Unabletothinkofname Reviews: Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier

SCREAM FOR ME...um...outer space...?

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Left to right-Adrian Smith, Nicko McBrain, Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Janick Gers

Iron Maiden's 15th album, The Final Frontier, is rumoured to be their last-while I personally think they're simply having us on, if it is the final chapter for the greatest heavy metal band of all time, does it live up to the sky-high quality of their previous works, the bar of which they set for themselves? Your intrepid reviewer sets off to find out...

A thick, buzzing, distorted (rare) bassline kicks off the ambient, suitably spacey intro of "Satellite 15...The Final Frontier", squealing guitars and echoey, thumping toms and snares, carrying on for about 2 minutes before Bruce Dickinson's instantly recognizable wail comes in, the tale of a man desperately lost in space ringing out, before a juddering, pounding bassdrum rhythm kicks in for the rest of the intro, the atmospheric tension building with Dickinson crooning over the top. Coming to an abrupt stop with battering snares, it lurches into the first single, "The Final Frontier," a fairly standard (but still excellent) and introspective hard rocker, singing of settling down to pass on and thinking back over the life gone past.

"El Dorado" was released earlier this year as a free download, and despite the fact it seems to be dividing opinions, I'm baffled as to why-it's a damn awesome track, and it certainly got a good crowd reaction when they played it in Dublin last month. A pounding intro gives way into a galloping bass riff reminiscent of "Stranger In A Strange Land" from 1986's Somewhere In Time. The verses give way to a snarling, grinning bridge, before it unveils another classic Maiden chorus, followed by a long, Eastern-flavoured guitar solo section, before it returns to the original theme again, closing with another smashing outro.

"Mother Of Mercy" and "Coming Home" are among the shorter tracks on the album, though that doesn't make them any less memorable-the former is a power metal esque with expansive, thoughtful guitar, and the latter is a true lighter-waving ballad in the vein of Fear Of The Dark. There's no Run To The Hills or The Trooper on this album, but if there was, it'd be "The Alchemist"- one of the few instances where the thundering gallop of old returns. Despite a slightly nagging feeling of non-canon compared to the rest of the very focused album, it makes up for it by being a cracking tune.

"Isle Of Avalon" is a massive, expansive prog epic, stretched over nine minutes, the droning bass line and rippling hi-hats complimenting the echoey guitar sound, as Dickinson sings another Maiden classic feature of an adapted folklore tale. As proggy as it may be, it never wanders off into unfocused noodling, staying remarkably focused throughout, despite its length. Boasting another fantastic chorus, it's one of the finest tracks on the album, and worthy to stand among their vast back catalogue of epics.

I mentioned unfocused noodling in the last paragraph, and as much as I hate to admit it, "Starblind" and "The Man Who Would Be King" aren't as tight as the previous songs-as excellent as they are, I felt my attention wandering slightly, something I didn't even vaguely experience with the preceeding tracks. However, another excellent track is lurking in between them, The Talisman-sounding like the counterpart to The Legacy, the stunning closer to 2006's A Matter Of Life And Death, it features a long, acoustic intro, Dickinson sparing the higher reaches of his voice to sing in almost a whisper over the first 2 and a half minutes, before it explodes suddenly into a groovy, pounding epic, reaching a similar length to Isle Of Avalon and most of the rest of the latter half of the album.

However, my highest praise is reserved for the 11-minute closer When The Wild Wind Blows. It's a fact that the closing tracks are among the best on Iron Maiden albums- Iron Maiden, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Fear Of The Dark, Rime Of The Ancient Mariner- and this is no exception. Based partially on Raymond Briggs' graphic novel When The Wind Blows, a tale of an elderly couple caught unaware in a nuclear attack on England by the USSR. The (inevitable) sound of rushing wind opens the track, the high pitched guitar harmony giving way to one of the most touchingly beautiful melodies the Maiden have ever written, the gentle folk-tinged delivery of the vocals failing to hide a feeling of despair behind them. Like The Talisman it erupts suddenly about 2 minutes in, loping gracefully through another 8 minutes of never-boring, never-indulgent and truly stunning progressive classic metal-an interesting thing to note is there's no vast instrumental sections, the vocals are never absent for more than a minute and a half, keeping the song consistently interesting throughout. The quiet outro reveals the true meaning behind the song-the couple poisoning themselves in the fallout shelter, mistaking an earthquake for a nuclear attack-and it fades out with the same sound of rushing wind as the intro.

The TL;DR

This is amazing. I've maintained that A Matter Of Life And Death is my second favourite Iron Maiden album, and the main reason for that was the new progressive influence-this pushes the envelope even further, and as their longest and most challenging album to date, it accomplishes an incredible amount.

I debated for a while what score to give this, but I decided to add an extra .5, simply for the reason that Iron Maiden, this year, are 35 years old, and to get an album of this quality from a band of this...er...vintage is simply joyous. Buy this, and buy this now. Up the Irons!

Recommended Tracks



For Fans Of: Judas Preist, Dream Theater.

I really like "Starblind," personally and haven't quite been able to get into "Isle of Avalon." I do like "When the Wild Wind Blows," but I'd say that "Mother of Mercy" and "Coming Home" are my favorite tracks after "El Dorado." Good review though, it's nice to have a different viewpoint on the album.

Also, I wouldn't worry about The Final Frontier's name literally suggesting that this is Maiden's last album. They're clearly having far too much fun to stop now.

Excellent review mate, thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Alas I find myself more in the camp that thinks their new found epic-ness comes across as a bit tedious and somewhat drawn out for its own sake. It's not a bad album, I just prefer their punchier early-mid period material. Different strokes and all that...

Great work! I'm almost touched by how these guys manage to stay excellent even though they've all gone beyond their 50th year of their lives. They are truly magnificent these guys, and they make incredible music. It's a reason to why they're my top favourite band of all time.

Once again, top tier review. It's always nice to see folks acknowledge the awesomeness that is this album.

Hmm... well, this is a strange one.

Maiden are my favorite band in the whole world... ever. But I didn't like either EL Dorado or the Title track. They sounded lazy and uninspired to me... where are the twin guitars? The badass tempo changes and insanely catchy hooks?

The chorus to the title track is one if the least interesting they've ever written in my opinion, it just doesn't hook me, and the guitars are just standard power chord boringness.

I'll still get the album though... I mean, it's Maiden.

AbyssalSanhedrin:
Excellent review mate, thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Alas I find myself more in the camp that thinks their new found epic-ness comes across as a bit tedious and somewhat drawn out for its own sake. It's not a bad album, I just prefer their punchier early-mid period material. Different strokes and all that...

Same here. Gimmme Brave New World and Somewhere In Time any day.

I think you should have given more credit to The Talisman, but apart from that, I completely agree with you.

MiracleOfSound:
Hmm... well, this is a strange one.

Maiden are my favorite band in the whole world... ever. But I didn't like either EL Dorado or the Title track. They sounded lazy and uninspired to me... where are the twin guitars? The badass tempo changes and insanely catchy hooks?

Isle of Avalon. Well, not so much the tempo changes, but it's very catchy. I'm a massive prog fan in general, so I'm probably biased in that regard.

The chorus to the title track is one if the least interesting they've ever written in my opinion, it just doesn't hook me, and the guitars are just standard power chord boringness.

Like I said, it's fairly standard. While I don't think it's a bad thing, I agree with you, it's not exactly pushing the envelope.

DVSAurion:
I think you should have given more credit to The Talisman, but apart from that, I completely agree with you.

Gah. I got a bit caught up and forgot to include The Talisman's title when I wrote about it.

...However, another excellent track is lurking in between them, The Talisman-sounding like the counterpart to The Legacy, the stunning closer to 2006's A Matter Of Life And Death, it features a long, acoustic intro, Dickinson sparing the higher reaches of his voice to sing in almost a whisper over the first 2 and a half minutes, before it explodes suddenly into a groovy, pounding epic, reaching a similar length to Isle Of Avalon and most of the rest of the latter half of the album.

I fucking love the Talisman, but I prefer the 3 tracks I listed just a little more. :3 I only ever list 3 tracks as a recommendation, but The Talisman would be the 4th.

They played El Dorado live when I saw them but it was a free download track a few weeks before.

Their new album seems pretty awesome :D Though currently I only own Number of the Beast >.> I should get Powerslave or something...

UnableToThinkOfName:

DVSAurion:
I think you should have given more credit to The Talisman, but apart from that, I completely agree with you.

Gah. I got a bit caught up and forgot to include The Talisman's title when I wrote about it.

...However, another excellent track is lurking in between them, The Talisman-sounding like the counterpart to The Legacy, the stunning closer to 2006's A Matter Of Life And Death, it features a long, acoustic intro, Dickinson sparing the higher reaches of his voice to sing in almost a whisper over the first 2 and a half minutes, before it explodes suddenly into a groovy, pounding epic, reaching a similar length to Isle Of Avalon and most of the rest of the latter half of the album.

I fucking love the Talisman, but I prefer the 3 tracks I listed just a little more. :3 I only ever list 3 tracks as a recommendation, but The Talisman would be the 4th.

Should have been more careful with the reading, but adding the name sure made it more understandable. Good job.

GamesB2:
They played El Dorado live when I saw them but it was a free download track a few weeks before.

Their new album seems pretty awesome :D Though currently I only own Number of the Beast >.> I should get Powerslave or something...

Get Powerslave. You need Powerslave.

I FUCKING LOVE POWERSLAVE

Ahem. Sorry.

DVSAurion:

UnableToThinkOfName:

DVSAurion:
I think you should have given more credit to The Talisman, but apart from that, I completely agree with you.

Gah. I got a bit caught up and forgot to include The Talisman's title when I wrote about it.

...However, another excellent track is lurking in between them, The Talisman-sounding like the counterpart to The Legacy, the stunning closer to 2006's A Matter Of Life And Death, it features a long, acoustic intro, Dickinson sparing the higher reaches of his voice to sing in almost a whisper over the first 2 and a half minutes, before it explodes suddenly into a groovy, pounding epic, reaching a similar length to Isle Of Avalon and most of the rest of the latter half of the album.

I fucking love the Talisman, but I prefer the 3 tracks I listed just a little more. :3 I only ever list 3 tracks as a recommendation, but The Talisman would be the 4th.

Should have been more careful with the reading, but adding the name sure made it more understandable. Good job.

I have a terrible habit of not proof reading. X_X

Nice, well thought-out review.

I've generally heard nothing but hate for The Final Frontier, so it's nice to see I'm not alone in enjoying it!

I thought it was a bit bland on my first listen, but it slowly grew on me.

Nice review, I'll have to go get this soon.

I think A Matter Of Life And Death was my favourite Maiden album, so if this follows the same vein I'm sure I'll like it.

Probably my favourite track off AMOLAD was this one

I downloaded El Dorado when they released it, and I really don't know what to think of it. I was initially underwhelmed buy it, but lately i've found myself singing it in my head. Not to mention the intro is pretty kick ass. But I didn't really like their newer albums that much. I'm more a fan of their early stuff, like Killers. I think I may have to get this one, though.

UnableToThinkOfName:

GamesB2:
They played El Dorado live when I saw them but it was a free download track a few weeks before.

Their new album seems pretty awesome :D Though currently I only own Number of the Beast >.> I should get Powerslave or something...

Get Powerslave. You need Powerslave.

I FUCKING LOVE POWERSLAVE

This man speaks the truth. Get Powerslave. Make it an urgent priority. And when you've listened to it half a dozen times, go out and get AMOLAD and Seventh Son too. (And then all the others.)

I enjoy this review greatly. It's nice to see a Maiden fan NOT finding fault with their sound changing drastically every couple of albums. People who can't understand it's their choice what kind of music THEY want to make just bug the hell out of me.

The album is amazing. If you can find it in stores, go buy it. If you can't, which is doubtful, download it on itunes.

I had actually zoned out through the first listening of When the Wild Wind Blows, and this review made me go back and pay attention to the track. Damn good song.

Please keep reviewing, we really need more quality metal reviews.

Yay! I'm a fan of Iron Maiden and I was worried that this would be bad, but if it's as good as you say it is I will be getting it. Love your reviews by the way.

 

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