Every time Iron Maiden puts out a new studio album, it’s almost like a religious experience for me. I need the CD in my hands. I need to follow the lyrics as they’re being sung. I need the physical product in my greedy mitts. I also feel the need to stream my consciousness onto paper (err, MS Word) as the songs are playing. Here are those thoughts snatched from my head as I listened to Iron Maiden’s brand spankin’ new album, “The Final Frontier”.
Satellite 15…The Final Frontier
Wow, the first 4 minutes of this song are friggin’ weird! Good on the lads for producing something very, very different especially for the record’s opener. I might have to listen a few more times for the first half to grow on me. As for the second half of the song, that is instant classic Maiden!! Wow, hooky as all hell and just a killer groove. This is all Adrian Smith folks, even though the other two amigos chime in with awesomeness, lead and otherwise. It’s nice to hear a riff that’s not the typical E-C-D pattern that has been prevalent in Maiden tunes for years. It’s a groovy riff, but delightfully unpredictable.
I first heard this song about a month and a half before the release of the record. The first thing that stuck me was “That opening bass line sounds like ‘Barracuda’ by Heart”. The similarities end there. This song caught me instantly, even more so since seeing the boys play it live twice (on two consecutive nights in two different cities, I might add). The song soars to another plane when the chorus eventually kicks in just before the 3:00 mark. I was wondering if Bruce could hit those really high notes live. Well, leave no doubt, the Air Raid Siren is still as blaring and perfect as ever. This is an instant Maiden classic.
Mother of Mercy
“I’M A SOLDIER OF WAR!” Yes!!! A subdued, brooding intro breaks into a mid-tempo gallop that, again, highlights all that is Adrian Smith; a no-nonsense, heavy as hell guitar driven groove. The backdrop of very dark subject matter; “I’m just a lonely soldier fighting in a bloody hopeless war”. One of the best Maiden songs ever, even if it is at a “slight” 5:20.
Initially, this sounds like a hidden track from Bruce’s “Skunkworks” solo record, with an etherealness to the melody that is very signature of that side project. This is a cool, personal song for Bruce that describes his love of flight. I particularly love the line “Flown the dark Atlantic/Over mariners stormy graves”. Very cool! A lot of Adrian in this song too. So far, this is Adrian’s record, in my opinion. I picture this played live and get goosebumps. I’m in awe of this song.
Oh, this just kicks in right from the get-go!! Very reminiscent of “Be Quick or Be Dead”, with a lot more early Maiden influence. The triple guitar harmonies are just top shelf and ‘Arry absolutely shreds in the verses. From the title, I was expecting a more slow, brooding song like something off of Bruce’s “The Chemical Wedding” (a natural assumption given the title of the song). This is a song I’ve been hoping I’d hear from the band; one that just kicks ass from the first note and doesn’t slack off.
Isle of Avalon
Ok, here we go…over 9:00. I’d heard good things about this song. The intro reminds me a bit of the breakdown in “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, with Nicko’s high-hats (I don’t know how he keeps that up for so long). Two minutes in and the anticipation builds as the guitars and drums get slightly more aggressive. Boom, 2:45 and the song kicks into high gear, and from reading the lyrics, I have zero idea what the song is about. I guess I’ll have to look that up. Wow, the song takes on so many forms and leads the listener down multiple twists and turns…it’s going to take more than one listen to wrap my skull around it. This is brilliant songwriting, plain and simple. I have no idea how Bruce will remember all the lyrics, should the band decide to pull this one off live.
Can Adrian Smith write a bad riff? Answer: nope. However, this song is a little strange and may take a few listens to grasp. The song’s written in an odd time signature; definitely not a typical 4/4, but most Maiden offerings aren’t. Nicko earns his keep on this one. Good luck to anyone who wants to load this one into Rock Band or something. I gather that the song has a religious theme, but damned if I know exactly what it is on this my first listen. I’ll have to take notes on this one, along with “…Avalon”.
Another 9+ minute offering (sweet)! Subdued opening with some nice acoustic guitar work by (I assume) Janick, who has his first writing credit on the record. Bam, 2:23, the song crushes into a mid-tempo groove that would fit perfectly alongside the tunes on “A Matter of Life and Death”. “The Talisman” is another sweeping epic in a long history of awesomeness. It’s so cool to hear the difference in guitar style between Gers and Smith. Janick is so loosey-goosey and untamed, whereas Adrian is so well-thought-out and precise. It’s a beautiful thing. Love this song!
The Man Who Would Be King
And then we have Mr. Davey Murray. You talk about guitar playing that’s distinctive and signature; this song’s intro displays Dave’s subtle side, yet it’s filled with little trills and flourishes that make Dave Murray great. The guitar harmonies here are phenomenal, leading into a straight-ahead rocker, until the 4:00 mark when the song takes an unexpected turn! Wow…didn’t see that coming. Is that slide guitar? Then, back into full-on Maiden mode after the little diversion. Wow…another complex tune that requires a lot more listens to grasp fully.
When The Wild Wind Blows
The record’s closer is one second shy of 11 minutes. Let’s see where this goes. The opening guitar riff and vocal melody sounds very reflective and personal. Wow, this thing is BLEAK. It’s a sad tale of someone being blinded by the fear of what COULD happen and not what IS happening. From what I get out of it, ‘Arry is trying to tell us of the consequences of buying into fear mongering presented to us by the mass media: “Oh the World is gonna blow up!” “The end of days is near!” and all that crap. The lyrics are very emotionally charged and simply sad! I know I sound like a broken record, but this song requires a lot more than one listen.
There ya have it. My first of many listens to this epic record by the best band in the world. UP THE IRONS!