The Metal Files

My Life. My Music. Your Voyeurism.

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier Review

with 8 comments

What a terrible album cover!

I’m at a loss for words (pun intended) on trying to review this album.  Anyone that knows me knows I always have words, especially when it comes to talking about music.  But this is a little bit difficult.  But now I am reviewing an album by my all time favorite band ever…EVER!  There is no other band that could be #1 for me, it’s just not possible.  But for the sake of my adoring public *cough*, I’ll try to scribble out some drivel for your voracious reading palettes.

I don’t need to go back into the annals of The Metal Files and rehash my love for Maiden, it’s all there for you to peruse on your own.  But for as much as I have loved them since 1984, I have not been so blinded by fandom to think that they can do no wrong.  They’ve released their share of shit over the years.  What?  You want that list?  It’s ugly and many will disagree, but here goes:

  • Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (I can tolerate it better now than when it was released, but I detested it for years upon years)
  • Fear of the Dark
  • The X-Factor
  • Virtual XI
  • Dance of Death

Did you notice that The Final Frontier didn’t make the list?  Look again, it’s not up there.  Don’t get me wrong, this album is not ‘awesome’ or ‘great’ or ‘brilliant’ or even ‘ground-breaking’, but it is quite a solid album…with some warts.  It’s the album that I expected after A Matter of Life and Death, which I loved.

I heard 30 second clips from each of the songs about a month ago and noticed something going on with either Bruce’s voice or the production of his voice.  It sounded raspy, unclear and low in the mix.  I honestly thought Maiden leaked rough mixes as a joke to fool their adoring public.  I was wrong.  Bruce sounds tired on this which is a bit surprising as he sounded great on the tour.  While I don’t hear any auto-tuner done on his voice,  it is pretty clear that much of his vocals were punched in.  There are too many areas where even the mighty Air Raid Siren would physically not be able to catch his breath if he tried to sing some of this stuff straight through.  And that’s not a big deal, bands have been recording vocals like this for decades.

When first seeing the tracklistings and the lengths of the songs, I knew what we were going to get; lots of intros and outtros and long repetitive choruses.  We get some of that on this record for sure, but it doesn’t seem as much of the repetitiveness as we’ve seen on recent recordings by “Ron Maiden and the Dixie Chickens” (aka Iron Maiden).

Something I noticed on this album and the last one is the “absence” of Steve Harris.  Sure you can hear him in the intros and in the main parts of the songs clanking along on his P-bass, but where are the signature ‘Arry bass runs?  I just don’t hear them and have missed that in recent years.  There are some areas where Nicko’s right foot still lets you know that he’s a bad mofo, but some of his fills seems to lack the energy and creativity that my favorite drummer used to have.  Yes, he’s always been “Mr. 4-on-the-floor”, but it seems to happen way too much on this album.

While it pains me to say this, my favorite track on the album was penned by Jannick Gers:  The Alchemist.  It’s the shortest song on the album clocking in at a mere 4’29”.  It’s also the most energetic and upbeat song on the record.  Everything else is mid-paced with a few bursts here and there.  But still, get Jannick out of the band already!  Sure he’s been there for 20 years now but make him go away.

Adrian Smith has writing credits on 6 of the 10.  Some of his stuff in the classic Maiden era were Maiden’s best songs.  He’s a talented guy and I loved his solo album, but what I am hearing on here doesn’t have the classic “H” feel to it.  Of course, this isn’t your father’s Maiden either.

Dave Murray gets some credit on The Man Who Would Be King.  Upon my first listen to that track, I thought to myself, “Self?  This one must’ve been written by Dave Murray.”   It just seems like a Dave song, I don’t know any better way to explain it.  Neither good nor bad.

I’ve read some other reviews of this album where people are giving accolades to the closing track When The Wind Blows.  It’s 10+ minutes long, Maiden’s 3rd longest song ever.  In general I don’t care for it.  I don’t like the way that the guitar follows the vocals or vice versa.  But the last few minutes of this song give us a flash of classic Maiden.

It took me a few listens but I realized something…this album reminds me a lot of one of their older albums…No Prayer For The Dying.  I’m not sure exactly why it brings back memories of that album but it does, sans the retardedly goofy lyrics of NPFTD.  Since Dance of Death, Maiden has been plodding along, playing it safe.  It’s worked well on some songs, on others not so much.

All in all, The Final Frontier isn’t terrible and I’ll spin it several more times before this week is over, but it won’t rank up there in my favorite Maiden albums, not even close.  Still, it’s better than what some of the other “classic” metal bands have been putting out in recent years (Nostradamus anyone?).  If you’ve liked Maiden’s stuff since Brave New World (or anything from the Gers era), then you will not be disappointed.  If you only care for the pre-1990 stuff, don’t bother with this.  It will be a waste of time for you.

6.5/10 is my rating.  It could have been a lot worse, and like anything else, it could have been a lot better.  I guess I really wasn’t at a loss for words…big ‘orra!

Written by The Metal Files

August 18, 2010 at 8:16 am

8 Responses

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  1. Good review! It’s kind of what I was expecting to hear you say about it really. I listened to the clips on itunes last night and figured I would download it soon. I too noticed Bruce’s vocals sounding tired and just kind of “there”. I will give it a chance though.
    \m/

    Daniel

    August 18, 2010 at 8:44 am

  2. i will eventually pick it up, but 6.5 pretty well matches my expectations…the thing with janick is that he does pretty consistently contribute good tunes (‘dream of mirrors’ is quite tasty), but for heaven’s sake just keep him as a rhythm player, since his leads are a complete and total mess (and don’t even think about letting him pollute any of the older tunes by taking over one of adrian’s solos)…

    kelz

    August 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

  3. Nope, sorry I liked it much better than that. I loved Dance of death and Seventh son and found similarities between the three. Still working my way through a review. I am finding it easier to listen to it while I write about it and I have not had a lot of chances to do that.
    I think it’s much more like Seventh son for me than NPFTD. Seventh son took me some time to get into, but I took to it eventually. NPFTD has always turned me off. A few good songs, but the problems were coming to the surface then for Maiden.

    Mark McKinney

    August 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm

  4. Yeah I did a review of this also. I agree with the score even if we disagree about which tracks we liked the most. I also agree that Jannick needs to go. The three guitar idea doesn’t ever show up except for the solos. Not particularly interesting.

    Here is my full review.
    http://thatdevilmusic.blogspot.com/2010/08/real-time-review-final-frontier.html

    Rob Liz

    August 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

  5. Good review, and a much nicer look at the Metal Files too! congrats. Sean…

    To sum up the entire review and situation – It’s called GETTING OLD folks. Unfortuntely something non of us can escape.

    Bruce doesn’t have the breathe/power he once had.

    Nicko’s (legendary)right foot and fills are slowing down.

    Adrian’s creative juices are lacking somewhat.

    Dave’s just playing along.

    Steve is (maybe) satisfied with his bass being low in the mix and or the status quo.

    It’s not their fault – I certainly appreciate what they did and for how LONG they did it though!

    And for the grand finale: at the end of the day (all the above) is perhaps exactly why Sir Jannick Gers is in the band.

    Maybe their retirement announcement is right around the corner (ala’ Scorps) and maybe they wanted a last “bang” before they went out.

    Who knows…

    *Just my $0.02 or random thoughts on the situation today. :-)

    Rock on!

    Kinger
    Demolish Fanzine

    Curt King

    August 20, 2010 at 2:40 pm

  6. I’m just growing very tired of Bruce Dickinson always stating how us 40+ Metalheads want to hear the Maiden classics live. It’s the Maiden classics such as their first four albums that launched them into the stratosphere. It’s called roots… and Iron Maiden just wants to ignore them. What’s crazy is that they released a greatest hits of these legendary songs just a couple of years ago! What gives?

    It’s almost as if Bruce Dickinson wants to make us 40+ Iron Maiden fans to feel guilty about listening and revering their “classic material”. We were the fans that put this band on the Metal map.

    I was ecstatic when I first heard the single “The Final Frontier” and not the overly extended album “intro” version. After listening to this entire album… I really have to say that maybe Iron Maiden has taken the “progressive route” farther than ever before. Your right… it could have been a lot worse I guess.

    Once you first touched on Bruce’s vocals a few posts ago, I started to listen more intently and realized… yeah, he does not sound like the Bruce from “Piece Of Mind”, (for example). I still tip my Metal hat to Bruce though… he is a legend.

    Just too many talking points to cover with this new Iron Maiden album. A great review and perspective you have compiled.

    I do like the album cover though! That’s really great stuff, IMO.

    Stone

    metalodyssey

    August 22, 2010 at 10:36 pm

  7. Very interesting, I agree with you on Bruce’s voice, it sounds pretty tired. I still need to go pick this up but I have heard some of the songs on the internet. Mind checking out my blog: rattrocker.wordpress.com thanks and I will be back.

    RattRocker

    August 31, 2010 at 9:18 am

  8. I really don’t know why people are fiinding the album boring and repetitive. I have been listening to it quite a bit and am constantly finding things I missed in earlier listenings. I don’t agree with the sentiment from metalodyssey either. I think that if they sounded like their 80’s selves now I certainly wouldn’t be listening to them now. There are really only 3 albums that I find a little mediocre from Maiden and they are NPFTD, X Factor and Virtual 11. Don’t get me wrong, their output during the 80’s was amazing, but I still love their albums since Bruce and Adrian came back as much (not more than of course..).

    I have always loved Maiden for their lyrical content as well as their music and I really think that there are some really good stories on this album. Bruce has always been a master storyteller as well as a balls out screamer and I still think he has much power in his voice, even though his range is not the same as it was in the 80’s.

    I actually like their progressive output. I think many of the greatest songs from their post 80’s albums have been when they have been in prog mode. They keep trying new things within the construct of their sound and that is what I like. It is one of the reasons why I keep coming back to Maiden (any Maiden) more than any other metal band.

    Anyways, my 2 cents worth…

    Hulksteraus

    September 30, 2010 at 1:28 am


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