Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

Iron Maiden - The Final FrontierIron MaidenThe Final Frontier (EMI)

For the first five minutes of the opening track on Iron Maiden‘s 15th studio album The Final Frontier, you’ll be checking the player to make sure the music is indeed being made by Iron Maiden. “Satellite 15…The Final Frontier” takes its own sweet time reaching the familiar gallop of classic Maiden territory, which makes the moments leading up to it strangely unsettling.

That slow burn is prevalent throughout The Final Frontier. It’s their longest album to date and their most progressive, and for that reason it may a bit off-putting to fans hoping for a return to their ’80s form. The thing is, the band is more popular now worldwide than they were during the ’80s, and they got that way by staying true to their own rules and by not spending too much time looking back.

I’ll admit that I was a bit underwhelmed with The Final Frontier‘s first single, “El Dorado,” a bit of pedestrian Maiden that made its way onto their most recent tour where it was quickly forgotten by the time the next song on the setlist.

I’ll even go further and say that up until track 5, I began to worry if Maiden was reaching a point of not knowing where to focus their energies with this most recent release. Yes, the first half of The Final Frontier is bland, late-era filler—the kind of material that gets people to whine for “Run To The Hills” or some other notable classic cut that’s missing from their most recent tour.

But starting with “The Alchemist,” and continuing to the end of the album, the band turns a corner, delivering complex and long-winded progressive layers that will further alienate those who don’t understand Maiden to begin with while completely blowing the minds of long-time fans who think they’ve got this band pegged.

Trust me: you don’t. The album’s second half is a collection of uncompromising epics that can be easily overlooked if you don’t give them time to uncover their vast qualities. It’s taken me several spins to fully appreciate this album, and by the time I finally came around, I was ready to declare “The Man Who Would Be King” “The Talisman” and “Isle Of Avalon” as late-career landmarks that fans would be barking for if the band were twenty years younger.

Yes, it’s unfortunate that we’re at a point where we’re probably looking at the long goodbye of a band that’s playing like they still give a shit and still have something to prove. The Final Frontier doesn’t sound like a band that’s reached their middle ages ready to rest on prior highlights.

In fact, with all of the guitar interplay taking place in this XL-sized offering, it points to a possibility that the band could turn a progressive corner if they wanted to, matching with metal’s younger intricate destroyers.

Of course that direction is one that provides no patience for the naïve, which given the band’s thirty-plus year career of ignoring trends and consultants, would not be much of a departure from the Maiden of old.

The difference in the arrangements would be quite apparent, and provide signs of a more mature band that use to fuel their more epic material with the same combustible material that would fuel a freight train.

Iron Maiden circa album 15 takes you down a journey of tones, textures, and artistry that can turn brutal at a moment’s notice. There’s nothing new there, but what is new is their late career ability to turn beautifully brutal at the same time.

Video: Iron Maiden – “The Final Frontier” (Embedding disabled)

Audio: Iron Maiden – “El Dorado”

Iron Maiden: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

4 thoughts on “Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier”

  1. Just under the “Post a comment” box are three “You might also like:” suggestions. I suppose I can see why The Fall might be there, but what’s the deal with the Death Cab?

  2. I’m finally getting to the copy of A Matter of Life and Death a friend gave me years ago. The prog-y elements are cool. Dickinson still sounds great. Maiden rules!

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