If anything, this album is light-years from being ground-breaking and does not contain anything really new. On virtually every song, you can recognise parts that are very similar to songs from previous Iron Maiden albums. However, this "self-plagiarism" makes for a patchwork of the band's finest moments, re-worked and adapted to give the listener an extremely enjoyable 77 minutes of powerful music. Incidentally, it also happens to be their longest album to date, but despite the length of the tracks, you cannot find a single second of boredom on the entire record.
The sleeve illustration, made by a now well-known Maiden-related artist, namely Melvyn Grant, has once again attracted its share of controversy. Eddie is pictured as an alien holding a strange key (which has most probably no particular significance), and some fans have adamantly claimed that this wasn't Eddie. Can't people check out all the various disguises and appearances that the band's mascot has shown in the past 30 years? This new representation remains quite clearly our beloved Eddie. Anyway, Iron Maiden would never let any other creature appear on their covers.
Despite being in a straight musical line from A Matter Of Life And Death, the lyrical content of the songs on this album is not as dark and gloomy as on its predecessor. Although some recurrent themes are present, like the last reflections of a dying man, or the way the world is inevitably heading for its destruction if nothing is done, the message of most song seems more positive and offers hope somehow. Isn't hope what we all want?
Satellite 15...The Final Frontier (Smith, Harris)
Here, the band takes us into the realm of science-fiction. This is quite arguably the strangest intro ever written by Iron Maiden. It is unclear whether they used a drum machine or if two drums tracks were played by Nicko, then overlaid. However, Steve mentioned in an interview that Adrian had come up with the demo of the track, and that it simply ended up as such on the album, so it is much more likely that Nicko wasn't playing at all on it.
The disturbing guitars and heavy drum beat could somehow evoke a space battle, which would link this unusual intro to the second part of the song where an astronaut ends up drifting to his death. Bruce's haunting voice comes in after a short quieter part, and the intro breaks into an aggressive double-kick and raging guitars before grinding to a halt.
The song then carries on as a straightforward typical Maiden-style rocker whose lyrics deal with the last thoughts of a pilot drifting in space. He might end up in the Sun, or simply run out of breathable air, as his spacecraft seems to have sustained heavy damage. If the navigation controls are gone, the air recycling systems may have been shot too. This part of the song, which gave the album its title, was released on 13th July 2010 on the official website as a video – and a pretty good one!
The philosophical aspect of a dying man reflecting on his life appears once again, as it often does in Iron Maiden song, like in "No More Lies" for instance. Here, the character has nothing to regret, if only that he would have wished to say his last goodbyes to his family. He seems to have enjoyed his life more than an average person usually does. He's obviously not like the vast majority of people who passively wait for their lives to happen to them, which they rarely do; he proactively lived to the full and many apathetic human beings who simply exist instead of really living should take a leaf out of his book. Anyway, this character is now ready to face the real final frontier: death.
The title of the song is made of two distinct parts like the track itself, with the number 15 obviously symbolising Iron Maiden's 15th album, and the mention of the final frontier, which is allegedly a tongue-in-cheek hint from Bruce that many fans thought that this may be the last album to be released by the band – a rumour that has since been denied. In any case, this is a pretty decent Maiden piece (which could very well have been two separate tracks), with a standard heavy song following a rather unconventional and surprising intro. But the surprise is indeed a very good one!
El Dorado (Smith, Harris, Dickinson)
Starting with an intro pounded by a heavy bass reminiscent of "The Longest Day", this is a politically-motivated song in the same vein as "Holy Smoke", although it seems to deal more with the politicians than with the preachers, making it more in the line of "Be Quick Or Be Dead". In any case, it deals with the mythical city of El Dorado, and essentially with the metaphor it represents of something glorious that is promised whereas it doesn't even exist – like what most politicians and all religious leaders talk about. The story is told from the cynical point of view of the deceiver who makes a living of exploiting human stupidity and gullibility &ndash and there's a lot to be made!
There is an interesting reference to Marillion in the sentence "I'm the Jester with no tears". The progressive outfit's 1983 album Script For A Jester's Tear is one of the landmark for this style of music, which Iron Maiden have adopted albeit in a much heavier form. The reason for this reference may simply be a tribute from one great band to another.
Another noteworthy detail in the lyrics is the use of the term "banker", "with a letter out of place". Those in the UK will have understood that this means "wanker", but the rest of the world may not have caught the subtlety of Bruce's mischievous humour. This is one of the tricks Bruce uses here or there in his writing, a bit like using "Fokker" instead of "fucker" in the lyrics of "Tailgunner" – a tongue-in-cheek piece of typical British humour.
"El Dorado" is probably the only "classical" Maiden song on the whole album and, quite surprisingly too, the weakest by Maiden standards. It was released as a free downloadable file on the official website on 8th June 2010, the day before the band embarked on the Final Frontier World Tour. It was also the only song off the new album to be played during the first leg of the tour.
Note: What follows was written by LooseCannon on the MaidenFans forum.
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.
But he grew old–
This knight so bold–
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.
And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow–
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be–
This land of Eldorado?"
"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied-
"If you seek for Eldorado!"
Edgar Allan Poe [1809–1849]
Given Bruce Dickinson's love of things occult and strange, it should be no surprise that a poem by Poe serves as the likely inspiration for the lyrical portion of the song "El Dorado". Indeed, it goes a long way towards explaining the presence of a quick riff in the song, because those of us who know anything about the legend of El Dorado are aware that the search for the mythical City of Gold was usually undertaken not by horse, but by boat, imagery constantly referred to in the song.
The legend of El Dorado comes from the conquered Muisca people, who would tell legends of a chieftain named El Dorado who swam whilst covered in gold dust in Lake Guatavita. From this arose the myth amongst the Spanish conquistadores of a City of Gold that supplied the Muisca people with their wealth – a people who had no gold mines of their own, but traded for the precious material easily from other tribes. Over the passing centuries, the myth of El Dorado multiplied, grew, and expanded, with many explorers searching the thick jungles of South America for the lost city.
Interestingly, the tale of "El Dorado" is told from the perspective of someone recruiting people for an expedition to find the mythical lost city, rather than as a neutral observer (consider the voice used in songs like "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", in which a fable is told, but from the outside). As such, we are taken inside the mind and speech of a man knowing he is luring the innocent to their death for his own profit.
Gotta tell you a story, on a cold winter's night
You'll be sailing for glory before you know what is right
So come over here now, I've got a vision for you
It's my personal snake oil, it's just something I do
The first verse introduces us to the character, someone who looks clean and smooth and very professional, and who speaks to someone, telling them a story that will have them so ready to whisk off in hopeless exploration that they'll be buying the ticket he offers before he can think it through. This is telling us that the character Bruce portrays is a scam artist, someone who is completely sure of his ability to cheat money and life from his victim. The term "snake oil" refers to a "snake oil salesman", which is an American slang term for conman. His personal snake oil, then, is the story of El Dorado, and the promises of glory and money within. That's his cheat. It's just what he sells.
I'm the jester with no tears and I'm playing on your fears
I'm a trickster smiling underneath this mask of love and death
The eternal lie I've told about the pyramids of gold
I've got you hooked at every turn – Your money's left to burn!
Bruce describes the character from the first person, explaining this man knows exactly what he's doing and what fate he's condemning his "clients" to. He has no regrets about the lethal consequences of his trick ("the jester with no tears") and he is taking advantage of people who are afraid of dying either nearly poor or unknown ("playing on your fears"). Th e"mask of love and death" is the story he tells of El Dorado, the fabled place from which none have ever returned – except for you, because he knows you're the one to find the City of Gold – his eternal lie. Of course, the tale of El Dorado goes far beyond our conman, and probably will last for the end of time. Finally, his tale, persuasive, has you fully drawn in – "hooked at every turn" – and your money will be consumed by your poor decision to listen to the trickster.
You'll be wanting a contract, ah! You'll be waiting a while
I'd like to give you my contact, but that isn't my style
Well, you only get one chance and it's too good to miss
If I didn't lie to ya then I wouldn't exist
Now, the mark (the term for someone being defrauded in a con) has decided to ask for a little reassurance that Bruce is telling the truth and not just selling him a fib, but of course, the practiced fraudster dodges the request for contact information, for a legal contract, by reminding the poor fellow that he can take the offer for glory and gold, or leave it on the table. And we have final confirmation "if I didn't lie to ya, then I wouldn't exist" that this person's sole income comes from cheating; a professional conman.
Greed, lust and envied pride - It's the same old same old way
The smoke and mirror's visions that you see are just like me
I'm a clever banker's face with just a letter out of place
I know someone just like you know someone just like me
Interestingly enough, we move back towards the abstract with this verse, when Bruce extrapolates on the overall meaning of being cheated. That everyone knows "someone just like me" and that being betrayed is "the same old same old way". He compares himself to a magician's "smoke and mirrors", and even to a "clever banker". It almost sounds like the conman is trying to convince himself that he's part of an ancient tradition, and that he is the same as a magician who lies and cheats to entertain, or a banker who will use loopholes to cheat someone, though he is stealing both money and life with his lies.
El Dorado – Come and play
El Dorado – Step this way
Take a ticket for the ride
El Dorado – Streets of gold
See the ship is oversold
You've got one last chance to try
The chorus is the hook and the legend. Streets of gold, and all you have to do is come and play, step this way. So many people are coming along, there's only one spot left – and it's yours, if you dare to chance.
So gone is the glory and gone is the gold
Well, if you need a story how come it has to be told?
Well, you can say I'm a Devil and I wouldn't say no
But out here on the dark side...Hey! On with the show!
The reality of the con. There is no glory, or is there gold. The trickster has taken both from his mark and left them with nothing other than a one-way ticket to death. And of course, the loss of one more soul on the road to El Dorado is a story that'll hardly be told. As already established, the trickster knows he is doing wrong, he is a devil, and he revels in it. You accuse him of being evil, and he smiles and continues to cheat and defraud.
So now my tale is told, big and bad and twice as bold
Their ship of fools is sinking as their cracks begin to grow
There is no easy way for an honest man today
Which is something you should think of as my life boat sails away
He's spun his web and he's issued the con, and the lie has grown "big and bad and twice as bold" as the conman's tale gets more risky, more wild, and more opulent. However, he's still sold enough to fill the doomed ship with tickets, and it's either overloaded with people, or sailing away to doom. After all, "there is no easy way for an honest man today" to make the sort of money our fraud did, and he is reminding the soon-to-be-deceased of this as he hops in his boat and pulls away, laughing, to presumably repeat the trick with new marks.
Of course, this song can serve as a metaphor for any number of illicit activities, such as drug use or even alcoholism, but it makes the most sense when approached from the promise of riches in something like the stock market, or a Ponzi scheme. However, I think it's mostly just intended to be a tale of a man who sold the story of El Dorado like many did – a false hope for any predator to leap upon. And consider it a warning – when someone tells you something that sounds too good to be true... it probably is.
Mother Of Mercy (Smith, Harris)
Lyrically reminiscent of "Afraid To Shoot Strangers", this song shows once again the point of view of a soldier at war. The horrors he's witnessed, and even committed, are briefly described in short but efficient sentences – "Bodies moving, dying." There is once again the question of what the soldier is actually doing on that particular theatre of operations – may it be Iraq or Afghanistan – and what he's killing for.
It is difficult to pinpoint who this Mother of Mercy is, and even the lyrics remain quite evasive about the nature of this character – "Some say you're a lost cause, some say you're a saint." What is certain is that it is some kind of religious character, probably linked to the Virgin Mary in the Christian myth, although there is also a mention that it's the Angel of Death.
Religion – or what Steve Harris calls "bad religion", whatever that means – is being criticised as the apparent cause for the war this soldier is questioning. There is no doubt that he is himself a believer, calling in vain to his god both to forgive him for what he's done, to end all this atrocity. Naturally, none of this is going to happen though divine intervention, as there is no god to overlook the situation – only dangerously deluded people who caused it.
Musically, the song begins quite softly to break into the type of driving rhythm that Iron Maiden has gotten us used to. A good song in any case, despite the fact that some people claim that Bruce is straining his voice.
Coming Home (Smith, Harris, Dickinson)
When it comes to so-called power ballads, Iron Maiden is a band that really stands out. Similar to "Out Of The Shadows" from a musical point of view – only maybe even more emotion-laden – "Coming Home" is actually about Bruce Dickinson's impressions when he flies Ed Force One back to the UK ("To Albion", this being the poetic name for England due to the white cliffs of Kent – Albus = white in Latin, a name actually coined by the French). We all know that Bruce's has been a keen flyer for many years and that he is nowadays a qualified commercial pilot (when he's not touring with the band!) who sometimes flies unusual missions like the airlift of British citizens from Beirut in 2006.
The description of the flight is amazingly poetic too, typical of Bruce's song writing. When you fly, there are indeed no more "borders that divide", and the crossing of the Atlantic can easily be compared to passing over the mass grave of so many sailors. All the images in the lyrics evoke what it's like to be flying, with this extra touch that only Bruce's poetry could bring.
The Alchemist (Gers, Harris, Dickinson)
Janick Gers shows here once again his talent for writing fast, up-tempo songs. This one is extremely reminiscent of "Man On The Edge" and is delivered with all the efficacy Maiden is capable of. This is the only really fast song on the album, and it is in any case a very good little rocker!
The lyrics, once again courtesy of occult-enthusiast Bruce Dickinson, deal with the story of John Dee's life, a famous British mathematician and occultist of the 16th Century. This man seems to have coined the term "British Empire" ("My dreams of empire") for Elizabeth I, his "frozen queen", whom he was advising during her reign. He established the country's supremacy on the sea and oceans through his navigation expertise and Britain owes him a lot for his knowledge.
Sadly, he also dealt with more esoteric matters, like talking to angels, and was acquainted with a conman, Edward Kelly, who also claimed to have occult abilities and spoke with spirits. Kelly eventually persuaded Dee during a long visit abroad that one of the ethereal entities commanded them to share Dee's wife ("you have taken my wife and lain beside her"), which they did, eventually bringing an end to the two occultists' relation. When Dee returned to his English house at Mortlake after spending a few years in continental Europe, he found his house vandalised and the books of his very large library (one of the largest at the time) stolen for the most part ("I was the keeper of the books"). He died in poverty, but is remembered for being a great scholar, albeit a fairly gullible one who believed in spirits and angels. This unfortunate weakness that was exploited by Kelly who was apparently hardly any better than the crook portrayed in "El Dorado".
Isle Of Avalon (Smith, Harris)
Lyrically inspired by the Celtic myth of the Isle of Avalon, a magical place where immortals dwell, this complex song starts with a crescendo reminiscent of the instrumental section of "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son". It is also worth noting that the progressive instrumental mid-section seems to be quite heavily influenced by Rush.
The lyrics can somehow be linked to those of "The Wicker Man" in that they evoke ancient Pagan cults performed by the Celts centuries ago. The underlying meaning seems to express the disregard that man has towards his environment, which is "lying dormant in the eyes of the dead", those dead being an image representing the large majority of the human population on the planet. All hope is not ruled out, though, and those dead can be brought to Avalon (symbolising the Earth-Goddess) for burial and "then for rebirth".
The whole song remains an epic piece with various melodies intertwined (even with a riff off "No More Lies") and subtle rhythm changes. Nothing really new for Maiden, but very enjoyable all the same.
Starblind (Smith, Harris, Dickinson)
Note: What follows was written by LooseCannon on the MaidenFans forum.
The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by Homo Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history.
Robert Heinlein [1907–1988], American author
Where knowledge ends, religion begins.
Benjamin Disraeli [1804–1881], British Prime Minister
I didn't particularly care for this song the first time through The Final Frontier. It was muted in places, and the music didn't click. What I could make out of Bruce's lyrics were, at best, jumbled. The chorus felt catchy, though, and I gave it another few chances as I went through. Finally, the lyrics were put together, and when this song connected to me, I felt like a baseball flying towards a batter's box manned by Babe Ruth: it's a home run. Or a free kick taken by '90s Beckham from 50' for you Euros.
I've long since accepted that it's very rare that a singer shares my particular world view on religion; the only one I'm aware of who's of any sort of fame is Dio, and it's one of the reasons I treasure songs of his like "Heaven & Hell". That particular track expresses exactly how I feel about the subject of religion. "Starblind" mirrors that song. As always, the music isn't my part of the song to comment on, and I'll be tackling what could very well be Bruce's best lyrics of all time.
Take my eyes the things I've seen in this world coming to an end My reflection fades I'm weary of these earthly bones and skin You may pass through me and leave no trace, I have no mortal face Solar winds are whispering, you may hear me call
We must remember Bruce is a master storyteller, and here he is establishing the premise of the story he's going to spin. Someone is ready to die; they're weary of their body and prepared to pass on. The first few passages are laced with heavy metaphor; it's only by analyzing the end of the song that we can realize what Bruce is exactly talking about. The storyteller wants us to see the world through his experiences; he wants us to "take my eyes". However, he then establishes that this person isn't exactly one person, but anyone. They "have no mortal face".
We can shed our skins and swim into the darkened void beyond We will dance among the world that orbit stars that aren't our sun All the oxygen that trapped us in a carbon spider's web Solar winds are whispering, you may hear the sirens of the dead
It's important to set against the later meaning Bruce uses for "startripping". He uses the idea of "dancing among the world that orbit stars that aren't our sun" as a metaphor. While people who believe in the promises of the Bible, the Qu'ran, and other books think they get to live in heaven forever, in reality, they are mundane, trapped in "a carbon spider's web". Those of us who have passed beyond religious thought are enlightened and freed. He's using the comparison to escaping the Earth's atmosphere, something only a few hundred individuals have ever accomplished, and none permanently (save those brave souls who died in space). That's something we didn't achieve through blind faith. The ability to leave this Earth, however momentarily, is a monument to our ability to think and reason: not through belief in a text or religious system that would have us all still as peons scrabbling in a mud-filled field. But some of us throughout time have escaped and thought these dangerous, irreligious thoughts: enlightened minds that call back to us, the sirens born to our ears by solar winds. Folk like Disraeli, and Paine, and Franklin who all thought that religion was bunk, and dared to say so in a time before thought was protected.
Let the elders do their parley meant to satisfy our lust Leaving Damocles still hanging over all their promised trust Walk away from freedoms offered by the jailers in their cage Step into the light startripping over mortals in their rage
We've given the trust of our eternity to elders – those who run the various churches and temples throughout the world, people who are meant to satisfy our desire for eternity, and answer that all present question of what occurs after death. However, Damocles's sword dangles over that promise, as it's only time until we all realize that the promises are empty. The freedoms offered by the jailers mean religious thought; the false hopes offered by priests inside their box of closed thought. And when you walk away from those freedoms (the idea that your sins can be forgiven with 50 Hail Marys), you step into the light. Startripping, as will later be revealed, means that you are capable of travelling above the norm – elevating your level of thought – above those who are angered with the religious condition. It's also an analogy for the inability of mankind to forget what we've learned if we pass it on properly.
Starblind with sun The stars are one We are the light that brings the end of night Starblind with sun The stars are one We are with the Goddess of the Sun tonight
Perhaps this would make more sense if it went "Starblind &ndash with Son". The concept of an afterlife is blinding, but really, it's all the same, a promise to bring an end to the eternal darkness of death. The Goddess of the sun is also an interesting concept: most pagan religions have the sun diety as male, whereas the moon diety is female. Consider Helios and Diana in Greek myth. The German myth, however, has Sunna, the sun goddess. She was known as Sol in the Norse faith.
Sol's task was to run the heavens, chased forever by wolves nipping eternally at her heels, as punishment for arrogance. When Bruce says we're with the Goddess of the Sun, he's reminding us that even the enlightened have dogs baying after them. It's an analogy for how religion tries to tear one back down &ndash consider Copernicus and Galileo, Turing and Tiller, all of whom were killed or impeded or otherwise harmed by religious dogma attacking their job.
The preacher loses face with Christ Religion's cruel device is gone Empty flesh and hollow bones make pacts of love but die alone
It's all the same when we die. Religion's cruel device (the promise of heaven) vanishes. You, I, our families and friends and loved ones will experience the same feelings. We'll be very alone in those last seconds, as we can no longer move, breathe, and do anything but wait those agonizing seconds for the end. Of course, the preacher who told Christ's promises loses face when at the end of his life he's revealed as a liar; and of course, not even the bonds of marriage can transcend death.
The crucible of pain will forge The blanks of sin begin again You are free to choose a life to live or one that's left to lose
Sin, of course, is all but eternal, and we're lying to ourselves if we think we can escape it through worshipping a holy book. The crucible of pain Bruce refers to is nothing more than life itself; life is short and miserable, according to some, but it's all we have. And as Bruce reminds us, you have two choices: a life to live, or a life to lose. Living your life means not worrying about the promise of a religion, but instead, choosing your own morals, rather than those from a Bronze Age text. The life that you have left to lose is the life spent in the devotion of a being that doesn't exist; Sundays in church, moneys on tithes, and in extreme cases, your life on a bus in Tel Aviv or Baghdad with a bomb strapped to your chest. You have everything to gain by living a life free of religion.
Virgins in the teeth of God are meat and drink to feed the damned You may pass through me and I will feel the life that you live less Step into my light startripping we will rage against the night Walk away from comfort offered by your citizens of death
We are reminded that not all eternal promises are good. 72 virgins supposedly await those who die in the service of jihad; those damned souls who end their lives early, needlessly, are searching for an unrequited reward in paradise. Those of us who have rejected the promises of religion cringe sometimes when others waste their lives on what we consider pointless beliefs. And now Bruce makes the meaning of "startripping" known: those of us who choose to rage against the night, live in laughter, and be ready to fight the end of our lives and existence, rather than embrace the end of life in false comfort. It's an analogy for freeing your mind from the bonds of religious thought.
Take my eyes for what I've seen, I will give my sight to you You are free to choose whatever life to live or life to lose Whatever god you know he knows you better than you believe In your once and future grave you'll fall endlessly deceived
The speaker is encouraging those who listen to choose a life path; one that involves religion and another that doesn't. He's had a lifetime of experience, and he wants you to see life through his eyes. He reminds you that your God knows you better than you believe, because that God is a figment of your imagination, and that whatever reward you were promised, you will instead be rotting in your forever final resting place, deceived for a timeless eternity.
Another thought that I had while listening to this verse was about the multiplication of human knowledge. Thanks to our increasing ability to maintain knowledge from one generation to the next (due to the Gutenberg press, the proliferation of universities, computers, and now the Internet), as we "pass on our eyes" – the benefit of the human experience – we become less and less religious in general. The elders no longer die and leave us with words of wisdom; each year brings us millions of new publications, new pieces of art, new albums that add to the bevy of human experience, and increase our understanding of the massive universe and our tiny sliver of it. The elders have given us sight. They gave us the idea of gravity, and the concept of splitting the atom; they taught us to understand biology and read the very imprint of our genetics. They taught us that holy books cannot be unless you believe they can violate rules and laws sacrosanct to physics and chemistry. The eyes of our elders have never been so clear.
Look into our face reflected in the moonglow in your eyes Remember you can choose to look but not to see and waste your hours You believe you have the time, but I tell you your time is short See your past and future all the same and it cannot be bought
Again, the narrator is begging us to look at the choices he's offered. Our lives are short and we have precious few hours to us, even if we believe we have a long life ahead of us. The moon glow, of course, is a reminder that the night quickly approaches the narrator; that he is soon to die. He then reminds us that our "past and future all the same" &ndash death is as not being born was. Unknown. Empty. Nothingness. We don't exist after we die just as we didn't exist before we were born. And, of course, "it cannot be bought" – the afterlife can't be purchased for all the tithes in the world.
Bruce has put together a beautiful and poignant discussion on what it is like to see the world from a certain philosophical viewpoint, specifically, religiouslessness. And for someone like me, who shares that worldview, the song is utterly touching. It hurts, day in and day out, to see the little veils people wear to make themselves believe that their life has more meaning than it does. People who believe they are special without trying to be special. And of course, the nutjobs who pray to Christ after murdering and raping and believe their sins are gone and they'll be rewarded in heaven; people who blow themselves up or fly into buildings for Allah; people who kill doctors or murder their "possessed" children.
The Talisman (Gers, Harris)
With a soft intro similar to "The Legacy", the lyrics set the scene: a large group of people leaving their country of origin to find freedom and – hopefully! – fortune. The narrator explains that this is a flight from trouble they may face in their native land, which could be an indication that these are the religious nuts that Europe didn't want, leaving for America in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. After all, they are praying all the way to their "golden promised land" (not that it did them any good anyway).
It is not clear what the talisman they're sailing by really is, but the main character seems to be the one guiding the fleet towards the new world. Ironically, he dies as they approach the new shore to safety. The "sickness" mentioned is probably scurvy, which is invariably lethal if untreated.
With a soft, "Clansman"-like intro, this is yet another complex song with many harmonies. The story tells us of a man "who would be king" without explaining how, or even king of what. It certainly doesn't appear to be related to Rudyard Kipling's short story of the same name.
The man is in search of atonement for having killed someone apparently in self-defence ("in his mind he had no choice"), although he now seems to question the necessity of his act. The lyrics are a strange mixture of images of the character riding a donkey through the mountains, and pseudo-religious gibberish about God and the "good book".
This is maybe the most cryptic song on the album from a lyrical point of view, but the music is absolutely splendid.
When The Wild Wind Blows (Harris)
Once again a soft intro with Celtic accents leads into a complex and totally enjoyable masterpiece typical of Steve Harris. The song ends as softly as it started, closing a great album in the best way possible.
The lyrics have been loosely inspired by the 1986 animated film When The Wind Blows, itself adapted from Raymond Briggs's graphic novel of the same name. The original story is that of an ageing couple, Jim and Hilda, who prepare for a thermonuclear war, each in his own way – Jim prepares a shelter, while Hilda is preparing tea. After the nuclear explosion that has destroyed everything around their little house in the countryside, they reflect on their past and wonder about the future, all the while exposing themselves to the radiations that eventually kill them. It's a beautiful tale about the madness of the authorities and the helplessness of the people when faced with anihilation.
The song, however, takes a different view, and the couple prepare for the apocalypse so much that they end up in total denial when the news arrive that this is not going to happen. What actually happens is a mere earthquake that scares them so much that they eventually commit suicide with poison, rather than face the aftermath of total destruction. This twist of the tale is quite ironic, mostly when you consider how hard they'd been working to prepare for survival. Well, that's Steve's excellent storytelling style.