Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier

Audio CD: Rs. 395

To say that every metalhead has waited for four gruellingly long years with bated breath for the release of Iron Maiden's 15th studio album would simply be a gross understatement. “The Final Frontier”, at 76 minutes and 34 seconds, is the group's longest studio album to date. And while the title of the album and Steve Harris' statement that he'd imagined the band would release only 15 studio albums sent fans into a frantic tizzy, reassurance came in the form of the musical prodigies admitting their desire to release more albums.

The thing about Maiden is that they only get better with time and “The Final Frontier” bears formidable testimony of this verity.

The album's thundering but fresh sound is astoundingly evident in the opening track “Satellite 15… The Final Frontier”. Bewildering and blissfully turbulent, the intro of the two-part track is an out-and-out musical thriller. Packed with heady distortion and mindboggling double kicks for the prelude, classic Maiden reverberation creeps in when Bruce Dickinson spruces up the texture of the song with his inimitable vocals.

The second track “El Dorado” meanders between clean and upfront soundscapes in the beginning that magically amalgamate with more boisterous resonance. The chorus is stimulating but the song in its entirety makes one realise Dickinson's diminishing chest capacity.

“Mother of Mercy” is where Maiden's notorious fascination for the sinister and ominous war-like anthems is brought out. Not typically pacey at the outset, Nicko McBrain infuses a deep echoing beat before the track soars to an audacious territory with the trademark guitar gallops. The song is also remarkable for its lyrical poignancy. Bruce sings: “Rivers flow with blood, there's nowhere left to hide/ it's hard to comprehend, there's anyone left alive…”

The band's prolific effort in segueing into a lighter, balladeer number is seen in “Coming Home”. Here, one cannot escape the allegories of Dickinson's own life where he longs to return home, return to Albion (Great Britain).

Reiterating that the band has progressed from the time when our fathers became their die-hard fans, if there is one song in this album that consciously preserves and savours classic Maiden flavour, it's got to be “The Alchemist”. Though it is the shortest song on this record, this track explodes with ravenous tempo and vigour owing to the deft guitar harmony.

The band scales uncharted musical terrain with “Isle of Avalon”. Setting pace for the longest and most phenomenal tracks of the album, this song swerves rhapsodically in terms of brilliant guitar work.

One cannot but gape in awe at the way in which the opening develops from a calm surrender into something markedly ballistic.

“Starblind” is another pleasant surprise. Superb guitar riffs coupled with harmonious melodies, this track has a progressive texture to it. Somewhere in the middle, intricacies have been paid much attention to. The highlight of this song would be the entrancing work of the triple-guitar militia.

The next track is “The Talisman”, which is deep, dark and bizarrely convoluted. What starts off as an offshoot of folk ventures into a more potent and volatile chorus. Definitely gripping, thanks to McBrain's unique employment of the crash and the cymbals.

“The man who would be king” could send shivers down your spine. It has this paranormal and disconcerting edge to it especially in the beginning. But as this album is all about surprises, one is ushered into a captivating and upbeat chorus.

There are fastidious tempo shifts and the solos are conspicuously syncopating and psychedelic. Dave Murray works his trademark magic on this one.

The last track, “When the wild wind blows” did in fact blow me over! Intriguingly so, the track boasts extraordinary riffs coupled with impressive melodies.

This is an atmospheric and refined epic that is impenetrably layered and substantially categorical. Based on the end times, nuclear destruction and mass confusion, the lyrics are hypnotic but thought provoking. “There will be a catastrophe the like we've never seen/There will be something that will light the sky/That the world as we know it, it will never be the same,” Dickinson sings. Here's where the album reaches its zenith.

This is but a perfect ending to yet another heroic opus by the gods of metal.

Fanatics of Iron Maiden will love this if they're willing to settle for a refreshing sound. New listeners are bound to find this album irresistible.