Iron Maiden Guitarists Discuss 'The Final Frontier'
Originally published in Guitar World, December 2010
It may be called The Final Frontier, but Iron Maiden's new album
won't be their last. Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers talk about making the longest and most ambitious album of the band's career.
"In Iron Maiden, we’re always pushing the boundaries,” says Dave Murray. And indeed, the British metal legends continue to chart new musical territory on The Final Frontier, their 15th studio album and fourth to feature the distinctive triple-guitar attack of Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Murray.
According to Gers, that is exactly as it should be. “If you listen to each of our albums, they all sound like Maiden,” he says, “but they’re all still a bit different from one another: Killers doesn’t sound like Brave New World; Seventh Son of a Seventh Son doesn’t sound like The X Factor. Each one is a statement of where the band was at a particular time. And that’s all an album is—a snapshot. You go into the studio and you gather all the things you’ve seen and done over the past year or so and you regurgitate them in music. If you’re doing that successfully, you’re not looking back and trying to recreate the past, you’re documenting the present and also contributing to the future.”
It is this mindset that has enabled Iron Maiden to continue to be a creative and exciting musical force. So much so that The Final Frontier is not only their longest—and arguably most progressive—effort to date, spreading 10 songs across a whopping 76 minutes of music, but also among their most diverse. Take the album’s lead-off track, “Satellite 15…The Final Frontier,” which opens with several minutes of spacey, impressionistic sonic clutter before abruptly shifting gears to a straight-up, four-on-the-floor-style hard rocker. From there, the band—which in addition to the three guitarists also includes singer Bruce Dickinson, drummer Nicko McBrain and founding bassist Steve Harris—churns out everything from growling riff-rockers (“El Dorado”) to soaring ballads (“Coming Home”) to trademark, harmony-guitar-infused metal cuts (“The Alchemist”). There are also, of course, plenty of intricately arranged proggy workouts, including the 10-minute-plus closer, “When the Wild Wind Blows,” among the longest and most complex songs in the band’s extensive canon.
Guitar World recently sat down with Smith and Gers to discuss the making of The Final Frontier as well as talk about how the musicians approach writing, recording and performing in a three-guitar context. The two also ruminated on how it is that, 30 years after the release of the band’s self-titled debut, Iron Maiden continue to remain at the forefront of heavy metal, releasing challenging new albums and selling out arenas and stadiums the world over. To that end, Gers says, “Our goal for this band is to always be right at the front of it all. We’re constantly moving forward, and we’re particularly proud of the music we’ve been making these past 10 years. One thing our fans know about us is that we’re not motivated by anything other than the right reasons to do what we do.”
Smith concurs. “There’s so much bullshit in music,” he says. “But our fans see us as down-to-earth and pretty much just like them.” He laughs. “Except that we write 10-minute songs and have a six-foot monster come out onstage with us every night.”