A matter of perspective: Review of Iron Maiden’s “The Final Frontier” album

There’s something magical and fascinating about Iron Maiden. How many bands do you know who have gone strong for 35 years? Let alone never gotten tired, have never ceased to evolve or experiment, have never lost the passion to perform and are still performing, tirelessly, giving it their all, not for the obvious monetary rewards but for the love of the rush, the trip and most importantly THE FANS!

For me, the answer to that question is simple: ONE! In a world where so many bands have sold out, lost the spark or slowed down, Iron Maiden keep going strong, keep reinventing themselves, keep releasing new material, and they keep touring as well, giving it their all on stage and, in the process, making guys like me have thoughts along the line of “Wow, are those people up there really the same age as my old man?” .. Ah, but I digress, what I really wanted to do was set the mood and explain to you exactly why I adore Iron Maiden so much and why I was more than excited, anxious, thrilled, even slightly scared about yesterday, the official release of Iron Maiden’s long awaited 15th studio album, “The Final Frontier”

You get sorta worried when bands who have been around for ages release new material. There are so many expectations, so much to live up to, so many classic albums already under their studded leather belts.. What’s it gonna be like? Will it be like the rest? Will it rock your socks off? Or will it disappoint you horribly?

First things first: “The Final Frontier” is not like the rest, it’s not a disappointment, and given time, effort and seen in the right context, it will more than likely rock your socks off.

Now, then, let’s get one thing out in the open: The Final Frontier is, musically and technically a masterpiece of pretty epic proportions. But let’s be honest, musicality and technicality alone does not a classic album make. If that were the case, “Nevermind the bollocks, here’s the Sex Pistols” would not still be one of the most talked about albums in rock history.

The Final Frontier does not contain many of the well-known, fast paced, verse-chorus-verse-chorus sing-a-long classics that are so common of Maiden’s other records. Rather it continues, and further evolves, the progressive style which began on the “Brave New World” album and has continued since. And depending how you look at it, that’s either a really good thing or a really bad thing. If you’re a fan of classic Maiden or classic heavy metal, the album is likely to rub you the wrong way. If you’re into progressive rock, harmonies and a bit of folk or simply, like me, wept tears of joy upon THE mighty Bruce Dickinson’s return to the band and the 2000 release of “Brave New World”, then “The Final Frontier” is likely to be a treat for you.

It’s gonna take some time out of your schedule, the ten song album has a total running time of 76 minutes (with the final song, “When The Wild Wind Blows” accounting for 11 of those minutes) and it’s probably gonna take several listens to appreciate the album. It’s a work of beauty, no doubt, but a somewhat demanding one at that. It’s an elaborate mess (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) of outstanding guitar work, impressive (though admittedly worn) Dickinson vocals, tempo shifts, intertwining guitar solos and spot on drumming and bass duties from Nicko McBrain and Steve Harries respectively. At times, especially on the longer compositions, it even takes the appearance of a small scale heavy metal symphony – with a bit of Jethro Tull thrown in for good measure.. But most of these facets you won’t even notice unless you make the effort and give the album some time and a few listens. Granted, one of the beauties about Iron Maiden is that, unlike many other highly technical bands, they’ve managed to make an album that is accessible even to those who may not care or know a lot about composition and the technical aspects, and at the same time rather impressive to those who are in the know and give it a chance.. The difference being that the album is gonna have a lot of impact on the latter group but not so much on the first.

Me? I’m sold! But then again, I have been an Iron Maiden fan for the past 15 years of my life and thoroughly enjoy the new style and the fact that the band is not afraid to evolve, experiment and try new things.. So, admittedly, I’m a bit biased here. Which is why I’ve resulted to giving two grades for this work, one being a fan-boy rating of a full, well-deserved 666 stars out of six possible.

A more fair, and less biased rating would be one of 4-5 stars out of six possible for one of the best metal performances released in the past few years. No, know what, make that a full five stars and a set of devil horns for good measure.

The good tracks: El Dorado, The Talisman, When The Wild Wind Blows (because I just adore 10+ minute songs that never get boring)

The not so good tracks: Satellite 15… The Final Frontier, Mother of Mercy

Overall rating:

***** \m/

UP THE IRONS!!

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