Iron Maiden albums, I feel you have to listen to them a few times before you can cast any critical judgment of their work. Most of their songs are too complex for just a quick listen, requiring digestion of all the subtle nuances held within, especially from their newer albums. I had a die-hard Maiden fan explain to me the previous theory, and after careful consideration I had to agree. So now, with any 'classic' metal band, who choose to release new music (Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, etc) I give them the courtesy of at least two full run-throughs before I decree anything about them. It goes against my usual mantra; of how an album should be good the first time through, containing easily enjoyable songs as well as the complex ones that you ascertain at a later listen. I feel that the greats have earned that much from me. That being said, this is only the second time I have listened to The Final Frontier in its entirety, but I feel like I have to weigh in on this album finally (while it is at least semi-relevant).
To begin with, I love Iron Maiden, they are the fore-fathers of what it means to be heavy metal, one of the first true metal bands I ever heard, and all around awesome, but they seem to have fallen on to hard times - far from their old days. Their recent catalog, from at least Virtual XI on, hasn't had the vim and vigor of their earlier releases, and The Final Frontier is no exception. It sounds Iron Maiden, it rocks Iron Maiden, but it just isn't Iron Maiden. The tunes seem a bit forced, with the vocals straining to compete with the guitars for prominence. I love Bruce Dickinson, I think he is one of the most amazing singers ever, but all the years of rocking it out it seem to be taking its toll - at least a little bit.
Not saying that some of the songs are kick ass (but damn that first song is annoying isn't it?), the second track, "El Dorado," is by far the stand-out (as well as their first single), sounding the most unique out of the list, even if it tends to drag a bit in parts. The track "The Alchemist" sounds like classic Maiden; most notably like "Aces High" from Powerslave, which is what gives the whole release credence overall. There are a few more tracks that are decent (I'm sure I will find more and more as time goes on, that's how it was with A Matter of Life and Death), but due to many of the song's long length, the message sometimes becomes muddled. The Final Frontier hosts some of Iron Maiden's longest tracks, and has the highest average song time then any other, but it seems to just be this way for posterity sake. The songs are epic in proportion, but not so much in meaning or composition; an error I think should be addressed before the next release (oh there will be others),
Iron Maiden is one of the best bands of all time, taking into account acts like The Beatles, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd, and I hope to hear them release another dozen albums before they retire/die (they are getting old after all). I would like to see a return to their heyday (don't believe it's possible? Alice Cooper's latest wasn't bad), but even if that was not the case, if they released more albums of the quality of The Final Frontier, that would be A-ok with me too. There are so many older bands trying to stage a return (KISS, Mötley Crüe), but so few do it well. Iron Maiden never fell from the (underground) limelight, they have been touring and recording almost continuously for thirty years. They have the ability, skill and chops to pull of another album of decent caliber, I await for the next one, O Gods of metal!