Iron Maiden // The Final Frontier
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —A good record…
Label: EMI
Websites: ironmaiden.com
Release Date: EU: 08.13.2010 | US: 08.17.2010

Iron Maiden is the greatest heavy metal band to ever live. Thirty years after the release of their self-titled album, they are arguably just as relevant as they ever have been, not resting on their laurels and imitating a hits jukebox, but instead touring the world playing their new material to the joy of fans everywhere. After what was a rousing success with their most recent record, the 2006 release of A Matter of Life and Death, there is actually maybe a bit more pressure on the band to produce something that is quality, memorable and, frankly, classic. Especially with the rumors floating around that this is Maiden‘s final album, spurred even further on by the fact that Steve Harris helped write every song on the record, the pressure cooker of fan scrutiny is reaching fever pitch. And so it falls to this Angry Metal Guy to try to put all of this into some sort of context; to try to listen to my favorite band with fresh ears, and I’ve come to some realizations about the band in the process.

The Final Frontier
has promised to be a controversial record since the cover art was unveiled, actually. This new, comic booky Eddie in space stirred up a strange sense of dread among fans, not offset by the fact that “El Dorado”, the first track released, was a bit of a grower to the say the least. And that’s a good analogy for how the record begins, “Satelite 15…” is without a doubt the weirdest thing that Iron Maiden has ever included on a record, complete with distorted bass and a drum machine that lead right into what is probably the most straight forward rock song Maiden has ever written in their career, “The Final Frontier”. However, the track flows right into an in context “El Dorado” and suddenly the record is flying. And, really, it stays in air for the next 42 minutes.

Starting with “Mother of Mercy”, The Final Frontier really starts to kick some ass. With the reintroduction of the gallop and some of the darker lyrics that the band has written, going right in hand with A Matter of Life and Death and themes from Dance of Death as well. “Coming Home”, a track about Dickinson’s flying, is actually a surprising stand out. While the song itself is pretty simple and practically a power ballad, it sports one of the catchiest choruses that the band have ever written and has an anthemic quality that will serve the live show very well. “Isle of Avalon”, “Starblind” and “The Talisman” are all songs that sport classic late-Maiden riffs and choruses and are great (“Isle of Avalon” especially so), but the standout track from the middle of the record for me is easily “The Alchemist”, written by the ever-maligned Janick Gers with Harris and Dickinson. This track is the best song on the album, it’s got classic Maiden quality, speed, melodies and some fantastic lyrics. Therefore: I fully expect the band to not play it live and for the fans to piss on it publicly (see: “Montse’gur” and “The Pilgrim”, two ridiculously underrated tracks from the last couple records).

However, after an hour of awesome, The Final Frontier grinds to what is an unpleasant halt for me. While the album flows expertly through a variety of styles that really exemplifies Iron Maiden‘s long and storied career, the Murray and Harris penned “The Man Who Would Be King”, and Harris’ solo piece “When the Wild Wind Blows” really just drag down the end of the record. Two major problems stand out with them. Firstly, both of them share some of the most rambling and, I’m going to be frank, bad lyrics that Harris has ever penned, and secondly, the song writing is really just … subpar; slow, dragging and puzzled together without any comprehensible segues or thoughts for structure. While “The Man Who Would Be King” has some great parts in it, it is just too long. The lyrics, as well, are contradictory, poorly conceived and the only song that I can think of that has worse lyrics in the history of Iron Maiden is Steve’s screed about how shitty the world is and about how he’s old and bitter in “Age of Innocence” from Dance of Death. And while conceptually “When the Wild Wind Blows” is an awesome song, again, it’s just too long, too drawn out and lyrically poorly executed. Really, it’s reminiscent of the stuff Harris has been penning since X Factor, but without the emotional poignancy that was so strong on that album. This leaves an unfortunately poor aftertaste to what is otherwise a shining example of Iron Maiden‘s relevance in 2010.

So let me put it like this: if this record were 55 minutes long it would be a tremendous piece of genius. Rod used to brag about how Maiden always delivered 45 minutes of music when they released a new record in the 1980s. Now, with the advent of CD, there seem to be expectations that they produce 80 minutes of music instead. While there are many other factors, I do think it’s interesting that this band never produced a poor record until the advent of the CD (well, OK, No Prayer for the Dying is pretty stinky, but musically it’s still pretty awesome even if Bruce singing directly from his crotch puts a pall over otherwise good songwriting). It leaves me to question how this record would have sounded if the band had been forced to edit it down for LP length… I have a feeling I’d be talking about how this was Iron Maiden‘s best record since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Instead, I’m having kind of the opposite reaction I had to A Matter of Life and Death, where the beginning of the record always left me a little cold, but the end always blows me away. This record just sorta fizzles out after “The Talisman”.

However, 15 albums later for a lot of bands, there’s no point in telling you to buy their records (hahaha, new Kiss?? Yeah, right.). Not so with Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier is still a kick ass group of songs which showcases that the band is still one of the best heavy metal bands in the world. From this album it is already clear to me that “Isle of Avalon”, “Mother of Mercy” and “The Alchemist” will live on as testaments to the band and their later material and the whole record is layered enough that you’ll be hearing new things when you pop it into your CD player or iPod in months and maybe years. This is Iron Maiden in its some of its finest post-Brave New World form and definitely competing for the best of the four. So, Up the fucking Irons! (And buy the fucking record!)

 

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  • http://ssanibo.blogg.se SANIBO

    sv: ja varför fan gör du inte det? skulle sitta fint att läsa dina recensioner där.

  • http://rockabetty.blogg.se ROCKABETTY

    sv: De är töntar hela bunten helt enkelt.

  • charlotte

    22 Aca Ave

  • Devilthorn

    Maiden has not been relevant in decades, and this album isn’t doing anything to remedy that. They are still suffering from subpar songwriting that has plagued them since the late ’80s. Harris has completely and utterly driven this band into the ground. I can only hope this is indeed their last album, as they’ve been an embarrassment to metal for over 20 years. It’s sad when they’ve been crappier for more years than they’ve been good. The last *great* album they released was Live After Death. Somewhere in Time had a few gems, but began the downfall of the band. Everything since then has been crap of increasing proportions.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      Maiden is relevant today. Not only is Maiden relevant today, but they’re also pretty good these days.

      Also, the fact that you don’t like Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, just shows how far up your ass your head is lodged.

      • Devilthorn

        Okay, I’ll amend what I said to a very small degree. Maiden is relevant today, but ONLY when they do their “hits jukebox” thing that you said they don’t do. (see the “Somewhere Back In Time” tour). when they play that stuff, they are somewhat relevant.

        Their new stuff sucks, and has sucked for 20 years. One or two good songs on an album of 10 or 12 songs does not a good album make. You can barely take the good songs they’ve had in the last 20 years and make one full album with them.

        • Troy

          Got to disagree with you here. While clearly past their prime, being SSoaSS in my opinion, Maiden still puts out quality music. Fear of the Dark, Brave New World, and even some single songs off albums are great ones “no more lies” comes to mind.

  • Faethor

    Devilthorn,

    Look dude. Not sure where you been the last 20 years, or what, but Maiden have been the only reason to go to a metal concert these days-in case you haven’t noticed. Shit, I’ve seen just about every metal (and some non-metal) act the last 10 years and nothing compares to a Maiden concert. Nothing!

    While I can agree that their writing has never reached the level of NOTB, POM, Powerslave era, since BNW they have made some damn good music none-the-less especially since the return of Adrian Smith.

    But their live show is what their about. There isn’t a band alive that can put on a show and electrify a crowd like Maiden. Bruce’s onstage energy has a lot to do with that, but if you look at bands who may replace these guys when they do retire, I challenge you to name one decent act. There aren’t any live bands the caliber of Maiden and their studio efforts are on par with what’s out there.

    One thing I will say is that this Final Frontier album feels like a continuation of the last album. There are a few new highlights here and there, but the feel and tone is very similar. One thing that I don’t like is the tendency to have guitar section that sound like train wrecks. I don’t understand that. I mean, Janick is a butcher, we all know that; has his style rubbed off? This is part of the problem.

    Anyhow, I’ve only had a chance to hear the album a couple times through so far, but I can honestly say that Kevin Shirley has to go. I’ve never been a huge fan of his producing/mixing, and this album is no exception. I long for days of Martin Birch in the producers chair.

    No, your off the mark,Devilthorn. Maiden are the “only” true Heavy Metal band still charging ahead on their own path, and while its not all gravy, its ours.

    Keep Up The Irons!

    PS.

    One band that I feel might be able to carry the torch re: Live show, is Kamelot. Underrated band. Maiden should have those guys touring with them.

    Faethor.

    • Devilthorn

      Where have I been the last 20 years. I’ve been listening to metal, that’s where. I’ve been listening to metal for over 30 years, and I know good stuff when I hear it. Unfortunately, Maiden has not done good stuff in decades. I LOVE the early Maiden albums…they are some of the best albums I’ve ever heard….but at least I can be realistic and honest and say their output for the last 20 years has been utterly pathetic. It doesn’t even come close to the standards they set from their debut up to and including Powerslave.

      I can think of tons of bands that are better live than Maiden. (and Kamelot certainly isn’t one of them.) Motorhead is better. Emperor is (well…was) better. Overkill is better. I could go on for years naming bands that are better live (and on studio albums) than the pathetic shadow of their former selves that Maiden has become.

      I respect what Maiden did for metal back in the 80’s, but you cannot continue to kiss their ass for that when it’s been so long since they’ve put out even an average album. Like them for nostalgias sake if you must, but if you can honestly sit there and say their recent output is great, then you are obviously so biased, that your opinion cannot be taken into account. Either that, or you are deaf.

      • UpTheIrons420

        Or, Devilthorn, he simply has a differing opinion than you and, like the thousands who’ve made this album number one in the UK and in Sweden (plus a prediction of it opening at number three in the US), he could genuinely enjoy the new stuff. It’s a new style – obviously some won’t like it – but it’s still damn good material. Albeit this album isn’t as strong to me as Brave New World, it’s better than A Matter Of Life And Death (which in itself was still a good album).

        Maiden’s just as good today as they’ve ever been. However, Adrian has pushed them in a new direction. The best description I’ve heard for Maiden is “they march where they once galloped”, which is a great way of putting it. They don’t do the charging, four minute powerhouses. They draw it out a bit, expand on the song, and show that their music is aging as gracefully as they are.

        • UpTheIrons420

          Oh, and of course.. UP THE IRONS!!

      • Dan

        Any band that can produce a fucking masterpiece like Rime of the Ancient Mariner was bound to never forfeit greatness. “Devilthorn” (which says it all as far as brains and tastes go) is one of those guys who hang on every new crazy underground metal act with a career lasting two albums (one album too many) to come along. And enjoy seeing these acts in very small venues with mosh pits and shit like that. The kind of guy who wears army fatigues but is not a vet. The kind of guy who has a Facebook account but must always have a black backdrop as to not seem too fucking gay.

        • Dan

          The kindof guy who loves VENOM

      • StillOfTheNight

        I know I’m a little late on this but here it goes. Newer Maiden may not be your cup of tea. But it is for hundreds of thousands of other die hard Maiden fans. When I see Maiden (14 times already), I know “all” their songs. But then you get their other poser “fans” that sit or stand with their hands in their pockets the whole show until “The Trooper” or “Fear of The Dark” starts playing. Those who dont know or understand maiden have that attitude. Maiden have continued to pump out memorable and cleverly written singles even in darker times like “The X Factor”. Real fans were always able to appreciate what Maiden did even if it steered away from their classic material. In terms of live performance, every band has good and not so good shows. You got young guys with a lot of energy, and old guys that can’t offer what they used to, it’s every musician’s fate. Maiden is passed their prime but by no means are they incapable of writing something that, even if it isn’t old Maiden, it still sounds like Maiden. I don’t love Maiden for their timeless classics, I love Maiden for the band they are, their style, and their diversity. In terms of # of albums and # of good songs on the albums, not many bands can touch Maiden. In the end man, it’s a matter of opinion, and the hundreds of thousand of real Maiden fans and Iron Maiden themselves are doing just fine without you. Up The Irons!

  • http://thatdevilmusic.blogspot.com Rob Liz

    First to Angry Metal Guy. I think you liked this album better then I did but you also like much different songs then I did. When the Wild Wind blows is actually my favorite song on the album. It’s got a folk sort of feel that tells a story from a first person then a third person perspective. I think it’s brilliant.And different from most of the other tracks. The rest of the cd to me felt like stuff I’d heard before and it’s almost painful to hear Bruce strain to hit some registers anymore. I don’t know why he can’t just bring the vocal performance that he had on some of his solo albums to this.
    There’s been a pattern since 2000 for me where I’ve liked every other album with this one falling in the not so much category. I’ll give it some more listens though.

    Now to Devilthorn. Nice trolling dude. You can run along now. Mission accomplished.

  • Mato

    Yeah I agree with @Rob Liz, When the Wild Wind Blows is my favorite song on the album too :P Mother of Mercy, Starblind, and The Talisman are in my opinion also the highlights of this incredible album. Good review though Angry Metal Guy. Our taste in best songs on the album might be different but at least you enjoyed the album like I did. I would of gave it actually a 4.5/5 but that’s just me. Maiden is still making quality songs after 30 years and that is simply amazing.
    UP THE IRONS!!!

  • Isorski

    Man, great review! I think this album is up there with Matter of Life and Death in terms of Maiden embracing its prog-metal roots. They for sure push the envelope (and the listener) with this stuff. But I like that and damn, clearly enough other people do to push the CD to #4 in the US (Maiden’s highest US debut ever, fer god’s sake!). Regarding El Dorado, caught the band live on the last tour and that song kicks total ass live. I posted my own review of The Final Frontier at http://bit.ly/a4iIxQ. Enjoy!

  • Dan

    I’m a Maiden fan 25 years. Get this…..my favorite band hands down. I listen to their albums (except for the 90’s) over and over again and never grow weary of them. I saw them in concert this July of 2010. I was in bliss! MY BAND…..ever since I was 15……….performing for me…………………with energy that some melancholy band like Tool (who I also like but) just would NOT EVER want to follow……DESTROYS all acts. Devilthorn is ur typical Slayer vein of metal. Headbanger. Break things and shit when they listen to music. I personally feel….this last decade has been as good if not better than Piece thru 7th. And this album has hands down made MOLAD make more sense to me. Maiden tend to do albums in sets of two. I have listened to this album for a month and am far from done. It is growing more and more on me. Not one song sucks.

  • Deadlyforce

    I am a Maiden fan until Dance of Death, and I listen to metal (every genre) since I’m 12 (it’s very important to begin negative Maiden critics by that statement it seems or I’ll be accused of being an ignorant fool talking about things he can’t understand :) ).

    I sincerely hate that album, which I think is even worse than the previous disaster A Matter of Life and Death (The Pilgrim excepted).
    The (overwhelming) positive reactions to that album never cease to puzzle me. So just before people start to insult me (very common reaction from metal fans) let me say that I’m trying to understand why people like that “thing” that Maiden made.
    My own words to describe that album would be : boring, tasteless, pretentious and uninspired. The duration of the tracks only equals the lack of ideas…And while the ballad is kind of ok, there are simply no metal riffs in that album. Brave New World and Dance of Death, while not perfect albums, had at least good riffing in them.
    So I’m trying to understand, reading every article I can find on the net about it. All I can say is that so far, I’m not convinced by any of the so called arguments everyone uses to praise The Final frontier. It seems to me that there is not much objectivity here and people judge blindly the album just because it has the name Iron Maiden on it.

    Just so you know, I tried to listen to it many times, but it’s almost unbearable. Since everybody love it I considered going to a psychiatrist and I thought I was stuck in the 4th dimension, where people worship crappy albums :p

    An unsolved mystery to me…

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      Actually, Brave New World and Dance of Death were way worse records than A Matter of Life and Death. And I think there are two groups of Maiden fans: those who like the later stuff and those who don’t. You fall somewhere in between, apparently.

      And let’s be perfectly clear: there is no objectivity when it comes to reviewing records. Explain to me in as many words as you like how you can possibly be objective? If another band did this would it be as good? I dunno, because no other band could do it in the same way. No other band would have the production, no other band would have the musicianship, no other band would put together the package that they’ve put together. All of Maiden’s later records have holes. I love A Matter of Life and Death and that record has some songs that just stink (Breeg, as an immediate point). But it also has some really powerful material that I enjoy. And this record has some holes at the end.

      But Iron Maiden is still a great band and there are songs on this record that I get truly excited over and the record has a great flow. That you don’t like it is a pity for you, I guess it means you’ll be less thrilled then the rest of us when they come to your town (not that your mom will let you go to the show), but objectivity… really?

      BTW: DoD is an underrated record. While it’s got some serious crap on it, it has some real gems, too.

      • Deadlyforce

        Ah yes I’m 35 and I’ll ask my parents for permission to go to the next show, thanks for the reminder. However my band of choice won’t be Maiden as you probably guessed.
        Anyway you’re right about objectivity and reviews. My bad. And I agree about DoD.

        However I won’t change my mind any time soon about that album. I’m a very disappointed fan and I hope they’ll wake up eventually in the future to give us a really aggressive and inspired metal album (just like Accept did with Blood of Nations).

        • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

          Oh, right, my bad. You said “since I’m 12″, which I read as “since I am twelve” as in “I am currently twelve years of age,” not “since I was 12.” I’ve been listening to Maiden since I was 6 and have liked and disliked some albums, and I’m bummed that you didn’t like the new record, but really I did. It’s not ground breaking, but it’s really enjoyable.

  • harris

    I have no idea what the hell you guys are talking about. A Matter of Life and Death was on of their Best albums ever. The Music was so mature and sophisticated. Are you telling me that the lyrics of For the Greater good of God, The Longest Day, The Legacy are bad? These three songs were brilliant in every right and just showcased exactly why Maiden are still the number one band in the world.

    • MonChrMe

      I have to disagree on ‘The Longest Day’. Brilliant introduction, but it would flow better if the chorus could be halved. The second verse was mostly filler as well – it just doesn’t have the panache that their lyrics had with 2 Minutes, Aces, or more recently, Paschendaele.

      I really like a lot of the guitar work on the newer albums, but lyrically the Irons seem to have lost the magic they once had. There’s still nothing to match the inventiveness or delivery of Moonchild, for example, and it sometimes feels like they’re scared to drop a verse that doesn’t work.

      As an aside, for me the best tracks on Final Frontier were El Dorado, The Alchemist, and Mother Of Mercy. I liked the music on Isle of Avalon despite some niggles about the lyrics, but I found the other tracks were just too long for their own good.

      Missed opportunity on Satellite 15/The Final Frontier as well. Satellite 15 as an opener, with TFF being used to close the album off. There’s noticeable latency in deep space transmissions – for example, it takes about three and a half minutes for a signal from Mars to reach Earth, which is something the album could have played with. It would have given El Dorado a bit more punch when it comes in as well, which never hurts. :)

  • Luis de Rubin

    I’m a big Maiden Fan but this record… sucks!, Be honest, this was one of the biggest metal bands of the world, but this album is a total piece of crap. When you listen to a good record, you put it over and over again, but this record is so boring, Bruce sounds so forced, singing only with his throath and trying to hit notes that his age don’t leave to. The “guitar sound” on the opening song is awesome, all the rest is TOTALLY CRAP. I hope that the Irons wake for the false dream they are now and make some great music like before.

    Don’t fool yourself this album is shit.