Iron Maiden‘s 15th studio album, The Final Frontier continues much of the same sound that has preceded them throughout the first decade of the millennium. For some this a travesty; to others, this is a move in the right direction. There is no doubt that the 2008-2009 Somewhere Back in Time World Tour had some influence on the album’s sound. It is a blessing for fans of Maiden’s 1980s sound, and a treasure for fans of the band’s entire discography.
The album begins with a “Satellite 15…The Final Frontier”, acting as both an opening montage of sounds that quickly turns into a catchy, straight-forward Maiden tune, very reminiscent of Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son era offerings. Some bass drum triggers bring back much of the dated 1980s sound, as well as reversing the trend that has spilled into the current decade. Yet the 2nd half of this song returns to much of the band’s progress made during the A Matter of Life and Death.
“El Dorado” features some wonderful pre-chorus build-ups that have made for an excellent lead-in single, returning to many of the mythical and literary themes in past works. Tracks such as “Mother of Mercy” and “The Talisman” certainly feature more modern Maiden signatures that allow them to fit nicely in the album’s tracklisting. “Starblind” is one of the most standout tracks, that again offers a build-up in the overall structure, as well as the guitar solo trade-offs. Bruce’s vocals in this song match the romantic and idealistic lyrics with perfection, an epic that is sure to translate well to the stage.
The last two songs, “The Man Who Would Be King” and “When the Wild Wind Blows” return to many of the same epic modern Maiden themes, both musically and lyrically, yet show signs of progression. There was a fire that was burning with A Matter of Life and Death, and The Final Frontier shows signs of wisdom, a quality many aging metal bands refuse to explore.
The album’s overall pacing is similar to that of X Factor and A Matter of Life and Death. The production seems far more scratchy, particularly in Bruce’s vocals, and feels as if it is more of the medium recorded rather than Dickinson’s aging voice, which is still top notch and as consistent as ever. In terms of songwriting, this album is highly progressive, the band has crafted songs, mostly of epic lengths, all which offer exactly what is necessary to get the musical journey across, and not a note more.
There are rumors that the title of this album may be a finale for the band. If so, it would be a fitting final album. If not, good. Iron Maiden‘s last two efforts have featured far more balls and heart than the previous two decades of material. With a continuously growing repertoire, Iron Maiden appears to be the more prolific metal band in history at this moment.