey around the world and causes memories of the classic "Wasted Years". But it's filtered through the bands decades of world-weary experience on the road and is reflective of a more mature Maiden.
It's uplifting chorus picked up my flagging interest and made me eager to hear what else "The Final Frontier" had to offer.
Thankfully what it brought next was the triple guitar attack of "The Alchemist", it's still not quite Maiden on full, lusty gallop but it's bloody close. And it does a rather good job of quickening the listeners pulse with its arcane lyrics, layered harmonies and time honoured cymbal and ride bashing from Nicko.
Anyone familiar with latter day Maiden will recognise the ominous, bass lead build up of "Isle Of Avalon". It's esoteric subject matter aside, it would sit quiet well on "A Matter Of Life And Death". It slowly builds and builds, racking up the tension levels until exploding into a superb chorus. It does lose its way slightly as the bands proggier tendencies perhaps exert their influence too far in the mid song instrumental section with all sorts of off beat shenanigans abounding, but it doesn't suffer too much.
"Starblind" continues this strong, epic vein and again has some very Rush-like changes of tempo and theme in the middle. This time a rocked up riff appearing from nowhere and dissolving back into the songs structure. But it's the following track "The Talisman" that raises the album to a new level.
A gentle, finger picked intro perfectly match's the storytelling of Dickinson who sounds like he is a wizened old man relating a tale of his youth beside the campfire. Then yet again, the songs bursts into life with an irrepressible riff, driven on by an unstoppable, incessant Harris bassline and those kind of guitar lines so often copied but never utilised with quite as much grace and skill. Just when you think the song couldn't get better the refrain of "Westward the tide" kicks in and you hear Bruce really stretch those cherished vocals to great effect. It's inspirational stuff and would claim the spot of best track on the album were it not for the jaw dropping closer.
Indeed, not to overlook "The Man Who Would Be King" which continues the rich vein of inventive, thrilling music the album has revelled in since track four (including an almost Radiohead-esque guitar break backed with some deceptively straight forward drumming) I feel as if I must spend a few words talking abut the albums final track, "Where The Wild Wind Blows".
When I talk of that maturing sound that Maiden have been nurturing carefully since the return of Dickinson, I would hold "Where The Wild Wind Blows" up as a shining example. The Iron Maiden of "Piece Of Mind" or "Seventh Son" wouldn't have wrote this, the Iron Maiden of "The X Factor" wanted to write it but just couldn't quite meld everything together correctly. But this Iron Maiden have perfected the formulae for telling complex narratives backed by soul stirring music, which is allowed time to breath and weave its magic without the need to rush headlong into the next section.
I find this track very moving and a perfect distillation of where Iron Maiden want to be at this stage in their career. After all as they have invented and perfected the traditional metal template so who can blame them for heading off into uncharted territories?
In my opinion "The Final Frontier" is the weakest of the "new" Iron Maiden albums (from "Brave New World" onwards). Many will disagree but I feel it lacks the cohesion of BNW and "A Matter Of Life And Death" and doesn't quite have the variety on offer on "Dance Of Death". It does still however contain some of the most diverse music of Maiden's long career and once you slog through the opening tracks a challenging, engaging album appears.
Long may the institution that is Iron Maiden continue and let's hope that we have album number fourteen to enjoy in three years time.

Written by Stuart
Thursday, October 7, 2010
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Stuart: 7/10

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Rating: 7.5/10 So are we ju... · Read more ·
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Rating: 7/10
I think that the last Iron Maiden was Seventh Son...that's because that band did manage to... · Read more ·
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Rating: 6.5/10
The Final Frontier is in my opinion one of the poorest Maiden releases to date. Pros:&#... · Read more ·
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Rating: 6.5/10
I would agree with the most part with the above review. I agree with El Dorado it does no... · Read more ·
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Very dissapointed with this release. The one thing i love about maiden is their brilliant ... · Read more ·

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Review by Craig (Member) - Thursday, October 7, 2010
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Comments: 134
Ratings: 29

So are we just masters of stating the bleedin' obvious or what? Agree on almost every point.

Rating: 7.5/10

Posted by Craig
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review by notrap (Member) - Sunday, October 17, 2010
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Comments: 55
Ratings: 66
The Final Frontier is in my opinion one of the poorest Maiden releases to date.

Pros: The most important Metal band ever still rocks!
Cons: Boring . Lack of inspiration . Bruce's vocal harmonies . The low quality of some guitar solos.

Up the Irons!

Rating: 6.5/10

Posted by notrap
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review by Little Drummer Boy (Member) - Tuesday, October 19, 2010
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Comments: 166
Ratings: 46
I would agree with the most part with the above review. I agree with El Dorado it does not impress much. Technically it was the first single and is not a good one at all. It is the single that maiden has released that I did not like. I prefer the intro Satellite 15 over El Dorado.

However The Final Frontier is a good single and I must say I love the video.

I am still not sold on their new approach of being more "progressive" with the latest two releases but still have a chance to redeem themselves with the next release in 2013 or so. In my opinion they need to have smoother tie ins, not to worry if all three guitarist are getting in their solos in every song (just feels that way with all passages), and get back to letting those songs soar instead of being weighed down.

I love the fact they are giving the fans 60+ minutes of music with their releases. I could be happier with a couple more shorter songs instead.

Rating: 6.5/10

Posted by Little Drummer Boy
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review by LemmingDeMerciless (Member) - Sunday, May 8, 2011
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Ratings: 4
Very dissapointed with this release. The one thing i love about maiden is their brilliant melodies, theres none to be found here and to be fair after waiting all this time for something new all we got was what sounds like out takes from A matter of life and death

Rating: 3.5/10

Posted by LemmingDeMerciless
Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review by angelripper84 (Member) - Wednesday, June 8, 2011
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Comments: 2
Ratings: 2
I think that the last Iron Maiden was Seventh Son...that's because that band did manage to catch a real magic feeling with pure heavy metal.What can we say for albums such as Piece of Mind and Powerslave(my favourite...).However during the 90s they had a loss of direction.Steve Harris wanted so fucking much to write again a long time epic masterpiece such as Rime of the Ancient Mariner but the inspiration just didn't come!!!After a lot of LPS i can say that Iron Maiden truly want to make the step forward!!!Except the two first songs that are not so good the LP is pretty cool!!!Coming Home is a great lyrical song and...God...the voice of Bruce rocks...As for the Starblind...what is this???Mastodon like guitars???I think that Iron Maiden shall follow this path or else they will be a great hevy metal band...of their time.The choice is theirs...

Rating: 7/10

Posted by angelripper84
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review by Stuart

Released by
EMI - 2010

1. Satellite 15... The Final Frontier
2. El Dorado
3. Mother of Mercy
4. Coming Home
5. The Alchemist
6. Isle of Avalon
7. Starblind
8. The Talisman
9. The Man Who Would Be King
10. When the Wild Wind Blows

Heavy Metal

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Iron Maiden - Official Website

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Other articles
Killers - (Ulrick)

The Number Of The Beast - (Ulrick)

Iron Maiden - (Ulrick)

Live After Death - (Ulrick)

Piece of mind - (Ulrick)

Powerslave - (Ulrick)

No prayer for the dying - (Ulrick)

Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son - (Ulrick)

A Real Live Dead One - (Ulrick)

Live At Donington - (Ulrick)

Fear of the dark - (Ulrick)

Virtual XI - (Ulrick)

Best Of The Beast - (Ulrick)

Rock In Rio - (Ulrick)

Brave New World - (Tommy)

The X Factor - (Tommy)

Edward The Great - The Greatest Hits - (Ulrick)

Somewhere In Time - (Tommy)

Visions of the Beast - (Hashman)

Dance of Death - (Hashman)

Dance Of Death - (Tommy)

Live At Valbyhallen, Copenhagen - 12th November, 2003 - (Tommy)

Live At Godsbanepladsen, Horsens - July 27th, 2008 - (Tommy)

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