There’s always a certain rush of anxiety that’s felt when you throw a new Maiden record on. For legions of metalheads, this is the band that defines the Metal genre as a whole. Personally, I wouldn’t put up too much of an argument if you said they were the most consistent and talented metal band to grace this planet. But, I do know that they are in an intense battle with Father Time these days, and there is a slight chance that they may be bruised from the fight. Can Maiden uphold their legacy and continue to reign as the Kings Of Metal with this release? Let’s take a look….
The disc starts out with the title track, which has an intro titled “Satellite 15.” This intro runs slightly over 4:30 and it sounds a bit like the inside of a machine shop. Drummer Nicko McBrain consistently cracks out a churning sequence that sounds like a machine that’s stamping out dog tags. Slurred power chords and guitar squealing are added to the drumming to create a swirling backdrop for vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s signature wailing. All of this sounds great, but as it appears in the context of this song, I find it to be long and tedious. The production here is something to be noted, though. Producer Kevin Shirley uses a nifty technique that’s reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails “Wish,” among others. The “Satellite 15” intro part of the song is produced with a shallow, inferior quality, but as it (finally) comes to an end, the “The Final Frontier” portion of the song comes in with an over-the-top, cleaned up sonic blast that pounds home the fact that the real Iron Maiden has just landed. The song is a real keeper from this point on. I get what they were going for with the intro, but I just think it’s way too long, and therefore loses the desired effect.
The disc quickly shapes up into a classic Iron Maiden record. Dickinson sounds like he may be singing in a slightly lower key these days, and he does sound like he’s reaching at times, but he is still singing with good power and great style. Guitarists Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Dave Murray are as good or better than ever, and the rhythm section of drummer Nicko McBrain and bassist Steve Harris are still the best there is in Metal. I thought McBrain was beyond belief on the band’s previous release, “A Matter Of Life And Death,” and he picks up right where he left off with this record. Paired with Harris’ signature gallop and complex plucking, this rhythm section puts on a clinic and shows exactly how it should be done.
I did find myself wishing that these songs were shorter. The “meat” of these songs is so catchy, I found myself wanting to get to the feast a little faster. There is only one track under 5:00, with 7 out of 10 of them over the 6:00 mark. Not real sure why this bothers me because these songs are well crafted with great flow. So many bands that write lengthy songs end up sounding like they took five or six unfinished ideas and haphazardly pasted all of them together. That’s definitely not the case here. All of these songs have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they are all solid in their structure. I think it’s my own selfishness that wants to get pierced by the infectious hooks that are so prominent within each of these tracks - a "get-me-to-the-party-fast" complex, I guess.
Once again, Iron Maiden cuts an album full of thought out, finely crafted songs. They’ve been doing it for decades now, and their material continues to stay strong. It’s nice to know that I’ll still get that rush of anxiety when the next record comes out - a rush which will probably be followed by a chill down my spine.