Review: Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier

Released: August 17, 2010

Label: UMe

After waning over the last couple of albums during Bruce Dickinson’s first stint, two ill-conceived releases with Blaze Bayley and a lackluster return for Dickinson on Brave New World, Iron Maiden stormed back to life with their last two albums and an outstanding tour documentary. Perhaps no other band in their third decade could raise such high hopes for a release, particularly after a four year layoff from the studio.

Right from the start, it’s pretty clear that The Final Frontier is not going to follow the formula of the last two albums. Throbbing, tribal drums and airy guitars make for a spacier tone and even as the intro moves into the more traditional body of the song, it, like the album as a whole, is both distinctly Iron Maiden and very much its own album. Overall, there are moments where they bring passion, excitement and technical prowess together as only they can, but few songs maintain that throughout. “Coming Home,” for instance loses some of its intensity in the chorus and the leads are too dull to justify their three guitar attack. While “The Talisman” is a bit of a slow-starter, it makes up for a lot over it’s nine minutes as it gets Maiden closer to chaos than perhaps ever before and they still shine like no other metal band. To lesser extent, “The Man Who Would Be King” does the same and this is a welcome new angle to the Maiden sound.

Their last album, 2006′s A Matter of Life and Death, got more than its share of flak for its “epic” songs. It was an unjust attack considering that, despite their length, none of the songs felt long, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that it didn’t deter them from keeping most of the tracks over the seven minute mark. Few bands have mastered Maiden’s art of going over five minutes without meandering through filler and this set, despite a few tedious moments, did nothing to disprove that.

In many ways, this album has some points in common with 1986′s Somewhere in Time. Both follow a run of outstanding albums (though the recent run is half as long) and, while remaining musically challenging, the fire that sets Maiden apart from any other band at their technical level burns just a little bit dimmer. Both albums’ biggest problem isn’t their content, but the incredibly high bar set by their predecessors. For any other metal band, The Final Frontier is an outstanding record. For Maiden, it’s merely very good.

Although Maiden would still be great even if the albums came in a blank sleeve, there is no denying that the album art is a big part of who they are. Since parting ways with Derek Riggs, nothing has been quite the same. While The Final Frontier cover isn’t their worst (see 2003′s Dance of Death which looks like CGI from about ten years earlier), it’s definitely not up to par. I mean, I guess the alien is Eddie, but it’s a stretch. C’mon guys, patch things up with Derek so that the cover art once again matches the music inside!

Ratings
Satriani 10/10
Zappa 8/10
Dylan 8/10
Aretha 7/10
Overall: 8/10

If you’re curious about my rating system, it’s explained here.

2 comments to Review: Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

  • I am still hoping to listen to it one more time before reviewing it myself, but I think I am closing in how I feel on the new album. I agree that Maiden did try to give the album it’s own personality and largely they succeeded. Like the last two albums and Seventh for that matter it’s a grower and I’ll don’t mean that it takes three days, but more like weeks or even months. That’s because there is just too much to totally absorb quickly and that’s fine. I have to expect and even enjoy that from Maiden. You are right that’s a long album, but it doesn’t feel long. Unlike Somewhere in time with it’s out of place keyboards and odd upbeat feel, The final frontier doesn’t break a streak of great albums but rather becomes the third in the string behind Dance of death and A matter of life and death. It’s not as good as A matter of life of death, but it doesn’t have to be and it doesn’t try to be. They retained a lot of what has worked for them in the past, but added in some new sound that still have a Maiden twist to them. In the end they created another chaper in the legacy of the greatest metal band of all time.

  • I’m psyched to spin my copy and I can say using the new Accept album by parallel that it had to grow on me, and it wasn’t because of the obvious reason being no Udo. Mark from TT Quick actually has far better vocal range, but it has a number of 5-7 minute songs that feel strange on an Accept album, but the quality of the songs grow and grow the more you listen to them.

    Seventh Son was a bit of a stunner when it first came out with the synths and the synth guitars and the prog-meets-standard rock jam that is “Can I Play With Madness.” I actually like Brave New World a good bit, though Dance of Death is better and Matter of Life and Death even better than that. I know this one has long-ass tunes as well and I’m hoping that means with 4 years off, they’ve found more to tinker with in their long constructs. Agreed in whole that they ARE the greatest metal band of all-time…indisputable.

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I am no longer writing. You're still welcome to contact me HERE, but odds are I won't be able to review your material as much as I'd love to hear it. I have had reviews and articles published in AMP and Glide magazines as well as FensePost.

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