Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier
On August 13, 2010, "The Final Frontier", the 15th album of "Iron Maiden", was released in Germany, Austria and Finland (and a few days later in the rest of the world).
All the early signs have shown that this is going to be the band's last album. The name of the album that corresponds with the "Star Trek" film series and testified to the "Final Frontier" left for the veteran band to cross before it hangs out their guitars, the fact that it was the band's longest album to date with over 76 minutes of music, the vision Steve Harris' had before the release of the album, claiming to have seen the band released 15 albums before it disbanded and even the opening track “Satelite 15…” which included the number 15 that Harris predicted.
There is no doubt that the band tried to do something different on this album. From the weird cover that introduced Eddie in space to the dramatic opening “Satelite 15…” that included the sounds of a drum machine and programmed bass and didn’t sound like anything else, the band has done in the last 30 years. But at the same time, it seems that you can never separate The "Iron" from "Maiden" since the band's so unique DNA still screams from every song on this album as we find out four minutes and a bit from the opening of the album, right at the end of the “Satelite 15…” Which connects to the theme song "The Final Frontier". A classic "immediate" piece in a mid-pace and sweeping riff, with a repetition of the song title that will leave you humming all the way through the infinite space to the "Final Frontier". Great opening to the album, but the real beauty comes ahead...
The second track “El Dorado” is like a song going from the end to the beginning. The snare blow that gives the signal to the rampage of the rest of the instruments in a way usually reserved for the ending of a show, when only half a minute into the song we witness Harris' galloping bass actually opening the song. This is the only single released from the album and also the one that won the band its first Grammy. Although this is an excellent song, it's a bit sad that the Grammy came 36 years after the band was formed, when on the way it deserved to win it for much better songs. Even Steve Harris commented on the event, noting that in his opinion the song was less worthy than other Maiden songs that were nominated for the award. The title of the song refers to El Dorado - the legendary "Lost Golden City" located in the Andes. Bruce Dickinson explained the meaning of the song to "Kerrang" magazine and noted that the cynical lyrics refer to the economic collapse of 2008 and the fact that charlatans managed to sell the myth that the streets are paved with gold to the masses and people actually bought it. It is interesting to note that all three guitarists share the guitar solo in this song, starting at 3:42, Adrian Smith first followed by Dave Murray and Janick Gers.
Right after that comes "Mother of Mercy" and it seems that this album is only getting better from song to song. It starts with a folk atmosphere a-la "Jethro Tull" and also somewhat corresponds with Bruce Dickinson's solo career, although he was not a co-writer. The excellent melody in Dickinson's singing is among the best on the album and at times even reminded us of the "Stranger In a Strange Land" vibe.
Then comes the semi-ballad "Coming Home" which just melts us down and this time too it's hard for us not to compare the track to ballads from Dickinson's solo career, who this time co-wrote the song with Steve Harris and Adrian Smith. It's a magical song of praise for Britain and Dickinson's longing to return home to "Albion" (Great Britain). Dickinson describes his feelings in the moments of returning home, from the cockpit of the plane he is flying:
"Coming home when I see the runway lights
In the misty dawn, the night is fading fast"
And how beautiful it is to imagine the plane landing moments to the sounds of the solo that starts at 3:35 and is divided into two parts.
We pick up a gear with "The Alchemist", a song at a particularly fast pace and suddenly we realize that we are almost halfway through the album and this is the only fast song we have come across. Co-written by Dickinson, Harris, and Janick Gers who very much reminded us of "Be Quick or Be Dead" in its vibe - another fast song was written in collaboration with Gers and Dickinson. We did not lose sight of the great resemblance to the song "Spotlite Kid" by "Rainbow", both in rhythm and melody.
The next song "Isle of Avalon" is one of the three epic pieces on the album that cross the 9-minute line. A very dynamic section with changes in rhythms, solos, and instrumental sections that correspond with prog-metal.
We go through "Starblind" with Dickinson's critical lyricism, which goes against religion's sick evils. He does not spare words, and even seems to wisely sting those who promise the jihadists 72 virgins:
"Virgins in the teeth of God
Are meat and drink to feed the damned"
The next track "The Talisman" brings us to a rather rare moment in Maiden's repertoire, two acoustic guitars that open the song in a completely folk atmosphere with Dickinson's vocals in a high language reserved for medieval plays. And then ... at 2:22 we get the all-too-familiar "Maidan" explosion with Harris' galloping bass pushing the whole band forward with an epic "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" style song, whose lyrics also blend well with the song Mentioned and tell of a group of people who move from their place of residence on a long sea voyage to the Promised Land.
We're nearing the end with "The Man Who Would Be King" - another epic piece with a quiet opening in the style of "The Clansman", which goes, evolves, and is pushed forward with the trio's amazing guitar work.
The final song of the album "When the Wild Wind Blows" is without a doubt one of the most beautiful on it. The 11-minute song was written by Steve Harris and it was influenced by the animated film of the same name, from 1986, which tells the story of an elderly couple who feared a nuclear war and built an underground bunker under their house in which they ended up committing suicide, because they thought the end of the world had come. The film is also accompanied by a soundtrack, part of which was written by Roger Waters and also features "Genesis" and David Bowie. At the end of the recording of the song, drummer Nicko McBrain turned to Harris and told him that he thought it was the best song he had ever written alongside "Hallowed Be Thy Name".
Speaking of Harris, it's worth noting that this is the fourth album in Maiden's mighty repertoire in which Steve Harris has been involved in writing all of the songs.
The album "The Final Frontier" was Iron Maiden's fourth to reach number one on the UK charts and the first to reach the top in 18 years, since "Fear Of The Dark" released in 1992. The album also reached number one in 20 other countries and had the highest entry to the US Billboard charts compared to the rest of the band's albums up to that point.