Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier

RIYL: Dream Theatre, Savatage, Queensryche

Looking for another set of covers by an established act? How about a band looking to completely re-invent itself by offering up Bossa Nova versions of its classics (Rundgren did it in 1997 on With a Twist)? That ain’t happening here. Iron Maiden offers up 76 minutes of progressive metal, professionally and unapologetically on the very good The Final Frontier. The shortest track is 4:29, two tracks are slightly over 5:19 and the rest are in the six-to-11-minute range. Frontier has the necessary Maiden ingredients; song titles like “The Alchemist” and “The Talisman,” theatrical vocalizations by Bruce Dickinson, the monster guitar work, the rolling, rumbling bass lines and the kinetic drumming of Nico McBrain.

This is a 2010 release but sounds like a classic. With a loose galactic theme running throughout, Dickinson really lets it fly with his best vocal performance on “Coming Home.” That track joins Bowie’s “Space Oddity” or Planet P’s “Why Me?” in the pantheon of great space pilot songs. One wonders how Dickinson just doesn’t collapse because he sounds as if he puts everything he has in every note. He doesn’t have the vocal pop of Geoff Tate or Rob Halford, but he certainly makes up for it with passion and a delivery that lets it loose at the very edge of his range. As usual, the guitar work – and there is plenty of it as the keyboards are very subtle – from Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers is terrific, coming up with small nuances and solos making the material sound fresh and never tired. The first four minutes of dissonance and drum work from McBrain on “Satellite 15…The Final Frontier” grabs the listener by the throat before breaking into a fabulous rolling metal tune. Several of the songs set up with a slower, more methodical beginning, before the guitars soar and Dickinson’s starts to extend his voice. Maiden’s Frontier is full of delicious progressive work which demonstrates there is plenty of gas left in the old warhorses’ tank. (Columbia Legacy 2010)

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