I've had this record for some time now and I've played it MANY times by now. Even if I had the feeling that I liked it almost instantly, it is an album that takes quite some time to really dig into and it is very much worth the effort. I wanted to be sure about it's qualities before I tried to rate it and also I wanted to be certain if it would stand up to the many replays.
It is an album of very looong songs and also quite complicated songs. A total playing time of 76:38 and only 10 songs with many running for 8, 9 and even 11 minutes. The music is like a mix of everything great from the three Y2K albums: Brave New World, Dance Of Death, A Matter Of Life And Death.
Many of the songs starts very quietly with something that can best be described as folk music and then slowly propels into more well known Maiden metal formulas. Even if many of the songs are built this way it never becomes boring. It is very melodic and very catchy if you give it the time necessary.
Best song on the album is without a shadow of doubt the Steve Harris track "When The Wild Wind Blows" which is last track on the album and also built by the "slow to faster" formula. If you've ever liked Iron Maiden you gotta do yourself a favor and check out this brilliant song. It is up with the best Maiden songs ever.
The album has no really weak songs and it has a lot of tracks that are really great. Only thing that would have enhanced it further would have been a few faster more hit single oriented tracks. It would have made it an easier digest and perhaps a bit more complete. But even without the clear hits it is never-the-less a fantastic album. Also a simple enhancement is to split the first track "Satellite 15... The Final Frontier" into two tracks, but that can easily be done with a wave editor. To be honest the intro drum loop ("Satellite 15...") is not that interesting after a bunch of replays.
Bruce Dickinson still has the best voice in heavy metal even if his voice doesn't go quite as high as it used to in the days of the air siren nickname. The rest of the band is still phenomenal musicians and they are quite in a league of their own when it comes to this type of melodic metal.
The album comes in several variants, personally I fell for the Mission Edition which comes in a nice metal box with a plastic window to the predator like Eddie artwork which I think looks great.