Ginger Nuts of Horror
As the summer of Maiden reaches penultimate album The Final Frontier, the timing of this publication couldn’t be better. Iron Maiden have just announced their first full UK tour since The Final Frontier World Tour took Eddie and the boys across their homeland. Not only will the album be revisited, but the tour of England as well. I was lucky enough to catch five shows on the Final Frontier tour.......
Prior to the release of The Final Frontier, Iron Maiden had once again become the biggest metal band on the planet. They pulled off this feat by first releasing one of their best albums ever, A Matter of Life and Death, and then proceeded to play the entire album on the ensuing tour. Very few bands can pull off a worldwide arena tour playing a new album in its entirety 30+ years after they formed. Iron Maiden succeeded and gained new fans in the process. The second piece of the puzzle was the massively successful Somewhere Back in Time World Tour. The band, crew and equipment hopped on a modified 757 with Bruce Dickinson in the cockpit. How do you follow up an amazing studio album then an Iron Maiden history tour that put you back on top? You head back to the exact same studio to record the follow up - that’s how.
You go into Compass Point Studios in Nassau to commence work on studio album # 15. You call the album The Final Frontier. You make journalists that don’t completely understand the band wonder if it is the final Iron Maiden Album. You release it to worldwide acclaim and hit # 1 on the album charts worldwide.
To review the album, you have to also think about the live performances of the songs. Iron Maiden are, and always have been, a live band. Their songs take a life of their own after they have been played on a tour.
The first track, Satellite 15/The Final Frontier brings us to Newcastle, at the smallest arena I have ever personally seen the band play. After a long flight from Dulles International Airport to London, followed by a drive to Newcastle, I am ready for the gig. The show starts with a video of space and Bruce singing the intro. The band then jumps right into The Final Frontier. The stage is set to resemble a space station (named Satellite 15) to fit the album theme. You can only imagine Eddie (or Preddie or Edditor as some have called this incarnation) wreaking havoc somewhere in space. The first track is a mid-paced rocker and another great song. Sounds like Maiden, but slightly different, showing the band continues to evolve and try different things. The album’s second track, like most Iron Maiden tours, is played right after the first. The punchy El Dorado sounds like a song they could have released in the 80’s.
The next track, Mother of Mercy, wasn’t played live. While it’s a good track, it is one of the lesser songs on the album. We then move to Sheffield with Coming Home. This may not be their home, but it wouldn’t be a post-reunion Iron Maiden concert without the semi-ballad. The track features a killer bluesy solo from Dave Murray who nails, just nails it in concert.
As we travel to Nottingham home of Robin Hood, Iron Maiden tears it up again in another small arena. This American is still shocked that “seated” in England means you sit down during the concert. Thankfully I had floor tickets. The next track on the album is also the weakest, The Alchemist. The shortest song on the album is another punchy track. The biggest crime of the tour was the next track, Isle of Avalon. The song is Iron Maiden’s most progressive track to date with hints of Rush, time changes and cool melodies. Crime number two of the tour occurs with Starblind not being played live - a killer Adrian Smith track that has it all – slow intro, killer riff and bluesy solo.
As we travel to Manchester, the crowd on the floor lives up to the city’s reputation. Rough floor, lots of fun and a killer show. The Talisman, a Janick Gers track is a highlight of the show. Heavy with cool melodies, Janick gets to break out his acoustic guitar for the intro. We finally get to the Dave Murray track, The Man Who Would Be King. A different feel for Maiden and another more progressive song, it’s a great listen that wasn’t played live. It probably wouldn’t fit well into the setlist but is a great track nonetheless.
Eddie, in his current incarnation, makes two appearances. The walk on Eddie looks ready to take names and kick ass….. without taking any names. Big Eddie looks menacing behind the stage, ready to tear the space station apart with his giant hands.
For the final track of the album, we head to Birmingham and my final show of the UK tour. After two albums of Janick Gers featured epics (Dance of Death and The Legacy – both classics, the former played on this tour to roaring crowds), Steve Harris returns with another classic When the Wild Wind Blows. The song is based on a graphic novel/animated flick and like all great epics tells a story. This story is about a couple and how they handle an all out nuclear assault with a surprising twist ending. The band absolutely nails the track, the Birmingham show and the entire UK tour.
Having lived with the album for five years, it is another Maiden classic that sits comfortably with the 80’s classics, and the previous three post-reunion albums. While ranking lower than A Matter of Life and Death, it is a great addition to the Iron Maiden catalog. If you don’t already own it, I highly recommend picking up En Vivo which is the concert film of The Final Frontier World Tour. The songs from the album come alive and Eddie looks great! To borrow from the late Roger Ebert, two thumbs up for the album. At this point in time, Iron Maiden fans around the world could only wonder what they would come up with next…….
Leo Faneuf has been an Iron Maiden fan since first seeing the videos for The Number of the Beast and Run to the Hills. He became a lifelong fan after purchasing Piece of Mind as a new release. He has seen Iron Maiden concerts in 4 different countries to date with more to come. Leo spends his time raising his two kids, working in HR and playing guitar.