Album Review: Iron Maiden’s ‘The Final Frontier’

Updated: Oct 04, 2010, 17:48 PM IST

Aman Kanth

Thirty years and still going strong! Yes, the English heavy metal band Iron Maiden is back with its fifteenth studio album – ‘The Final Frontier’ after its last outing with ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ in 2006. Phew, what surprises me is the fact when most of its contemporaries are fading into thin oblivion; there is no stopping for Iron Maiden, as it is still considered to be one of the most respected names in the business of heavy metal. ‘The Final Frontier’ is dense, layered, faster and louder. Iron Maiden is the modern day prophet, whose otherworldly verses beautifully evoke the modern day dilemma of our civilization - a guttural cry for peace and humanity.

For all those Biebermaniacs, who just can’t get enough of the bubble-gum pop, a word of advice – set your system levels level a bit higher for ‘The Final Frontier’ and let the dramatic tenor of Bruce Dickinson, blazing guitars of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, thumping bass of Steve Harris and drum roll of Nico McBrain assault your senses and take you on a whirlwind journey of a fictional world of war, death, spirits, occult, history and mythology. Okay, they might have some grey hair on their pate; so what, Iron Maiden rocks and it rocks really hard. What say headbangers!

The first song of The Final Frontier ‘Satellite 15…The Final Frontier’ begins with an eerie intro effect of heavy distortion, power drumming and Dickinson’s tenor for more than four and a half minutes and then breaks into Maiden-esque riffs and screeching solos which truly justify its lyrics – a far cry for survival.

The second track ‘El Dorado’ has a crunchy bass along with harmonised guitar riffs and rhythmic drumming with Dickinson’s piercing vocals that evoke the present day world order - a capitalist’s haven through El Dorado, where ‘The streets are paved with gold’. A dense, layered and stimulating track, ‘El Dorado’ is another gem from the Maiden stable.

‘Mother of Mercy’ paints a grim picture of a war ravaged world – ‘A land of flowing blood and strewn corpses’, ‘Mother of Mercy’ is a cry for forgiveness. The song paints a gloomy world of lost cause in humanity – a very relevant theme in today’s time. ‘Mother of Mercy’ will surely shake up to your marrow.

‘Coming Home’ is another great track whose lyrics completely justify its composition; ‘Coming Home’ is a journey track, which Dickinson and brotherhood make it all the more alluring.

‘The Alchemist’ is a strictly meant for headbangers as its not just a power ballad, but a sneak peak why Iron Maiden is the ‘Iron Maiden’ – ‘The Alchemist’ is a typical Maiden number with juicy licks and entrancing guitar shredding by the troika of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers.

‘Isle of Avalon’ is dark, broody tale that invokes the fertility myth of mother earth – an isle which stands for the realm of birth and death. ‘Isle of Avalon’ can easily pass off as a romantic, scary yet inspiring vision. Kudos to Iron Maiden for fusing life into beautiful words!

The seventh track ‘Starblind’ evokes a chilling vision of desolate world – a world of solar winds, devoid of any religion and meaning - ‘Religion’s cruel device is gone’ and ‘In your once and future grave you’ll fall endlessly deceived’. The songs reeks of sheer existentialism for it celebrates the emptiness of the being as it nudges you to think about the kind of life we all are living – ‘You are free to choose a life to live or one that’s left to lose’. ‘Starblind’ is stark for it mirrors our reality.

‘The Talisman’ is about a journey to a mythical land of unknown and human fate. The song has a soft acoustic start which melts away into metal mayhem that takes you on a shipwreck journey to a land of spirits, trepidation and death, with just a talisman to guide you in the hour of crisis. Deafening guitars and earth-shattering drums heighten the dramatic element of the song.

The ninth track of ‘The Final Frontier’, ‘The Man Who Would Be Kind’ again begins on a soft acoustic note and is soon taken over by virtuoso guitar shredding that hits the crescendo with a full-blown metal attack. Once again, the song reprises the theme of an eternal journeyman, a seeker fighting against his fate.

The final track ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ is by far the best and the longest track of the album (to be precise, a total of ten minutes and fifty nine seconds!) - a fitting ode to end the album on a high. Beginning and closing on acoustic notes, in between, the song takes you by a complete surprise by its raw energy the moment it hits the climax. Iron Maiden presents a moving picture of a crumbling world order – ‘Now the days of our ending have begun’ into life. A superb track with anthemic hooks, I am sure that this one will be remembered for a long time. Enjoy the Maiden experience!