Iron Maiden, living legends of modern heavy metal, have recently released their 15th studio album, The Final Frontier. The last Iron Maiden album I reviewed, A Matter of Life and Death, I called the best Iron Maiden album ever. That's saying a lot for a band with such albums as The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, and Powerslave in their back-catalog. Do I dare to make such a bold claim again with The Final Frontier? Perhaps this time I'll digress, but not without being strongly tempted! This album continues to solidify the band's reputation for always being able to deliver a quality metal album with well-blended elements of classic, progressive and melodic metal.
If you have followed Maiden's recent works since Bruce Dickinson rejoined the band in 2000, then you may think you know what to expect. However, as The Final Frontier opens with the epic, sci-fi themed "Satellite 15... The Final Frontier", Iron Maiden immediately (and boldly!) go somewhere they've never been before, musically speaking. Drummer Nicko McBrain performs such a unique, intense, and thundrous cacophany of a drum intro the likes of which I've never heard in heavy metal. As this intro builds layer upon layer, as instruments join in, one by one, the listener is drawn in to the song with a truely gravitational force. About two-and-a-half minutes in, there's a bit of a lull during which Bruce's voice comes in and sets the lyrical context of the song, followed with the resumption of the drum-theme, but intensified two-fold. The song builds further like a wave about to break. Then, at the four-and-a-half minute mark, they shift gears for the title track, which rocks out like classic Iron Maiden!
Before you have a chance to catch your breath, the next track, "El Dorado", picks up where the first one left off, and raises the intensity even higher. The guitar riffs are a bit heavier, almost thrash-metal paced. Bruce's vocals soar with the kind of powerful delivery Iron Maiden's fans are used to. By this point you know you're in for an excellent listening experience, and your head should already be in motion!
By turns and twists, this album goes on to explore different facets of epic heavy metal. From intricate guitar solos to the always-masterful vocals of Bruce Dickinson; from the thundering drums to the driving bass riffs, this album has everything. Many songs are built upon melodic, lead-guitar passages, while others take root from Steve Harris' ingenious bass-lines. Thematically and lyrically, The Final Frontier focuses mostly on topics of fiction and fantasy, with the exception of the last number, "When the Wild Wind Blows", whose lyrics read like an indictment of today's current events & politics.
I shouldn't forget to mention that this album is available as a 'Mission-Edition', a version of the CD w/ special packaging (a windowed, tin CD case) that includes a code for special online content, music video, interview, and video game.
Check out this new masterpiece from Iron Maiden, and do not miss out on these recommended songs:
-Satellite 15... The Final Frontier
-Mother of Mercy
-Coming Home (Bruce's lyrics on this one come straight from his perspective as a jet pilot)
-When The Wild Wind Blows