Four years after A Matter Of Life And Death Iron Maiden is back with what could be the last studio album from the band, The Final Frontier. On numerous occasions Maiden's mastermind Steve Harris has made a point of that the number of studio records the band will bring to the fray is 15. After listening to The Final Frontier well over 70 times I don't see a reason for the band to stop making records.
For listeners such as yours truly that have followed the band for a long time there have been many opportunities to wonder about the power that Iron Maiden exudes. Many are those who have discarded the band as a group of has-beens that barely fill the smaller venues, but Iron Maiden has bounced back heavily and is pulling capacity crowds to their concerts.
Ever since Dickinson and Smith returned to the band in the end of the 1990s Iron Maiden has improved massively musically without totally alienating their old fans. Maiden truly has a uniqueness that is discernible on every record the band has made. The energetic bass from Harris, McBrain's very special style, the three guitarists' at times note-packed solon and Dickinson's voice screaming high in the stratosphere. On The Final Frontier you can hear that he has to struggle somewhat to reach the highest notes, but on the other hand there are few 52 year-olds that can sing like he does.
As a long-time listener of Maiden I clearly recognize the band I started listening to in the end of the 80s, but strangely enough I like the songs that take longer to digest more than the rest. Twisted, psychedelic Satellite 15 goes totally against the opening tracks on basically every other Maiden-record, and when the more traditional part The Final Frontier takes over I quickly tire, very much due to the chorus in which the same "the final frontier"-line gets repeated over and over again, to the point of actually crossing the self-same frontier. Follower El Dorado also feels more like an alibi piece of music than a song that lifts.
But then the band gets going with songs like Mother Of Mercy that has a groove and a heaviness that makes me blissful, Coming Home that in spite of its somewhat cheesy lyrics actually works, mostly because of a strong chorus, fast The Alchemist and utterly epic Isle Of Avalon that's the strongest track on the album. Starblind is a little too safe and is still sounding like a filler song with a slight golden touch. But the ending of the record with The Talisman, The Man Who Would Be King and When The Wild Wind Blows is really strong.
With The Final Frontier Iron Maiden doesn't put forth their strongest album, but nevertheless shows that the group is still hungry even after over three decades in the business, and not very interested in lying down and die. If The Final Frontier is the last album from Maiden I'll guess we'll just have to see, but based on just how strong this album is I wouldn't be surprised if Iron Maiden keeps on going a while longer.