- Steve Harris – bass
- Dave Murray – rhythm & lead guitars
- Adrian Smith – rhythm & lead guitars, backing vocals
- Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
- Nicko McBrain – drums, percussion
- Janick Gers – rhythm & lead guitars
Producer: Kevin Shirley
|1||Satallite 15… The Final Frontier||8:40|
|3||Mother of Mercy||5:20|
|6||Isle of Avalon||9:06|
|9||The Man Who Would Be King||8:28|
|10||When the Wild Wind Blows||11:01|
Ever since I first heard my first metal albums [Anthrax’s 1991 album Attack of the Killer B’s, Machine Heads’ 1992 album Burn My Eyes] I’ve been hooked on metal as a musical interest.
From those first albums I went backwards in time a little and found Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album and then others like Led Zeppelin and Motörhead before coming across Metallica.
Whilst Iron Maiden were not amongst the list initially, I’ve always loved their music [1982’s The Number of the Beast album primarily] and have a few of their albums [CD and vinyl]. So to pick up their latest album is something I’ve looked forward to.
Their songs are often complex and sometimes lengthy. Often telling mythical or fantastical stories, with the brilliant writing of Bassist Steve Harris. This is something I really rather like about their music. Their sound is thanks in large part to the combination of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s dual guitar sound and Steve Harris’ bass playing, both distinctive.
Whilst a number of their peers from what was termed the NWOBHM [New Wave of British Heavy Metal] have since fallen by the wayside, Iron Maiden continue to top the album charts [The Final Frontier reached No.1 in 28+ countries] and sell out to huge crowds. This I believe is testament to their continued strong mix of complex lyrics and music take of heavy metal and Bruce Dickinson’s presence as a talisman for the band to follow.
The Final Frontier [follow up to 2006’s A Matter of Life and Death] is Iron Maiden’s 15th studio album to date and 11th featuring Bruce Dickinson as lead singer [1980’s Iron Maiden, 1981’s Killers featuring Paul Di’Anno and 1995’s The X Factor and 1998’s Virtual XI featuring Blaze Bayley].
All of Iron Maiden’s albums feature their mascot ‘Eddie’ on the cover, this album is no different, with another fantastic cover artwork provided, though perhaps it loses something being the size of a CD rather than the size of vinyl as of days of old, but its still impressive i feel.
Satallite 15… the Final Frontier
The first part of the album opener opens in something of a futuristic sounding manner. A swirling, distorted, almost industrial sounding sonic brew of pounding snakes and kicks with plenty of heavy riffs and spectral vocals thrown in too. Probably will confound even the open minded of the Iron Maiden faithful, but worth it all the same. After a few minutes the title track kicks in in an abrupt manner. Quite likely the strangest song the band have recorded to date. Heavy and unexpected.
This 7 minute epic is both solid and special. Boisterous with an addictive chorus and deft executed twists and turns. Featuring Steve Harris’s signature galloping bass style. The is likely a great live track. Dave Murray adds a lovely high tempo heavy guitar solo.
Mother of Mercy
Another typical Maiden Anthem that starts slowly. The sort they do well. It shows signs of progressive influence [Steve Harris loves Jethro Tull] before it changes into a slow galloping song that reminds me of Stranger in a Strange Land [from Somewhere In Time]. The overall feel of this track is more sinister however. Bruce’s vocals are over quiet and shimmering guitar at first before crunching up several gears into a chorus that’s big with dark edges to it. A passionate story of atrocities of war it sounds like with Bruce singing ‘I’m just a lonely soldier fighting in a bloody hopeless war // Don’t know what I’m fighting, who it is, or what I’m fighting for’. A very dark foreboding song with a giant rhythm that grabs you and takes you with it.
A ballad with a hooky guitar that gently glides towards the dramatic powerful verse and chorus. If you’d asked a fan of Iron Maiden in 1980 whether they could pull off a ballad they’d of been skeptical, but Iron Maiden prove here that after 30 years they’ve grown to be able to do so well.
If you were looking for old school Maiden on this album, then this track is as close as you get, with Dave Murray and Adrian Smith duelling nicely together in an almost Lizzy-esque lead guitar harmonies. Would perhaps of felt at home on Fear of The Dark [Maiden’s 1992 album] I think. The shortest track by far on the record, but it is a fun romp.
Isle of Avalon
A strangely melodic song for Iron Maiden. With it’s unconventional time-signatures and proggy detours which add to an intense vibrancy that continues during the nine minutes of it’s duration. There are hints of Pashendale [from 2003’s Dance of Death album] and of Maiden’s 1986 Somewhere In Time album. This marks the start of the songs getting longer. The lead guitar solo is rather reminiscent [certainly in tonal quality and ferocity of attack] of perhaps the solo on Megadeth’s Hanger 18 [one on my favourite Megadeth songs incidently], but there is sufficient spark of originality to set the two apart. Perhaps the strongest song on the album.
Another song with surprises, not least the psychedelic hints on it, which lend it an almost otherworldly feel. Even so it is still unmistakeably Iron Maiden’s sound. An epic that pounds you sonically with great riffs, melodies and subtle touches of texture. The lead break is rather fantastic with a bluesy feel to it.
A dark, gloomy and rather complex beast of a song. It nevertheless flows rather well however. The intro is almost hauntingly folky, but breaks out soon after into a powerful main riff and explosive chorus. Despite the slow build up, it quickly builds up the pace and even though it is nine minutes long it still feels like it goes by quickly. Any other band attempting this would get accused of trying to cram too much into a song [even if it is 9 minutes long!], but no Iron Maiden, they put their all into it and pull it off well.
The Man Who Would Be King
The opening to this song reminds me of Metallica’s One [about the only song I like from Metallica’s 1988 …And Justice for All album really] with a mysterious catchy acoustic and electric guitar sound. It then moved into a thundering riff onslaught. Steve Harris’ bass lines command on this song. Like the rest of the album, this track doesn’t behave as you might expect, but continues to work and make sense throughout. It all gets tied together by a pounding hammering crescendo preceded by a another guitar solo that is sure to become classic Maiden.
When the Wild Wind Blows
An almost 11 minute long epic of a song, which Steve Harris alone wrote and based upon Raymond Brigg’s ‘82 graphic novel [When The Wind Blows] about a post-nuclear land. With a grim and evil sounding atmosphere to it it certainly feels like it captures that feel. The tempo is very march like with the playing precise. The lyrics are very dark and grim, but that’s to be expected with with such a subject matter. Without warning the band breaks into a section with each guitarist getting a solo chance. If you love guitar sound then this is a wonderful treat for you. Keeping with the military march tempo with technical genius infused with both passion and courage. With Bruce singing epic lyrics such as ‘There will be a catastrophe the like we’ve never seen // There will be something that will light the sky // That the world as we know it, it will never be the same // Did you know, did you know?’ What an epic song to finish the album in style. If this is the end then it ended well…
For me the standout tracks include Mother of Mercy, The Alchemist and Isle of Avalon, Starblind and The Talisman.
This is an epic album and one I’ve really enjoyed listening to. It is certainly one that grows with each listen I feel.
Is it great? I think so. They once again prove they are still relevant and can cut it with the best of them even after 30+ years.
Will I be putting this on my iPod or making a copy to listen to in the car? I think the answer is very definitely yes. Certainly a punchy and heavy album that grabs you more and more the more listens it gets.
I’ve really rather enjoyed listening to this album over several listens and it has certainly grown on me each time [helped greatly by fixing a problem with my speakers after the first listen!]. One I am glad to have added to my collection.
Steve Harris once said that he wanted his band to do 15 albums and this is album number 15. With the title of the record does it signal the final release by the juggernaut that is Iron Maiden? does Steve Harris have more to say? only he and the band truly know the answer to that, but I hope and feel they certainly do as they feel very vibrant and alive on this album and really sound like they’re enjoying themselves here.
One thing is certain, this is one of their biggest and longest albums to date weighing in over 75 minutes in length with the majority of the songs being 5 minutes+ [some even 8 or 10 minutes+].
I just wish I’d been able to manage to go see them live on the tour for this album as I’m sure it would of been immense. However there will be a DVD released later in 2011 [filmed in Argentina and Chile], so may have to console myself with that instead.
If they do release another album I shall be looking forward to listening to it greatly.