IRON MAIDEN’S THE FINAL FRONTIER (LEYLA FORD’S TAKE)
Let me start off by saying that the first thing I noticed about The Final Frontier is that there are some really long songs — up to eight, nine, eleven minutes. Hmm. This could go either way. Maiden songs that tend to go on forever are very hit or miss for me. Usually there’s a moment in there that I like, that I skip to, and then ignore all the rest. But since this is my precious Iron Maiden, I sat back and gave it more than a fair chance.
The intro is kind of an experimental jam, but with heavier guitars and bass so it doesn’t go into an overblown prog-rock musical solo. And the vocals do mercifully come in… three minutes into the eight minute song. Midway through, the track completely changes tone ,and I thought it was a different song altogether — which might’ve worked better. But overall it’s the standard title track; bellowing “The Final Frontier,” with almost orchestral back up. I really could’ve lived without the intro, though.
“El Dorado,” which we’ve been hearing for awhile, has always pulled me in with its galloping beat, and judging it as a song within the album, it’s one of the better ones, and merits being the first track released. “Mother of Mercy” is slow without being drudging; it’s heavy and melodic but restrained. “Coming Home” gets even slower and signals the lighter waving portion of the album, but it has the classic Maiden guitars with an ever so slightly new twist that I appreciate.
The “Alchemist” is the pounding, catchy track I’ve been waiting for. It’s got everything I want from an Iron Maiden song: an epic story line, harmonizing guitars, and lots of energy. “Isle of Avalon” has kind of a “Clairvoyant”-air to it, and is an interesting break in the record… but it kind of gets trying after nine minutes. (Yes, I have a problem with extremely long songs.) “Starblind,” and “The Talisman” seem like filler tracks. There’s nothing technically wrong with them, they’re just a little bland. They’ve both got interesting hooks thrown in there, but they’re not amazing.
“The Man Who Would Be King” starts off slow like most of the other tracks, and then follows the pattern of speeding up as it leads into the bulk of the song. In terms of sound, it stands out from the tracks that surround it, because there are solos that veer off from the traditional Maiden rhythms. But it’s so long that said solos are kind of buried in it. Finally, “When the Wild Wind Blows” has that soft, almost chilling story-telling air, almost like “Fear of the Dark.” This leads to a strong stand-alone song that I quite enjoyed despite — you guessed it — the length.
Overall, it’s a tight record that’s quite good in the typical Maiden way, but it just doesn’t blow me away. It doesn’t even have that one song that would make the entire album worth it, the way A Matter of Life and Death had “Different World.” Seventh Son… remains my favorite.
(three outta five horns)