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Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier CD (album) cover

THE FINAL FRONTIER

Iron Maiden

 

Prog Related

3.67 | 287 ratings

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aapatsos
Special Collaborator
Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
3 stars Rebuild where the ruins did stand - a fan's review

This is the fourth album of the band after their reunion about 10 years ago and it quite follows the short tradition the 6-piece set themselves both in terms of composing and of selecting poor covers for their releases (with the exception of Brave New World). The title of the album has confirmed the rumours for some that this is indeed the "Final Frontier" of the band. If this is true, then it would be neither the best nor the worst way to go.

I have always considered Brave New World as the "benchmark" of any post-2000 releases as I do not think it is fair, for various reasons which I will not explain here, to compare with the glory of the mid-80s era of the band. Since 2000 and Wickerman the band has not succeeded in producing impressive openers of great quality and this is confirmed here with the title track and El Dorado. The former wastes half its duration with an uninspiring spacey intro and finally bursts into a rather simple rocking riff that stays through the entire track, verse and chorus. The latter is meant to be a crowd pleaser, a song written to be played live, and I am sure it will succeed in its purpose. Although slightly more adventurous than its predecessor, it fails to impress with its repetitive patterns and relatively silly lyrics. The chorus does not do much to improve the situation and the track closes in exactly the same way as it opens.

The first glimpse of Maiden's compositional ability appears in Mother of Mercy. Faithful to their recent tradition of war-and-death-related songs (i.e. The Mercenary, Montsegur, Paschendale), the band delivers another epic-themed composition. Great guitar work, epic tempos and meaningful lyrics comprise the first really interesting track of the album which only suffers from the relatively weak chorus vocal lines. Coming Home shows the first signs of prog-related approach, with its astounding opening riff (that is fortunately repeated in the track), one the band's best in recent years. The track evolves as a mid-tempo "power-ballad" but the quality of the warm vocal melodies (resembling Dickinson's personal works) takes this composition a level higher, making it definitely one of the highlights. The moment a genuine Maiden fan always yearns for comes with The Alchemist. Fast-tempo, dual or triplicate high-pitched guitar riffs, heavy verse and two (!) bridges lead to the majestic chorus that could please even the most demanding listener; certainly a composition that takes us back nearly 25 years in the band's catalogue.

This concludes the first half of the album that is based on relatively short-mid duration tracks (not taking into account the intro of the opening track). It is interesting to observe that the second half accounts for more than 44 minutes, consisting of 5 long compositions.

Isle of Avalon, as the title suggests, deals with themes of fantasy and mysticism, unveiled through an opening clean guitar theme that brings to mind patterns similar to 7th Son, both lyrically and atmospherically. Slowly building up, the first distorted riffs appear after 2.5 minutes and the track peaks at its mid-point with a great variety of solos and rhythm guitar passages lasting 2 minutes, giving the second evidence of adventurous song-writing. The opening riff is brought back to the equation and a similar development leads to the track's conclusion. Almost identical in song-writing approach, evolvement and quality is Starblind. However, the "mellow" parts are shorter, allowing more space and time in the three guitarists to deliver multiple and interesting ideas; and they do succeed.

The Talisman brings us back to the times of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, both thematically and structurally, although of shorter duration. The long, bard-like acoustic intro prepares for the forth-coming epic sequence of the story which is developing through dual guitar phrases, bridges and long verses, interrupted by a single minute of adventurous soloing. Compared to the two previous tracks, this epic lacks strong melodic choruses and inspired guitar work for its most part, and sadly falls into repetition at times. Unfortunately, the album concludes with two rather weak compositions, the closing track resembling the approaches followed in The X Factor and Virtual XI, a "curse" from which the band has still not fully escaped.

The Man Who Would Be King, although starting encouragingly, falls into a blunt verse after 2 minutes and never seems to recover from this. The only glimpse of hope appears in the chorus section but this is not enough to save the track. When the Wild Wind Blows is, from start to finish, a huge a disappointment, although many will disagree with me. Childish bass lines that unfortunately reflect to the guitar and vocal melodies and weak lyrics about the end of the world comprise the picture. Mid-way the track turns into a constant mid-tempo, but fails to improve the quality and the overall feel of indifference.

The Final Frontier will not remain as a classic, will not shake the foundations of the rock/metal history, will not disappoint or delight the band's fans. However, it is another decent album added to their discography that deserves some respect and apologies from the author for the length of this review.

Highlights: Coming Home, The Alchemist. Worth mentioning: Isle of Avalon, Starblind.

aapatsos | 3/5 |

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