Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier

2010-09-28 09:41
 
 
Don’t believe the album title. There’s no stopping Iron Maiden. Space is just the only place left they haven’t toured – yet. Flight 666: Maiden In Space, coming soon…  

It may be album number 15, but there’s a lot of fan-frothing Maiden trivia surrounding The Final Frontier. And at a whopping 76 minutes and 36 seconds, it’s the longest Maiden album ever released. The arrangements are brain-meltingly complex.

The length is pretty overwhelming. Digesting the album in one sitting's likely to drive you insane, or get you charging down the road in nothing but an Iron Maiden shirt. Ambitious is an understatement. But it's Iron Maiden. They can do whatever the hell they want, right?

The variety of sounds and styles on offer isn't even worth trying to explain. And from a technical point of view, Steve Harris and co  have outdone themselves. Even though it’s album 15, they’ve given themselves to Final Frontier like enthusiastic first-timers. Like they still have something left to prove.

Opener "Satellite 15… The Final Frontier" has to be the weirdest song Iron Maiden has ever recorded. Four and a half minutes of industrial alien beats, drum machine-sounding kick drums, fuzz bass and off-kilter guitar leads, followed by a straight-up, Icarus-referencing, "classic Maiden" blaze of glory.         

Eleven-minute closer "When the Wind Blows" gives the word epic new meaning. With Bruce Dickinson gently singing lines like "As he stares across the garden, looking at the meadows," it starts off like an Irish folk song. Before hitting its galloping stride. It’s an opus. The third longest Iron Maiden song ever recorded.

It's impressive also that Maiden has remained so relevant, producing and touring new material for 35 years now. Since Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith's return, they’ve hit a twilight boom. Unlike a lot of their contemporaries (and juniors), who’ve gone on to become cheesy, hit-playing corporate parodies touring the Third World, or watered-down versions of their former selves.  

In the end, the length does affect the album's focus, from a sheer modern attention-span point of view. And there isn’t much in the way of raw, punk energy. But the more you listen, the more things start to make sense. The effort these 50-something Brits still squeeze into their music is unbelievable. And The Final Frontier is full of innovative standouts, without even a hint of complacency.


Don’t believe the album title. There’s no stopping Iron Maiden. Space is just the only place left they haven’t toured – yet. Flight 666: Maiden In Space, coming soon…

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