Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier
So Iron Maiden came out with a new album some weeks ago, and there was an undeniable excitement among fans, and somewhat of a curiosity among the others. I was looking forward to it too, though I was pretty clueless about what to expect. Their previous release- ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ scored with time, and that album did not make much of an impact with the first listen. I didn’t expect ‘The Final Frontier’ to sweep me off my feet either, but what I got was quite disappointing.
‘The Final Frontier ’opens with an almost amateur-sounding theatrical instrumental piece, which gradually leads into the title track. It’s only almost two and a half minutes into the song when Iron Maiden actually begins doing their thing, with Bruce taking centre stage. With the band having released fifteen albums in total, (this one included), ‘The Final Frontier’ sounds like the band is taking their victory lap at the start of the album itself. No doubt they have all the authority to do so, but for someone like me who looks for thematic continuity in any album, I found it a little strange that they chose to kick off the CD with a conclusive sort of track.
It took me a couple of seconds to convince myself that track two was not called ‘Barracuda’ thanks to the identical bassline. ‘El Dorado’ unfortunately sounds like an extended version of track one. Bruce aims for the higher notes here, does a great job, and also reintroduces the evil laughter in parts. Guitars kick in midway, as they always do according to the Maiden formula, and this song also ends up sounding very typical. ‘Mother of Mercy’ sounds whiny as hell, though the guitars give us a slight breather in the middle before the howling resumes. ‘Coming home’ again fails to do anything fresh, but makes a good story from Bruce’s point of view as a pilot and a journeyman through the skies.
‘The Alchemist’ is when the album picks up tempo again, and it’s a relief to know that the guys can still make their unique brand of happy-sounding metal. ‘Isle of Avalon’ feeds on a basic riff that has “dark” written all over it. The song too is pretty interesting, and resurrects you from mid-album crisis. ‘Starblind’ continues like a second version of the preceding track, and ‘Talisman’ introduces a little acoustic element in the CD. ‘The Man who would be King’ could have easily been skipped from the final tracklist.
By this time, I’ve lost hope, but that’s also precisely when ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ butts in and decides to play superhero. It’s during this song when you realize how Iron Maiden can magically transform a simple tune into eleven minutes of sheer brilliance.
‘The Final Frontier’ is definitely not one of Maiden’s best musical ventures. It does have its highs and its abundant lows, but they aren’t a band you can judge by an album. They are the same guys who gave us ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ and ‘Number of the Beast’, and have accomplished too much over the years for one release to hamper their image. Though the beginning of the album makes you think that retirement may actually do them good, certain songs on ‘The Final Frontier’ show you that they can continue in the business for a few years more. It isn’t fresh and experimental, but if the Maiden formula that has gone on for some many years still continues to work for you, then go ahead and pick up the album. ‘The Final Frontier’ could have been digested much better if the band hadn’t made it as long as it is. Short and sweet maybe cliché, but it still works!