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Until about two years ago, I thought of Iron Maiden as a completely overrated band that only owed their success to the fact they were around early enough. Sure, The Number of the Beast and Run to the Hills were decent songs, but to call Maiden one of the best bands in the world… At one point, I even bought The Number of the Beast album. But two weeks later I gave it away to my little brother. Iron Maiden didn’t interest me at all. Until one day, my other brother had one the Somewhere Back In Time best-off album. He had participated in the game for the thrill of winning, not because he liked Iron Maiden. So he gave the album to me. And I gave it a spin. And another one. And another one. At that point, I suddenly was captured by the music, and I could understand why Maiden is one of the most famous heavy metal bands out there.
Somewhere Back In Time only has Bruce Dickinson on vocals, and except for the change of drummer between Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind the line-up is the same throughout the entire album. Which is a very good thing. A change in line-up may change the sound of the band (compare Iron Maiden until 1988 with post-1988 Maiden: the departure of Adrian Smith clearly had its impact), and this is even more true with the change of vocalists. Only recently, I have dared to listen to Iron Maiden from the Di’Anno and Bayley era. So by making sure all songs are sung by Bruce, the album has a coherent sound and feel. For people like me, unfamiliar with the band, this was assuring and makes it easier to enjoy the album.
To get Bruce-only songs on the album, songs from live albums are included. Its somewhat awkward to suddenly hear crowds screaming on the best-of studio albums, or to hear a sudden silence on your live album (which of the two is this album?) . There are interludes with screaming fans or sudden silence, breaking the coherency of the album but these different interludes didn’t bother me. The songs themselves, for example Phantom of the Opera are completely free of crowd sounds, so the album could be a studio best-of.
About the choice of the songs on the album. The albums covered are from Iron Maiden’s best era, with their most popular songs. I even knew some of those! Number of the Beast and Run to the Hills, as two of their most popular known songs. Further we get mainly paced up songs, songs that are easy to enjoy. The Trooper and Wasted Years, with their catchy riffs and scream-along parts, for example. These two are the only songs of the Piece of Mind and Somewhere in Time albums. Compare this with NotB (four songs) and Powerslave (three songs): the albums are not equally represented on this best-off. But as I said before: the more popular songs were chosen.
The best-off unfortunately fails to give a good image of the magic contained within epic songs as Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner or To Tame A Land. The listener never realizes there is a link between the songs taken from the concept album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. But I ended up buying most of their albums and discovering the aforementioned songs and awesome moments.
Somewhere Back In Time is a a very good start for those who don’t know where to start when first discovering Iron Maiden. It provides a good idea of the abilities and creativity of the band. After the first few turns it’s up to the listener to go out and find the full-lengths. Veteran Maiden fans however gain nothing by buying this best-of. But if you already have those great albums in your possession, why would you want to?
I'm going to assume that there are children out there, budding young boys and girls who are, understandably, being exposed to Iron Maiden for the very first time. Or perhaps some older, ripe fans who just never gave the band the time of day based on a hostile predisposition towards metal music or metal fans. Perhaps some sap was simply unaware of the band at all...having spent his/her life under a rock somewhere, or with a nose so far up a book or his own arse that he's never seen the logos, heard about the concerts, seen a kid with a T-shirt. I admit that I may look down upon such ignorami, but that sentiment is coming from a guy who always makes a point to see and hear everything around him, striving to ever improve upon his situational awareness.
But EVEN to these people, who are theoretically discovering Eddie, Bruce, Nicko and Steve for the first time in their lives, I will say: do not waste a fucking penny on the 2008 compilation Somewhere Back in Time: The Best of: 1980-1989. Not only is this collection void of any worth due to its redundant track listing, but to purchase such a thing is only to encourage wasteful, crass commercialism. I address this command towards these initiates only because I cannot imagine any studied metal fan, even the most casual, wasting his hard earned cash on this heap of nonsense. Now I don't know if this album was some sort of contractual agreement or what, but do we all remember the constant tirades Bruce Dickinson was offering on stage when Maiden performed at Ozzfest? Remember the egging incident?
Remember all that talk about American corporations, and greed, and how it was killing our rock shows? Well, Bruce, Somewhere Back in Time: The Best of: 1980-1989 is perhaps the most telling example of hypocrisy I have ever seen in Maiden's history. Whether you wanted this compilation to exist or it was just the record label farming for a few more dollars to stuff in their obese breeches, it is a waste of space, suitably only for immediate recalcitration into the component elements that caused its very being. Round up every copy of this album, take it to a goddamn refinery or recycling pit, and make it so.
Does the track listing even matter? Should we bicker and argue about the contents, about which song deserves to be here and which does not? Has every Iron Maiden fan not already gone through the ultimate Maiden set list countless times in their imagination? As the title would imply, this is a collection of their popular material from the 1980-89 albums. All of which are albums you would already own in full if you give a damn about this band or 80s metal period. There are 15 of them, and the compilation is over 70 minutes in length. Iron Maiden and Killers are ignored with the exception of the live versions of "Phantom of the Opera", "Wrathchild" and "Iron Maiden" from the Live After Death record. Most of the remainder are the more notorious sing along tracks that we all know and love, and probably own somewhere else: "The Trooper", "2 Minutes to Midnight", "Wasted Years", "Can I Play With Madness?", and so forth.
Beyond the inherent, recycled hogwash of its musical content, I can't believe someone had the indecency to mutate the covers of my favorite Maiden albums (Powerslave and Somewhere in Time) into this abomination. Tack on a logo, copy over some master tracks, print a booklet, and profit. What is next, EMI/Maiden, X Factored: The Best of Iron Maiden: 1990-1999? Let me guess, will it contain "Fear of the Dark", "Tailgunner" and "Bring Your Daughter...to the Slaughter?" Don't get any ideas!
I gave this a low score, not because it's got bad songs, not because it's suckass... But because it's the same shit that we've had 2,036 times already. It's ANOTHER greatest hits by Iron Maiden! Let's all buy it, as we've never had these songs on any of our other fucking greatest hit travesties...
We had Best of the Beast, which shares approximately... 9 songs with this 15 song set. Bullshit? You smell it too?
Ed Hunter? 10 (12 if you count live on one, studio on another) 17 Numbers? 5. Wait, that's not so bad... But wait! There's more! Edward the Great? 7.
How many more goddamn best of's do we need? None. Or, at least none with the same tracks as every other (Run to the Hills, Number of the Beast, 2 Minutes to Midnight, The Trooper, Can I Play with Madness, Hallowed be Thy Name) This CD is the equivalent to We Sold Our Soul by Sabbath. But, as Sabbath did, Maiden could easily redeem themselves by putting out the equivalent of "Symptom of the Universe..." We'll call it "The Hits You Haven't Heard! Eddie's Backstock!"
The point is, this brings nothing to the table, and is essentially useless. I can't review the songs, cause they are on EVERY OTHER COMP!
Don't buy this... buy The Essential, since it spaces out it's "hits."
It was many years ago when Iron Maiden became a fundamental name in metal’s household, but taking a little trip back in time can make those days alive again, and with compilation like so, you’re suddenly back in 1985! Intended for newer fans, methinks “Somewhere Back in Time” does an ace-shot job of introducing basic anthems captured between 1980 and 1989, which showcases the finest offshoots of Eddie’s masters. If you‘ve heard of Iron Maiden’s rewarding legacy and wish to understand why they’ve remained one of the genre’s best for such a long period, “Somewhere Back in Time” will rightfully be the proper choice when deciphering the essential numbers of England’s metal masters.
As it’s sniping for those unfamiliar, questioning how enjoyable this effort is doesn’t make much sense; instead, a clueless newbie must identify with Iron Maiden’s signature sound: first-class heavy metal. Right from the start, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray cast forth sweeping harmonies while exercising memorable riffs that stick in your head hours after putting them down, not to mention those crazy solos! Although guitars are primarily leading, Steve Harris’ bass refuses to remain dormant during tunes like “Children of the Damned” in which his finger-plucking madness overrides tiny gaps of blankness, usually appearing like a smoker that just won’t stop. Together with such precision, Bruce Dickinson’s high-flying vocals now infiltrate all the above atmosphere, leading to an epic voyage only this band could lead you on. That, my friends, is Iron Maiden in a paragraph.
“Somewhere Back in Time,” however, lives up to the moniker it represents by barraging unsuspecting newcomers with Iron Maiden’s definite emeralds from their set of legendary recordings. Starting with the famous ones like “Number of the Beast” and “Aces High,” curious subjects will soon find the speed and utter catchiness to match Iron Maiden’s undeniable intelligence, even when observing those duel-melodies on “The Trooper” or Adrian Smith’s knifing solos; just exposing these basic qualities is the only goal, and it is accomplished entirely. Also, the addition of “Wasted Years” and the two aces from Iron Maiden’s seventh opus gives our virgin listeners a chance to hear an experiment of evolutionary electricity and lunar potency that literally rewrote everything the band had acquired, marking a magnificent sub-section of the dynamic seven-album streak that still radiates power like Odin’s valor several years later. It’s how the boys did business, baby!
The amount of compilations in Iron Maiden’s discography is quite outrageous, and trying to pick the right one can be rather straining, but with “Somewhere Back in Time” now on the shelves, you no longer need to shuffle through disc after disc; this here is THE honest taxonomic chapter of Eddie’s creators, capturing every blazing note of Satanic vision and divine prophecy that have carved in a dynasty unlike any other. Fact is, Iron Maiden shined like a supernova from 1980 straight into the final seconds of 1989, making this kicker truly fit for the material it holds within, and unlike previous collections, we aren’t missing a single gem. All other best-of releases are just best-of releases, so execute what doesn’t look fit and enjoy the only Iron Maiden compilation worthy of anyone’s time or money.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com