Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier

Iron Maiden's incredible late-career upswing continues on what might be their most ambitious album to date.

Iron Maiden

The Final Frontier

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2010-08-17
UK Release Date: 2010-08-16
Artist Website

When you follow a band for a long time, there comes a point where you know their “classic era” has long since passed, and even though you still eagerly buy their albums 25, 30 years into their career, all you basically ask is that they come through with new music that’s enjoyable enough and that they don’t embarrass themselves too much. Such is the case with most “legacy” acts in metal; so many veteran bands are still doing their thing, and although Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Motörhead, Deep Purple, UFO, Scorpions, and others are still putting out solid music, they’re not exactly setting the world afire like they all did in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Which, in the opinions of many, is perfectly fine.

Incredibly, nobody told Iron Maiden that was the road to take. After spending the entire 1990s as a creatively exhausted imitation of their 1980s incarnation, their three-year stint with singer Blaze Bayley a career nadir, the band found themselves completely rejuvenated when key members Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the fold. In the ten years that have passed, Iron Maiden's trajectory has skyrocketed, simply because the band has refused to compromise. Their ideas have been innovative, from their audacious decision to play a new album in its entirety on tour to the brilliant decision to have Dickinson pilot their entire live production around the world in a custom-built plane. As a result, they are back to being one of the biggest draws in rock music across the globe, they've built up a very strong new following of young fans to go along with their already huge existing audience, and best of all, the four albums they've put out since 1999 sound nothing like a bunch of complacent rock stars. The music is vital, it's continually challenging the band and their fans, and from a metal perspective, it's incredibly relevant.

The four-year gap between 2006's A Matter of Life and Death and Iron Maiden's 15th album is the longest of the band's 35-year history, but with the six band members all well into their 50s, the slower songwriting pace benefits them hugely, as for the fourth time in a row they've put out a record that holds up well against any of their recorded output in the 1980s. In fact, in some ways this is the most ambitious album Iron Maiden has ever made, a 76-minute opus loaded with long songs that, more often than not, require some time to settle into listeners' heads.

This is still a band that cares about how an album is presented, and The Final Frontier is sequenced brilliantly. The first third of the album is heavily centered on accessible, riff-oriented fare, but not before the band throws us one hell of a curveball. "Satellite 15…The Final Frontier" opens with a striking, four-minute intro culled from guitarist Adrian Smith's demo tracks, a mélange of tribal drum beats, thrumming electronic bass, and dark, often atonal riffs. It's the weirdest, heaviest thing Maiden has ever put on record, and the way it builds and builds makes Smith's opening riff of "The Final Frontier" all the more explosive. Drawing heavily from UFO, the song is a simple, melodic heavy rocker that's bound to go over well in a live setting. The next three songs follow suit in the same fashion: "El Dorado" boasts a contagious galloping riff lifted from Thin Lizzy, "Mother of Mercy" is catapulted by a powerhouse performance by Dickinson, and the wistful "Coming Home" is a surprisingly effective mellow tune, in a way a fitting companion to 1986's "Wasted Years".

Those initial tracks ease listeners in for the real bulk of the album, a series of five epics that range from eight to more than 11 minutes in length. Guitarist Janick Gers' rousing "The Talisman" is a nine-minute exercise in Maiden cliché, but is done with such a sense of joy that it's easy to excuse its predictability. Dave Murray's trademark graceful lead melodies dominate "The Man Who Would Be King", while bassist Steve Harris, always the most predictable of the band's songwriters, shows astonishing restraint on the understated "When the Wild Wind Blows", as does the theatrical Dickinson in his controlled performance. The best of the epics, and probably the best song on the entire album, is "Isle of Avalon", a joint effort by Smith and Harris that builds great tension, culminating in a remarkable, prog-rock-inspired solo break reminiscent of early King Crimson. This isn't a band lazily resting on their laurels. They're having some genuine fun trying new things.

Producer Kevin Shirley sticks to the same, no-frills tone that made A Matter of Life and Death work so well, but this time slightly more emphasis is placed on the rhythm section of Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain. Consequently, the bottom end of this album is massive, the robust tone hammering home even more just how powerful this band still is. Throughout the album the lyrics seem to drop hints that the band is becoming more and more aware of its mortality, and as strong as they sound now, they know they're in the latter portion of their career. Stubbornly refusing to go gentle into that good night, Iron Maiden has put together the best late-career run metal has ever seen, and the only thing we can hope is that it lasts for at least one more album. Considering how defiantly they're raging against the dying of the light, chances are it'll happen.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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