It took them four years to release a follow up to “A Matter of Life and Death,” the longest period between studio albums in the band’s 35-year history, but heavy metal veterans Iron Maiden seems to have found success in the additional time. The new album, released in the U. S. on August 17, debuted on the Billboard 200 at #4, the highest American charting position in the band’s history. But America seems a bit behind the curve — because Iron Maiden’s “The Final Frontier,” according to the band’s EMI label, debuted at #1 on 21 national charts (to date) worldwide.
The album was released to rave reviews, many critics noting that the album is the best work Iron Maiden has put together since their reincarnation in 2000 and the release of “Brave New World.” Most attribute it to the band’s members contributing to the complete work, making it a true group effort. Many also attribute the sound to a return to the band’s more intricate and stylized guitar-work of the mid 1980’s.
And there could be a reason for that. To record “The Final Frontier,” Iron Maiden returned to the Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, the same studios they recorded what many consider their best albums ever, 1983’s “Piece of Mind” and 1984’s “Powerslave.”
According to frontman Bruce Dickinson, “The studio had the same vibe and it was EXACTLY as it had been in 1983, NOTHING had changed! Even down to the broken shutter in the corner…same carpet….everything… It was really quite spooky. But we felt very relaxed in such a familiar and well-trodden environment and I think this shows in the playing and the atmosphere of the album.”
According to Billboard, “The Final Frontier” sold 63,000 albums to claim the fourth position, coming in behind Eminem (who charted at #1 for his sixth nonconsecutive week at the top position, the most for a male artist since Usher’s “Confessions” put together nine weeks in the top spot), R&B singer Kem, and Ray Montagne and the Pariah Dogs (numbers 1-3, respectively). “The Final Frontier” is Iron Maiden’s first ever Top 5 album and second Top 10 release (2006’s “A Matter of Life And Death” debuted at #9).
The album is somewhat thematic and has a science fiction feel to it, but the title also led many to believe that it might be Iron Maiden’s last release. Given a statement some time ago by founder Steve Harris that he believed the band would probably release a total of fifteen albums, many Maiden fans took the title (and the first track “Satellite 15… The Final Frontier”) as an added indicator that the album, also their longest album to date (over 76 minutes), would be the last.
Harris admitted to Metal Hammer magazine that he had said that he wanted to make fifteen albums, but he “didn’t even expect to do more than three when we first started!” He later added that “…people are going to think it’s either the last album or that we’re Trekkies, or both, and it’s not like that really.”
“The Final Frontier” continues the success of the band’s multiplatinum 2008 DVD set “Flight 666,” which enjoyed a #1 position on the U. S. video charts.