Sunday, May 15, 2011

Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier (2010)

As much as it pains me to say, Iron Maiden's latest album, The Final Frontier, is somewhat of a disappointment. While I'm postive the band hasn't run out of steam (Maiden is currently the most popular they have ever been!), it feels like they are slowing down because they opted for a more progressive sound, and that's NOT what I wanted to see. Unfortunately, Bruce Dickinson's vocals sound strained and coarse on more than a few tracks, so I always find myself wondering, "What's the deal, bro? You still sound fantastic live, so where's your oomph in the studio?" The bottom line is, I really wish the band would have taken more time recording the album because, though instrumental parts sound great, Bruce could have stood to improve his vocals. It sure seems like he did everything in one cut.

Another niggle I have is the production. Shirley, you need to push the guitars up higher in the mix. I want to hear them instead of having all three rhythm guitar parts stuck in a giant blob.

I think the most effective way to voice my opinion is with a short blurb on each song, which should be fun.

1. "Satellite 15.....The Final Frontier" - What the heck is this "experimental" intro? I understand the fact that it's supposed to simulate flying through space dodging meteors, aliens, and all that other junk. However, it's just pure filler. At the 4:35ish mark, the actual song starts, and it's catchy and fun, but it sounds like a hard rock song ("From Here to Eternity" Part II anyone?). Overall, a decent track, especially because of Adrian's guitar solo, but not what I was expecting.

2. "El Dorado" - This is picking up! We have some actual galloping riffage--you know, the stuff that Maiden is known for. Instrumentals are top, Bruce sounds good. Nothing to hate here.

3. "Mother of Mercy" - This sounds fantastic at first, with great clean guitar playing, and it really gets going when the distortion comes in, but the pre-chorus and chorus are a disaster. Bruce sounds strained, and pasted into the song.

4. "Coming Home" - This one is highly enjoyable, minus some cheesy, over-the-top synth parts. Seems like this could have been on one of Bruce's solo records. Sometimes his vocals sound a little shaky, but it doesn't deter from the overall experience.

5. "The Alchemist" - The introduction includes a signature Iron Maiden harmony guitar part, which is, so far, so good. Sadly, Nicko's drumming is totally uninspired, and Bruce still sounds less than stellar on a few parts. Great melodies almost save it, but, in the end, no dice.

6. "Isle of Avalon" - Best song on the album. Period. I'm consistently impressed with this one because it's creative, imaginative, and addictive. It effectively portrays the feeling of flying through space, with aliens giving you nasty death glares as you navigate through their territory. Bruce sounds good, and the melodies are something that I wouldn't have expected from Maiden.

7. "Starblind" - As expected, a clean intro. Is this really Maiden's idea of proggy? They've done it too many times for it feel fresh. Nevertheless, the distorted guitar riff that comes in is fantastic. Bruce sounds strained, but not enough for me to dislike the entire song. Additionally, there are some bluesy parts that give me an "Infinite Dreams" vibe. Second best on the album.

8. "The Talisman" - Yet again another clean and quiet intro. Okay, so the clean guitar part is interesting, but we've heard this before. This sounds like the "The Legacy" 2.0. Distorted guitar riff comes in as usual. Actually, this song is pretty decent, but then Bruce opens his mouth. He sounds strained, as predicted.

9. "The Man Who Would Be King" - Excellent song, with great riffs, imaginative vocal melodies, and an interesting midsection with some slide guitar (gives me the dodging comets effect). Well, you're certainly getting "proggy" on me, Maiden. By chance, did this come from Dance of Death writing sessions? If so, please give me some more.

10. "When the Wild Wind Blows" - Is this left over from when Blaze was in the band? This sounds exactly like more than a few songs from that era. Good, but not amazing.

In the grand scheme of things, this album pales in comparison to other "reunion" albums like Brave New World and Dance of Death, both of which I thoroughly love and enjoy. It's about on the same level as A Matter of Life and Death, which id not what a lot of Maiden fans wanted to hear. I suppose I just need to face the facts--this type of music is what Maiden want to do now, and the kind that's drawn out and progressive-ish. On a positive note, Eddie looks as deadly as ever, and I really adore the album cover art. I still need to grab it on vinyl solely for that reason.

As you probably can already surmise, Bruce's vocals and a lack of metal rockers that Maiden is known for threaten to kill the experience for me. If you want to take a look into this album even after reading through my picky thoughts, then by all means do so. This album is not bad. In fact, other bands would kill to have output like this.

I'm happy to say this is most definitely not the final frontier.

-TMA

2 comments:

  1. I thought it was better than their last two, but it's no Brave New World.

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  2. Yep. I'm hoping for something that deviates from the standard clean intro + distortion then back to clean for the next album.

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