Those Maiden guys are a canny lot aren't they? Whilst other music artists are releasing their shiny spinny discs in flimsy card wallets (no names mentioned, but you know who you are!), that's not good enough for the 'Irons'. Nay and thrice nay, they put their disc out in a METAL CASE and to Hades with being environmentally friendly! And a sweet looking thing it is too, but what the heck have they done to our Eddie?! Looks like a 'Predator' reject, so he does!
To the album then, and it's quite a belter, albeit a little flawed. It starts off very well with 'Satellite 15. . . The Final Frontier', a two-fister that starts with a great atmospheric intro and concludes with a ripping song, now unobscured by its nonsense video, which gets the album off to a great start. 'El Dorado' is a little corker of a track that hits the ground running and scarcely pauses for breath by the end and hints at a direction I'd love to see Maiden go in the future. 'Mother Of Mercy' is a typically Maiden-esque sounding track, which is let down just a little by Dickinson's vocals, surprisingly, as he seems to struggle a little bit with the top notes during the chorus; you could argue that he's really pushing himself as a singer, but his range definitely tells in this song. 'Coming Home' ironically sounds a bit like early 90s Helloween as it opens, but turns into a lyrically fantastic song which is definitely drawn from Bruce's piloting experiences (presumably his co-writing credit for this song is for the lyrics), with some nice composition and Guns and Roses style guitar solos which smacks a little of 'Out Of The Shadows' from MOLAD, but not too much to the song's detriment. 'The Alchemist' kind of spoils the party a bit, given the quality of the songs that came before. Its composition smacks of very early Maiden - it's not a bad song, just decidedly average for Maiden. 'Isle Of Avalon' however is a different matter altogether, which I think should make for a great live experience, but loses its way just a smidge in the middle on the CD incarnation, perhaps it could've done with being a minute or two shorter, as it does come across as a bit over-indulgent. 'Starblind' is another solid Maiden composition which has grown on me with successive plays, but has the problem of sounding a little bit too samey, compared to other contemporary Maiden tracks. 'The Talisman' you could almost mistake for being written for some off-Broadway stage production, but that's not particularly a bad thing. Depsite its slow start, it does build in drama and has a good amount of variation in the composition which makes for a very enjoyable track. 'The Man Who Would Be King' is a fine song with a good hook and a good attempt at doing something different although, again, it's a bit of a slow starter, tempo-wise, but its place on the album is a good way to start to wind things down to the final track. And what a final track it is; 'When The Wild Wind Blows' is a great album closer and a fine track in itself. Fantastically atmospheric and eerie and is weighted with an immense amount of pathos and tinged with a strong sense of sadness, in a similar way to 'Paschendale' from 2003s 'Dance of Death' album, with very strong lyrics and fantastic composition. A magnificent tribute to the Raymond Briggs film 'When The Wind Blows' and a fine example of Maiden getting it absolutely right.
In all, an excellent album which could easily have been a classic, if it weren't for the weaknesses of its middle order, but comes back batting strong for the climax. Arguably their best work since 'Seventh Son' and proof, if any were needed, that the Irons still have plenty to offer after over thirty years.