One of my absolute favorite things about Iron Maiden is that they don’t stop doing what they do. So many of their peers either get more “rock” or simply devolve into something beyond awful (Metallica anyone?), but not Maiden.
These guys write high octane, riff oriented, dramatic, thematic metal and they do it better than anybody else. Carrying on that tradition is The Final Frontier, Iron Maiden’s first studio album in four years. This is classic Maiden, filled with Steve Harris rolling bass lines, dueling guitars and of course Bruce Dickenson’s vocals topping it all off.
Don’t misunderstand classic to mean repetitive or rehash. What I’m talking about is how Iron Maiden have stuck to their guns through thick and thin, never deviating from what makes them legends. Sure The Final Frontier might not change lives the way the first six albums have but that doesn’t make it any less of a solid, kick ass metal record.
Take a song like “El Dorado”, which builds off of a Steve Harris gut-punch bass line into a full on gallop riff. You can’t control it, you’re instantly grooving when the riff comes in full tilt. “The Alchemist” is one of my favorites on the album, a track that easily could’ve been on any of the early records.
I was also a big fan of the experimenting Iron Maiden does with songs like the epic “When The Wind Blows”, an eleven minute opus with some really interesting and varied structures and solos. It’s one of the more straight-ahead Maiden songs and I dug what they were doing with it. I even enjoyed the more ballad oriented “Coming Home” and I usually hate ballads, especially in metal.
When Dickenson steps up and opens his mouth the songs instantly ratchet up a notch. I may have no idea what he’s singing about and it may seem melodramatic but I’m still in love with every word. Iron Maiden really enjoys crafting actual songs instead of barking over finger exercises. Every note is played because the song mandates it, not because the band needs to prove how adept they are at their instrument.
Metal of recent memory has become so mired in anger that it’s lost all the drama that originally gave the genre punch. Iron Maiden embraces that drama and uses it to map out every song. The way the bass pushes everything along, how it’s aided and added to by the drums and then swirling around it are so many guitar lines and harmonies you can’t help but feel energized. Metal is supposed to be epic and bigger than life, that’s why we love it. Iron Maiden understands that better than any other band out there, never failing to deliver the goods.
Maiden are one of those bands, like AC/DC, where the honesty and sincerity of what they do shines through with every song. It never feels like this is just a job to them, it always feels real and genuine. The Final Frontier isn’t going to please Maiden fans because it’s what they’ve heard before but more because you can tell the band never stops trying to be the best at what they do.
CRAVEONLINE RATING: 8.5 OUT OF 10