Iron Maiden
The Final Frontier


3.5
great

Review

by Mike Stagno EMERITUS
August 16th, 2010 | 286 replies | 68,708 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Final Frontier is the kind of record that takes several listens to truly appreciate, but it's definitely worth it.

For a band that has achieved so much acclaim and accolades over the past thirty-five years, Iron Maiden have certainly developed a number of bad habits in recent years. These quirks aren't particularly aggravating (and haven't kept the group from being among metal's most consistent artists), but they're head-scratchers nonetheless. Give them credit however, even though The Final Frontier is the band's fifteenth album and they really don't have anything left to prove, there's still a conscious effort to address some of old problems. In some cases they're successful and in others, not so much; "Satellite 15… The Final Frontier" and "El Dorado" are two of the record's weaker songs, and aren't particularly representative of the album as a whole (continuing a strange trend which saw them promote Virtual XI with "The Angel and the Gambler", Dance of Death with "Wildest Dreams" and A Matter of Life and Death with "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg"). More pressing is Iron Maiden's continuing reliance on prog-influenced metal. Although it's been generally accessible on other post-reunion albums, it makes for a far more challenging listen this time around. Essentially, The Final Frontier is the kind of record that takes several listens to truly appreciate, but it's definitely worth it.

In terms of scope, The Final Frontier isn't particularly different from Dance of Death or A Matter of Life and Death. Much of the album is dominated by sprawling, generally guitar-centric passages, and bassist Steve Harris' lyrical work expands on previously explored themes (references to religion are especially common, as are personal struggles). What differentiates The Final Frontier from past records, however, is its lack of immediacy. The hooks aren't quite as instant, the riffs aren't quite as urgent, and the album as a whole sounds dense, even long-winded at times. The bizarre instrumental that opens "Satellite 15… The Final Frontier" seems to serve no purpose other than to introduce the record in a quasi-futuristic manner with synthesizer and programmed drums (!), and is promptly forgotten when Bruce Dickinson's shouts mark the transition into the band's more familiar brand of metal. It's a flaw that repeats itself a few times throughout the album; "Isle of Avalon" sports a number of ill-advised guitar solos that sound out of place in the generally low key track, while the two minute clean guitar intro in "The Talisman" is far too reminiscent of A Matter of Life and Death's "The Legacy". With three tracks exceeding (and two approaching) the nine minute mark, it's due to moments like these that contribute to The Final Frontier's bloated tendencies.

With repeated listening, the album's strengths become more apparent and it becomes easier to overlook its weaknesses. The final four songs (intro to "The Talisman" aside) are on par with just about anything this side of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son; Dickinson is at his best in the sombre sounding "Starblind", combining with exceptionally written riffs and a long, yet tastefully instrumental section to make for a definite highlight. "When the Wild Wind Blows" is another standout, not necessarily for the instrumental complexity that guitarist Dave Murray promised, but rather for Harris' vibrant storytelling. Speaking of lyrical creativity, there are definite signs of improvement on the band's part. Of The Final Frontier's ten tracks, only the title cut features the mindless repetition of the song's name ala "No More Lies". If Iron Maiden haven't exactly reinvented themselves they've gotten over that.

Recently, some of Iron Maiden's most underrated songs have been their shorter pieces, such as "The Fallen Angel", "The Mercenary", and "The Pilgrim". While the lack of complexity probably generates less fanfare (it's understandably easier to get excited over an epic like "Paschendale" than a "New Frontier"), but their more straightforward songs are just as well crafted. The melodic riff styles utilized in "Mother of Mercy" and "The Alchemist" slightly resemble Iron Maiden's classic work (albeit through a modern lens), while "Coming Home" cycles between a sentimental, ballad-esque piece and rousing rock. With the possible exception of "Starblind", "Coming Home" is the most inspired song on the album, and it only has two solos. Imagine that! Seriously though, one almost wishes these kinds of songs were more predominant as they're just as great as longer "epics", but offer up a different vision of the band's sound that they've seemed to lost sight of.

The Final Frontier isn't the easiest record to get into, but there's a wealth of material to be enjoyed after initial spins. While tracks like "Coming Home", "Starblind", and "The Man Who Would Be King" don't have the same flash as some of Iron Maiden's more famous songs (at least at first), they aren't lacking in the vigour or enthusiasm the band has almost always maintained throughout their career. And ultimately, this is what makes The Final Frontier worth returning to time and time again.



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user ratings (1116)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • mike197 (4)
    Hard to listen to in one go, but worth it if you dig in with some truly great tracks....

    necroscope86 (3)
    Overly long and with too much repetition, Maiden prove once again that they know how to ma...

    Starblind (5)
    No surprises here. Iron Maiden's fifteenth album is a classy declaration of longevity and ...

    Caesar Riley (4.5)
    Easily one of the best albums since Powerslave....

  • backtothe80s (4.5)
    For the most part, you can't compare The Final Frontier to the 80s albums, nor should it b...

    loosethefiend (4)
    Though slightly flawed, a solid album for Maiden...

    ECDpower (4)
    This album is proof that Iron Maiden are moving against dying light. If you love metal, t...

    Nicksta101 (4)
    Whether it takes you five listens or one, The Final Frontier is an album which most Iron M...

  • Irving Tan STAFF (3.5)
    With their fifteenth studio release, Iron Maiden have produced their most melodic and comp...

    Michael Philp (4)
    Give it time and Final Frontier will grow on you, this is Iron Maiden doing more then rest...

    CasualListen (4)
    Iron Maiden's 15th studio effort is an absolute blast that will certainly please both fans...

    BathoryHordes (3)
    Solid but a bit of a letdown, but what could he have expected?...

  • Matthijs van der Lee (3.5)
    Maiden will be Maiden......


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rush22
August 16th 2010



43 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I really enjoyed the debut of the album, thought they where doing something new, but then it became plain old Maiden. Very good nonetheless

maidenpmcc
August 16th 2010



1424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Guhhhh, still not a 4 review or higher yet..........

Nonetheless, well written as usual Mike.

Ire
August 16th 2010



41746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

MAIDENPRIEST

TheFantasticDangler
August 16th 2010



1149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Three 3.5s now

Mikesn
Emeritus
August 16th 2010



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i for one am shocked

south_of_heaven 11
August 16th 2010



5433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review. I really agree on your summary of "When the Wild Wind Blows", in that it's the story telling that makes it...

Nagrarok
August 16th 2010



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great to see you taking a different angle on this. I agree with most of what you wrote, and this is definitely a bit of a grower; it was barely a 3 for me at first listen.

TheFantasticDangler
August 16th 2010



1149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I still think The Alchemist is my fav off of this

Poet
August 16th 2010



5920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

wtf this came out already? I'm expecting it to be a 3.5 though.

RebelWithoutApplause
August 16th 2010



220 Comments


WTF NEW MAIDEN FAPTASTIC.

Classikmetal
August 16th 2010



42 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Great review. It seems what we are getting from every person who reviews this album is giving it a sold 7 or 8. That's not shabby for a Maiden album. They still know how to deliver well. UP THE IRONS!

Adash
August 16th 2010



1356 Comments


can't believe people still listen to dis shit

Ire
August 16th 2010



41746 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's no btbam

TheFantasticDangler
August 16th 2010



1149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

lol regardless of your musical tastes, ya cant really call Maiden shit

Dwap
August 16th 2010



65 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I can't believe people aren't liking this more. It is a bit bloated in parts but overall I put this ahead of Brave New World, Dance of Death & Matter of Life And Death.

For me, they've stuck with the long/progressive elements but have honed them to a much more enjoyable level. My biggest complaint would be with Bruce's vocals but still, this kicks ass.

lostforwords
August 17th 2010



443 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mike I was very impressed when I saw that you gave AMOLAD a 5.Do you still stand for it? Didn't the fact that the shorter tracks are really good in The Final Frontier stress how one dimensional AMOLAD was?

Vortex
August 17th 2010



10 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

It was horrible first listen, I thought they lost it completely... I was going to give them 2. After all they were going down since BNW.

But 5-6 days and around 15 listens later, things have changed.

PistolPete
August 17th 2010



3555 Comments


iunno not a fan of this album, but willing to try them because I am a sucker for guitar solos, what's a better album from them?

Digging: Nothing More - Nothing More

maidenpmcc
August 17th 2010



1424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Try Powerslave, The Number Of The Beast and Somewhere in Time.

If you want Modern Maiden, Try Brave New World or A Matter of Life and Death.

Gee
August 17th 2010



228 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nah try seventh son, powerslave and somewhere in time. notb is overrated. its one of the most average maiden albums



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