Iron Maiden
The Final Frontier

2010, EMI
Heavy Metal

Dopo tre decadi di heavy metal, la bandiera degli Iron Maiden continua a sventolare alta e fiera!
Review by Daniele Carlucci - Publish on: 16/08/10

Our beloved Iron Maiden left us with a controversial album such as “A Matter Of Life And Death”, which split critics and fans in two factions. Four years later the guys are back on everyone’s lips with their long awaited new album “The Final Frontier”: I got some good impressions, as I was invited, one month ago, to reach EMI’s offices for a pre-listening session, and that was quite relieving, since I was among those who did not appreciate “A Matter Of Life And Death”. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from a band that I personally consider the top of the whole metal scene. By now, everyone got used to criticize Maiden and I wonder what’s the point in destroying a band, no matter which, just because you dislike one of their albums. As for Steve Harris & co. one thing is for sure: something has changed in their way of composing music. We don’t want to call it evolution, nor involution; let’s say it’s a simple change. It is almost impossible to stay the same after 30 years and, obviously, Iron Maiden are not the same band as they used to be in the eighties. The British ensemble comes up with a less fast and obsessive heavy metal sound, though still incisive and appealing.
As I said before, my first impressions were good, but, you know, the more I listen to “The Final Frontier”, the more I like it. I find it extremely direct, pleasant and full of great ideas: I’m referring to all these nice, bewitching and melodic riffs, perfectly embedded in each song’s context. We already knew the first two songs, since they were chosen to be the first videoclip and the first single of this album. The opener is actually composed by two different tracks: the long, dark intro “Satellite 15” and the rock-oriented, easy-listening title-track. To be honest, “El Dorado” did not convince me at first, but I definetly changed my mind, even though I still consider it one of the weakest songs on the album. Actually, this is not a bad song, but it is simply worse than the other ones as the level rises up and up and reaches incredible peaks. “Mother Of Mercy”, with its nice verses and its thorny chorus, sounds more or less like an aftershock, while “Coming Home” begins a serie of excellent songs that will guide us to the end of the album. This is an excellent song that impressed me since the very first time, thanks to its beautiful melodies, exciting refrains and epic solos. “The Alchemist” awakes us from the delightful dreams of “Coming Home”, taking us back in time; a classic, agressive, haunting, melodic Maiden song from better days. During the pre-listening session, “Isle Of Avalon” left me a bit puzzled, but I must change my mind now: this piece shows a remarkable structure based on expressive and original riffs. “Starblind” walks the very same path and thrills us with particular passages and harmonious refrains. The acoustic intro of “The Talisman” hides a sort of magical atmosphere that leads our minds to a world of wizards and fantastic creatures. As the track comes to an end, you don’t even realize that 9 minutes have already passed, thanks to all these enthralling, easy-listening verses and refrains. “The Man Who Would Be King” gives us good reasons to pay ever more attention to the music; the band picks up a few elements outside the “Maiden Planet”, such as the central corpus, which seems to be quite atypical for Iron Maiden. The sound of the wind introduces “Where The Wild Wind Blows”, another passionate melodic gem, in which Dickinson walks arm in arm with the lead guitar for the whole song, tracing some wonderful vocal lines along with great riffs from the trio Smith-Murray-Gers. The final part recalls the intro, as the wind, coming back with its biting breath, blows away the last notes of the album.
“The Final Frontier” takes shape with more than a single listening and proves to be an excellent album, recalling the old days’ Maiden sound and style. Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain are the most solid foundation ever to shape harmonies upon; Dickinson is no more the same singer - that’s true - but he’s still an exceptional, charismatic leader, definitely one of the best frontman around. Besides, we have three guitarist such as Smith, Murray and Gers, with their flawless riffs and solos. The wild wind of the last track has clearly blown away all possible doubts. I turned up my nose as I saw the average length of these songs (each one around 7 minutes and a half), but the tracks are well-blended and have such a pleasant structure that they often seem to be shorter. Some tracks on “The Final Frontier” could easily become Iron Maiden classics (“Coming Home” and “The Alchemist”, let’s say); only time will tell. In the meanwhile, let’s rejoice with the fifteenth chapter of Iron Maiden’s glorious career, a stainless bulwark that, after three decades, keeps waving, high and proud, the heavy metal flag.

Special thanks to Marco Belafatti and Rachele Leoni

01. Satellite 15...The Final Frontier
02. El Dorado
03. Mother Of Mercy
04. Coming Home
05. The Alchemist
06. Isle Of Avalon
07. Starblind
08. The Talisman
09. The Man Who Would Be King
10. When The Wild Wind Blows

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