Artist: Iron Maiden
Album: The Final Frontier
Genre: Heavy Metal
Producer: Kevin Shirley
Release Date: 16th AUGUST 2010
Recorded At: Compass Point Studios, Nassau; Caveman Studios, California
The Lords of metal return to the battlefront with an album to blow away any non believers.
It has been four long years since the band amazed us with an album so fierce and mighty, it grabbed us by the balls and didn’t let go. Since the mid 90s, the band has shown their ability to write longer prog-rock influenced songs with great results, and with A Matter… they took it to a whole new level. Flash-forward to 2010, they return with an album so epic and experimental that the band break into a realm seldom breached by any of their contemporaries. The album bears shades of classical music, derives heavily from prog-rock of the 70s and takes some huge leaps into the domain of folk metal, but don’t get me wrong, it is all done with their omnipresent trademark gallop and signature guitar riffs, making it one of their most reflective yet progressively heavy offerings.
The progressive nature of songs has always been the epitome of every Iron Maiden album, which can be traced back even to their debut, and in this very respect, “The Final Frontier” is not overtly different from their previous recordings. From the very first note, you get a feeling that this is not gonna be your usual run-of-the-mill Maiden album. The 4 and a half-minute intro on “Satellite 15… The Final Frontier” strikes as the weirdest and perhaps the heaviest instrumental opening that the band has ever recorded, or ever dared to record in their career. Some sinisterly spoken “words of wisdom” by Bruce Dickinson give way to the mid-tempo title track. The song provides an insight into the laments of a space traveler wishing to say his final farewell to his loved ones and has all the makings to be a crowd favorite with it’s infectious chorus line. One can also imagine Maiden opening their sets with this one on their world tour. Starting off with the easily recognizable bass lines of Steve Harris, followed by the wailing vocals of Dickinson, the second song “El Dorado” is signature maiden. It features a narration about the pyramids of gold and the current economic crisis. The song which was released as a free download was seen as an odd choice for the album’s lead single in the context of the album, but upon repeated listens the song’s true essence shines through. A couple of nice back to back solos seal this one as a bona fide hit.
The album is truly diverse as it contains 2 songs which can even be described as power ballads. “Coming Home” is sure to be a crowd pleaser and it belongs completely to Dickinson, giving an insight into his experiences as a pilot returning home and being dazzled by the roaring engines and runway lights. “Mother Of Mercy,” however is punchier and has a satisfying second verse describing a tale of warfare. “The Alchemist,” the shortest and the simplest offering could very well have been a song on Brave New World, and heavily derives from songs like “The Mercenary” and even “The Pilgrim” from their previous album. “Starblind” is the only song which seems a bit out-of-place here, and the album would have just been the same without it. At almost 8 minutes, the only highlights here are the back to back solos which attempt to lift the whole song.
By now it is pretty much common knowledge that 8 minute plus epic masterpieces have become a staple ingredient of most Maiden albums, and it is these songs that are the epitome of this album. Not only do these songs portray the band’s maturity, they also provide the listener with a sense of joyful bewilderment and a heartfelt relief. It is while listening to these diamonds that all fans know for sure that there’s never going to be a half-arsed attempt by this band.
The creme de la creme of the album is served in 4 full doses. Two of these four, namely “When The Wild Wind Blows” and “The Man Who Would Be King” are very similar in design. Yet lyrically and musically, they are so unique, it makes one wonder how many more gems these Brits have under their sleeves even after 35 years of their existence. “When The Wild Wind Blows” sums up the album and is without a doubt Maiden’s greatest song ever written, bar none. Every aspect of this song is perfectly delivered by a band whose members are in complete control of their individual and collective skills. The beauty of the song lies not only in the top-notch vocal performances, but also in the aptness of the lyrics, describing a couple who rely on rumors about the impending doomsday due to a cataclysmic event, mistaking an earthquake for a nuclear catastrophe. This song is Maiden like you have never heard before.
The precision with which each of the last four songs is delivered is not only a testament to the freshness of the album, but also provides a certain longevity to the songs and the band as a whole, especially when you have to make room for 3 guitar players in the fold. “The Talisman” follows in a similar vein, another classic which has the uncanny ability to be etched on to the listener’s mind for a long time. A nice mid tempo intro transforms into a graceful melody of epic proportions. “The Isle of Avalon” begins by creating an atmosphere of tension before exploding into a superb progressive section which is stitched quite intricately with the grand chorus verses and keyboards providing an unmistakable yet new edge to the song. Even the guitar solos on this one are sure to bring an everlasting grin on everyone’s faces. All in all, the album has all the makings to be a Maiden classic that can safely rank amongst their best.
Download These: When The Wild Wind Blows, The Talisman, The Man Who Would Be King