The Final Frontier

Iron Maiden

Like so many other metalheads I was anticipating this release with a reasonable anxiety taking […]
By Dimitris Kontogeorgakos
August 16, 2010
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier album cover

Like so many other metalheads I was anticipating this release with a reasonable anxiety taking into consideration the surrounding rumours that "The Final Frontier" would be the swan song of the British act. Additionally, the expectations had been raised after the pretty good (for the "Brave New World" era) "Matter Of Life And Death" where MAIDEN showed some signs of diversity. So, four years after that album, IRON MAIDEN are back and ready to take us far to their final frontier.

The album opens with "Satellite 15....The Final Frontier" that is also the first video of the album along with some kind of boring intro with annoying electronic drum sounds. According to my taste it is official; MAIDEN have lost the ability to create album openers that could really blow our minds off. Think of "The Wicker Man", "Wildest Dreams" and "Different World" and wonder whether they could stand a comparison against songs from the previous MAIDEN albums (do I have to mention titles?). I think this phenomenon has to do with the fact that the British band cannot compose short, fast and catchy songs. Indeed, the best tracks of this album are the long ones that bear all the elements we started like from the "Sign Of The Cross" days; a lot of melodies along with catchy guitar fills and most of the times narrative vocals. Just like the 9 minutes of "Isle Of Avalon" that enters with the trademark Harris sounding bass rhythm that steadily builds the tension opening the "road" for the rest of the instruments. Dickinson -as always- tells Harris' story with his theatrical vocals although his higher voice pitch kind of annoys me in times. This track marks the point where the short songs give their place to the long epic tracks clocking more than 8 minutes in time duration. "Starblind" has some interesting ideas in the rhythm guitars and some nice leads enhanced by the distinct keyboard presence. Even Bruce sounds way better here giving the song a hearty epic atmosphere leading to the very good guitar solo somewhere in the middle. "Talisman" follows in the same pattern after the impressive clean guitar intro and the killer vocal melodies that welcomes the distortion and the MAIDEN galloping rhythm. For my delight, this track gains some speed and, in some extent, justifies the presence of three guitars with the diverse riff/phrase collection.

The over-used recipe of keyboards/bass rhythm and guitar sing-along melody is the intro for "The Man Who Would Be King" that is yet again based on Dickinson's theatrical performance. During the first four minutes, this track has nothing new or interesting to present until the guitar solo during which the different effects and out-of-the-ordinary drum work add something new to MAIDEN's music. Of course, the dual guitar harmonies make an appearance without taking away the composition diversity that Harris and Murray present.

The album closes after the 11 minutes of "When The Wild Wind Blows" that opens following the aforementioned recipe building the main melody sung in the lower pitch that I like having from Dickinson. Once again the guitars draw the spotlight featuring a sing-along melody (what else?) along with some even more interesting solos "served" with a different mix than we are used in MAIDEN albums.

So, what is the verdict here? Can we give low rating to an IRON MAIDEN album? Has Harris lost the ability to write short and fast songs? Well, the truth is somewhere in between; the album has high quality compositions that need time to grow in the mind, especially in the guitars where a great effort has been made. But, no one can disagree that MAIDEN is not the band we all loved in albums like "The Number Of The Beast" or "Powerslave", just to name a few. Musically, the band has changed and either we like it or not has evolved in a different musical level. The question is do we want them to continue in this path? Sadly my answer would be no; I strongly believe that they should have said their "goodbyes" during the last and most successful tour in their entire history.

6 / 10

Had Potential

"The Final Frontier" Track-listing:
  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
Iron Maiden Lineup:

Bruce Dickinson - Vocals
Dave Murray - Guitars
Adrian Smith - Guitars
Janick Gers - Guitars
Steve Harris - Bass
Michael "Nicko" McBrain - Drums

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