Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Iron Maiden Final Frontier CD Review

Iron Maiden
The Final Frontier
8 out of 10

Iron Maiden’s latest album, The Final Frontier recently made the number four slot on the Billboard Charts in the U.S., while reaching number one in a places ranging as far away as our northern neighbors in Canada to the Godzilla-fearing Japan.

So what’s America’s problem? Are we just a bunch of metal hating music snobs? Not exactly.

Sure, Iron Maiden’s 15th album is a solid offering (and kicks the ass of most anything released in the last few months), but it definitely doesn’t hold up to the classics, and isn’t even the best record the group has released in its “later years,” (that honor goes to Brave New World).

I’ve heard a number of reviews talk about how The Final Frontier is “a grower,” (likely because the majority of the tracks are over eight minutes) but I disagree. There are plenty of tracks I was immediately drawn to and surprisingly enough it's the shorter ones that are mostly forgettable.

After listening to the album I’ve divided it into three sections based on what I like, from worst to best. Obviously, I’ll save the best for last. First is the decent, but forgettable set of songs on the album.

”Eldorado” was the first single off the album and is a powerful track in the live setting. The intro guitar harmony on “Coming Home” is immediately catchy even if the song has a bit of that Bruce Dickinson solo album feel. ”The Alchemist” is straight Piece of Mind era Maiden, just not as good (speaking of solo albums, Dickinson’s The Chemical Wedding also featured a track called ”The Alchemist… weird).

Then I generally break the album up into the section which has good, but not great, songs, consisting of the intro track, “Satellite 15 … The Final Frontier,” "Mother of Mercy,", Starblind, and “The Talisman.”

Many people have complained about the intro track because of the drawn out, “Satellite 15.” It is cool during the first listen, but goes on for longer than needed. It should have been a track of its own.

”The Final Frontier,” is memorable, although it is extremely repetitive and Dickinson chooses to use a more grating falsetto (which pains me a bit because I love Dickinson’s vocal style). He drops in and out of this on a few songs on the album, but give the man a break, he is getting older after all.

And finally we get to the meat of the album, which hardcore Iron Maiden fans will likely eat up – the epic songs (“Isle of Avalon,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” and “When the Wild Wind Blows.”) These songs all have unexpected moments, which make them stand out among the rest of Maiden’s catalog.

“Isle of Avalon’s” intro may be drawn out, but once you get further into the song, the riffs and harmonies verge on all-out prog rock. And ”The Man Who Would Be King,” is a classic Maiden epic.

Finally … the best song of the album. “When the Wild Wind Blows,” is another Maiden masterpiece, that I hope will be a staple of the live set for years to come. The song builds up around a simple melody combined with the vocals, “Have you heard what they said on the news today?”

The track tells the tale of an end of the world scenario and proves Dickinson is still one of the better musical storytellers out there. And the five-minute mark has a catchy harmony and riff that will be stuck in your head for days - the guitars, bass, and drums are brilliant on this one.

The Final Frontier is an album for hardcore Maiden fans, and them alone. And while it is not as amazing as some may have hoped, there are a few incredible moments making the album worth the price of admission.


Anonymous said...

3 out of 10 ain't good!

Randy said...

Just to avoid confusion, I originally said 3 out of 10 songs were brilliant on the album, not that this person was commenting on my review, which is "8 out of 10."