The Final Frontier (UME)
A quick glance at the cover of Iron Maiden's umpteenth release says it all—Eddie's back, but this time around we're getting the computerized, sci-fi version, which isn't nearly as cool as the skeletal creep of yore. An elongated concept album, The Final Frontier offers an obtuse and implausible saga of space travel, planetary conquest, interplanetary apocalypse, or something. While the band is in top form and Bruce Dickinson's Viking wail sounds as good as ever, the songs lack the key elements of classic Maiden: galloping rhythms, riffs that you can latch onto, subject matter that is both evil and fun, and the big payoff, memorable choruses that'll shake the arenas. Instead, the band delivers meandering, complex songs punctuated by existentialist lyrics on a high-school level that are on par with the deepest musings of Bad Religion and Kansas. There are passages when the good old Maiden shines through, but they're few and far between. Simply put, The Final Frontier finds the group following a creative path that is either too ambitious, overindulgent, or maybe just both.