The Final Frontier: individual album judgement by yours truly


Ancient Mariner
So why did they split both tracks in the live album? Aahhhh....
Perhaps a mistake, who knows.
It is not of the same importance. Back in 1982 they even removed the intro of Murders in the Rue Morgue. Did someone argue that the song's part is not part of the song anymore? Nope. We put on Killers and we know what it is.


Ancient Mariner
Perhaps a mistake, who knows.
It is not of the same importance. Back in 1982 they even removed the intro of Murders in the Rue Morgue. Did someone argue that the song's part is not part of the song anymore? Nope. We put on Killers and we know what it is.
Well, when they played it during the Killer World Tour and World Slavery Tour it was there. But even so the point is not suppressing part A or B.. is WHY separate both parts? Because although one's lyrics are the obvious continuation of the other, music wise they have ZERO in common. And even the typology: TFF is a rock SONG focused on melody and groove. Satellite 15 IS a long INTRO focused in atmosphere building not only for the next song but for the entire album. And both work really well accomplishing both entirely different purposes... Just that. Anyway... agree to disagree.
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Kill Devil Hill

westwards the tide
This album has grown on me the most of any Maiden album over the years since TXF because, though I agree much of it retreads old territory, there were a lot of new ideas and concepts. I prefer BNW and AMOLAD as far as post-reunion albums, but they're very much standard Maiden fodder. TFF is more playful. I've been meaning to do a whole write-up about how the album has aged, but for now:

Satellite 15... The Final Frontier - 3. Satellite 15 alone I'd give an 8 (bold I know but bizarre kind of electronic instrumental numbers are in my wheelhouse), but TFF is such a boring ass letdown from a rather novel intro by Maiden standards. Sat15 is a unique breath of fresh air that leads into a paint-by-numbers Maiden tune. Besides, the biggest flaw of AMOLAD is its one line x4 choruses, and here we have The Final Frontier x4 as the first thing we hear, the stage-setting tune.
El Dorado - 7. Slick, a callback to Wasted Years and 2MTM. While it is unoriginal for old Maiden, these short, smart songs are in short supply post-reunion.
Mother of Mercy - 7. I talked about this song's flaws at length here. The instrumentation, verses, and prechorus hold enough promise for me to put this song at a 7.
Coming Home - 10. Don't think this needs too much explanation. Stellar lyrics, an instrumental that captures perfectly that swell that comes up in your chest when you return home after an extended leave. It borrows a lot from Out of the Shadows, imo, but in a good way.
The Alchemist - 8. This probably requires more explanation. The Alchemist is El Dorado's deceptively smarter cousin. It's a lot simpler with no frills, but it hits in all the right places and its strengths unfold with more active listening. I had this ranked the lowest when I first listened to the album, but my obsession with John Dee came through I came to appreciate it as a nice change of pace from Iron Maiden's progressive tendencies. Also really enjoy how the upbeat guitarline contrasts the morose vocals.
Isle of Avalon - 9. This was probably their most ambitious song. I imagine this song was intended to be the "Paschendale" of TFF, the fan favorite for hardcore fans with taste. It's cinematic without overstaying its welcome, it's boundary-pushing sonically for Maiden, and it sounds like the culmination of all the other songs (which makes its placement as the centerpiece of the album perfect). I wish I could've given this song a 10 but despite the song composition's tight execution, the production keeps it from reaching its potential. It should sound as dynamic as Pasch, but it doesn't. Such a shame.
Starblind - 10. Fucking perfect song. While Isle was SUPPOSED to be the Pasch of the album, Starblind ended up being that for me. I can't call it the ultimate Maiden song because what makes it great is that it takes a typical Iron Maiden element (atheism) and it plays with that element in innovative, ingenious ways. The guitars sound like a cold, blustery wind, the lyrics are pure poetry, the solos and melismas are gripping, and it's all held together by Steve's and Nicko's incredibly tight performances. Maiden really broke from their comfort zone with this and it was incredibly rewarding.
The Talisman - 9. I'm a sucker for nautical Maiden songs (Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Ghost of the Navigator are in my top 3 all-time) so this song had kind of an easy time. Again, this retreads The Legacy with a rather unnecessary intro (kind of the reverse Sat15 problem), but I overlook it because the rest of the song is so well executed. The guitar riff, like GotN, sounds like waves crashing against a ship. Both GoTN and The Talisman share that sense of adventure in tone, but The Talisman has an undercurrent of fear. It's the excitement and trepidation that come with a tremendously risky life transition, and while it doesn't end well for the narrator, the music doesn't really dwell on that, focusing on the more adrenaline-driven emotions.
The Man Who Would Be King - 7? I'm gonna compare this with Isle of Avalon. One of the reasons I praise IOA is it's very "tight." Despite its length, it doesn't feel like it's wandering off anywhere, keeping the listener engaged the whole way. TMWWBK has a more meandering energy, partially because it has a wider range of ideas. It suffers from rather static production even more so than IOA. The guitar work on this song is gorgeous and a standout in the entire Maiden catalogue. I struggled with rating this song because I love many moments in the song, but I can't love the song as a whole. The main riff during the clunky verses and prechorus is a boring riff that sounds like it was used on every VXI song, and the transitions to the most beautiful moments on the song aren't smooth. Edit: It just hit me that the riff was actually reflecting Still Life, a song that has an atmospheric feel but a very basic riff underlining the verses. The difference of course is that Still Life places the focus during this basic riff on Bruce, allowing room for his passionate delivery to shine. Unfortunately, the vocals are about as basic and dispassionate as the guitar riff in TMWWBK so it can't be as easily dismissed. What a pity.
When The Wild Wind Blows - 8.5.
So many repeated ideas. I struggled rating this song too because in a lot of ways it's standard Maiden fodder, except even fucking longer. That being said, it does feel like a very distinguished song from the rest of their catalogue. It comes across to me like a campfire song, a story a father tells his kids while roasting marshmallows over a fire? There's something folksy about the unison vocal and guitar melodies, and the chugging bridge sounds like the ground is falling apart beneath the characters' feet. Simple yet cinematic. I appreciate this song for having an interesting direction despite its audacious repetition of previous Maiden songs.

The ratings are against Maiden's entire discography. Considering most of them are 7+, I've grown so much fonder of TFF (except the title track fuck the title track).
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Ancient Mariner
Doing a listen through for the first time in quite a while.

Satellite 15: 0. Should have skipped this altogether or at the very least not used the demo version.

The Final Frontier: 7. Really fun, solid rocker with a fairly memorable solo and fun singalong chorus.

El Dorado: 7. This is quite a unique Maiden song. The singing in the verses isn't that great, but the main riff is quite a stomper and well worth building a song around, and the other riffs in the songs are pretty cool too - It's just that as a whole, the song feels somewhat disjointed. It's less than the sum of all its parts. The best part is the prechorus though, with the octave riffs and it anchors rather well with both the verse and the chorus, but is more memorable than both.

Mother of Mercy: 4/10. Great intro and verses. Without their redeeming qualities this would get a one or a two. Shitty connecting riff between verse 1 and 2. But the chorus is exceptionally shitty and it features Bruce's worst studio singing ever. The fact that it's so obviously compiled from multiple takes yet sounds like this speaks volumes. I wouldn't want to hear the worst sections from the worst takes....

Coming Home. 8.5/10. Feels a bit like they wanted to make a new Blood Brothers, and they did succeed in making a beautiful power ballad, which sadly pales in comparison to the perfection of Blood Brothers. The lyrics are pretty awesome and Bruce's wailing is his best on this album (although minus point for the pitch correction in the first pre chorus). The main riff is typical reunion Maiden goodies, but repeated a bit too much. The solo is Dave's best solo on this album. His sense of spontaneous melody is to die for and the signature Adrian style solo is great in its own right, but sounds a bit too disconnected from Dave's solo (although the inital two bars or so transitions perfectly from Dave's. It just sort of loses track after that though).

The Alchemist. 6/10. Fun rocker. It's a good song, but it's forgettable. If the vocal melody lines were better it could have been noticably better, especially how the different sections fit together. The music is better than the vocals. Janick's solo is really good though and feels more though through than his solos usually comes off as.

Isle of Avalon. 6.5-7/10. Excellent slow building intro. The "talk-singing" vocals, that's a bit more prominent than usual on this album, works really well here, and when the big chords come crashing in I find myself expecting greatness... But it doesn't arrive at that, but rather plods on a bit in a somewhat confusing, yet good, state of complacency. The build-up doesn't result in the kind of high energy sections they try to build up to, which is why this song doesn't end up that great. It feels like two songs either slapped together or that they had the great, quieter sections and tried to turn them into a song but couldn't find the right riffs. It ends up being a good song rather than what could have been a great piece of music. Highlights, apart from what has already been mentioned? The guitar melody line duelling Bruce towards the end. That's a great touch.

Starblind: 8/10. This is what Isle of Avalon aimed for. The verses marry well with the slow intro and more importantly, the vocals marry with the rest. In fact, the whole song just fits together. The ebb and flow thing going on is what keeps this from being a song that's too long. Without the quiet sections, this would have better been a 4-85 minute song, but as it is, I've got exactly zero issues with this song. It's great.

The Talisman . 9/10. Awesome quiet, intro sections. The singing throughout the song is great - The belting is spot on, but that is part due to Shirley's compiling skills. He wrote in his diary that this one was a hassle and there were a lot of takes to dabble with and cut/paste from. You can tell in a few bits, but overall, great job, Shirely! The vocals fit perfectly and the drum fills are spot on. This is my favorite song off the album. The Maiden gallop between the verses just before 5mins is gold and the connecting riff afterwards is awesome - Easily that kind of riff that you don't know you're missing until you write it.

The Man Who Would Be King 6/10. This one just plods on. It suffers from the same things "The Astonishing" does. Things sound good while you listen to it, but afterwards you find it a bit reduntant. That being said, the riffage between the intro sections and the verse is really, really good, and the thundering toms, followed by the rising snare shots are the perfect things to play. This song would have been a great 5:30 minute song (without that weird mark 4 minute section, please). Clocking in over 8, it does however drag.

When The Wild Winds Blow 7/10. Interesting lyrical subject, great melodies throughout, lazy, lazy verse riffing, overused chord sequence. But it sounds good. It would have benefited from a bit of contrast and key changes. A potentially really good 7 minute song.