The Final Frontier is Iron Maiden's fifteenth studio album, released on August 13, 2010 in Germany and Finland, August 17 in North America, and August 16 worldwide. At 76 minutes and 34 seconds, it is the band's longest studio album to date. It is their first album since the release of A Matter of Life and Death in 2006, the longest gap to date between two consecutive Iron Maiden studio albums.
Prior to the album's release, band founder Steve Harris was quoted as saying that he imagined the band would release a total of fifteen studio albums. The titles of the album, tour, and opening track fuelled further rumours that The Final Frontier would be the band's final album. The band members have since admitted that they hope to release further albums and continue touring into the future. The Final Frontier album was recorded in Compass Point Studios, where the band had previously recorded in the 1980s
Here, the band takes us into the realm of science-fiction. This is quite arguably the strangest intro ever written by Iron Maiden. It is unclear whether they used a drum machine or if two drums tracks were played by Nicko, then overlaid. However, Steve mentioned in an interview that Adrian had come up with the demo of the track, and that it simply ended up as such on the album, so it is much more likely that Nicko wasn't playing at all on it.
The disturbing guitars and heavy drum beat could somehow evoke a space battle, which would link this unusual intro to the second part of the song where an astronaut ends up drifting to his death. Bruce's haunting voice comes in after a short quieter part, and the intro breaks into an aggressive double-kick and raging guitars before grinding to a halt.
The song then carries on as a straightforward typical Maiden-style rocker whose lyrics deal with the last thoughts of a pilot drifting in space. He might end up in the Sun, or simply run out of breathable air, as his spacecraft seems to have sustained heavy damage. If the navigation controls are gone, the air recycling systems may have been shot too. This part of the song, which gave the album its title, was released on 13th July 2010 on the official website as a video – and a pretty good one!
The philosophical aspect of a dying man reflecting on his life appears once again, as it often does in Iron Maiden song, like in "No More Lies" for instance. Here, the character has nothing to regret, if only that he would have wished to say his last goodbyes to his family. He seems to have enjoyed his life more than an average person usually does. He's obviously not like the vast majority of people who passively wait for their lives to happen to them, which they rarely do; he proactively lived to the full and many apathetic human beings who simply exist instead of really living should take a leaf out of his book. Anyway, this character is now ready to face the real final frontier: death.
The title of the song is made of two distinct parts like the track itself, with the number 15 obviously symbolising Iron Maiden's 15th album, and the mention of the final frontier, which is allegedly a tongue-in-cheek hint from Bruce that many fans thought that this may be the last album to be released by the band – a rumour that has since been denied. In any case, this is a pretty decent Maiden piece (which could very well have been two separate tracks), with a standard heavy song following a rather unconventional and surprising intro. But the surprise is indeed a very good one!.
СStarting with an intro pounded by a heavy bass reminiscent of "The Longest Day", this is a politically-motivated song in the same vein as "Holy Smoke", although it seems to deal more with the politicians than with the preachers, making it more in the line of "Be Quick Or Be Dead". In any case, it deals with the mythical city of El Dorado, and essentially with the metaphor it represents of something glorious that is promised whereas it doesn't even exist – like what most politicians and all religious leaders talk about. The story is told from the cynical point of view of the deceiver who makes a living of exploiting human stupidity and gullibility – and there's a lot to be made!
There is an interesting reference to Marillion in the sentence "I'm the Jester with no tears". The progressive outfit's 1983 album Script For A Jester's Tear is one of the landmark for this style of music, which Iron Maiden have adopted albeit in a much heavier form. The reason for this reference may simply be a tribute from one great band to another.
Another noteworthy detail in the lyrics is the use of the term "banker", "with a letter out of place". Those in the UK will have understood that this means "wanker", but the rest of the world may not have caught the subtlety of Bruce's mischievous humour. This is one of the tricks Bruce uses here or there in his writing, a bit like using "Fokker" instead of "fucker" in the lyrics of "Tailgunner" – a tongue-in-cheek piece of typical British humour.
It was released as a free downloadable file on the official website on 8th June 2010, the day before the band embarked on the Final Frontier World Tour. It was also the only song off the new album to be played during the first leg of the tour.
Lyrically reminiscent of "Afraid To Shoot Strangers", this song shows once again the point of view of a soldier at war. The horrors he's witnessed, and even committed, are briefly described in short but efficient sentences – "Bodies moving, dying." There is once again the question of what the soldier is actually doing on that particular theatre of operations – may it be Iraq or Afghanistan – and what he's killing for.
It is difficult to pinpoint who this Mother of Mercy is, and even the lyrics remain quite evasive about the nature of this character – "Some say you're a lost cause, some say you're a saint." What is certain is that it is some kind of religious character, probably linked to the Virgin Mary in the Christian myth, although there is also a mention that it's the Angel of Death.
Religion – or what Steve Harris calls "bad religion", whatever that means – is being criticised as the apparent cause for the war this soldier is questioning. There is no doubt that he is himself a believer, calling in vain to his god both to forgive him for what he's done, to end all this atrocity. Naturally, none of this is going to happen though divine intervention, as there is no god to overlook the situation – only dangerously deluded people who caused it.
When it comes to so-called power ballads, Iron Maiden is a band that really stands out. Similar to "Out Of The Shadows" from a musical point of view – only maybe even more emotion-laden – "Coming Home" is actually about Bruce Dickinson's impressions when he flies Ed Force One back to the UK ("To Albion", this being the poetic name for England due to the white cliffs of Kent – Albus = white in Latin, a name actually coined by the French). We all know that Bruce's has been a keen flyer for many years and that he is nowadays a qualified commercial pilot (when he's not touring with the band!) who sometimes flies unusual missions like the airlift of British citizens from Beirut in 2006.
The description of the flight is amazingly poetic too, typical of Bruce's song writing. When you fly, there are indeed no more "borders that divide", and the crossing of the Atlantic can easily be compared to passing over the mass grave of so many sailors. All the images in the lyrics evoke what it's like to be flying, with this extra touch that only Bruce's poetry could bring.
Janick Gers shows here once again his talent for writing fast, up-tempo songs. This one is extremely reminiscent of "Man On The Edge" and is delivered with all the efficacy Maiden is capable of. This is the only really fast song on the album, and it is in any case a very good little rocker!
The lyrics, once again courtesy of occult-enthusiast Bruce Dickinson, deal with the story of John Dee's life, a famous British mathematician and occultist of the 16th Century. This man seems to have coined the term "British Empire" ("My dreams of empire") for Elizabeth I, his "frozen queen", whom he was advising during her reign. He established the country's supremacy on the sea and oceans through his navigation expertise and Britain owes him a lot for his knowledge.
Sadly, he also dealt with more esoteric matters, like talking to angels, and was acquainted with a conman, Edward Kelly, who also claimed to have occult abilities and spoke with spirits. Kelly eventually persuaded Dee during a long visit abroad that one of the ethereal entities commanded them to share Dee's wife ("you have taken my wife and lain beside her"), which they did, eventually bringing an end to the two occultists' relation. When Dee returned to his English house at Mortlake after spending a few years in continental Europe, he found his house vandalised and the books of his very large library (one of the largest at the time) stolen for the most part ("I was the keeper of the books"). He died in poverty, but is remembered for being a great scholar, albeit a fairly gullible one who believed in spirits and angels. This unfortunate weakness that was exploited by Kelly who was apparently hardly any better than the crook portrayed in "El Dorado"..
Lyrically inspired by the Celtic myth of the Isle of Avalon, a magical place where immortals dwell, this complex song starts with a crescendo reminiscent of the instrumental section of "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son". It is also worth noting that the progressive instrumental mid-section seems to be quite heavily influenced by Rush.
The lyrics can somehow be linked to those of "The Wicker Man" in that they evoke ancient Pagan cults performed by the Celts centuries ago. The underlying meaning seems to express the disregard that man has towards his environment, which is "lying dormant in the eyes of the dead", those dead being an image representing the large majority of the human population on the planet. All hope is not ruled out, though, and those dead can be brought to Avalon (symbolising the Earth-Goddess) for burial and "then for rebirth".
The whole song remains an epic piece with various melodies and subtle rhythm changes..
With a soft intro similar to "The Legacy", the lyrics set the scene: a large group of people leaving their country of origin to find freedom and – hopefully! – fortune. The narrator explains that this is a flight from trouble they may face in their native land, which could be an indication that these are the religious nuts that Europe didn't want, leaving for America in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. After all, they are praying all the way to their "golden promised land" (not that it did them any good anyway).
It is not clear what the talisman they're sailing by really is, but the main character seems to be the one guiding the fleet towards the new world. Ironically, he dies as they approach the new shore to safety. The "sickness" mentioned is probably scurvy, which is invariably lethal if untreated.
All in all, "The Talisman" is another of those great Iron Maiden maritime epics in the line of "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and "Ghost Of The Navigator"..
With a soft, "Clansman"-like intro, this is yet another complex song with many harmonies. The story tells us of a man "who would be king" without explaining how, or even king of what. It certainly doesn't appear to be related to Rudyard Kipling's short story of the same name.
The man is in search of atonement for having killed someone apparently in self-defence ("in his mind he had no choice"), although he now seems to question the necessity of his act. The lyrics are a strange mixture of images of the character riding a donkey through the mountains, and pseudo-religious gibberish about God and the "good book"..
Once again a soft intro with Celtic accents leads into a complex and totally enjoyable masterpiece typical of Steve Harris. The song ends as softly as it started, closing a great album in the best way possible.
The lyrics have been loosely inspired by the 1986 animated film When The Wind Blows, itself adapted from Raymond Briggs's graphic novel of the same name. The original story is that of an ageing couple, Jim and Hilda, who prepare for a thermonuclear war, each in his own way – Jim prepares a shelter, while Hilda is preparing tea. After the nuclear explosion that has destroyed everything around their little house in the countryside, they reflect on their past and wonder about the future, all the while exposing themselves to the radiations that eventually kill them. It's a beautiful tale about the madness of the authorities and the helplessness of the people when faced with anihilation.
The song, however, takes a different view, and the couple prepare for the apocalypse so much that they end up in total denial when the news arrive that this is not going to happen. What actually happens is a mere earthquake that scares them so much that they eventually commit suicide with poison, rather than face the aftermath of total destruction. This twist of the tale is quite ironic, mostly when you consider how hard they'd been working to prepare for survival. Well, that's Steve's excellent storytelling style.