September , 2010
Review by Mike DiQuinzio
"The Final Frontier"
Label: Sony Legacy
Sitting through the first four and a half minutes of "Satellite 15... The Final Frontier", does little to excite anyone who has been anxiously waiting four years for a new Iron Maiden. The series of experimental sound effects seems to go on forever before the song finally kicks in, but when it does, it's the payoff you've been hoping for...that is if you're a fan of the New Millennium-Maiden albums with this current six-man lineup.
Make no mistake. The Iron Maiden that emerged in 2000 is not the same monster that produced such masterpieces as The Number of the Beast and Powerslave. It's barely the same one that made Somewhere in Time. The main difference, as every true Maiden fan knows, is the guitar trio that now consists of Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers. This triple attack has created an album of long songs and just plain longer songs so that every guitarist is given a chance to "speak their mind", almost conversationally, on nearly every track.
Now you may think this is a bad thing. In some instances it is, but on tunes like "Starblind" or "Isle of Avalon", a nine-minute prog workout which goes from light to heavy and back again a couple different times, you don't mind at all. Okay, the song is no "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", but it does stand up well against other elongated pieces in Iron Maiden's vast repertoire of songs.
Another noticeable difference in this effort is the way Maiden sounds today as opposed to its 80s heyday run of brilliant albums. The slick polish that immortalized '80s Maiden recordings has been replaced by a more earthy garage-like approach. This quality serves straight-ahead rockers, like "The Alchemist", quite well. At a mere four minutes twenty-eight seconds, this is definitely the song that's meant to be played extremely loud while speeding down the highway with the windows down. Closing the album out is the mandatory Steve Harris epic, "When the Wild Wind Blows". It might not be the bass player at his finest, but truth be told, Harris on his worst day is still better than most metal composers at their very best.
The jury is still out on The Final Frontier. Overall, this album stands tall among the four released this past decade with Gers added to the mix. However, for the hardened Maiden fan that grew up banging their head to Piece of Mind, there's little here that will get you as worked up as "The Trooper" or "Hallowed Be Thy Name". If the Maiden of the Eighties was thinking man's metal, then this is Maiden going back for its Masters' degree, but hey, we all need a little re-education some time.