Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Real Time Review: The Final Frontier

Thanks to a virus infected PC that took up most of my day and a wedding anniversary to boot, I wasn't able to listen to this or do a real time review until now. I've read alot of other reviews and such and as always it's a mixed bag on whether or not the album is good. Mainly because there are different types of Iron Maiden fans out there.Some are pure old school, some are die hard Dickinson, and some like to compare the second wave of Dickinson/Smith to the old version. I'll weigh in with where I'm at in those terms after I've listened to this thing finally. So with that said lets' get to listening to this after the jump.

Satellite 15...The Final Frontier: So we start off with what's in essence the title track eh? Steve Harris kicks in with his signature bass and there is also Nicko's build up fill drumming with some weird reverb going on. The guitars are also kicking in with this creepy tone. Pretty long build up.Ok...get to the song already...which by looking at the song lengths...they're going for epics again like the last release.2 minutes 30 seconds in and Bruce pipes in.Not sure what to make of it just a loooong intro? The lyrics are about being in space and about to crash into the sun. 4 minutes 40 seconds later and it's like another song. It finally gets to the meat of it.This part is alot like material from Bruce's Tyranny of Souls album. Except the chorus is repetitive as hell. I'll give this a 6 out of 10. I might have to go back and listen again because right now it's not sinking in with this two songs in one thing.

El Dorado: The first single and the song they played in concert. I was kind of 'meh' about this song when it leaked but it sounded pretty good live. Let's see if my opinions changed. Track starts off sort of like Wasted Years. Galloping bass line from Steve. Galloping crunchy riff.This song definitely has a more old school vibe to it.Song is about scamming people to find the City of gold. Maybe it's the quality of the track here but it sounds better then the leak.All three guitarist are getting their solos in which is eating up about a minute of time. Pretty straight forward track. 7 of 10 on this one.

Mother of Mercy: Harmonic intro, reminds of Seventh Son songs. Pretty calm way of Bruce singing though the material is pretty violent in the lyrics.Actually this song's lyrics could have fit on A Matter of Life and Death.Mid tempo track overall.I'm noticing that Bruce's voice is really starting to show wear in that he can't hit a certain pitch anymore. Like someone trying to hit notes that are just barely out of their reach. I noticed this on the last track too. Probably why I liked his solo albums because he wasn't trying to reach for those higher registers.Pretty decent song otherwise, it's a rocker not trying to do any frills. 7 of 10.

Coming Home: Ballad intro. Now this is reminding me alot of Bruce's solo work. Notably the song "Navigate the Seas of the Sun". Let's see if it's as catchy or melodic. It's not. But it's still a good track. Bruce's vocals aren't as grating on the high notes as previous tracks. The song seems to be a reflection on home as they're flying back to Britain. Strongest track so far. 7 of 10.

The Alchemist: Maybe this track will be some more good old fashioned Maiden style historical storytelling. Wait a minute. Bruce Dickinson had a track called the Alchemist on his Chemical Wedding album. Is this the same song? why did they title this track the same? I guess the casual fan wouldn't notice. The solo album song was bad ass so let's see what this is. Pretty basic riff start. Ok...this song is a far cry from the other one. And the lyrics are pretty stupid in the chorus. I am the Magus I am Dr. Dee and this is my house? What the fuck is a Dr. Dee? Not feeling this song. It's not completely horrible but not that great either. 4 of 10.

Isle of Avalon: Whoo...9 minute song. Hope this is epic and not an epic dud.So like with any epics it has a slow guitar build up. Bruce is singing pretty low.Another long intro. An increase in tempo. Bruce's annoying vocal range from earlier is back. Song is not very memorable and I feel like this is comparative to filler material on other releases. Pretty fast 9 minutes though. Very long vocal passages with the tone deaf pitch of Bruce on hear makes for a grueling listening experience.Bruce tries to close it out like epics of yore. Not enough. 5 of 10 on this. Kind of disappointing.

Starblind: Another calm intro before the main riff kicks in.I'm starting to wonder if Bruce's range is lower register and the attempt at alto. Appears to be another filler song. There is alot of lyrical content in this track. Another unmemorable riff moment except at the bridge where the riff line is kind of cool and the solos kick in. I'm at this point almost welcoming the instrumental interludes in these songs. Another 5 of 10.

The Talisman:Another 9 minute long song. Calm intro again. I hope this hits the epic levels that Isle did not.2 minutes and 20 seconds in the main riff kicks in. Bruces voice is really straining here. The worst vocal performance so far and the song is only a third of the way.I'm envisioning that arm swing thing he does as he's singing these verses. Song is about sailing in a armada away from some oppressive land. I'm assuming the pilgrims leaving England. Catchier tune then Isle.Oh a change 6 minutes in with sort of a wierd bluesy type riff. Not sure how this fits with the song. Steve's bass line is pretty bad ass here though.Pretty dull solo actually.I'll give this 6 of 10 because its somewhat interesting.

The Man Who would be King: I think almost every song has a calm intro on here.I used to like that from bands because the song would kick in all heavy with cool riffs. So far not so much. Well let's see what we have. Is it going to be 2 minutes of intro again too? Nope a minute and a half.This might be one of the only two songs that are actually catchy on the album.Bruce is singing in a lower register and its not bad.I'm dreading choruses. Wow that chorus was actually kind of dull. The meat of the song is not bad. 7 of 10.

When the Wild Wind Blows: The longest song so far at 11 minutes and it's the last one. Wind blowing at the beginning. Steve's bass riff is pretty cool. Another calm intro. I like this the best so far.Very catchy tune. Tempo slows back down with a groove riff over the solos. Song is about an old couple preparing for what they think is the end of the world. A very Shakespearean ending.Every riff change is awesome. By far my favorite song on the album. 9 of 10.

And so there we have it the 15th release by the mighty Iron Maiden. And I have to say (if you couldn't already tell) I'm pretty underwhelmed. There is a disturbing pattern here ever since Bruce and Adrian came back to the band and that is every other album seems to be a dud of sorts. A Brave New world was a refreshing return after the Blaze years but Dance of Death was a forgettable mediocre album with a couple of good songs. A Matter of Life and Death was a pseudo conceptual album that delved into prog metal territory but had good songs if not totally memorable. And now we have The Final Frontier which had problems that outweighed the good.

The Pros: Well the musicianship is good as usual.Each song is rich in lyrical content. Half the songs are long but the hour and fifteen minute run time is actually feels pretty quick.The last song was just amazing.

The Cons:Bruce's vocals on this were not that good.He can't hit the registers like he used to and at times it was almost tone deaf. Most of the songs were unmemorable. Maiden used to have such a laundry list of memorable songs and it's just not here. I think the three guitars element has run it's course. I got no sense except for solos of there being three guitars. Too many songs with the same pattern of soft and very long intros and then cut to the main riff which mostly had the same style of galloping riffs.

So word on the street says they'll debut with this at number 2 or 3. And that's cool but I would not recommend this to a brand new fan. The introductory albums should still be anything from the 80's. But if you're a long time fan or a completest then by all means go out and pick this up. Otherwise if you're not a fan of Dance of Death then pass this one up.

Here is the video for Final Frontier if you haven't seen it yet. You probably won't get the sense of the first track like I did because of the bleed over from the sound effects.

Here is El Dorado, one of only two memorable songs.

And here is my favorite track on the album

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