Well, the new Iron Maiden is finally out. Opinions on this one run the gamut from the most uninspired piece of shit they’ve ever put out to it being the one of their best albums ever. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think it’s the best album they’ve put out since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its flaws.
Now in terms of loving Iron Maiden I’m like a fatherless 16 year old girl from a New Jersey trailer park at a Motley Crue show in 1988. They have been a part of my musical landscape since early childhood. I still remember the feeling of pure occult awe the first time I saw a cassette of Live After Death as a kid. Brother Chump’s Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son posters were always around too. Really though, I never truly understood their music, or developed the full on, man-tastic, love I have for them until after Bruce rejoined the band and A Brave New World came out. I think that helps me take a broader view of what I like about Maiden then some old timers though.
Manager Rod Smallwood once made it a point to say that Maiden makes 45 minutes of awesome music per album. If Iron Maiden kept the mindset that they would limit themselves to that amount of music per album, I firmly believe that the last few albums would be seen just as fitting of being legendary as the early ones. With the rise of the compact came the urge to fill it though, and with it a slight watering down of the sheer brilliance the band is capable of at their best.
The band pulls one complete dick move right at the onset that has to be addressed. Don’t you fucking ever make a goddamn 4 and ½ minute intro on the same track with one of the best songs on the album!!! Track 1 is officially Satellite 15 and The Final Frontier together. Satellite 15 is just a long intro that will be cool for getting people to freak out at live shows. Why the fuck would you make me have to listen to that shit every time I want to hear the fucking song though??? None one give a shit about the intro, on almost any album, ever. Fuck off!!!
Okay then. Like said trailer bitch now that I’ve tossed my Smirnoff ice bottle at my man, and tried to emasculate him in front of his friends, I can get back to lovin’ him. After waiting forever, and the last four years of music geek lust building up is threatening to drive you crazy, the Final Frontier breaks in with a big, catchy rock riff. This thing was written to rock arenas and will rock your car just as hard. The song is one of the shortest at around 4 ½ minutes, but is heartfelt, epic, has giant hooks, and features Bruce’s voice well in the simple but impossible to get our of your head chorus of “The Final Frontier” repeated a whole big bunch of times.
After making you wait forever to get to that new song, then blowing the doors off, they make sure to let you know, “Hey baby, that was cool, but I’m not THAT into you.” The next few songs aren’t bad but aren’t spectacular either. The first single El Dorado is actually a pretty killer track, if a little self-conscious at moments. Mother of Mercy is kind of cool, but kind of plods at the same time. The voice Bruce chooses to use for the chorus is a little too close to the sounds probably made the dying soldier Bruce is singing about. That track seems to bother people the most. Coming Home is Bruce’s ballad to flying. It’s kind of sappy, and it’s not a bad song, but instead of having an epic feeling of how awesome coming home from a flight is, I think about what Iron Maiden’s kids think about that song. “Dad, while you were away playing rock star, everyone had to hear the story about how Mom was crawling through bathroom windows to blow Nikki Sixx. Fuck you Dad and your plane. I just wanted to you to come to a fucking soccer game, but you couldn’t fly in for that could you, fuckface?”
From there the album actually takes off. The Alchemist could have come from the 80’s. No doubt it’s an immediate Maiden classic. Isle of Avalon isn’t always great, and they do the long intro thing way too much on it, but it has a fantastic chorus. Starblind is fairly progressive for them. It has a really cool, kind of odd main riff, and a nice section played in 7/7 time as a bridge. It’s gets a little wonky at one point where it sounds like the song suddenly dies, but they manage to pick it up and keep playing the verse and chorus another time and pull it out. The Talisman is awesome, again with another long intro but the song may feature Bruce’s best work on the album. After some more intro storytelling, (noticing a theme) The Man Who Would Be King is one of the best Maiden songs ever. It’s everything the band has always done well, but they throw a very space rock, very transcendent sounding section that really shows the band still has a few tricks up its sleeves. I’ll pit that song against anything else in their catalogue. If they play that live the next time I see them my panties are flying towards the stage. When the Wild Wind Blows is almost a poppy track about the end of the world to close things out, but does it need to be 11 minutes? A lot of people are talking about how this track is amazing, but I’m not in that group. It’s probably the least distinctive track on the whole album. It’s not annoying but instantly forgettable.
So here’s the problem with the second half of the album. It’s like this. Everyday I come home from work, I wish the moment I opened the door Thus Spoke Zarathrustra would boom from the speakers, the cat would obediently rub his head on my leg before going to sleep, and my fiancé would have an IPA and sandwich ready for me. It would be pretty epic. Eventually, though, you may say “Honey, could I get a stout today, or how about some Lucky Charms instead of sandwich today?” These ridiculously long intro parts just don’t need to be on most of these songs. Not every track needs to be Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and they shouldn’t be. Every once in awhile there’s nice foreplay, but eventually all this playing around is just a chore when you want to get down to the business in the back of a rusted Z28 real quick before the show.
So what does this all add up to? The problem of figuring out what to say about this album comes from the fact that the view from the heights of this album are breathtaking, but sometimes you need a team of sherpas to get you there. When Maiden is on top of it’s game no other band can touch them. When Bruce really opens his pipes and it sounds like the cosmos itself is reverberating with his vocal chords, I’ll wade through 5 minutes of intro to hear it. What does it say about a band that when they suck they are still better than almost all the other music you can get your hands on? For all its’ faults I still love this album and still think it’s full of brilliance. Iron Maiden seems to channel a power greater than the band itself when they hit things in stride. Something I like about this album too is that every song is memorable and distinct, a quality lacking on the last few albums.
Just remember to compare this album to the output of other mortal bands rather than to what you think of other Iron Maiden albums.
4 out of 5 IBU’s