without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
This really is a do-nothing album - essentially, if you took all that Maiden attempted - or perhaps shouldn’t have been attempting - in the past 20 years, and then took it down to X Factor levels of drudgery then you’d pretty much have this album. I honestly have a hard time believing that people want to justify this crap, it seems Maiden have got stuck in-between moving forward as a band and playing some sort of homage to their glory years, instead, it seems they’ve decided that paying tribute to all the folly of the past 20 years - you know, the unexciting part of their career.
Say what you will about Steve Harris as a songwriter, at least in the 80s he could write songs that flowed well and went somewhere. The Final Frontier seems to be haphazardly constructed, generic post-reunion Maiden interspersed with even more of Mr. Harris’s “look I’m influenced by Geddy Lee” Rush-isms that so plagued The X Factor. Hell, The X Factor was far from a passable album but at least it had its moments… here they're really, really struggling. The Final Frontier simply offers very little that I can welcome.
That said, there is something vaguely “new” on offer here and it’s worth commenting on, if only for its amusing idiocy. ‘Satellite 15’ is, of course, what I’m talking about - something that certainly should have been left on the cutting-room floor, if not actually destroyed so that no-one would have to suffer through it. I can’t help but feel Adrian Smith drank three bottles of wine and decided to submit a funny joke as a song as a way of getting his own back on Steve Harris (it must be pretty tiresome for a guitarist to have to do those “root-fifth” picked intros all the time) and then Steve decides he loves it and makes it the opening track on the new album. Honestly, it sounds like the product of watching 30 minutes of bad, late-night sci-fi and deciding to write an alternative score to it. That, or a terrible outtake from Bruce Dickinson’s Skunkworks album. I mean, sure, you can’t blame ‘em for branching from out beyond the dullard up-tempo tracks that have opened the last couple of albums - it’s actually the first non-speedy album opener since The X Factor - but really, this? I’m not sure I’ve heard much like it on metal albums, but then again, there’s probably a reason for that. Though, far from a dramatic or impressive song you’d have wished they’d simply have cut straight to the title track. The verses are clunky as hell and they seem to be riddled with that same “old man, self-help” vibe that Maiden lyrics seem to be cluttered with these days (even if it’s about being in space rather than step-by-step instructions on how to find your car keys), but at least the chorus is memorable in a good way.
So, that was alright, you know. Although, after that intro they probably could have put in an extended version of ‘The Angel and the Gambler’- now with even more choruses! - and it still would have sounded ok. But then it’s back to some dullard metal in the form of ‘El Dorado’. Now, I’m not really surprised that this hasn’t been setting the world alight since it’s basically a No Prayer…/Fear of the Dark rocker without the snarling vocals, and it’s actually more grating than, say, ‘Bring Your Daughter…’ and what have you. What’s to say, really, it just shifts from ideas you’d wish would end before they actually begun. Although, the solo section is actually somewhat entertaining…
Though, while on the subject, I have to ask myself at this point, what the hell is happening with Adrian Smith’s guitar playing at this point? For the some parts he’s decided to play around with some weird sort of “Robin Trower if in space, and not feeling very well” vibe for a few leads on this album, I know it could be an attempt to fit in with the band’s chosen theme for this album, but it certainly doesn’t work on in the classic “supposed to sound good” thing that we’ve come to expect from lead guitarists. Honestly, I didn’t think he had a bad solo in him - ever since Killers his solos have often been an emotional climax in many great Maiden songs. But here, a lot of his solos just sound, well, off and it's not like he’s forgotten how to play, some of the stuff here is just of good as he’s ever played (even if it lacks the good songs surrounding it). Again, just like the intro, I think he’s laughing at us. Maybe he’s been watching those old Bad News videos alongside the bad sci-fi… seeing how many Vim Fuego solos he can get away with.
Fuck me, this is an album to check your watch to. It sounds like they took ho-hum Maiden songs and dragged them out just because, well, “we’re Iron Maiden, we’ve always written long songs”. I don’t know if anyone’s ever explained this to Steve Harris but if you put several long songs together it’s not automatically “epic”… it’s often quite testing. You’ll notice great songs - that happen to be long - don’t often feel like the take a great amount of time to pass. Making a seventy-minute snoozer with possibly seven minutes worth of good ideas doesn’t seem like the best way to promote your new album. ‘Where the Wild Wind Blows’ seems to be the worst offender - just how many times can Mr Harris expect to trot on those picked power chord parts with the vocal melody and lead guitar simply doubling each? It worked for ‘Fear of the Dark’, sure, but eighteen years later it’s not so fresh. It doesn’t help that the song’s absolutely sleep-inducing - hell, if the apocalypse does come let’s pray it’s not this ho-hum. It’s basically ‘For the Greater Good of God’ with far less energy and drive, not to say that the said A Matter of Life and Death number was excessively energetic it’s just this is really fucking dreary. You can tell Bruce hasn’t had much say in writing his own melodies here - it’s obviously just stuff he’d never choose to sing for himself in a million years. It’s just cheese, especially the ‘got to help each other’ “Feed the World” moment. It’s a song with a 'clever twist', too, (I won't spoil it for you, feed your cash to the Maiden Machine and be rewarded with its ho-hum songwriting) which I guess is trying to be clever - but I think it was Harris’s excuse for bring one more of the dreaded false ending-quiet outro technique for one last hurrah… congratulations, Steve, because it really wasn’t getting boring after the last album. Whatever happened to songs with good twists? ‘Pray for you death/ because if you survive… you’ll die in pain in World War V!’ for instance.
What more do you want, really? There’s a whole lot of bad stuff going on here; with very few redeeming features. Generic old-man Maiden fare combined with some absolutely risible experimentations. Boring songs about the end of the world are rife… Bruce doing that annoying voice-straining accenting that no one really likes a lot, and Steve proving to the world that he’s a completely spent force as a songwriter. I’d say about the only real enjoyment you’ll get from this album is observing how the, shall we say, more devoted fans of the band will tell you it’s a fantastic album and, here we go again, “their best since Seventh Son…”
“Their best since Rust in Piece”.
“Their best since Painkiller”.
“Their best since And Justice For All”.
Are you beginning to see a pattern forming? No? Oh well, carry on.