Friday, August 20, 2010

Iron Maiden-The Final Frontier



If someone told me in the mid-1980's that 25 years from this point that Maiden would still be going strong I would have went along with it for sure because they were in the middle of a great run at the time. If someone told me in the mid-1990's that Maiden would still be going strong in 15 years then I would have been much more doubtful because they were in a serious slump at the time. A few years later Bruce and Adrain rejoined the fold and by "Dance of death" they were now back on track and beginning a new era of greatness for the band. In 2006 "A Matter of life and death" added on to that streak and Iron Maiden were once again back to the top. So now we have a new album and of course my expectations are high. A new Iron Maiden album coming out is almost like Christmas except of course Christmas comes along far more often than the last few Maiden albums. I eagerly unwrapped it and popped it in the player. After some brief spacey squeals "Satellite 15" comes on as a steady and repetitive barrage of drum beats and slightly odd guitar riffs. It becomes obvious that Maiden are making us wait a little longer for their return. Then Bruce slowly comes on and "The Final Frontier" starts up and we get some simple, but punchy beats with a chorus that's going to be burned into you brain right away. Like everyone else I played that free download of "El Dorado" over and over, but it seems different coming after another song as opposed to just being played by itself. This song works much better as a chapter of this album rather than standing on it's own and that's not a knock on it. Rather the upbeat sound goes along with the other tracks and the overall flavor of the album. The flowing rhythms come on with "Mother of Mercy" and Bruce Dickinson shines on this one. It's a very smooth song keeping much in the style of the previous two albums. "Coming Home" gets into the heart of the track relatively fast, but seems a bit light and simple by the high standards that Maiden have set for themselves in previous releases. It's a decent song, but I could feel the energy draining some at this point. That feeling gets quickly wiped away as "The Alchemist" comes roaring on. Those who long for the faster songs of Maiden's past like "Back in the village" and "Flash of the blade" are going to be in for a treat with this one. It breaks things up a little too as we prepare for the second half of the album. "Isle of Avalon" has a floating type atmosohere for around the first half and in many ways reminds me of some tracks of off Seventh son of a seventh son. The passages around the middle of the song are far more of a prog-rock style than the usual Maiden fare. "Starblind" gets my vote as song that took me the longest to warm up to, but after half a dozen plays it finally sunk in. It took me a while because of the amount of pieces that squeezed into this track. It's a roller coaster ride with plenty of twists and turns, but it took me a while to absorb it all. Only three tracks left, but it's almost half an hour of music to go. However I think it's the three strongest tracks on the album. "The Talisman" begins with Bruce doing a spoken-type intro before the song really kicks into gear. As with most of the second half of this album it's a track where we get both quantity and quality. The band again brings so many parts to the mix and when Bruce gets rolling he delivers another fine performance. "The man who would be king" is possibly the most different track on the album as in different from Maiden's past. It's also the most interesting track as well, but I doubt that everyone is going to take to it. We hear more of Steve Harris than we do on any of the previous songs and we also hear some great melodies and again and incredible amount of pace changes. This is an amazing song and one where I think I will continue to discover aspects about it that I enjoy the more I listen to it. Remember back when Maiden did one epic song per album? Now in recent years the amount of epics almost equal the non-epics. That's fine with me because no one does these type of songs better than Maiden and they show that again with the final track "When the wild wind blows". This is an almost 11 minute monster, but again Maiden know how to make these songs both treats and journeys rather just being long songs. They pull out all the stops for this one with melodies, hooks and tones popping in and out all along the way. A fantastic finish to an album that finished better than it started. This album is of course going to at least initially be compared to "A matter of life and death" because it follows it and because AMOLAD was a spectacular album even by Maiden standards. Is the Final Frontier as good as A matter of life and death? No, but it is a great album. The whole mood is much more upbeat than either of the previous two albums and that was actually startling at first, but because it's consistant throughout the album I got used to it around the second time through. To some extent Maiden have always had to compete with and be compared to their past efforts because they are the best at what they and have done so many mind-blowing albums. Yet for the most part the band has never been bogged down by or felt the need to totally rely on their past. Here in recent years they have have built upon their past success and added to their sound by reaching out and taking chances with some different sounds and ideas. Most bands don't even attempt that particularly not this far into the game. This isn't just any band and thirty plus years after their start Iron Maiden are still pushing the boundries of metal and creating some power and stunning musical landscapes for fans to enjoy.

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Blogger bob_vinyl said...

I felt the same way about "El Dorado." It worried me a little when I first heard it in isolation, but within the context of the album, it totally worked. It seems we both agree that the second half of the album was more exciting.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my biggest beef with the album at the moment is the lack of memorable guitar solos. i've listened to the album at least a dozen times now and still can't hear one solo in my head, yet i can hear the main riffs just fine. the one solo that i do notice when the album is paying is Jannick's in the Alchemist. My favorite song on the album but the solo is absolute shit. And I don't just say that out of my disdain for Gers. It's a shitty solo.

Satellite 15 should have been tracked by itself.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Rob Liz said...

I'd go further and say not too many memorable songs on the album. When the Wild Wind Blows was actually my favorite track.
I don't know what it is but it seems like every other album by Maiden since 2000 has been bland to me musically. Also Bruce's vocals are starting to show the wear of the years. He's still insisting on trying to reach registers he can no longer do with ease and it's distracting.

12:52 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

I guess it's too bad they didn't bring in Yngwie, huh? He's all about memorable solos. I hear them every time I feel like I'm in a coma.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Sean-I thought the solos fit very much with the style of the songs.

Are you saying Satellite 15 should have been tracked by itself because it works better that way or so you skip past it easier to get to the title track?

Rob-I thought most of the songs were memorable. I thought the 90's were horrible for Maiden, Brave new world was fair, but I have really enjoyed the last three albums.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I think "El Dorado" is one of the coolest hum-alongs Maiden's done in quite awhile. I LOVE the opening and cranked it on repeat a few times on the road, particularly to annoy people at intersections. I'll be working up my review later and I'd say I only have a few reservations and detect a few sloppy parts (which stunned me), but in all, a real good time album most young bands today cream their jeans wishing they could put together themselves.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice dig, bob? well, not really as i agree with you in a way, but that's for a different discussion. but what that does that have to do with this post? nothing? right. just typing to hear your fingers rattle again? got it. great.

yes mark, satellite 15 would be skipped at the moment that album started. luckily a friend of mine edited the mp3 for me so now i don't have the opening nonsense on my ipod at all now.

ray, there are some really sloppy parts on the album, especially in el dorado. i'm quite surprised as well.

2:41 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

I'm just typing, because I'm so hilarious!

4:19 PM  

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