Iron Maiden is back with their 15th studio recording, The Final Frontier. The follow up to 2006’s A Matter Of Life And Death, The Final Frontier is a highly anticipated record that the fans have been waiting a long time for. Well, the wait is over, and Iron Maiden did not disappoint in their delivery. The Final Frontier is a great rock record that has the band going deeper and experimenting more than ever before. The results are amazing.
The album opens with the strangest song in Iron Maiden history, which is also the most innovative opening since the double drums on Where Eagles Dare. Satellite 15…The Final Frontier is actually two songs rolled into one. While it would have served Iron Maiden better to split these apart and make The Final Frontier a separate track, for some reason they decide to keep them linked, thus creating one complex song.
Satellite 15 opens with an odd guitar riff/drum pound that’s eerily reminiscent of Aerosmith’s Get A Grip. This opening groove goes on for over four minutes before it finally kicks into The Final Frontier. While highly different from anything Iron Maiden has ever done, Satellite 15 seems like a throw away song that somehow snuck onto the record. It may be cool to see this open their concerts, but it’s not particularly rewarding to have it open their album.
The Final Frontier portion of the song is a rocker. It kicks in with the heavy one kick drum beat (think A Different World and Wildest Dreams). One of the strongest tracks on the album, The Final Frontier is Maiden at their finest. Heavy bass, extreme guitars, Nicko ripping it on the drums, and of course Bruce’s voice in fine form. His vocals sound the best on The Final Frontier.
El Dorado, the first single from the album, is a song that takes some time to grow on the listener. While The Final Frontier pleases the ear immediately, El Dorado takes longer to enjoy, like an aged whiskey. Galloping bass lines, deep complex guitar playing with multiple layers, and rich, thought out lyrics take over this song, a theme that remains throughout the album.
Coming Home is one of the greatest tracks on this disc and one of the best Iron Maiden songs to be recorded in the past decade. This song has sing-along anthem written all over it. Fans are going to love the melodic, romantic feel to the song. Coming Home is full of slow power, much the same way Infinite Dreams was for 7th Son of a 7th Son. Coming Home is a powerful, deep, meaningful song of returning from a journey of self discovery and being better off for it. The solo that saturates the middle of this masterpiece is one of the best every recorded and will cause a tingling sensation of the skin upon the first listen.
The album closes with the magnificent epic When The Wind Blows which is very reminiscent of the Legacy (from A Matter Of Life And Death). Clocking in at 11 minutes and 1 second, this is one of the longest Iron Maiden songs ever recorded. The song opens (and closes) with a blowing wind that represents space or time. Beautiful guitar work spills over the wind and then Bruce’s voice drops into the song in a very Dance of Death (the song) style. This could almost be the slowed down version of Dance of Death, but that is not necessarily a negative. As Bruce tells us the story of the end of days, the listener is drawn into the story. Then 2 minutes in, Bruce’s voice explodes, and this quiet acoustic ballad turns into a heavier, epic rocker with a message.
While a fantastic album overall, The Final Frontier is not without its weak points. The seeming loss of power in Bruce Dickinson’s voice is immediately apparent, especially on the songs Isle Of Avalon and The Talisman. Where Dickinson would normally scream in an octave so high that it would split ears, there is now a low toned, throaty vocal being produced instead. Some of this may be from Dickinson’s voice deteriorating with age, but some of it may be from the mastering and production of the songs.
The length of songs is also a negative note on the band. Their songs have been getting longer and longer in recent years and while sometimes that yields great results (The Legacy, For The Greater Good Of God), it also sometimes yields less than stellar ones (Dream of Mirrors, No More Lies). It would have been grander for Maiden to include two epic length songs and then bombard us with short bursts in the vein of The Final Frontier. However, as this band ages, the epic songs are becoming more and more popular amongst the band mates, and when you have a history as rich as Iron Maiden, that’s permissible.
The Bottom Line: The Final Frontier is a very progressive album that will take time to grow on the listener. Due to the layered complexity of each song, this is not an album that immediately overwhelms with an exclamation of “Wow!” However, it is an exceptional album and money well spent that will yield a return on the initial investment.
Ryo’s Rating: 8 out of 10
Satellite 15 … The Final Frontier
Mother Of Mercy
Isle Of Avalon
The Man Who Would Be King
When The Wild Wind Blows