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CD Review: The Final Frontier

Iron Maiden. The Final Frontier. I could really stop this review
right here.

The gods return with (yet) another album, and honestly, after their brilliant last effort, I was beginning to wonder if they should have, believing that Ed Force One had peaked. It only took me a few minutes to download their free first single (a la Radiohead), and realise how wrong I would have been.

Helter Skelter: Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden. The Final Frontier.

There is a reason why Iron Maiden garners so much respect even among music fans who are not entirely metchul. Dickinson, Harris and Co. isn’t a bunch of musicians out to make money off their music— not anymore, at least. Maiden has always been the right mix of profound, heavy, and accessible, and coupled with the determination that the band has shown (The Final Frontier, at 77 minutes is their longest album to date), they have once again proved themselves to be the Rolling Stones of the metal generation.

The album opens with an entirely uncharacteristic track called ‘Satellite 15… The Final Frontier’. Laden with effects that are now staple in modern electronica, Maiden finally makes full use of the three guitarists and bassist on this one. And Bruce Dickinson, playing an astronaut with only minutes to live, sets the tone for a brilliant experiment in lyrical content for the entire album to follow. The song riffs along an almost one-note-thump mired in weird effects, until Bruce’s troubled voyager breaks in, leading you in to a late-’80s heavy metal orgasm.

Helter Skelter: Iron Maiden
The Final Frontier CD artwork.

‘El Dorado’ was the first single off the album and was made available for free download, underlining the fact that the band’s modern sensibilities aren’t restricted to their music, thus placing them many an echelon higher in musical history than bands who have committed hara-kiri with their stubbornness or myopia (remember Metallica and Napster?). Completely opposite to the first track in feel, ‘El Dorado’ breaks the illusion of a concept album, but continues along with the underlying trend of social commentary—exploring the unknown; below, above, and beyond.

‘Mother of Mercy’ has the old boys returning to a more gothic, progressive act, in a mellower and contemplative mood, while ‘Coming Home’ almost makes you believe Slash is on stage with Murray, Gers, and Smith. Spacy and hair-metal-ish, you can almost imagine Iron Maiden playing this live with all of the energy flowing through to the crowd and back. It’s been no more than 10 years that Dickinson returned to the fold, and the re-climb to the top for Maiden has been short, quick, and sexy—in the heaviest possible way.

The next few songs celebrate Maiden’s British heritage with only ‘Talisman’ really standing out to me at first listen. The tracks all grow on you slowly, except for ‘Starblind’, which in my opinion is pretty ordinary. The album closes with an allusion to Romeo and Juliet on ‘When the Wind Blows’, a song in the folksy spirit of Jethro Tull. On an album as nigh existential as this one, ending on a positive note was never a given, but Maiden cheer the listener up with a clever ending to another epic.

The Maiden men invoke their most modern sensibilities to come out with what will become, twenty years down, another fan favourite.

Iron Maiden. The Final Frontier. I should’ve just stopped there.

Apart from being an avid consumer of media, Vineet Kanabar dabbles in art, music, literature, and philosophy. Currently, he's waging a war against the hippos under his keyboard that prevent him from writing more often.

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