Thursday, August 26, 2010

Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier

If you've stopped by this blog more than once before (and thank you for doing so, if you have!), you'll know that I am a huge Iron Maiden fan, and I have been enjoying their music for nearly thirty years now. So it delights me to see that my favorite band is still cranking out the metal tunes even today.

Yes, that's the latest release from Maiden, and I bought it the day it came out, August 17, 2010. Since it's called The Final Frontier, I suppose this might be the last studio album the band puts out before they all retire for good. So, I'd better enjoy the hell out of it, right? No worries.

Let's start with the cover art. Here, Eddie has apparently been genetically combined with an alien species, and he's suffered some kind of damage because his cranium has been opened to space. (It doesn't seem to bother him, though.) He holds a key of some kind, and he looks over the freeze-dried carcasses of another type of alien in their ruined space vessel. Striking visuals, and very colorful in contrast to the bleakness of Maiden's previous album.

The songs: Stylistically, they cover a lot of ground. There's much that sounds like old, familiar, comfy Iron Maiden, and then there's some that goes off in different directions, even challenging the expectations of long-time fans like me. For example, "Satellite 15 ... The Final Frontier" (which is really two songs in one) sounds like nothing I've heard before, and it's a very interesting way to start the album off.

Thematically, the songs are all over the place. They deal with space travel and exploration ("Satellite 15 ... The Final Frontier" and "Coming Home"), war and religion ("Mother of Mercy" and "Starblind"), legends ("Isle of Avalon" and "The Man Who Would Be King"), old-time sea-faring adventures ("The Talisman"), fear ("When the Wild Wind Blows"), historical mysticism ("The Alchemist"), and even scam artists ("El Dorado").

And you know what? There's a lot here to like. Steve Harris and crew may be getting old, but they aren't slowing down. And they certainly haven't lost any of their creativity. It's a good listen, from start to finish, and I have the feeling I'm just at the beginning of my enjoyment of this album.

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