The Final Frontier: individual album judgement by yours truly

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.
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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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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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.
Similar to Dance of Death, I think this is an album that is a bit under appreciated by Maiden fans. A couple of tracks have slight flaws on them, which stops the album from being as good for me as AMOLAD but really there isn't an awful lot to complain about. Arguably, it's also one of Maiden's riskiest and most progressive leaning albums, which might be why some people dislike it.

If I really have to nitpick, I think the really should have used backing vocals on El Dorado's chorus or a vocal line in a lower octave, as that high pitched take is not commercial enough for the lead single. Also, I think Mother of Mercy is an excellent song musically but the words are just the nadir of Steve's on going assault on grammar and sentence structure. The vocal takes on this one again leave a lot to be desired.

The one two punch of Isle of Avalon / Starblind may be the best pair of tracks overlooked by Maiden for a new album tour.

Satellite 15/The Final Frontier 9
El Dorado: 9
Mother of Mercy: 7
Coming Home: 10
The Alchemist: 9
Isle of Avalon: 10
Starblind: 10
The Talisman: 10
The Man who would be King: 8
When the Wild Wind Blows: 10

Mother of Mercy maybe judged a bit harshly compared to what I've given similar tracks on other album, but again I stand over most of this.

One thing is I think the album sounds punchier than the other reunion albums I've listened to over the last few days, it's just a shame there was some bad decisions like the dodgy delays after "I'm a soldier of war" in Mother of Mercy and the lack of a proper backing vocal on the main single.

Bruce performance in Talisman is outstanding, he is totally transformed into the character in the song, people complaining about "straining" are missing the point, ditto the atmosphere created by Janick's discordant solo.

This is a real good record not sure why it's nearly regarded as the ugly duckling of the reunion era.
Satellite 15...The Final Frontier - 6,0
El Dorado - 7,0
Mother of Mercy - 8,0
Coming Home - 9,0
The Alchemist - 5,0
Isle of Avalon - 9,0
Starblind - 8,5
The Talisman - 7,5
The Man Who Would Be King - 8,0
When The Wild Wind Blows - 9,0

Do you mean guitar lines before the final verse? E.g. the stuff between last chorus and it?
My favourite part of the song, possibly the heaviest thing in Maiden discography.

No at the start between "I'm a soldier of war" and "I sit waiting for my darkest hour to come", the brief section when they strum the chords and stop, and there's a pause, and then they strum the chords again and there's another pause. When they pause, you can hear the three different delays/reverb effects of the 3 guitars all decaying and fading out at different rates, which totally destroys the effect of the dead stop on the chord. It really should have been cleaned up.
No at the start between "I'm a soldier of war" and "I sit waiting for my darkest hour to come", the brief section when they strum the chords and stop, and there's a pause, and then they strum the chords again and there's another pause. When they pause, you can hear the three different delays/reverb effects of the 3 guitars all decaying and fading out at different rates, which totally destroys the effect of the dead stop on the chord. It really should have been cleaned up.

Good take. Yup lack of punch, two guitars are doing "orchestra hit" type thing but not very tight.
Btw I think that most prominent sound is not an effect but a slide.

One more week of studio time would have done miracles for the record.
2021 re-listening:
  1. Satellite 15... The Final Frontier: 5 – I still can't understand why they merged these two songs together; the intro kinda works, the song works... but not together
  2. El Dorado: 4/5 – cliché song
  3. Mother of Mercy: 7.5 – very good buildup, structure, lyrics... amateur editing
  4. Coming Home: 8 – great mid-tempo
  5. The Alchemist: 6 – a filler, but kinda works
  6. Isle of Avalon: 4 – boooooooooooring
  7. Starblind: 6.5 – grew up, so to say; still I don't like the jammy section
  8. The Talisman: 9 – an epic journey, the second acoustic section which imitates the waves is one of the best moments of their career
  9. The Man Who Would Be King: 6 – too long, but the solo section is to be saluted (really, hats off)
  10. When the Wild Wind Blows: 6.5 – an interesting story, but constantly repeating itself
Overall: 4/5/10
2022 re-listening:
  1. Satellite 15... The Final Frontier: 5 — I get that it tells a single story... but this isn't a good reason to merge the two pieces together
  2. El Dorado: 4.5 — clichés, clichés everywhere
  3. Mother of Mercy: 7+ — good, good, good work everyone but Kevin
  4. Coming Home: 7/8 — I used to like it slightly more, but it's a good mid-tempo anyway; love the chorus
  5. The Alchemist: 5+ — objectively speaking, it's not worth noticing; for me however, I kinda like it
  6. Isle of Avalon: 3 — pointless, useless
  7. Starblind: 6 — I used to dislike it, it grew up a little bit, but still I don't really like it
  8. The Talisman: 8/9 — surprisingly, Janick saves the day—again
  9. The Man Who Would Be King: 5/6 — a very cool solo section cannot save an overall diluted song
  10. When the Wild Wind Blows: 6 — could have been MUCH better

Overall: 4/10
Cut 3 minutes at the beginning and the whole section after the solos, rearrange the remaining a little bit and it’d result in a decent song to me.
Some of the most unique and interesting music Maiden ever produced, and you want to cut it.

I guess I understand now how some people feel when I say Steve needs to cut some repetitions.
If something like it only appears here in their entire discography, it's unique to them.
I generally agree with the statement, but the intro reminds me of the calm middle part of Seventh Son.

I like the song a lot (the chorus is pure gold), but I would personally make a few changes:

- no proggy solos (very good solos but they fit much better in Starblind and even the theme of the song incline to a classic Maiden approach imo).
- for a 9 minute song, I think Janick also should have had a solo.
- classic Maiden guitar harmony/melody instead of the reprised intro in the middle (only Alchemist, Talisman, King and Wild Wind have in the album), although the melody under the chorus at the end is great, but it is not enough for me.
- the intro is really cool, fitting and atmospheric, but maybe it should have been 1 minute shorter (the actual song is 6 minutes). The same can be said about Satellite 15 (a unique piece, I admit) and Mother Of Mercy.