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After 15 albums and being one of the most recognisable bands in heavy metal, Iron Maiden need no introduction. Iron Maiden is a band that takes its themes, concepts, and lyrical content very seriously, and on this album there is no exception. This album runs a gauntlet of songs about space, whether it's exploring it or being stranded in it. And there are also a lot of themes about going home and missing loved ones; kind of about being away from where you're used to being.
Iron Maiden sure takes their sweet ass time talking about this, too. This album is almost an hour and twenty minutes long, making it their longest studio album to date. The reason for this is not extra tracks. There are ten songs on the album.
Following 2006's A Matter Of Life And Death, Iron Maiden have fallen in love with the concept of the 'intro'. Only several songs on this album get on with it, so if you're looking for lean, straight-to-the-point Iron Maiden, you may be disappointed. But if you're patient, Maiden actually go through some pretty interesting intros, whether it be interesting musically, like on the first moment on the album, "Satellite 15", where there is this really electronic, futuristic sound. There are also some moments where it seems like Maiden is just doing an intro for the sake of setting up the story that plays itself out through the lyrics. So even though it may take a few minutes for these tracks to get started, there is still a lot of vitality in the songwriting. Maiden doesn't show any age in this aspect.
When Maiden needs to, the band uses their speed, and when they need to, they use their solo power, and they're still flash with this music, but the band is really emphasizing songwriting and progressiveness over flashy musicianship. The slower moments aren't bad either, like the track "Coming Home" has a really fantastic hook that will stick with you every time you listen to it. Some songs overall I'm really not enjoying and I'm sad to say it's mostly because of Bruce's vocals. I don't know if there were outside factors involved, but Bruce sounds a little bit strained on some of these tracks when he starts to reach his upper register. It could've been an off season, could've been a lack of studio time, but I think some of these songs could've done with a few extra takes.
One more problem I have with tracks like "Mother of Mercy of "Starblind" is that it's almost as if Bruce isn't really singing, but instead trying to channel his inner thespian by kind of acting out the song. But I'm still happy to say that Iron Maiden is still making good music that is powerful, and that means something; they're definitely showing some signs of aging, but I still think they've got it.
If I'm going to be honest with you, I feel this album still is in no way as thrilling or as riveting as Piece Of Mind or Powerslave or Killers. Iron Maiden is still making good music, and for tha they are still relevant in the metal world. Their music isn't getting lost in the past, it's not forgotten, and that's because every so often we have something like this to talk about.