released August 17th, 2010
from the album - Coming Home
from all music
Known for such powerful hits as "Two Minutes to Midnight" and "The Trooper," Iron Maiden were and are one of the most influential bands of the heavy metal genre. The often-imitated band existed for over 30 years, pumping out wild rock similar to Judas Priest. Iron Maiden have always been an underground attraction; although failing to ever obtain any real media attention in the U.S. (critics claimed them to be Satanists due to their dark musical themes and their use of grim mascot "Eddie"), they still became well known throughout the world and have remained consistently popular throughout their career. Iron Maiden were one of the first groups to be classified as "British metal," and, along with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and a host of other bands, set the rock scene for the '80s.
Iron Maiden were first formed in 1976 by bassist Steve Harris, who would soon join up with rhythm guitarist Tony Parsons, drummer Doug Sampson, and vocalist Paul Di'Anno. Before finally obtaining a record deal, the group played in local areas throughout the '70s, receiving a fair amount of London airplay. Parsons replaced Dennis Stratton, and the band made its record debut in 1980 with the self-titled Iron Maiden album. Although the release was recorded in a hurry, it was nonetheless a hit in the U.K. due to the single "Running Free." Iron Maiden's 1981 follow-up, Killers, displayed a harder approach to their music than before, and also saw the replacement of Stratton with Adrian Smith. Due to his uncontrollable alcohol addiction, Di'Anno was forced to part company with the group and would soon be replaced with vocalist Bruce Dickinson in 1982 for the band's groundbreaking Number of the Beast. This album, boasting such songs as the title track and "Hallowed Be Thy Name," would come to be known as one of the greatest rock recordings of all time. Since the unexpected worldwide success of Beast made Iron Maiden international rock superstars, they changed very little of their style for their next album, Piece of Mind. They undertook two major tours before recording 1983's Powerslave, which would go on to be another cult hit. The product of Powerslave's 11-month tour was 1985's Live After Death, a double live album that featured all of their biggest hit singles.
By the release of Live After Death, Iron Maiden had already established themselves as a powerful and unique metal band. Their long-awaited 1986 supplement album, Somewhere in Time, showed a bit of departure from their past releases, showcasing the use of synthesizer guitars and songs more relevant to the same themes. Released in 1988, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, a concept album like its predecessor, featured the singles "The Evil That Men Do" and "The Clairvoyant," and soon became Iron Maiden's most critically acclaimed album since Number of the Beast. After another exhausting tour, Smith departed and the band took a one-year hiatus. With new guitarist Janick Gers, the band resurfaced with No Prayer for the Dying in 1990, a record that returned to the classic sound the group used when recording its earlier releases. One of the album's singles, "Bring Your Daughter...to the Slaughter," was granted the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Song of the Year, but it nonetheless gave the band its first number one U.K. hit. By the time the group finished its 1991 tour, Dickinson expressed desire to leave and work to promote another band he had founded, the Skunkworks. Fear of the Dark, the band's last album with Dickinson, debuted at number one on the U.K. charts and became one of Iron Maiden's biggest-selling albums to date. After their supporting tour, two live albums were released in 1993: A Real Live One, which contained live versions of their newer hit singles, and A Real Dead One, which featured the more "classic" Maiden songs live.
Dickinson's replacement, Blaze Bayley, marked his debut in 1995 with The X Factor. While the record failed to chart as well as some of its predecessors, it was still a minor success in England. Iron Maiden marked the end of 1996 with Best of the Beast, a double compilation album. In 1998, little interest in the Virtual XI album prompted Bayley's termination; Dickinson and Smith returned to the band for a tour in 1999, and a new album, Brave New World, emerged the following year. The band toured throughout the early 2000s, releasing the live Rock in Rio and the greatest-hits collection Edward the Great in 2002, followed by a new studio album, Dance of Death, in 2003. They followed DOD with the Rainmaker EP, as well as the live DVDs History of Iron Maiden, Pt. 1: The Early Days and Raising Hell in 2004. Sanctuary put out the two-disc The Essential Iron Maiden in 2005 to coincide with the group's co-headlining Ozzfest tour with Black Sabbath, a tour that found Maiden pulling out due to a series of confrontations with Ozzy's wife/manager, Sharon Osbourne. They released the live CD/DVD Death on the Road in September of 2005 and a collection of new material, Matter of Life and Death, in 2006. In 2009 the band released the soundtrack for the film Flight 666, a documentary/concert film recorded in 16 different cities during the group's first leg of their 2008 "Somewhere Back in Time World Tour". In 2010 the band released its fifteenth studio, The Final Frontier.
When Iron Maiden's classic lineup famously reunited in the year 2000, their first new album, the quite excellent Brave New World, neatly reconnected both musicians and fans with the band's heritage, while simultaneously promising a prosperous future still to come. However, their next two efforts didn't fare quite as well, and whether Maiden was choosing to repeat the same moves without as much imagination or consistency on 2003's Dance of Death, or becoming bogged down in tiresome prog rock excess on 2006's desultory A Matter of Life and Death, it seemed that neither playing it safe nor taking risks was a surefire recipe for success anymore. And so the heavy metal icons took an extra year -- for them, a record-breaking four -- to work on their fourth post-reunion opus, and 15th career studio album overall, 2010's The Final Frontier, which, like many of their original mid-'80s classics, was recorded at legendary Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, and aimed to reestablish an ideal balance of past and future, familiarity and freshness, complexity and immediacy. By and large, this is accomplished, and we're not just saying that because of the futuristic themes spread across these songs, either -- nor the science fiction imagery used throughout the album's artwork, including the latest metamorphosis of the band's inseparable mascot, Eddie, this time into a hulking, green alien predator. No, there really is an unquestionable freshness about the futuristic themes and novel sonics explored by the intriguing percussive warm-up, "Satellite 15," which leads straight into the anthemic, arena-friendly opening title track; the muscularly riffed "Mother of Mercy," which recalls Bruce Dickinson's better mid-'90s solo efforts; and the remarkable "Coming Home," which is easily Iron Maiden's most convincingly executed semi-ballad since Fear of the Dark's "Wasting Love," and probably better to boot. The album's first half is rounded out by the surprisingly complex and cerebral first single "El Dorado," which was clearly written with "2 Minutes to Midnight" as a template (but isn't that good), before finally striking out with the efficient but ultimately somewhat forgettable speedster "The Alchemist," yet, all in all, this is a very impressive start. Too bad The Final Frontier's second half doesn't hold up so well, being stacked in worrisome fashion with five straight, longish compositions ranging from eight to eleven minutes in length. Even by Maiden standards, this is a tall order for fans to cope with (again!), and, sure enough, top marks are only deserved by the evocative Arthurian fantasy "Isle of Avalon," which is first out of the gate and captures all of the majesty and power you'd expect of an Iron Maiden epic, despite being no "Hallowed Be Thy Name" or "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" -- a "Paschendale," maybe. The remaining five-song monoliths produce only isolated moments of excellence and, amazingly, all begin in suspiciously similar fashion: via quietly plucked, déjà vu-inducing melodies framed by synthesizers before heading off on their individual, long-winded journeys. The "moments" include a strikingly aggressive riff sequence and reminisces of Somewhere in Time contained on "Starblind," and the vaguely psychedelic harmonies nestled somewhere deep within "The Man Who Would Be King," whereas "The Talisman" and Gaelic-inspired "When the Wild Wind Blows" merely recycle spare parts, for the most part, cherry-picked and reassembled from across the Maiden canon. This late dip in quality at the mercy of the band's more-is-more philosophy definitely leaves one pining for the days when heavier, punchier, and just plain shorter songs held equal appeal for Steve Harris and company; but, in good ways and bad ways, by hook or by crook, The Final Frontier still brings Iron Maiden closer to their aesthetic legacy and triumphant year 2000 rebirth than its two predecessors. And, at this stage in their career, Iron Maiden knows that nothing is more important than giving fans -- of all stripes -- what they want and expect. Why mess with a winning team, after all? [The Final Frontier's special -- aka "Mission" -- Edition was delivered with bonus content in a deluxe package outfitted to resemble a spaceship porthole.]
1 Satellite 15...The Final Frontier Harris, Smith 8:40
2 El Dorado Dickinson, Harris, Smith 6:48
3 Mother of Mercy Harris, Smith 5:20
4 Coming Home Dickinson, Harris, Smith 5:52
5 The Alchemist Dickinson, Gers, Harris 4:28
6 Isle of Avalon Harris, Smith 9:06
7 Starblind Dickinson, Harris, Smith 7:48
8 The Talisman Gers, Harris 9:03
9 The Man Who Would Be King Harris, Murray 8:28
10 When the Wild Wind Blows Harris 11:00