How Iron Maiden Sparked Rumors of Their Retirement With ‘The Final Frontier’
On Aug. 13, 2010, British heavy metal legends Iron Maiden accomplished a measure of career synchronicity when they celebrated an amazing 30 years as recording artists (and 35 since their inception) with the release of their 15th studio album, The Final Frontier.
In doing so, they also scared the heck out of many fans who took its title a bit too literally and immediately started fretting that the end might be in sight for their favorite head-banging sextet (septet if you count their inseparable mascot, Eddie). It didn't help that band leader Steve Harris once suggested that he’d envisioned 15 studio albums from his band.
Not that one could have blamed the men in Iron Maiden for being ready to fade into their career sunset, after all they had achieved during their historic ‘80s run, their dogged ‘90s survival, and triumphant ‘00s resurrection. To say they had nothing left to prove would obviously be an understatement.
But there was nevertheless no shortage of motivation to go around between bassist Harris, singer Bruce Dickinson, drummer Nicko McBrain, and guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers. Together, they proceeded to shoot for the stars yet again with the space-age themes contained in The Final Frontier’s cover rendering and opening title cut.
Beyond that, Iron Maiden declined to pursue the concept album route, as they had on their previous album, A Matter of Life and Death. But that was just as well because it freed the band to go explore numerous destinations, such as the mythical “El Dorado” (released as the album’s first single) and the “Isle of Avalon” (an absolute modern Maiden classic, worthy of Camelot’s legacy).
Beyond this, the band revisited favorite subjects like the horrors of war (“Mother of Mercy”), religion's empty promises (“Starblind”), mysteries both scientific and occult (“The Alchemist”) and apocalyptic visions (“When the Wild Wind Blows”). Then they gave flight to Dickinson’s airplane-piloting experiences (“Coming Home”) and spun adventures into song via the seafaring “The Talisman” and soul-questing “The Man Who Would Be King,” which was based on Rudyard Kipling’s novella of the same name.
These comprised what could only be called a quintessential Iron Maiden album, built around so many signature hallmarks with which the band had built their reputation way back in the '80s. And perhaps it was no coincidence, then, that The Final Frontier marked the band’s first time recording at the Bahamas’ famed Compass Point Studios since 1986’s Somewhere in Time, only this time with Kevin Shirley instead of Martin Birch as the producer.
Nor was it an accident that The Final Frontier reached No. 1 in an astonishing 28 countries, peaked at No. 4 in the U.S. for the band’s best showing ever, and paved the way for another, year-long world tour running nearly 100 shows seen by over two million people in 36 countries on five continents.
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