When you've been in the business as long as Iron Maiden have, it must be difficult to keep things sounding fresh. Indeed, 'The Final Frontier' often sounds as if it could have been recorded any time in the past thirty years. Perhaps that's why their fans are so unyieldingly loyal. As the music industry continually bends to new trends and fads, the heavy metal icons have remained practically constant, with the four years since their last album, 2006's 'A Matter of Life and Death', being the longest gap they've ever taken between records.
So Iron Maiden sound much as they did when they released their debut all the way back in 1980, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Considering most of their contemporaries turned into sad, aging dad rockers long ago, it's actually quite laudable. At 77 minutes, 'The Final Frontier' is their longest ever album, full of sprawling epics that drift in and out of musical themes and patterns. As expected grizzly guitars hold down rhythms and riffs while cleaner, squealing solos are as air-guitar worthy as ever.
Yes, occasionally Iron Maiden sound a little dated, or worse, fall into the trap of heavy metal drudgery, as the rolling rattle of 'El Dorado' lacks enough deviation to sustain the guts of seven minutes and the underwhelming melody of 'Isle of Avalon' grows wearisome around the halfway point. But moments like these are outweighed by the likes of the swift twin guitars on 'The Alchemist', the dark opening tone of 'Starblind' which is soon replaced with full throttle, and the 11 minute marathon closer 'When The Wild Wind Blows' with its shuddering guitars and jerky rhythms. A title like 'The Final Frontier' seems to suggest Iron Maiden are coming to the end of their road, but on this evidence, they've plenty more left in them.