Iron Maiden stalwarts Steve Harris & Adrian Smith each released side-project albums this year and they're a fascinating contrast in approaches to pop metal.
Harris' solo "British Lion" is entirely non-threatening, and embraces more of the languid, faux-psychedelic leanings of Final Frontier. Harry's melodic sense is as well-honed as ever, but it's a a softer tone that speaks to the teen girl appeal that brought Def Leppard to prominence. It's a pretty good starter metal album, and while it doesn't speak to me much, it isn't bubblegum either. That said, it has no balls, and that's pretty surprising.
Smith goes the opposite direction with Primal Rock Rebellion's "Awoken Broken." This is suburban garage metal for awkward dudes that leans fully into chunky metal hooks. It's Smith minus the celtic prog rock ethic that infuses Maiden - an intriguing dimension of his skill set. This one shreds in a way that will optimally lead teen heshers to early Metallica and current High on Fire.
The two albums couldn't be more different, and illuminate a lot of the tension that one hears in the The Final Frontier. I don't think they signal an end to Maiden - Rod Smallwood runs too solid a machine for that to happen - but they definitely display fundamental differences in songwriting values that will continue to show Maiden drifting into the long, muddy compromises that their tunes have tended towards in the current era.