Discussion in 'The Final Frontier' started by judas_rising, Aug 10, 2010.
This one deserves a full review. Amazing. A++.
The full review is given. Go read it in the Starblind thread.
i have read it, just to point that starblind is A++ x3 xgzilllion xinfinity
im hearing TFF 2/3 times a day since the 9leak and starblind is way high in my best of the best and growing
Bravo!! Your take on The Talisman lacks a score, however.
Nobody said anything about the reviews I posted earlier.
100% whit you
I'm with you too LordMaiden. You've written some quality posts over the past fortnight. [hr][/hr]Not sure if this review has been posted anywhere yet:
http://www.cwgmagazine.com/reviews/2010 ... -frontier/
Its from CWG magazine and was posted on Kevin Shirleys facebook page.
Quite a detailed and interesting analysis, although the final sentence is weird as the reviewer recommends the listener enjoy Jannicks solo in Isle of Avalon.
Warning: long post. Will split this into parts so the forum won't explode!
Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier - my review
Just a few days ago I sat down at my drum kit and started jamming along to the song ‘The Final Frontier’. Then ‘El Dorado’, because that song has been in my blood for a while now. But it turned out that I was actually able to follow the whole album on the drums, playing alongside the band through every part, even when improvising a few grooves or stopping for a minute to memorize a pattern. I got through the whole thing, at which point I realized that I had understood the structure of the songs and I could actually call out the next part at any point. So I think I’m finally ready to look back on this fantastic album and write about my impressions.
Before I start, one little story of my life that happened last week while I was still digesting the album… I left the city of Berlin, where I live, to go to the countryside, very close to the North Sea. I wanted to see someone who’s become special to me, so there was some emotion involved too. At one point I stood on top of a dune looking down at a beautiful, very wide river that flows right into the sea a few kilometers away. It had thick clouds hanging over the other side and the wind was going strong, but it was sunny nonetheless and pretty warm. On a later day, I walked along the same river through a storm, barely seeing anything because I was being sprayed with water by the wind. In both instances I listened to The Final Frontier, the second, more progressive half respectively. It was an amazing experience to stand there looking over water, enjoying the wide open landscape, feeling the weather, being “lead” by the great guitar work and Bruce’s dramatic voice. Especially ‘Isle Of Avalon’ and ‘Starblind’ were a lot of fun to listen to like this, far better than just sitting at home in front of my speakers.
I also realized that I never really had to concentrate on the music. I didn’t have to focus on the instruments or what part comes next. I just watched the scenery and let the music flow through me – and doing that, it imprinted itself on me so that I’m now able to actually sing along even with the solos. Someone here said that the album works on a subconscious level, and that’s exactly how it did with me.
But the album starts off in a much simpler way, with ‘The Final Frontier’. However, my first impression of the intro ‘Satellite 15’ was something like “huh?!” What are they doing? This sounds a lot like a Bruce solo composition, like what could be heard on Tyranny of Souls! And once the drum machine part kicked in, it really was like, “okay, let’s forget everything Maiden have done before, this is going to be different”.
It’s interesting that such an atmospheric intro track could only be a demo Adrian Smith made at home, which explains the artificial drums. If it were not for the hiccup in the snare beats at the start of every second bar, this part would sound like Nicko had performed it with drum triggers on the bass and snare drum. It certainly gives Maiden a slight industrial note, which is unusual, but fresh. I like it! Bruce’s singing, as I said, reminds me a lot of his solo works, but the lyrics and reverb on the vocals make it clear why the album is designed in a “space” fashion. I love space and science fiction, so that was something I was looking forward to a long time. The intro captures this sci-fi drama feel very well, especially because it sounds so different with synths, reverberated guitars and drum samples that could be straight off a Fear Factory record.
Off we go with the simplest of all beginnings, an effective “blam!” beat on the snare with the song starting to roll right after. ‘The Final Frontier’ is certainly the most rocky tune on the album as it’s very straightforward, the chorus is the title sung over and over as is Steve Harris’ often overused writing style, and except for the solo in the middle it’s all about a simple groove and riffing that would not be misplaced in an AC/DC song. But as it is with the “hit formula” and Maiden’s quality standard, the song is a definite earcatcher that won’t get out of your head for a while, because of the repetitive chorus. They even doubled it up and did three Bruce voices left, center and right for the finale to really hammer those lyrics into your mind.
When I heard the song after ‘El Dorado’ was released as a single, I thought well, ‘Frontier’ is really nothing special. It actually didn’t impress me a lot, coming from a band like Maiden. But as an album opener and right after the atmospheric intro that builds so much suspense, the song feels like a warm welcome to a Maiden show. I hope they do the combination at their concerts too!
After a relatively relaxed start (that is thankfully different from the last three album starters), along comes “part 2” of the opener, ‘El Dorado’. I always had a feeling that this song would serve as a kind of follow-up to ‘Frontier’, taking the atmosphere of the first track and shifting into the next gear. Now we’re in the much more familiar swinging Harris/McBrain groove, albeit not as fast as in many other Maiden songs. While the drums still sound pretty relaxed (but actually do a lot of trickery in between), the guitars riff it up in the verse while Bruce tells you a story about a promised land with a tie-in of today’s economic situation. He really does sound like he’s talking more than singing until the pre-chorus comes along, where the lead guitar plays a tensing, slightly Egyptian melody. The song becomes tighter and seems more threatening, but before it explodes into the chorus, the band takes it back down for another verse, doing it all over again. When the chorus arrives, it has Bruce belting in a pretty classic heavy metal fashion, hard to sing along to when you’re male (and not a singer!), but damn catchy.
The song breaks down into the first rhythm bash that will only be the first of many more to come on the album. Three solos follow, brilliantly done over the alternating high and low main riff and bass line, before the guys drop back into the verse which again opens with the galloping bass and hi-hat from the start. At this point you notice that the structure of the song is just as simple as ‘Frontier’, but there is more happening here, it’s dense and diverse, and the 6:48 mark is there before you know it! Certainly the intro and outro blasts stretch the song’s length a little, but it feels so right in context of the album. I’m always anticipating the “boom!” of the intro after ‘Frontier’ has finished playing. And even though ‘El Dorado’ has been with us for a while, I still love the song. It has not become boring or redundant on the album.
One thing I wonder about at this point is how some people here seem to think there’s a different meaning to the lyrics than what is apparent. I’ve read posts saying that Bruce would only tell us in interviews that ‘El Dorado’ is about economy “because we want to hear it”. Well, having heard a few interviews with him as of now, he greatly explained how he felt about the world we’re living in and that he wanted to convey this feeling of threat and treachery in the song’s lyrics, because he had lived through two financial crises and is now seeing the third. I guess Maiden have always been critics of the world and of mankind, and turning the El Dorado narrative into a satire is certainly creative!
‘Mother Of Mercy’ is the first mid-tempo track and it approaches with a typical guitar/vocal intro, clearly telling the tale of a soldier and what he lives through on the battlefield. Frankly I’m tired of Maiden’s soldier/war songs after AMOLAD – while the album was fantastic musically, it was so dark and depressing at times because of the ongoing war theme in all its colours, and it sounds like ‘Mother Of Mercy’ was written for AMOLAD instead of the current album. It does have a nice driving groove in the chorus and feels a little like a machine moving forward without stopping.
There has been a lot of debate over Bruce’s vocals in this song, and the first time I heard it, I immediately felt that he had to stress his voice a lot to reach the notes. In an interesting discussion about singing technique, someone pointed out that it might be because of the difference in body and head voice and how Bruce is probably hitting the limit of what he can do without using his head voice, which explains why he can sing much higher notes in songs like ‘The Talisman’. While some here have commented that Bruce sounds as fresh as ever considering his age, I really think that his vocal performance in the chorus of ‘Mother’ shows his limits and is not what it could have been in his fresher days (which is just a fact). Also, for some reason they glued the words together in the last chorus, where you can clearly hear the cuts and crossfades (I have to deal with that kind of work with my band’s singer when we record her). It’s one of those things where I wonder how a band or producer could have done such a lousy job, or why Bruce didn’t sing the final chorus in one take like the others.
After a very cool ending that wraps up the song with a snap, ‘Coming Home’ is next. And what a treat it is! Reminiscent of ‘Out Of The Shadows’ from AMOLAD, it feels a lot warmer and less melancholic. Bruce’s poetic description of the band’s flight home after a tour is a very nice insight into what he feels as Maiden’s singer and airline pilot. “We will ride this thunderbird / Silver shadows on the earth” is simply one of the most memorable lines I have heard from him! And the theme of flying home after a gig/tour is one I cannot remember any other metal band singing about.
The song has a kind of orchestral quality to it that slowly builds up as we go. When the band falls back into the intro, we can hear the synths/strings in the background as we approach one of the finest solos on the album. When I first heard it, I pressed rewind and turned the volume way up because I literally could not believe the feeling it provoked in me. The sound of the Fender guitar, so typically blues-like, so warm, so glassy – and the melody! It’s the solo my band’s guitarist would have wanted to write as his life’s masterpiece, I’m certain. What follows is a very nice composition to “answer” this warm, dreamy piece of music with something more elegant, typically Maiden, with the sound of the Jackson guitar. VERY nice indeed!
And as we go back into the final chorus, we can now hear how the band and the synths produce that feeling of a movie soundtrack, with a densely packed soundscape of melodies. Listening to that song when you come home from work can make even the most boring trip an experience!
Now picking up the pace again, ‘The Alchemist’ is the most 80s sounding song Maiden must have done in a long time. The riffs in the verse, the fast bass and the typical swing grooves on Nicko’s ride cymbal over a straight, quick beat really remind me a lot of ‘Flash Of The Blade’ and other songs from the Powerslave era. This is exactly what I was hoping for, that they would give us some of that wonderful classic feeling on the new album that they brought back to us so vividly on the last tour! The solo is fast and hard, followed by the very well-known lead harmonies that are so typically Maiden. It’s also curious how you don’t notice that the final chorus is half a note higher than the rest of the song, unless you do what I did and skip through the parts! My band did a similar thing in one song and it has the very same effect – you don’t notice it, but somehow it makes the final chorus more uplifting and outstanding.
Oh, and why did Bruce suggest the title? Isn’t it a little weird that he would choose to call a Maiden song the same as one of his solo songs?
Let’s take a short break at this point.[hr][/hr]Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier - my review contd.
If the album had continued like this, I would have been a happy Maiden fan. But Maiden being a different band today than in the 80s, and yet always having a talent for great epics and progressive material, they couldn’t have released The Final Frontier without reinventing themselves yet again. As if AMOLAD wasn’t enough – but the difference is, AMOLAD was progressive from start to finish (except for the opening track) and very dark, complex and at times confusing even for me as a musician. It’s not my favourite Maiden album by a long shot, which is not saying that it ain’t good – it’s fantastic musicianship! But with the five songs on the “other side” of The Final Frontier, the band has found the perfect balance of progression, storytelling, atmosphere and complex musical composition, while keeping the emotion there. Progressive material tends to drown in its own technicality and oversaturation in detail. Like I said before, this album has a very different effect on me – and probably many of you – in that it drives the power of the music into your mind at a pace that is much easier to digest; you don’t even have to pay close attention to enjoy it. This was not the case with earlier Maiden albums that went in the same direction, because I think the band was still trying to find that balance. With this album, they have perfected their “version” of progressive songwriting. And they have done something that many metal bands miss; they create feeling, emotion. It happens in two ways with me: first, there are parts in the second half of the album that are simply so good musically that I drool all over them every time. It’s like a dream come true for a musician to listen to my favourite band playing music (not just metal) in such a well rounded, perfected form. It produces great joy and affection in me, but that’s not all – lyrically and musically, the band stirs up real emotion, from melancholy and sadness to aggression, euphoria and warmth, it’s all there in these five songs that follow after what could be considered “side A” of a record. Only that side B is clearly longer and feels, really, like a different album altogether. But it is this journey from simple to complex that makes it so enjoyable. You can just pop in the disc and off you go with a bang, but you end deep in thought over what you’ve just experienced. Like a good movie, book, TV series, story.
‘Isle Of Avalon’ caught my initial attention with the desert-like atmosphere of the intro. The lone guitar over the wind and the galloping hi-hat made me envision a hot desert storm with someone riding through the sand, even though that may not have fit with the lyrics. Still, the image was so clear in my mind just because of the music, I immediately knew that “something else” was coming as I went on through Maiden’s newest offering. I was not prepared for what was about to hit me!
Once Bruce cries “I can hear you, can you hear me?”, it’s like all hell breaks loose. The chorus (some have argued that there is no chorus, but I say there is) with the “fertility mother goddess” line is simply so different in style from the first half of the album, it is like entering another plane of musicality. Maiden keep at this level with rhythmic breaks that greatly introduce the first solo of the song, quick, dramatic and detailed. Then they do something that I always love when any band does it – they mess with the timing. Going from straight 4/4 into 7/4 and playing a slow but actually very straight groove, Nicko and the boys on the guitars produce a looping carpet of suspense where anything could come next. What follows is a very unique solo, full of atmosphere and energy, yet not easy to define. I imagine they sat a while to write and play this stuff! People compare this part with early works of Rush, which makes me wonder whether I should have listened to that band by now. It creates such a thick layer of atmosphere (I know this word has been overused by now) that I couldn’t help but look at the clouds floating over the water when I was standing at the river, and simply felt so “connected” with the world, with nature. Which kind of goes in line with the “mother earth” lyrics that follow the solo, I guess. And there you have it, Maiden produce emotion.
After these two minutes of pure musical ingenuity, the song actually reverses itself and drops back into the intro, followed by the chorus again. It’s here that I realized at one point that as complex as ‘Isle Of Avalon’ may seem, apart from the 7/4 part and its solo work it is very well structured and only consists of a few parts: there’s the intro, a verse, chorus, chorus “part 2” where Bruce sings lower, the rhythm with the first solo that is later repeated in between choruses, and the 7/4. But unless you think about this, the song progresses so smoothly that you can feel your way through it. And then it becomes so much more than just “part A, B, C”.
Now the only mystery left to me are the lyrics – I understand it’s a song about nature and harvesting, but really, where’s the plot in that? What does it have to do with the journey to Avalon? I can’t make the connection.
Before we dive into ‘Starblind’, which is probably my favourite (there really is no favourite on this album, they are all great – well, ‘Mother Of Mercy’ lacks a little), I want to keep writing about lyrics. Now, ‘Starblind’ seems to be a song that many have made out to be religious, anti-religious, or just critical or warning of religious institutions like sects, the church and people who abuse the faith of others for their own good. While I can see some of that in the lyrics, Bruce’s own explanation of the song was much simpler when he talked about it in the Rock Radio track-by-track album commentary (it can be found _here_). He said something in the vein of exploring how it feels when you die and you leave your body behind, becoming a spirit, maybe ascending to space and watching the stars and Earth from there. He didn’t even mention the word religion. I just wonder how much people are interpreting into something that might not even be as complex as they believe.
The song starts off with that eerie but warm synth below the soothing guitars and Bruce’s low, soft vocals that bring you down from the excitement of ‘Isle Of Avalon’. The reverb on the guitars and the synth that sounds a lot like from SSOASS both establish a space feeling, much like ‘Satellite 15’, yet different. After the buildup of guitars and drums we go straight into a verse that is different from everything else on the album – not just the singing that is constantly on a high note, but especially the rhythm that goes against the beat is unusual. It stays that way for a while too, broken up by what I would call the chorus (because the music changes, not just the lyrics), where they drop into a straight half-time groove with Bruce changing his words so that he’s talking to the listener, reminding us that we have “a life to live or a life to lose”. It’s this line that keeps going through my mind after I have finished the song, because it defines what it’s all about – life, death, what you make of it. The chorus also drops half a note in the middle, something they did with ‘The Pilgrim’ in a much less dramatic fashion.
The solo section is kind of the successor to the 7/4 part of ‘Isle Of Avalon’. It’s actually the same timing, but the part is much shorter, with the lead guitar playing something that becomes a union with the experimental solo. It sounds spacey! Then it becomes a straight rhythm again going from half-time to full-time, with the solo becoming more liquid, Maiden-like. As if that was not enough, they break it down again into 7/4 with probably the most dramatic rhythm-and-lead combination on the record, heavy beats alternating with silence and a lead melody looping on top that is so sad, it could be from a dramatic film. Hell, I even have to think of epic battles in games like Dead Space when I hear this! When the synths come in, it’s pure symphonic bliss.
The soft solo that plays into the “second intro” calms the song down again, messing with your emotions. There it is again, that Fender sound, so warm – but suddenly it breaks up again and the third verse is on with that off-beat groove and Bruce’s high singing. At 6:50 Nicko does one of the most memorable drum fills of his career, then the band heads back into the chorus that now sounds even more majestic for some reason. And with that line about life and loss the song concludes, actually pretty rapidly. And I’m just left staring at the sky, again feeling connected. That’s simply one of the greatest songs I have heard in my life. And I don’t mean, “this song rocks, it’s so great”. But it’s just… ingenious. And when you look at it, it consists of only a few parts, much like the song before it!
I have now actually written a full page about one song. This is getting ridiculous! But I guess that’s how the album goes, it starts off so simple and becomes this massive undertaking. And it’s just great that this stuff still exists in our time, which is ruled by chart numbers and casting shows.
Coming back from space down to Earth, ‘The Talisman’ takes us into simpler territory, lyrically and musically. The song starts off with that folk melody, acoustic guitar and simple singing, that reminds me a lot of ‘The Legacy’, which is a song I never felt a connection with. This intro could have been a bit shorter, but it does have an interesting twist to it when Bruce moves from low to high vocals at 1:45, crossfaded for effect. It’s also interesting that he sings the whole lullaby like an amateur, without the perfection of a professional singer. Words come out bluntly and it feels like the character himself is singing in his naïve way.
As the song hits us with a bang, the vocals go up and sound a liiittle bit strained at times, but that might be my imagination. Bruce is hitting the highest notes he can in the register he sings at, while the song pushes forward like a thunderstorm. The straight rhythm is accompanied by heavy guitar riffs and when we come to the “talisman in my hand” line, the leads drive it home. After a while the fast pace is broken up beautifully in half-time, with guitars creating a lot of tension and suspense before breaking out into what will certainly become a live favourite of a chorus! Bruce really makes us feel like we’re standing at the front of a ship, clinging to the mast with one hand and pointing forward with the other while battling the raging storm on the sea.
The first solo is a very well done combination of all three guitars interacting with each other before they become a unit of lead and rhythm. The second solo is slow and long, then we go back into the verse, half-time part and chorus. The song is over before we know it. Have seven minutes passed already? How do they do it?![hr][/hr]Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier - my review contd.
But the album is far from done, as the final two epics approach. It seems to be a tradition by now that every progressive song must be started with an intro, but in the case of ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ it’s a very nice one that is actually broken up into the soft first half and the heavier, full band part that “prepares” the song for the takeoff. However, it takes off only after two and a half minutes! So the song itself is more like six minutes long.
When I played along with this piece, I noticed that I had played this groove before – in ‘The Thin Line Between Love And Hate’. The verse and pre-chorus are very similar to that song from Brave New World, but the atmosphere is totally different. In the chorus the lead guitar actually plays alongside the vocals, giving them a thicker feel. The guitar sound is again very warm and just a delight to listen to.
Maiden break into a very fast part very abruptly, then cut back into the familiar groove with very nice sounding leads and great accents on the drums. They come back to the verse, pre-chorus, then final two choruses. Until now the song has actually not done anything spectacular, but the atmosphere (there it is again) it has created is melancholic, slightly heroic, and it feels like you are watching the man walk through the countryside of old England under towering mountains. And then, the ending! This was another part where I just had to rewind the track and listen again at full volume. Bruce’s distant voice “from behind the mountains” so to speak, followed by the two guitar voices that sound so sad yet tensing, is just a joy to hear. It nails down the picture I just described, conveys a feeling of loneliness, helplessness, insecurity. Emotion, again!
But who is that man who would be king? Does anyone know?
And there we have it, the ending, the final epic, the one that many seem to love the most. I can’t say I love it more than the others because it could have had different lyrics for my taste. While it is a nice story (haven’t watched the film though) and does have its good points, the music is just so good producing all kinds of different feelings that I wonder how good the song could have been with something more dramatic in the lyrical department. However, it does feel like the music was really written with the story in mind and not the other way around, and it works well. Since this is the most complex song as in how it is structured, it’s difficult to put it into a few paragraphs.
But when it starts, ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ is just a simple folk song, preceded by one of the warmest guitar passages I have ever heard from any band. It produces that “wasteland” feeling and I have to think of stuff like Fallout 3. It feels as if the bomb had already dropped, like a premonition of what will come. Like they did it in the previous song, the lead guitar plays along with the vocals, making it seem even more like a folk song. The lyrics and their meaning are clear to understand; it all seems very simple for Maiden standards. But when it stops for a second and becomes a slow rhythm, it opens up the whole song for the drama that unfolds, as if a new act had begun. The lyrics become more intense, yet the lead guitar still plays along with the vocals. Then we have the first solo, straightforward, followed by very nice melodies that greatly remind me of ‘Sign Of The Cross’, one of my Maiden favourites. The solo on top slides into the leads and becomes one with them, very nice! Then, for the last time, we have the rhythmic accents where the whole band plays together, like they did it so often during the album. The next solo guitar moves from left to right and back with long notes, kind of strange. The song drops back into the leads from before, then they finish the part off at the middle mark of the song with a great finale that sounds very warm.
Over an entirely new drum groove that is very funky with short bursts of rhythm guitar behind, Bruce continues the story. The band opens up the picture with some simple accents and chords, perfectly fitting to the lyrics. “Now the days of our ending have begun” is the last line of that part and then, what a solo! I have no words for it, it’s just great. And right after it, the boys drop into the grand finale – a slow rhythm with the typical “three-four” accents, very memorable guitar leads that again could be taken from ‘Sign Of The Cross’, underlined by the bass following along. And then, it’s over. All that is left is the intro again, so warm, with that wind rushing over. A brilliant finish with Bruce’s soft, almost child-like singing of the last lines. Only one thing that I keep asking myself… isn’t the “fallout” the rain after the bomb? Was that a small mistake on Steve’s part?
The song really leaves me sitting there with the intro/outro guitars still ringing in my ears. It is such a work of art! But then, so are ‘Starblind’ and ‘Isle Of Avalon’. I mean, you can’t really decide. It’s all good. That is another feeling I get after finishing the album, that everything is fine. Even though the lyrics should tell me otherwise. Well, actually everything is fine – we didn’t get nuked after all, ha!
All I can say about this song that I haven’t said yet is that I love the concept (musically), how the parts flow into each other, and how it again works itself into your mind until you “get it” after some listens. The first time around I didn’t get it. But now I do. And I love every bit of it, except maybe the folky stuff before the three-minute mark, where the actual song begins. But I gather why it’s there.
I have written a lot of pages now, much more than I anticipated. But it’s just so difficult to go over this album without pointing out all the details that make it so great, and then also mentioning how I feel about it – this is supposed to be a summary of my impressions of the album, after all. Summary. Yeah, right. If this exercise proves anything, it’s that summarizing a Maiden record these days is nigh impossible. God, I love that band!
I have said many things before, so I will say what I haven’t and leave it at that. For one thing, I like the sound of the album. As an audio guy myself, I always have a sixth sense when I listen to music, trying to pick out what I like most about the production, not just the content. I liked AMOLAD’s sound, yet it was pretty dirty because of how they tried to make it sound “live”. But with The Final Frontier, the production sounds cleaner, maybe in part because they recorded the guitar cabinets in different rooms. It still has that “smudgy” feeling to it, because the band played most of the stuff together. But man, I have such respect for Maiden and how they can pull this off live. My band and I are struggling to even get a decent take without cutting it up, and these guys go ahead and play, done. Well, maybe not literally, but you get the idea. I think we can feel privileged to have such a great band of musicians in our time, still going strong, and even becoming better – as we just saw and heard.
Now, there may be fans who won’t like The Final Frontier as much as other stuff. To each his own. I think, and not just because it’s still fresh, that it is valid to say that Iron Maiden have produced a work of beauty, art and musical genius here that will impress people for just as long as we’re still being impressed with old stuff from the 70s. And that we are here to live through that is something to be grateful for.
And that’s it, eight pages in Microsoft Word. My shoulders hurt…
That car is not only better than the Bentley convertible, it surpassed even the Toyota Camry.
Just teasing, but I do think BNW is far better, top-to-bottom, than DoD, notwithstanding the splendor of Paschendale.
[hr][/hr]I am afraid I simply don't have time to write a long review like others have done -- indeed, I have not had enough time to even listen to the album properly, in one sitting, even once let alone multiple times. But, my initial tentative view is that the album has two instant classics: Coming Home and When the Wild Wind Blows. I have yet to be enthralled by Starblind, as others have, but I need to digest it more. I think Mother of Mercy is just plain weak, and I like Dio's version of The Man Who Would Be King better than Iron Maiden's effort of the same title.
Tentative track-by-track grades, subject to further analysis (bear in mind, I am a very tough grader, with B- roughly approximating the median Maiden song):
1. Satellite 15...The Final Frontier: B-
2. El Dorado: B
3. Mother of Mercy: C-
4. Coming Home: A (greatest power ballad since "Sweet Child O' Mine")
5. The Alchemist: B
6. Isle of Avalon: B+
7. Starblind: (incomplete -- to be assessed more later)
8. The Talisman: B (would be higher, but that intro is just tedious)
9. The Man Who Would Be King: B-
10: When the Wild Wind Blows: A
No A+ tracks on this album, but that is a standard reserved for Paschendale, Hallowed and Rime. However, When the Wild Wind Blows, with more time, has potential to mature into an A+, like a fine wine. Overall grade: B/B+.
Hey, smartass, you didn't read right. I said that The Final Frontier is even surpassing DOD in my ranking, but not BNW. BNW is unbeatable.
I'd say it looks more that a Ford Mustang 3.8 GT that I know: No breaks--> impossible to stop
It seems I can't edit my post up there because... it is too long (I thought the forum would split the posts, but it merged them...) Just adding the link I forgot to put in there, for the Starblind review: TFF on Rock Radio
Three weeks since the first listen and after some reading in these boards, I feel like ready to post my review for The Final Frontier.
Feel free to oppose your arguments in case you don’t agree with something I say.
Good things first: This is a solid album without any weak track and the lyrics for another time are outstanding.
Coming Home is my best lyric and its lyrics, could be commented very well in the Poetry Topic, imo. I hope to can post further about this one, sometime.
The Final Frontier is an excellent straightforward rocker, the best –in that vein– since Can I Play With Madness.
Mother of Mercy turns to be one of my favorites: Simple, straightforward, Chemical Wedding-like although it was not co-written by Bruce.
As very well mentioned in the forums, a second solo could nicely fit in this one.
Coming Home is a poem, the best power ballad written by Maiden; I like it much better than Blood Brothers, Out of the Shadows,
or Wasting Love and I don’t find anything bad in The Alchemist except that it has a similar riff with Man On The Edge.
In fact I believe it’s the best up-tempo since the later. The solo is an awesome sample of Janick sound and style and the lyrics mysterious and attractive.
Isle of Avalon and The Man Who Would Be King are the album’s most progy numbers and very good ones,
while Starblind and The Talisman my very favorites. I’ll comment further about the first three in the relative topics,
while my comment regarding Talisman, are here
When The Wild Wind Blows, is a typical Harris’ composition with excellent story line and two of the best solos of the album -the 1st and the last one.
Though a good song, not enough for such an album’s closer though, imo.
As mentioned in the forums, the creative use of 3 guitars is more extensive than ever:
The second half of the album is full of passages where the same moment each guitarist plays something different.
It took them 10 years to reach this point which is 100% understandable as the add of a third guitarist,
except the issues that can create to the mix /sonic result is a fucking bet when trying to use the third guitar in a creative way, composition-wise.
The good news is that our favorite group is starting to win this bet.
Overall, there is a batch of new elements that I really like, which indicate Maiden’s new approach in their compositions.
1) The experimental sound of Satellite 15 and why not the use of drum machine.
2) The intro /outro of El Dorado which have a touch of self-sarcasm and I appreciate the general structure of the song.
3) The overall built up of Isle of Avalon: The prog part in the middle of the song is somehow a new element in the Maiden songbook
and I’d like to see more efforts in this direction in the future.
4) The extraordinary built-up of Starblind with these guitar touches spread all along –another thing that I’d like to see more in the future.
5) The solo of Talisman that is nothing special, technically; yet is another example of this new approach of Maiden songbook. I’ll come back to this later.
6) The built-up of TMWWBK. One of the best songs here and again its mid part left me speechless.
5 out of 6 examples are relevant to the built-up of the songs.
The solos, for all epics but WTWWB aren’t the typical Maiden solos, anymore:
They flow physically being part of the song as nicely mentioned in the forums ‘blend in with the album rather than stand apart’
-and this is a damn big step when we speak for Maiden!
There are a few more things, like the variation from the last years’ formula regarding intros /outros,
but the big shot in this album is the new approach in songwriting; creative use of the three guitars and how solos are incorporated in the songs.
The negative things:
Throughout the second half of the album, where mostly this structural new approach appears, though the ideas are fine,
the execution is not perfected. And I speak mostly about the solos; some of them are not enough for Maiden standards.
Take for example the solo of Talisman. While I like the approach and the philosophy the solo itself is very poor,
the same –one could say the same for Starblind. Solos of both songs go lost into the complexity of the compositions.
So I feel that the band, should take more time for the epics of this album:
These parts would require possibly many more rehearsals /experimentations, to have an once-in-a-lifetime album.
Performances: While all 6 perform more or less nicely, no one seems on top form, in the way Nicko was in AMOLAD.
Speaking of Nicko, I find the drums a bit low, in a way. I put some AMOLAD songs between the new ones and I really miss the sound of drums of the previous album here.
The guitars are bit low as well, I’d like to have them more clear and distinguished.
Generally, production-wise I feel something’s wrong, but I haven’t listen elsewhere than my laptop and definitely I’m not a specialist.
Last but not least the miss of the outstanding track from here: All numbers are good, very good, the album is an excellent listen from the start to the end,
but there’s not really the killer one like The Nomad, or Paschendale, or The Legacy were.
Nevertheless The Final Frontier is a fucking brave album and an awesome listen from the start to the very end
and I’m very positive they can achieve even more in the next one, in the case they continue in this direction. Personally I’d love them to.
Looking forward to these recently posted review fellows...! Thanks for your efforts. Enjoying this thread.
Ok, I'm not going to do a long review, but what I will say is that
a): It's probably the back to front strongest since, oh, Somewhere In Time and
b): It's so far the only Maiden album where its impossible to pick a favorite song. I want to say Starblind, but then there's WTWWB and The Talisman. And this only helps the album.
MadMax sir, your review is great, one of the best I've read till this day regarding TFF. I really enjoyed reading it, congrats
Like how you mixed the emotional appeal of the album with some musical insight.
@MadMax, great review, a real treat to read!
@no5, regarding Starblind solo - i think Adrian is fucking excellent on this one. Both of his solos have a real Floydesque feel, like the whole song. However, unlike second one, first one doesn't break through the mix. Which IMHO is not problem of the solo itself, it's a production issue.[hr][/hr]The sheer number of posts in "Final Frontier" commentary sub-forum is astonishing. This is #2856!
BNW was unbeatable until Aug 17th, 2010.
Great review, MadMax. That was a fun read.
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