Album in Depth: The Final Frontier by Iron Maiden

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. In the midst of the year, I had an idea of a site that would host many album reviews by me and a group of people that not only would try to cover the most albums possible but review the same albums, and thus creating multiple opinions under the same subject so that the reader could identify with an specific author with an similar preference and heed to find his interest. Or, let’s see, if someone else comes along, someone that loved the Mothers of Invention “Freak Out!” that I hated, and wants to make the album justice in his way, he could by posting a review of his opinion. My main idea was to base this site on conflicting opinions over the same subject. So, for that need, I need help from people that have different opinion than me. And for that, my friend Battousai will be helping me around.

The thing is he liked the idea and went right away into making the review of this album: The Final Frontier, by Iron Maiden. He is a huge fan of the Maiden, and I… well… I’m not. I really liked the album “Killers” of 1981 and since that, Iron Maiden got much more heavy metal and chanced vocals from the not so good Paul Di’Anno to the believed to be star of the Iron Maiden best formation, Bruce Dickinson. I don’t like Bruce Dickinson signing in any projects and I loathed Tyranny of Souls.

So, to help pursue my vision of a site with a lot of different visions over the same subject, a little background is required:

The year is 2010. Plastic Beach is released with mix critics (including my own), Spain wins the world cup, PAX and E3 fail to impress and Shrek Forever After is released, showing that the green ogre franchise is already tired as hell. In this year, Iron Maiden, after, what, 35 years after being founded and four years after releasing their anterior album, released an album called the Final Frontier. The album is the fourth that all tracks have song writing help of Steve Harris, oldest recurring member and bassist of the Maiden.

In all, the album received incredible scores and ratings, but that is not a surprise for the Iron Maiden career and doesn’t move me an inch. I mean, the previous album, “A Matter of Life and Death” did not impress me at all, with its shallow deepness and controversial themes (Just because you talk about war and church doesn’t make your album deep or controversial. These days, everyone talks about the war and the church).

Now, let’s take a look at the album itself. The cover, once again, it’s your typical Iron Maiden cover. Not that it is a bad idea or a bad image; it is just Eddie doing something that could be a picture of your nightmare. I don’t know about the readers, but for me, Eddie is along my preferred terror figures and he doesn’t have a movie or even a coherent story. I get more scared of Eddie than Freddie Krueger or Jason. The art I believe is clearer than the others, but may be the impression since the technology since Killers have changed a lot. The album, in all, sets the theme to the whole Iron Maiden theme.

Just a note: 76:34 minutes is fucking too long for any album! God, that is long even for the seventies psychedelic rock. More than an hour is just absurd. I could, in this time, watch an episode of House and an episode of Robot Chicken. It is fucking and aimlessly huge! What the hell is wrong with these people? 77 minutes of song is just bullshit! So, with that out of the way, let’s get this over with: The Final Frontier by Iron Maiden.

1st track: “Satellite 15… The Final Frontier” – The song has two clear parts, so I will divide it into “Satellite 15” and “The Final Frontier”:

Satellite 15 – Elapsed Time: 4:36. This tune should be the cool introductory tune, but it fails to accomplish anything. It is repetitive with two non-creative guitars and a boring percussion. The singing is Bruce Dickinson to the brim with his pomposity and treble singing. You can hardly hear the bass over this strange electronic noise that shouldn’t be near this type of song. The bass can only be heard when everything else silences, taking all the meaning that the bass has; and it is not a good bass solo, but at least is a relief from the repetitive drums that sounds electronic, but soon they come back with huge force.

The Final Frontier – The song changes drastically and the song turns out okay, but not great. It is your typical Iron Maiden rock song, but I got to say that the lyrics sounds not thought too well. I don’t know what the hell were they thinking, but I think they try to rhyme “Regret” with “Goodbye” a shit load of time. It’s not too much to be bewildered, but still… well, it’s an okay song if you ignore the vocals.

2nd track: “El Dorado” – The rhythm and riffs are used and overused in the ages, even by Iron Maiden. Actually, being more specific, it is Bruce Dickinson used and reused: this is one of the four tracks that have is name on the album. I didn’t like his solo career, but if you like it, than you will like this song. But then again, it is nothing special even for his standards: the melody is repetitive as hell and the lyrics are just forced out. He tries to rhyme “contact” with “contract” and I can’t get that over my mind. The guitar solo has an unusual preamble and a lazy execution, with some tired old material, going quickly back to the boring material of the song.

3rd track: “Mother of Mercy” – It starts as a slow track in opposition to the start of the album. The lyrics fight on the big two iron maiden issues: War and Church, but they’re not so inventive in their own field, the field that they warmed and natured all these years. I mean, a song with: “I always thought I was doing right/as of now I’m not feel so sure” can’t be talking serious. If you always thought something, is presumable that you don’t think it now, if you think it now, it would be I Always Think. So far, this album would be better if it was an instrumental: Bruce Dickinson isn’t singing all that well and the lyrics seem misplaced. But even when you think of it as an instrumental, it would be a lame ass instrumental with repetitive tunes and a not inspired guitar.

4th track: “Coming Home” – Argh, it sounds so much like the other Iron Maiden songs. This is another one of those composed by Bruce Dickinson and it is not creative: it is the Iron Maiden repetitive non sense over the years in a kind of slow pace and with an emo touch to it. At first, you get pleased by the slow touch but hard rock style that this song has, but it gets sick and tiring. The keyboard is ass and seems that it was edited after to give some touches to it. The guitar solo, although good and creative, has some annoying effects and sounds bad recorded. No redeeming aspects at all.

5th track: “The Alchemist” – A really boring song with a promising start that wears thin so quickly that you will be wondering why the hell you are still listening to this album. The name is a name that really induces me to things: the whole alchemist thing has been subject to a LOT of really cool albums, but this song doesn’t make any sense, as it is mostly cacophony. The lyrics, again, mesmerize me, as the verse “And this is my house” really sound misplaced. The guitar solo sounds lame, as Iron Maiden seem to already have used it a lot of times, but I got to say it has a Van Halen style that is a good thing.

6th track: “Isle of Avalon” – After “Alchemist”, why not dwell upon something a little more cultural? For those who do not know, it is the land of King Arthur and the Round Table. The novel “The Mists of Avalon” retracts the more feminine side of the whole Arthurian legend, and if you are a fan of the whole history of the Excalibur, it is a must read. Aside from that, it’s not the first time Iron Maiden does something based on literature. Hell, not even one of the first ten songs. So, on with the music. It is the first good song of the entire album. The lyrics are inspired and creative with a lot of Arthurian references, even with the squeaky singing of Bruce. It has a soft start but soon rolls down the rock and roll lane and rocks out incredibly. It must be one of the most progressive oriented songs of iron maiden since its start, so probably the more hardcore fans will hate this piece. The first solo is simply gigantic and repetitive with it’s exactly two minutes. Two minutes of solo is big even for Pink Floyd era.

7th track: “Starblind” – The construction of this song is very similar to the previous, but this time around, with the adding of occasional keyboard and a very Steppenwolf type of solo, the song gets really boring and hearing them in this particular order could make it sound repetitive, although the song is kind of good on its own. The singing is again boring, but if you already got through 30 years of Bruce Dickinson, you probably hear it like the wind. The softer parts with the lo-fi guitar working it are quite enjoyable but they are in between more rock and roll parts and they take the mood away. By the end of the song, you are wishing for a more upbeat tune.

8th track: “The Talisman” – But, of course, that’s not delivered with yet another slow iron maiden tune. The intro is, thank god, sang by someone else, though I could not track who the hell is singing. Oh, but don’t worry, Bruce Dickinson soon comes in and really takes it back to the shittyness of before. The song, overall, is really boring, going completely off the Iron Maiden style on bridges only to jump the level of Iron Maideness to 11. The ending sounds a lot like some songs from their pre-Dickinson works, but not enough to make me enjoy this, as the lyrics still seem not natural and bad sung.

9th track: “The Man Who Would Be King”: Another slow tempo song, but this time, it’s back to Bruce Dickinson the whole song. The slow tempo goes to about 2:30, when the song changes tempo completely to an Iron Maiden song, but not heavy metal oriented. It’s okay I guess, but then, after a minute guitar solo, at 4:30, the song changes again, and this time, to an incredibly boring style, with a guitar escalating up and down in a very boring style while the solo guitar works it in a very slow and repetitive fashion. And if that wasn’t enough, the ending is repetitive, not creative and dull, as most of the song was, with only two minute of redeemable music.

10th track: “When The Wild Wind Blows”: I was so afraid of this song. Why the hell does a heavy metal band need a fucking eleven music song? WHY? The whole fucking deal of heavy metal was short upbeat songs throughout the career, eleven minutes is BULLSHIT! To effect of comparison, it’s almost as long as “Shine on you Crazy Diamonds”! It’s fucking huge! Most of this album presented a vastly old material and really worn out style, so, why not an eleven minute music to take it all down the crapper? Fuck this! But… let’s go to the music. Wow. This intro is fucking awesome, as the singing does not seem so overtop as previously. The guitar masterfully accompanies the vocals in every whim. Unfortunately, the song changes drastically to a dull state as the three and a half minute marc. The song change again to a duller state, if that’s even possible, with a really long guitar song; not as long as Isle of Avalon, though. With yet another big ass guitar solo, the song again changes completely to a kind of guitar keyboard ballad ending, as the song goes back to the glorious intro. So, they knew that is was the best part? Why they didn’t just make the entire song like this? It would be the best fucking song in the album; maybe the best song of their entire career. Major disappointment.

So how does it hold up? First of all, I can’t start to complain about the fact that I couldn’t keep my focus on this beast. It’s like it didn’t want to be tamed. I couldn’t keep my concentration on it at ALL. I won Minesweeper 3 times in a row in some of these songs. Holy mother of fuck! Second, most of the songs are throwback to previous moments in the Iron Maiden career, but that is far from good: repeating the same things was the same thing that made critics crucify Ac/Dc’s Flick of a Switch and Fly on the Wall. Even when you ignore the Iron Maiden career, the style has already been used and reused by a hell lot of other bands throughout the ages. The singing of Bruce Dickinson is subpar, but it has always been that way, so nothing to be described in that whole area, not that I think that any other singers of Iron Maiden fame could’ve done better: in fact, Paul Di’Anno probably would’ve made it worse. There is some redeeming factors, but they are incredibly far from the best of Iron Maiden, and too few apart. The best thing I can say about this album is: “There are two good tracks and a really god blessed intro to a song that wasn’t well used”. It’s a probably an old fan tailored album and since I don’t like their classic material, it didn’t suit me much.

Well, I don’t like Iron Maiden. However, if you want to read the review on this album of a guy who really does, check this out. He really eye balled all the good aspects and had a different opinion than mine. Maybe he can convince you to look to this album with another look.

This is JotaKa, signing off.

Follow me on twitter: @jotakapf

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