Iron Maiden
The Final Frontier

One has to wonder if there is really a need in reviewing the 15th album from such legendary metal band. I mean, most of you have already purchased it blind the day it came out, as I did, and really don’t need the opinion of some Internet hack to sway your opinion. However, I kinda wished I had read a few reviews of The Final Frontier – because I have to admit, I’m very disappointed.

Now, I know that not loving an Iron Maiden album is metal heresy, but it’s my job to be honest and not simply praise The Final Frontier because its Maiden’s 15th album, their fourth since their 2000’s reunion album Brave New World… has it really been 10 years since they reunited? I have to tell you up front: The Final Frontier simply never leaves orbit, rather sputtering on the landing pad and eventually peters out a gasp of rocket fuel and empty fumes. Kind of what you might expect from a bunch of 50 years olds with 30 years in the scene.

Maybe it’s the first impression from opener “Satellite 15… ” which leads into the title track that gets a bur in my ass right from the get go; nearly five minutes of plodding beats, programming, guitars and warbling. And then, when the title track does eventually start — it’s a wandering mid-paced number that never peaks, but plods with a repetitive chorus and no real climax. From there—for the most part—that seems to be the template for the rest of the album. Long drawn out songs which sound tired, lifeless and going through the motions.

As a fan of the band’s last three efforts—A Matter of Life and Death included—I’m fine with long rambling songs, as heard on the likes of “Paschendale”, “For the Greater Good of God” and “Dream of Mirrors”. The band can be awesome at it. But, on The Final Frontier only 3 of the 11 songs are under 7-8 minutes and three of the songs range from 9-11 minutes — making for a languid, mostly forgetful 76-minute run time. While I know that A Matter of Life and Death was almost as long, at least those songs stuck a little better.

Frankly, the likes of “Isle of Avalon”, “The Man Who Would be King” and ‘epic’ closer “When the Wild Wind Blows” wander aimlessly for 9+ minutes without any of the rousing, rewarding climaxes you’ve come to expect from the band. Though, there are some OK solos from Messrs Smith, Murray and Gers but they are buried 7-8 minutes into some horribly routine material. Throw in some real fillers like “Mother of Mercy” (arguably one of Maiden’s most snooze inducing songs ever) and ballad “Coming Home” and what you are left with is an album that has three, maybe four memorable songs worth of the Maiden name. To be blunt: The Final Frontier bored me to death like Space Odyssey 2001.

On the minimal upside, “El Dorado” is a fun little romp, though I can see Dickinson really sounding awful in a live environment for the catchy but strained chorus. “Starblind” is a somber but progressive number and the real standout, “The Alchemist”, is classic, bouncy Maiden that could have come from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. “The Talisman” is a toss up as it has a few moments of excellence…but it also could be about three minutes shorter. The Kevin Shirley production is once again a love it or hate it affair with Harris’ bass twanging away squarely in the forefront for the albums duration. It doesn’t change the fact this is Maiden’s worst collection of Dickinson fronted songs in many, many years.

This review does come with a caveat: It’s just my opinion and I’m sure many of you will love this album, but for those of you on the fence, please seek out a range of opinions. I think you’ll find them incredibly divisive with my review being one of the more negative ones out there. But even after 30 years, I simply can’t give Maiden a pass because of their legacy.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
August 23rd, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Shawn Pelata

    I disagree. I went out and got it Friay evening and have spun it 3 times. I like it. I’m not bored by it at all. It’s not mind-bending super-genius, but it rolls along quite well and I enjoyed it overall. Iron Maiden, for all intents and purposes, have become a Prog Rock band, IMO. That’s what I hear when I listen to their last few albums and I like it. Harris’ well-known love of Prog Rock has taken over and woven itself into the tapestry of the band and, for me, it works.


  2. Commented by: Jeff Kent

    My feeling is that the band is more relaxed on this record and by not trying so hard to blast into outer space they sort of break the field of gravity and float around for a while in orbit before gliding back gently to earth. Let’s face it, Maiden was never Slayer or some extreme Metal band. They’re….Maiden. More influenced by Jethro Tull and UFO than by Meshuggah or (insert extreme metal band here).

    I agree that TFF could use a heavier hand while editing, those 3 minute ‘atmospheric’ slow intros have got to go and the solos need to be higher in the mix. Adrian’s solo on Coming Home is its own little tune.


  3. Commented by: Dan

    I think we’re on the same page Erik. I’m not a Maiden expert, but that shouldn’t keep me from enjoying their music. Everything I’ve heard from TFF has been pretty unmoving.


  4. Commented by: Dan

    Also, talk about giving them a pass, none of the glowing reviews I’ve read mention how strained Bruce sounds, “El Dorado” being a prime example.


  5. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Bruce really isn’t ‘strained’ anywhere on this record. That is simply how his falsetto sounds these days…he is staying in key, but it comes off very nasely. But,I think some of the falsetto parts should have been re-worked and sung in his superior tennor range, where he is most commanding. This problem was present on AMOLAD as well…I really don’t know why they don’t seem to notice this stuff in the studio and toy with his vocals until they sound right. The only thing I can think of to rationalize this oversight is maybe Bruce/Maiden/kevin shirley felt very passionate about that particular vocal take and decided to keep it. On Starblind, he sounds like crap at parts, and brilliant on others…but it seems to be all one long, emotional take that the band was happy with.

    The vocals are quite a toss up on this album. It contains some pretty painful falsetto, yet also plenty of stuff that I wouldn’t hesitate to put alongside his best ever vocal work….


  6. Commented by: Clauricaune

    This album can only stick with hardcore Maiden fans. It’s only got a handful of somewhat decent but not exactly memorable songs. The rest is crap, Maiden’s sound taken to exhaustion point.


  7. Commented by: Shawn Pelata

    I also disagree on the vocals not being up to quality. Bruce is a fine, strong vocalist and, even at age 52, the man is still one of the best in the game. He never went the Halford route and used super high falsetto screams. He went the Dio route and stayed in his natural range. The amount of touring he has done in his life is enough to choke lesser men. IMO, his tone is rich and full and, even when he gets higher (like the parts Biff mentioned) he never sounds thin and straining. Nobody in the scene of Bruce’s tenure can hide the signs of aging on their voices, and Bruce is no exception. But his power and passion is there as strong as ever and he sings the material on this album brilliantly, IMO.


  8. Commented by: Red

    I’ve got to admit, this is not a album that will be liked or easily digested by casual or mediocre Maiden fans. The songs just aren’t taliored for a quick fix/listen. I do think that most hardcore fans will love it, I know I do and alot of other fans I’ve talked to seem to dig it as well. That said, why the hell did Erik review this??? I mean we knew he wouldn’t care for it, there’s not a deathcore breakdown insight. Jk Erik, just giving ya a hardtime. =)


  9. Commented by: Jeff Kent

    From what Kevin Shirley has said it sounds like Bruce flew in to do his parts then left. Maybe he didn’t stick around long enough to work on them much. I get the impression there’s no arguing with Steve while recording either. It’s his band and you do the songs his way.


  10. Commented by: Staylow

    “Nobody in the scene of Bruce’s tenure can hide the signs of aging on their voices, and Bruce is no exception. But his power and passion is there as strong as ever and he sings the material on this album brilliantly, IMO.”

    Agreed, I think he sounds fine, and as someone who heard El Dorado live recently, he sounded great.

    I like the album as a whole, but it has it’s downfalls. The intro attached to the title track should have been just an intro – it’s painfully annoying, I’d love to just take it out of the playlist. “Coming Home” is yawn inducing, and I still haven’t heard the closer enough times to make judgement, but at this point it doesn’t move me one way or another. The rest range from good to fantastic, with The Alchemist, Starblind, The Talisman and The Man Who Would Be King being at the top of the heap.

    All in all it’s a fair review though Erik, even if I completely disagree.


  11. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Staylow- DUDE. Coming Home is fantastic !!! Bruce’s vocals are just amazing on it.

    And I agree….anyone who thinks Bruce is losing his voice hasn’t seen them live in the last couple years. The man has gotten better with age. He has much more control of his voice these days.


  12. Commented by: emperorjvl

    The best thing about this album is that doesn’t include the nauseating “Blood Brothers”. Otherwise, pretty boring, plodding, and lifeless output by Maiden.


  13. Commented by: Jeff Kent

    I agree that ‘Coming Home’ is great, just a well written and poignant tune not unlike ‘Wasted Years’ in theme. I love the relaxed feel that it has too, keeps it from being completely ballady. Plus H’s solo on it is tasty. It would fit right in on Bruce’s Tyranny of Souls.


  14. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    Been a Maiden fan all my life, but I’m with Erik on this one. It’s lifeless and flat. A few of the songs are not bad, but I don’t get any energy off of it at all. I feel the same about it as the last two, which I haven’t cracked the case on since shortly after they came out. I’d rather have another Bruce solo record. His last three have been consistently better than Maiden’s output over the same time frame.


  15. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I’m only halfway through my second dedicated listen but here’s my .02 so far:

    1) Final Frontier: Intro is at least interesting but should have been its own track. The song itself is dull and toothless and barely metal, but at least it’s better than the past two Maiden openers.

    2) El Dorado: This is actually ok far as songwriting goes, it sounds like something off Piece of Mind. Bruce sounds strained in parts, I find that when he sings in his lower register he sounds flat, but he perks up in the chorus.

    3) Mother of Mercy: Don’t understand the hate, I like this song more than most Maiden songs over the last decade. It’s dramatic, has some genuine menace and some interesting melodies when things get heavy. Despite some banal lyrics, Bruce feels like a storyteller on this and is quite effective.

    4) Coming Home: Soooo boring. Confirms what I said above about Bruce singing in his lower register – it makes the song just drag. Only things I like here are the solos. Considering deleting this so I don’t have to hear it anymore, I realllllly don’t like it.

    5) The Alchemist. This could have been an Aces High-style barnburner had Kevin Shirley’s production not been so, well, earthbound. Nothing has any bite, it’s all a solid chunk of sound. Bruce’s vocals and the bass are so high that everything else has been cranked up as well and there’s just no dynamism. Compare this with the rollicking, fleet-footed charge of “The Trooper” and you’ll see what I mean. I had to turn the bass down and the mid and treble up to really enjoy this. At least the song is decent.

    More later! Shit I should’ve just written a 2nd opinion review.


  16. Commented by: faust666

    Good to see someone say it like it is. This album IS tired, lifeless,terribly produced(again) snooze-inducing and flat out boring.Maiden is merely a “nostalgia-juice” act now – in the studio.


  17. Commented by: Appollyonx

    Good review Erik. I did one on my site as well. I do feel like at this point in their career Iron Maiden really have nothing to prove to anybody. If they said fuck it, this is our last album and we’re retiring, would it be the best swansong album? No, it wouldn’t, and while I’m not completely disappointed with it, I wasn’t as blown away as I was hoping I’d be. I have to admit, Mother of Mercy is one of my favorite songs on the album.


  18. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    I think it’s really interesting that, love it or hate it, nearly everyone has different opinions of which songs are good/bad. Not many albums are as polarizing as that….That leads me to believe there is more going on during this album than meets-the-ear at first glance….


Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.

  • Kiova - Empty Fields and Smoke-Filled Skies EP
  • Mors Principium Est - Seven
  • Eternal Champion - Ravening Iron
  • Angerot - The Divine Apostate
  • Carnation - Where Death Lies
  • My Dying Bride - Macabre Cabaret EP
  • Witchtrap - Evil Strikes Again
  • Décembre Noir - The Renaissance of Hope
  • Ossuary Anex - Obscurantism Apogee
  • Killer Be Killed - Reluctant Hero
  • Stormkeep - Galdrum EP
  • Atrae Bilis - Divinihility EP
  • Draconian - Under a Godless Veil
  • TON - Ashes Where They Stood
  • Furies - Fortune’s Gate