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By the mid-80’s, Maiden became undoubtedly the biggest most acclaimed heavy rock band in the planet, selling millions of records and playing spectacular shows worldwide. The iconic double live album Live After Death was the culmination of their career, reflecting the brilliance and splendor of the classic Dickinson-Harris-Murray-Smith-McBrain line-up at its best on stage. It also meant the end of an era, inevitably. The band survived to the scandalous decline of the NWOBHM, the birth of new subgenres like thrash and death, and the invasion of glam/hair rock groups in the charts successfully, although the metal scene would go through more changes Maiden had to face. Somewhere In Time is actually slightly uninspired and more commercial than its predecessors, adapting its sound to those times current trends.
Steve and co. are determined still to make it epic and advanced. Cuts like the ambitious “Caught Somewhere In Time” with the addition of that rude organ or “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” and its varied sequences represent these guys’ predilection for sophistication and progression. Lyrically, those songs are simple, nearly dumb if we refer to the tiring main line repetition, in contrast with the exquisite instrumental development and execution, which provide the music of skilled rich passages, alternative riff series and extended solos. Those schemes of complexity and refinement reach a higher level of ambition on “Alexander The Great”, the most elaborated intricate piece of the pack, incorporating a bigger variety of arrangements and instrumental variations with Dave & Adrian’s riff progression designing a vivid climax. The result is satisfactory, yet you can’t put it in the same level of the previous record also pretentions classic “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”, because this one is lacking certain consistency and direction. On the contrary, numbers like “Wasted Years” and “Stranger In A Strangeland” feature a much easier configuration, generally vocal-based with repetitive choruses taking control over the instruments, which are relegated to support the supremacy of Bruce’s verses. Those 2 are very polite and tender, denying the dynamism and power of the rest, rather melancholy and sentimental with Dickinson’s voice almost tortured. A passionate performance deprived of the difficulty and versatility of “Heaven Can Wait”, which is an also catchy sing-along title that combines several sequences of distinct tempo and reasonable riff modifications that turn almost inexistent on humble generic compositions as “Deja-Vu” and “Sea Of Madness”, the most unoriginal forgettable moments here.
The group is alternating straight songs with complex ones, constantly providing them of melody and incessant vocals. There are no notable changes in comparison with the preceding record Powerslave epic material, with the exception of a much severe presence of synthesizers they would later make bigger use of on the following album Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. So these guys had a clear resolution for making more technical music, giving it a wider diversity of textures with those stratospheric bass & guitar synths giving them an ideal atmosphere. Instrumentally, mid-80’s Maiden were superior and more ambitious, providing their cuts of lengthier better defined passages and pickin’ parts and more immaculately constructed structures. However, this material remains accessible, due to the omnipresent huge percentage of melody and intentionally repetitive choruses intended to make the listener sing along, pushing roughness and aggression away completely. Their peers from Def Leppard and Saxon were using a similar tactic back then, though their poorer music lacked the precision and complication of Maiden’s instrumental series. So Dickinson and co. haven’t sold out in these tracks, but their nature makes them clearly commercial intentionally or not. The overproduced climax and those cheesy synthesizers are making this stuff so mellow too. Musically, this record has got weaker, less fluent than the previous LP’s jewels. Some instrumental parts are satisfactory and solid while other get rather unfocused and inconsistent. In particular, the bigger presence of verses proves the lack of originality and sense of some titles. On other hand, no other Maiden record was that catchy, cheerful and plenty of vocals you can sing along that will get engraved in your mind, for sure (well, maybe the homonym debut).
Curiously, if you watch those vintage Youtube interviews conducted by Mick Wall on Sky Channel, you’ll see how satisfied Maiden were with this album. Steve, Bruce and Adrian thought it was the best thing they ever did by then, their greatest work (Dave still preferred Piece Of Mind instead). Time has passed and I guess they changed their minds about it, especially after the discreet success this material had (in contrast with its predecessor musically, of course, because it was certified Gold and Platinum in some countries), which wasn’t that well-received by the most diehard fans and strict music press. The band has played again some of these forgotten tunes live lately, though 80% of these remain usually ignored. Certainly, Somewhere In Time is the most underrated Maiden LP of the 80’s, better things were yet to come. This one represented the end of the continuity of their golden age.
Iron Maiden. We know 'em, we love 'em, and they helped heavy metal gain momentum in the '80s. To say that this band is one of the best would be a total understatement. Their complex guitar riffs and hooks have put them on the map and have made them one of the most successful bands ever to grace the earth. After touring for "Powerslave", though, Maiden decided to do some musical experimenting. The result was "Somewhere in Time", an album unlike anything Maiden had done before. Unlike experiments from other bands at the time, Maiden's was a huge success, and is a favorite among some of its fans. It's not my personal favorite album, but I can see why they like it.
What's this? Is that a synthesizer?? It is! It's a synthesizer on an Iron Maiden album! But how could this be? How come it doesn't ruin the music? Could it be that it's trying to convey the tone and the mood of the album rather than trying to make it sound glossy and slick? The answer is yes, cos good old Steve Harris and company want to use it to make actual music, not money. Instead of drowning out the guitars, it serves as a perfect backdrop for them, and they set the stage for a mystifying, yet majestic sound. The guitars give that sound a boost, but more on them later. Most bands who use the synthesizer use it to give their music a futuristic pop sound that they hope the general public (i.e. high school cheerleaders) would eat right up. You don't get that here. Instead, the synthesizer only supplements the awesome power of the music rather than trying to be the music itself.
The synthesizer isn't the only small change that Maiden made to their sound. Unlike their previous works, the guitar riffs on this album are catchy, but they're not forgettable and annoying like songs from other bands. No, this is Dave and Adrian we're talking about here, and they've clearly put some effort into making those riffs (like they usually do). Their dual-guitar harmonics are also evident and are also catchy, especially on "Deja Vu" and "Caught Somewhere in Time". "Deja Vu", in particular, is my personal favorite track on the album. Its dual-guitar harmonics and melodic riffs make it epic, yet mysterious-sounding, almost frightening, and it doesn't need a ripping solo to do the job! "Sea of Madness" and the all-time classic "Wasted Years" show that the choruses are catchy too. Yet instead of repeating the song's title over and over to try and get the song jammed into people's heads, they are poetic and creative and they deliver a perfect message.
Despite doing some bold experimentation on this album, the changes Iron Maiden have made are tiny, and they didn't really affect their sound at all. In fact, they actually punctuated the album's sound and have made the music more dramatic than Maiden's previous efforts. They have created an amazing album as usual, and it helped push their career further on for twenty more years.
This album seems to be the forgotten gem in Maiden's discography. You don't even have to like metal to have heard of songs like Number of the Beast or Run to the Hills. And I haven't met too many people who haven't heard of Aces High or Two Minutes to Midnight. But ask anyone about Somewhere in Time and you often don't get much of a reaction. This album had no big single that everyone knows about, and despite how great this album is, it seems often overshadowed by Maidens other masterworks.
BUT WHY!? This album is damn near flawless! And yet even the band themselves don't play much off of this album. Wasted Years and Heaven Can Wait are the only songs you have ANY chance of seeing get played live by them anymore. And I think it's ridiculous! Oh yeah, play freaking Futureal and Sign of the Cross but no Caught Somewhere in Time!? No Alexander the Great!!?? NOT EVEN FUCKING DEJA VU!!??
So yeah, this album is the masterpiece that is forgotten, which is a shame because it just may be Maiden's best ever. This is the first album to have synthesizers popped into the music, but no keyboards like on Seventh Son, just guitar and bass synths. And the addition is subtle in parts and grandiose in others, but is definitely a fantastic addition to the bands already epic sound. Just listen to the AWESOME intros to the opener or Heaven Can Wait. It sounds fantastic and creates more of that science fictiony feel the band was going for on this album. And though not a concept album, the theme of time is apparent on most of the songs here. All except Sea of Madness, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, and Heaven Can Wait have time as a theme if you count Alexander the Greats historical lyrics as being time oriented.
And lyrically this album is top notch. Every song has a catchy chorus that sticks in your head (in the case of Heaven Can Wait perhaps a little too sticky). I've had every song stuck in my head at least a hundred times I swear. And the lyrics aren't just stupid catchiness, they are original, and at times hard to decipher. I'm still not 100% what Caught Somewhere in Time is about, but the lyrics have an intellectual feel to them the whole damn album. Alexander the Great's lyrics are literally just historical facts, somehow pulled off in a melodic fashion by the legend himself, Bruce Dickinson.
And the vocals are as good as it gets as well. I can hear him belting out 'Time, Is Always on my Side' right now as I'm writing this review. If you've listened to Dickinson era Maiden before (and by god, you really should get on that if you haven't) you know how awesome the vocals are. But if you SOMEHOW haven't, his vocals are just godlike. Operatic in quality and precision, with the power of a nuclear bomb. There isn't much more to say. Other then that he is Bruce Dickinson, and he rules you!
Instrumentally is what really makes this album stand out. The galloping bass which is so loud in the mix it can and will crush your ribcage. The dueling guitars and the fantastic drumming of the weirdest named person in metal. The strings as I mentioned are accompanied by synths in some parts, but not throughout the whole album. It certainly is not abused. I don't see how anyone would find the synth accompaniment a nuisance, but if you need your metal absolutely purely guitar-bass-drums then I have wasted your time.
The songs are all fantastic, with no filler whatsoever. Caught Somewhere in Time serves as my favourite Maiden song as of now, with it's infectious intro and pounding bass, and the grand instrumental section in the middle. Wasted Years is the closest thing this album had to a hit, and with that amazing guitar intro who wouldn't like it? An emotional vocal delivery makes this a Maiden classic. Sea of Madness is one of my favourites, and is probably the fastest on here, and who can resist the 'OHHHHHHohohOHHHHH, My eyes they see, but I can't believe!'. Just awesome. Heaven Can Wait is best known for its chorus, but I favor the bass intro and the choral section in the middle. Though I;m not going to deny the infective power of that chorus...
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is my least favourite song on here, and is certainly the least memorable. The intro is great though, and I still never skip it. Stranger in a Strange Land follows, and is the second weakest track in my opinion. But the main riff is excellent and I can't help but scream in my car: "LAND OF ICE AND SNOOOOOOOOW!" Deja Vu is favourite of mine, and is the only song here not breaking through the 5 minute mark. But it is still one of the finer songs here. And of course, ending with a Maiden epic is the excellent Alexander the Great. Though on the whole an excellent song, the instrumental section should've been trimmed a tiny but I feel. But still a great ender to a near-perfect album.
**EDIT**: After more listens, Lonliness... has become a favourite of mine. Stranger in a Strange Land is what I consider the weakest track, but it still kicks ass. So now I certainly consider this to be a PERFECT album that you must now go buy!
Original lyrics, great use of synthesizers, and excellent songwriting add up to one of metals best records, Iron Maiden's forgotten opus Somewhere in Time gets a 100 out of 100 or a 5 out of 5.
Caught Somewhere in Time
Sea of Madness
Heaven Can Wait
Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner
Stranger in a Strange Land
Aleaxander the Great
By 1986, Iron Maiden had enjoyed four years of great success and respect in the metal community. They had created three original albums in that four-year span, largely to the genius of Adrian Smith and the iron (no pun intended) vocal chords of Bruce Dickinson. Paul Di'Anno's Maiden had its charm, but this was the Big Leagues. Yet, Maiden's originality was starting to wear thin. Not content to keep cranking out paint-by-numbers metal CD's, they took the perfect course of action: a concept album, specifically about time travel. Results are wildly successful.
First thing I should mention is production. It's every bit as slick as it was on Powerslave, and that is even more vital on an album with a notably more "technical" style. This adds hugely to the experience.
At the time, many metal bands employed synths to try and sound "modern". This could either succeed greatly or fall hilariously flat (Judas Priest, anyone?). Fortunately, Somewhere in Time's synths are hardly noticeable, save for the opening to Caught Somewhere in Time, my favorite track on the album. The synthesizers are well-done here and contribute greatly to an already-great song. The synths do add to the atmosphere in places, like the chorus to Heaven Can Wait, but ultimately do not try to steal the spotlight. And that is a good thing for sure.
Guitar work is stellar through and through. Riffs are almost as good as Powerslave, better than Number of the Beast....which is to say, somewhere on par with Piece of Mind. The guitars actually sound a little bit formulaic, but when the formula works so well, there's no need for radical change. Solos are fantastic. This album contains some of the best solos in Maiden's career (Wasted Years, Sea of Madness, Stranger in a Strange Land) the solos aren't as blazing as on past albums, but in a way you can feel the passion in them, and that is incredible.
Songwriting is very good. While some songs are mildly campy (Heaven Can Wait) and some have flat-out ridiculous bits (Deja Vu) there is much poignancy to be found. The album's hit single, Wasted Years, is amazingly inspirational, a reflection on the futility of living a bitter life. Caught Somewhere in Time has a mystical feel, and is truly memorable. Writing is grade-A, but still not the zenith of Maiden's career.
The songs here are mostly gallopers, in the vein of The Trooper or Run to the Hills, but galloping songs are what Maiden does best. Steve Harris's bass is great as always, and Nicko actually does fantastically in sections on the drums. The only song that does not fit this description is Alexander the Great, a pretty fantastic Maiden epic which chronicles the titular ancient Greek hero.
Unlike most concept albums, any song from Somewhere in Time could be taken out and used as a single, and no aspect of the song or it's juxtaposition lost. This is normally a good thing, though sometimes a bit disappointing. Nothing here is filler, but not quite every song is top-notch, most notably Heaven Can Wait and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. But underrated gems like Deja Vu, singalongs like Wasted Years and cool, alien-sounding epics like Stranger in a Strange Land far outnumber the weaker material. A must-have for all Maiden fans.
In all metal discussions, when it comes to the question ’’What is Maiden’s best album?’’, almost everyone will immediately say ’’The Number of the Beast’’ or ’’Powerslave’’ or ’’Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’’. Maybe someone will point out the self-titled debut or ’’Killers’’ as the hint of what Maiden have been at the beginning of their career. What about this album?
Well, ’’Somewhere in Time’’ is definitely the most neglected and underrated Maiden album. There are no words that can describe how unjustly that is, because, in my opinion (and a lot of people on this site seem to agree with me), this is the best Maiden album ever, their swan song. In fact, I firmly believe that this is one of the best and most influential albums in whole metal. Let me explain why...
Every band member was in top shape while recording this album: Bruce Dickinson and Nicko McBrain put up performances of their careers here (especially Nicko’s drumming is amazing), Steve Harris is as great as ever on the bass, same to be said for Adrian Smith and Dave Murray on guitars. I must point out Smith’s contribution to songwriting; he wrote even three songs out of eight, and those songs are the absolute pinnacle of his songwriting, save it for ’'2 Minutes to Midnight’’.
I won’t do a track-by-track review, I’ll just say that ’’Caught Somewhere in Time’’, ’’Wasted Years’’ and ’’Alexander the Great’’ are the best songs on here. ’’Caught Somewhere in Time’’ is an amazing opener, 7 minutes of pure Maiden madness, it gives you a good clue of how this album sounds like. ’’Wasted Years’’ is probably the best radio-friendly Maiden song ever, with amazing music, lyrics and truly unforgettable chorus and solo by Smith. ’’Alexander the Great’’ is on top of Maiden epic songs, along with ’’Hallowed Be Thy Name’’ and ’’Rime of the Ancient Mariner’’. It describes military marches of the great Macedonian emperor. Musically, it is probably the best song Maiden have ever written, just listen how they managed to conjure up the overall atmosphere of ancient Greece. All the other songs are amazing too, but I won’t tell you everything, you should experience this majestic album for yourself!
Comparisons to their other masterpieces such as ’’Powerslave’’ or ’’Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’’ are inevitable, but in this case, they are completely useless. This album is a world of its own. Never before and never again Maiden sounded this powerful, brutally heavy and progressive (yes, progressive, I’ll explain that later). The production is also totally different from anything Maiden have ever done, with guitar and bass synths for the first time, downtuned (not nu metal downtuned) bass and guitars, which creates a futuristic atmosphere. This album is totally experimental for the band on that department. I’ve heard complaints that this is worst production Maiden had in the '80s. Bullshit, it matches with songs perfectly and it raises this album to a higher level. Also, it is their most ’80s sounding album, and because of that it may seem dated, but that would be deadly wrong, because it creates a feeling of nostalgia for metal’s most glorious times. It really gives a lot of charm to this already stunning record.
But all of that would be irrelevant if the songs were bad. I assure you, they are not. Some of the best Maiden songs are to be found here (the forementioned trio) and some of the underrated too (Sea of Madness, Stranger in a Strange Land, Deja Vu). If you listen to every song separately, you might think ’’Hey, the songs are nothing special, Maiden have way better songs than these’’. Could be, but as a whole, they are brilliant. This is a true example of an album that is way more than just a sum of its parts.
I mentioned earlier that this is a very progressive album. Yes, it is progressive, but not in the Dream Theater way, but in a more sophisticated way. You can clearly see that in the intro melody of ’’Caught Somewhere in Time’’, interlude of ’’Sea of Madness’’, bridges and choruses of ’’The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’’ and the whole ’’Alexander the Great’’. It’s just amazing. What’s even more interesting, some of those ’’secret’’ melodies appear only after a lot of listening. You can also find this on ’’Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’’. Albums like this make metal to be much more than just a genre of popular music, to be true art.
The influence that this album made on other artists is obvious. Along with ’’Powerslave’’ and ’’Seventh Son’’ it crucially influenced power metal. These records could be the crucial points in the band's legacy, since the whole European power metal scene is undoubtedly heavily influenced by Maiden’s mid to late ’80s albums; to name a few bands: Helloween, Gamma Ray, Iron Savior etc.
I almost forgot to mention the unbelievable album cover, done by brilliant Derek Riggs. It's incredibly complex, with a lot of references to Maiden's past works (my favourite being the silhouette of their former singer Paul Di'Anno in the window shop). A special cover for a special album, indeed.
Overall, this is Maiden’s magnum opus in lot of ways, and therefore it’s such a pity it’s not given more attention nowadays. I hope that one day it will have the deserved reputation. Until then, it will remain to be the underdog in Maiden’s discography. If you haven’t listened to this yet, get a copy as soon as possible, give it a chance, you won’t be dissapointed, I guarantee you. Up the Irons!
Somewhere in Time is loved by virtually every metalhead in the world, has amazing riffs, vocals and solos and is in my opinion the best album Iron Maiden has released so far (along with Brave New World and Powerslave). This album's lineup (with Murray, Smith and Dickinson) is the one that made Iron Maiden one of the most famous heavy metal bands of all time (and in my country, by far the most famous). Given the album’s fame and critical reception (even if the latter was not as great as in Powerslave), it is natural to ask me some questions before reading my review. The first and most important one is certainly “why the hell would you review an album that every single person living on our crappy planet knows about?”, and the answer is that this album means a lot to me. It was the first metal album that I owned, and it was also the one that got me into metal.
And what an in introduction to the genre I had! The band’s members were inspired as hell when they recorded this. The songwriting is very solid: there are no overused riffs or choruses and you feel the need to hold your breath for as long as a solo lasts. Dickinson was shut out of the songwriting process, since he was not extremely inspired from 1984 to 1986 (can you remember his “contributions” to Powerslave?) but his vocals are even more emotional and epic than in Maiden’s previous releases. Even the predictable lyrics (if you guess what Bruce sings during the chorus of "Caught Somewhere in Time" correctly you WILL NOT win a cookie) helps to set the atmosphere.
Technically speaking, this album is great. The guitar synthesizers and the vocals are clearly highlighted by the production, and the guitars are much heavier and more aggressive than in previous Maiden’s releases, where the band played heavy metal riffs with hard rock guitars. The drums are typical 80’s heavy metal drums. They are faster than usual, but apart from that detail they are just your regular Iron Maiden drums. By the way, this recording is much faster and much more technical than Maiden’s previous works, and the synthesizer fits perfectly with the music, which is weird since this is Iron Maiden's first attempt at using one. It is definitely cheesy sometimes, but hey, this is a cheesy album after all. The only thing that kept me from giving 100% to this album is the lack of bass: the band focused their attention on the highs, and the production ended up taking the bass out of all the songs except Wasted Years and Sea of Madness. The bass is not inaudible or unnoticeable, but since Iron Maiden usually focuses on the bass, it is weird to see it as a secondary instrument.
The album begins with one of the most emotional songs Iron Maiden has ever recorded: “Caught Somewhere in Time”. The riff that introduces us to this album is powerful, slow and truly creative, but the song gets even better as the time passes. The melodies are carefully constructed, the guitar synthesizer does its job forcefully and riffs are given birth to at an alarming rate, but they aren’t simply discarded: we get to see most of them appearing at least twice while the song lasts. Dickinson does an astounding performance thorough this song, and his vocals are highlighted by the (very clean) production. “Caught Somewhere in Time” is not only a perfect introduction to an almost flawless album but also the best possible prelude to the song that is in my opinion one of the finest (if not the finest) song that Maiden has ever delivered.
The second song, Wasted Years, is the only song in this album that doesn’t use synthesizers, and… Meh. Honestly, trying to describe this song is painful for me: it is my favorite song from the album, it is my favorite song from Iron Maiden, and it is simply my favorite song ever. For real, it is probably the best song ever recorded. The riff that introduces the song is perfect; the vocals are perfect, and the solo... Will you believe me if I tell you that I actually cried when the solo met the vocals at 3:41? This song is interesting because it is both emotional and traditional, relying on an amazing solo and a powerful chorus while not needing the help of synthesizers. I am not trying to say that the use of synthesizers was a mistake in this album; I am just saying that this song proved me that Harris knew exactly where one would fit and where one wouldn’t.
“Sea of Madness” is the most powerful song in the album when it starts, suddenly becomes the calmest one at 2:53, when the guitars begin doing minimal sounds and the bass becomes the focus and at 3:40 the mighty reverb of the guitars come back with more powerful and emotional riffing. The bass line (the second best of this album) makes me feel very optimistic while listening to it and the synthesizer delivers some of the cheesiest riffs I have ever seen, which is ironical, considering that this song has one of the darkest and most pessimistic lyrics that Harris has ever written.
“Heaven Can Wait” is another song that is way too happy for its lyrics: the chorus is happy and catchy, and yet Bruce is singing about a person who died but cannot accept going to heaven because there is too much left undone on the Earth. This song is weird because it has all the elements that it needs in order to be a great song, but it feels like filler. It is actually very enjoyable and has that epic feeling that is omnipresent in this album, but the rest of the album is so great that it feels like “Heaven Can Wait” is simply there to increase the album’s length. Thankfully, just after it is over we get to hear “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”, a song that suffers from weak lyrics, but overwhelms anyone with its sad lead introduction and its riffing. The melodies created here are among the most beautiful of the album (in terms of melody this song is as good as Déjà Vu and Wasted Years) and at 3:30, during the solo, there is one of the most interesting lead breakdowns that were ever written, which is followed by the climax of the song.
While all of the other songs in this album would be rated as masterpieces by anyone who listened to them, “Stranger in A Strange Land” is simply good, which is a terrible surprise. This is not one of the best metal songs that were ever written, and since this album is full of those I sometimes skip this song. I wouldn’t be brave enough to skip this song in (almost) any other album, but since every time I put this album on the maximum volume I am suddenly surrounded by some of the best stuff that was ever written I feel that it is unnecessary to listen to the overly calm vocals and the not-so-creative bass line. The solo here is amazing, and is the only part of the song that can be compared to the rest of the album.
Déjà Vu is not only excellent, but also one of the catchiest songs that were ever written by Harris. Melodically speaking, this is one of the most beautiful and creative songs ever to exist. It starts out slowly (just like half of the album) and progresses towards awesomeness. The vocals here are the second best of the CD (unfortunately nothing beats Wasted Years) but during the chorus they are backed up by the lead guitars in a way that makes it (the chorus) my favorite one of all times.
The album is finally over with “Alexander the Great”, an historical masterpiece that unfortunately has an introduction that lasts for way too long. Or not: While the introduction feels long, I doubt that it would have the same effect if it was ten seconds shorter. The lyrics are weak, but the theme is great (yes, it is actually possible) and the riffing and soloing as close to perfect as music can be. “Alexander the Great” runs for more than eight minutes, but you will enjoy every second of it, with the possible exception of the very start (the song begins with some narration, which is backed up by wind effects).
This album should be owned by anyone that enjoys living, which doesn’t exclude people who simply are not into metal at all. It is not only Iron Maiden’s best work, but also one of the best works that were ever done. Each song is almost perfect, and if played from beginning to end, the album is simply amazing. I wish I could rate this 100, but I can’t help but miss Harris’ bass a little.
Here we have a beloved album by metal titans Iron Maiden. This album gets fellated all the time by fans as perfect epic power metal and other terms of praise. Well everyone has an opinion but those that love this album are apparently finding something that I’m not, as this thing is weak outside of a few good to great tracks.
The first thing you notice on this is the guitar synths and the very different tone from prior Maiden classics. Personally I think this album sounds like crap. The synths tend to dominate the mix and really detract from the guitars and drums. Then you get to the song writing. Well if not for Adrian Smith this would have been a terrible album on par with the Blaze material. Songs packed with unmemorable riffs with weak choruses abound on this disc. The title song is a prime example. Bruce just sings “Caught somewhere in Time” over and over and it jars me every time I listen to it, not to mention those crappy synths I was talking about earlier. It’s got a good Maiden gallop but that can’t save it. Bruce sounds great but the chorus has no real flow to my ears. Heaven Can Wait is a prime example of Maiden writing songs for the live environment that don’t really hold up at home listening to the album. It’s not bad but it’s not really good, it just goes and then is over with plenty of opportunities for sing along by the crowd at a gig. Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner is another track that seems like it has potential but weak lyrics and by the numbers riffage makes me lose interest soon. The chorus, like the title track’s, really does nothing and sounds forced. The closing track is another one that gets much love from fans of this album but it seems like an attempt to write another Rime type epic. It fails. Its riff is decent but the song is just middling and a bit boring and at times the lyrics sound forced like Bruce is having trouble making Steve’s writing flow melodically.
Did I mention I hate the synth sound on this album? The next disc would incorporate such things much better.
The drumming is quite fine but wasted on this substandard material. Good Lord Nicko’s bass drum foot is so damn fast! With that kind of speed who needs a double bass kit? I think he was really coming into his own here, not to downplay his great playing on earlier discs. Another high point is the generally high quality solos, especially H’s work on Wasted Years and Stranger in a Strange Land. The instrumental work is all well played for what it is, but it’s just not very interesting on repeated listens.
It’s not all bad so let’s get to the good. The first single “Wasted Years” is amazing. The main riff and the bass work are amazing, as is the emotion that Bruce is able to get into the lyrics and vocal melody. His voice soars on this but one thing soars higher, Adrian’s solo. Holy shit. That is an emotional solo. It’s so perfect in the way it fits the song that for me it’s the best guitar solo of all time. Not crazy shredding or anything, just pure emotional playing to fit the song. The only way I can describe how it makes me feel is to borrow from the song, “It makes me want to cry, and throw my hands up to the sky”! Typical song structure but really done well.
The next track is another quality piece by H with a slamming galloping riff and baseline that just moves the listener to bang that head. Great vocals and strong lyrics add to it with the usual excellent effort by Mr. McBrain. This is a rock solid tune that really helps boost my rating of this album. The chorus flows and the song flow with it, good songwriting.
The final song of note is another Smith creation, “Stranger in a Strange Land”. It is another emotional piece with lyrics of failed exploration and death. Bruce just nails it highlighting the emotional nature and then Smith hits us with another amazing solo. He was really nailing it here and carried the album in many places. Speed wanking on the fret board is impressive for a few minutes but real emotional playing is so much better and so much more satisfying in the long run and that is just what Adrian is giving us here. Go H go.
Ultimately they tried and the potential was there but the execution didn’t hold up. Dickinson was shut out of the songwriting process and ‘arry was not able to craft the good ideas into good songs. Throw in synths overpowering the rest of the music at times and you have an album that could have been great but falls well short. Thankfully they would get it back together for the next album, which would be the last really great Iron Maiden album.
How to grab autothrall by the balls and never let go: Adorn your album in a swank, futuristic city scene on a wraparound cover, loaded with little details and 'easter eggs' that not only affix to various cultural references, but also to some of the songs on the album and other self-referential overtures. Make sure Eddie is present with lazer gun and pecs, having gone all Blade Runner through cybernetics and a will to kill. Next, make sure you include eight of the best songs your band has ever written, with a truly surreal, progressive tinge of processed guitars, lyrics dabbling in contemporary science fiction, or in the lives of sweeping historical figures, or other various films or stories. Add a little synthesizer and wash it all out in the reverb-heavy 80s production values that are sadly lacking in today's...forward movements in sound.
Congratulations, you've got two testicles in a vice. Be careful with them. With great power comes great responsibility. 666 may be The Number of the Beast, but 6th is the album I hold before me, my personal favorite of the band's entire career, ever so slightly edging out the also-flawless Powerslave. And I'll come clean, it's largely due to the particular nostalgia I have always felt for Somewhere in Time. My go-to album. My desert island affair. And one of the most outstanding pieces of recorded music I have the privilege to own. The most 'classic' lineup of the band: Harris, Dickinson, Murray, Smith, McBrain, all out in finest form, reaching deep into their collective imagination to produce a masterwork of poise and polish, a progressive half-step between the swashbuckling fortitude of its predecessor and the gleaming psychological vistas eschewed by the following Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
It honestly surprises me at times that I fancy this album so, because when I usually think of the aggressive, classic Maiden, the first sounds that come to mind are always those staples of other albums like Piece of Mind or Killers, "Aces High" or "2 Minutes to Midnight". And while Somewhere in Time does wear some related footwear to those last two, there is some subtle nuance to the writing here which ever compels me into its dreaming, reflective vistas of expression. This is the best album when it pertains to a complete experience. There is no other which feels as right to play for 51 minutes straight, track 1 all the way to 8. Some might argue that it lacks the power or emotion of several other Iron Maiden offerings, but what better emotion could be evinced from a work of metal music than an all-expense-paid immersion into the future and past, 'A Christmas Carol' with Eddie at the helm in place of a trio of cautionary phantasms.
A cheesy yet extraordinary synth serves as an aegis to the carefully construed melodies of "Caught Somewhere in Time", soon to disappear under the momentum of the band's triplet charging madness, and Dickinson's crystalline, wavering tones that spin a yarn of two travelers in time, the one goading the other through an infinity of windows and adventures. Sure, the chorus is as daft and obvious as the song title, like you'll find in about 95% of all music, but it delivers. The bridge work here is phenomenal, with gorgeous melodic lines cascading about the mid-paced thrust of the bass and rhythm guitars. It doesn't hurt that the band is about to follow with what might be one of their single best songs in history. I refer of course to the tantalizing, signature volley of notes that introduces "Wasted Years", a song with a surprisingly blue-collar, rocking ethic to the verses that feels not unlike other hard rockers of the 80s, Saxon or Def Leppard, albeit with Bruce at the helm. But the chorus is beyond unforgettable, with the layered vocals shifting over some of the most simplest and life affirming chords in all metaldom.
If only we could bottle up the emotional resonance of that song, and take it with us, to drink all our days and forget the ravages of mundane existence. Oh, it's called an .mp3 player? "Sea of Madness", one of the lesser known tracks of this album (shocking, I know) emerges next from the phlogiston, with a nice interplay between the cheesy synth and guitar in the verse, and another siren-like, inescapable chorus that turns us over to the bump and trot of the 2nd verse. There's also a pretty lowdown and moody passage that cycles through the center of the track, if only to bring back the powerful reverb of the guitars once more. "Heaven Can Wait", like "Wasted Years" is one of the most accessible, or radio-friendly pieces on the album. Surprisingly, did not rate a video or single back in those days, but the scorching chorus of vocals, ringing melodic guitars and lightly seasoned backup synth will surely create a sensation of warmth through your being long after the fire of the solo has died and the bass swerves us out.
The second half of Somewhere in Time is all the more pensive, beginning with "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", a psychological study of the film and book of the same name, and the very act of extreme athleticism which they involve. But this is no "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", and though the lyrics might ponder, the music races along with the band's usual index of melodies and forceful rhythms, including the epic lead break at 3:30 which every goddamn power metal band since just wishes they could have written first. "Stranger in a Strange Land" is sadly only a reference to the Robert A Heinlein novel in name. However, the story of an arctic explorer finding a frozen body is deep enough to satisfy, especially when one can put yourself in the fictional skin of the character and think of the lyrics from a first person perspective. There is a nice, proggish blues moment in the chorus where the guitars paddle along through the timestream, and the bass accompanying the solo break is a delight.
"Déjà Vu" leads down further paths of flight, wonderful harmonies erupting one of the more powerful verse rhythms of the album, with Bruce dishing out some of the more venomous tones as he careens towards his glittering chorus 'Feel like I've been here before'. I can assure you, no, Iron Maiden has not been here before. The marching drums and hammering guitar of the bridge leads into another soothing triple melody with the guitars and synth. The album ends with the 8 and a half-minute historical epic "Alexander the Great", and the riffing represents various elements of the man's life. War, politics, ambition, and glory can all be felt through the guitar patterns, yet the lyrics are played pretty straight, a simple narrative of the figure's acclaimed destiny. Before 4:00 the track goes a little awol into prog rock territory, you may feel a little 80s Rush or Yes in this, which of course serves as an omen of their next album. After that, some great, moody percussion and slowly wound leadwork arrives like a soldier on an elephant, and it all ends like the closure of some mighty procession.
If you can't tell the forest for the trees, Somewhere in Time is mandatory listening, whether you dabble in Maiden on a regular basis or you're some curious child, or perhaps you've been doing missionary work in some exotic land for the past 24 years and hadn't had any access to this particular treasure vault. It's neither the heaviest of the band's efforts nor the most remembered by the howling masses at their live gigs, who seem to content themselves with just a hit by hit track-ography of all their classic albums, but damn, what I would pay to see the band perform this in its entirety. This is actually the last of the band's 'crucial' discography. Seventh Son is a Seventh Son and Brave New World are both great, don't get me wrong, but if I was forced to choose sides and sharpen the band's career to the very finest edge, it would begin with Killers and end on the final notes of "Alexander the Great".
Hope you've enjoyed my Iron Maiden discography!
Highlights: 24 years worth across 51 minutes.
I don't get it. As in, I don't get the way things work with regards to Iron Maiden and the relationship between them, their albums, and their fans. The first album is often considered a classic, but usually only by fans who started with that album or who were around when it first came out. Other than that it's underrated. The same applies to Killers - and I'm not really talking about the mainstream media here, this is almost all to do with the fans. Also quite underrated. Then we get Number Of The Beast, which I would very comfortably call overrated, but good nonetheless. Then - well, then we get the four albums where Maiden were at about their most epic, and apparently each one was a stepping stone in the right direction, but while Piece of Mind is considered a strong album, it's often regarded as inferior to Powerslave, which along with the album after this one is among the most overrated albums in metal history. Hell, Powerslave isn't even metal most of the time(that, however, is another review).
My point is that, to be blunt, a lot of the opinions of most Maiden fans seem to have a rather distasteful tendency to cater towards the albums that casual fans and the mainstream media love the most, rather than the albums that are genuinely the best or the most metal. And indeed, I would say that Number Of The Beast, Powerslave and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son are all either mostly or partly too mainstream and commercial. In some places they actually embody the metal spirit, but in others they shit on it. And albums such as this one and Piece Of Mind are, although not actually ignored, definitely underrated.
And when listening to an album such as this, it's hard to see why. Piece Of Mind was great, being infinitely more consistent than NOTB and far more metal than Powerslave could ever be. But it wasn't a masterpiece. This album, on the other hand, is not only a total masterpiece, but actually has some songs that reach such a level of utter sublimity as to be near musical perfection - and here, Maiden does all of this without selling out or becoming overly accessible, as they did on the records directly before and after this one. I submit that Somewhere In Time is not only brilliant but also one of the greatest albums ever recorded in the entire history of heavy metal. 98% of everything is done right here, with only one or two moments(not entire songs)that are just occasionally, slightly weak in comparison to the awesomeness that surrounds them.
So why do fans often pass up this album in favour of Powerslave and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son? I'm not certain of this, but the likely truth is depressing and disgusting beyond all belief. Quite simply, it's that the mainstream loves those albums, as do the casual fans, and it's not hard to see why - despite having occasional moments of brilliance, they lean towards pop-metal so frequently as to barely constitute real heavy metal at all, let alone heavy fucking metal. The notion that hardcore fans would so often feel the same way as pop listeners, mainstream music magazines and casual fans is fucking disgraceful, but considering how loved that piece of shit known as Powerslave is I don't really doubt it anymore. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who loves real music and real metal should ignore the opinions of pop fags and all of their ilk, and anyone remotely similar to them entirely and judge on a proper basis what is better music. And I have, and after listening to all three albums more than enough times to judge, I can comfortably say that Somewhere In Time is more metal, less pop friendly and more interesting, progressive and complex than either its predecessor or successor, the former by an enormous way and the latter by still a fairly long one.
Not only that, but amazingly, it actually manages to be equally as melodic and in its own way fairly accessible while still being extremely progressive and epic to the highest degrees. This is Iron Maiden at their finest, as here they take all of the epic elements that they were developing in their previous two albums(admittedly, Powerslave did have one amazing song, that being its 13 and a half minute closer)and expand upon them using synths to make everything even more grandiose and magnificent than ever before. While I almost always err on the side of Priest during debates as to which band is better, and while I would take Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith over NOTB or Powerslave any day, this album is the one case where Iron Maiden actually stayed truer to the spirit of metal than Judas Priest. Turbo, the Priest album that came out the same year as Somewhere In Time, made heavy use of synths, but they did so in order to be more accessible and commercial in a very pop-metal way. Somewhere In Time, on the other hand, uses synths to expand their sound and increase the level of progressiveness and complexity further, and even when the music is made more melodic by the synths, it's never made overly accessible.(It's probably for this reason that Iron Maiden is regarded as being more uncompromising and true to metal as Priest overall, which actually isn't true for the most part but in this case certainly was, I have to admit)As such, Turbo was a glam metal album far too radio-friendly to be real heavy metal, while Somewhere In Time is proto-power metal at its finest and less radio-friendly than a lot of Maiden's other 80's albums.
In addition to all of these elements, this album also has another incredible strength in that it has two songs so sublime that if they were the only good songs on the album, it would still get a good rating. Those songs would be the opener and the closer, which is another stroke of brilliance since the album not only sucks you in fantastically, but also ends masterfully. If this was all that was good about the album it would still kick a huge ton of ass. But it isn't, as there are another six songs here, and amazingly none of them are genuinely weak! One thing I've often criticised Maiden for is their inconsistency, both from album to album and from song to song. Along with Piece Of Mind, the debut and Killers, this album mostly breaks that mold, because although not all of the songs are equally good, none of them are bad. They just have the occasional weak moment, and nothing so terrible as to ruin anything. Of course Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son is also extremely consistent, but that album was too light and commercial. Somewhere In Time is not.
There are yet more reasons why this album is such as a masterpiece. Moving past the things I've already discussed, let's go on to heaviness. This album has tons of it. Great, big, heaving tons, actually, to the point where combined with the almost extreme levels of speed in places it leans very close to thrash and speed metal. It also knows when to slow down though as to not become monotonous, and that's another thing that goes towards making it in some ways full-on power metal, and even more incredibly does so in a way that is startlingly ahead of its time. It uses slow, crushing riffs in some places(Stranger In A Strange Land, parts of Sea Of Madness and Alexander The Great), mid paced chugging ones in others(Wasted Years, the rest of Alexander The Great), and even ridiculously fast and aggressive ones(The title track, lots of Sea Of Madness, Heaven Can Wait, lots of The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner and Deja Vu). And it does all this with a monstrous guitar tone, one heavier and thicker than anything they previously had. It really helps to make an album true heavy metal if it actually sounds heavy as fuck. This album does, and this also helps in the faster sections and is perhaps another reason why this album is less appealing to casual fans than Powerslave or Seventh Son - the sheer fucking heaviness of it is too much for weaklings. And so it should be - they don't even want to hear heavy fucking metal, they want to hear nice hard rock and just feel very relaxed about it. Fuck that. Those posers have no place in metal yet they have corrupted the minds of otherwise good people into thinking this album is weaker than its predecessor and successor, when the absolute opposite is the real truth. The real answer is simple: don't listen to casual fans or pop magazines because they know shit all about real heavy metal. This is metal for genuine metalheads - hardcore, heavy as fuck, metal as fuck and extremely progressive, complicated and amazingly epic while still retaining a strong sense of melody without selling out.
Somewhere In Time hits you over the head with heavy riff after heavy riff, and when it does go into the melodic harmonised riffs, it does so appropriately and tastefully instead of in order to make the album more accessible to non-metalheads. And the way the synths and guitars are all combined together with incredible songwriting and stunning progressiveness makes this in a lot of ways more than just proto-power metal, but actually real power metal that was doing stuff the rest of the actual power metal scene wouldn't do for nearly ten years. They all focused on speed more than anything else - case in point being Helloween, whose debut came out just one year before this album. It was speed metal, very different from the power metal that would come later. The Keeper Of The Seven Keys albums were certainly power metal, but still focused mainly on speed and in a lot of ways actually sounded very much like Iron Maiden. But Maiden were first - with this album they may very well have laid the seeds for everything that followed - all of the complex, progressive and epic elements of the genre that would not be refined until the 90's. Blind Guardian's Imaginations From The Other Side is a good example of all of the best elements of power metal coming together as one. This is a prototypical example of effectively the same thing, only nine years earlier.
And that's another amazing thing about this album - while there are some incredible moments here and there, for the most part there doesn't appear to be any absolute genius in every song. It's just the way everything comes together as a whole - the guitars, vocals, synths, drums, and bass - and of course the band's songwriting skills, which were at their absolute peak here, especially Steve Harris - that is so brilliant. As such one might imagine that this album is better listened to as a whole than just in separate songs. It works great that way but unlike its follow up, this ain't no concept album and songs such as Caught Somewhere In Time and Alexander The Great are fantastic where listened to alone or as part of the whole.
Before I get onto the songs, I must mention one other thing. The only possible negative aspect of the album, and in many ways it's equally a positive one - a double edged sword, if you will - is its sometimes overly dark nature. One reason Powerslave irritated the shit out of me was its overt lightness and happiness. Somewhere In Time is completely different - it shows, in most of the songs here at least the "dark side" of power metal, or what would become power metal. In some cases it really kicks arse, such as Sea Of Madness. In others, such as some parts of The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner and Deja Vu, the melodies become too sad and depressing and so the album no longer makes you feel good and powerful but brings you down. This is a shame, and it's one of just a couple of slight problems I have with an otherwise brilliant album. Thankfully for the most part it's just content to be reasonably dark while being incredibly epic and properly progressive in a good way, as opposed to the fake pseudo-prog crap on its predecessor.
The album opens with a song so perfect that it's hard to believe the man who wrote it is the same guy who wrote the pop-metal hit "Aces High". That song is "Caught Somewhere In TIme", one of the album's apexes and a good example of how a band with brilliant skills and strong determination can truly do virtually anything if they put their minds to it. It begins with a brilliant harmonised riff, of the melodic kind that I've often complained about in the past, but I won't here because it works so well. The synths are combined with it to create an awesome sound. Then the drumbeats start, and I'm already half headbanging at this point even though there's nothing heavy yet, it's just like that. This continues up until near the 1 minute mark and then the heavy riffs come crashing in underneath a higher-pitched one. Real fucking heaviness, not pansy half heaviness with a flaky guitar tone. Shortly after this Bruce's singing comes in and...wow, I am impressed. Is this really the same guy who did the stupid cheesy singing on Aces High and Two Minutes To Midnight, or whose vocal acrobatics on The Duellists sounded like a kangaroo on helium about to explode? I kid myself...yeah, of course that's ol' Bruce. The difference is that he no longer sounds cheesy as fuck and really annoying but is actually singing awesomely. There's a slightly gritty undertone to his voice which he also uses on other parts of this album, on Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, and more majorly on No Prayer For The Dying and Fear Of The Dark, although the latter two are an entirely different kettle of fish that I won't bother discussing here. It just works wonderfully, and this time, so does his more "operatic" kind of singing. How? I don't know, but whatever the reason he just manages to pull it all off without being cheesy even when he goes really high. The chorus is especially awesome, and yeah, it's catchy, but not in that horrible poppy way like some of Maiden's past hits are. It's just memorable and cool and it works really well. It's really bizarre how it works so much better than when he did the highs on the previous album...maybe it's because the music is far stronger. The solo section is also incredible, and this brings us to another brilliant aspect of this song - it's not only really heavy, powerful, and melodic without being gay or weak, but also extremely progressive and epic without sounding like Maiden attempting to be a pretentious art-rock band. Here they are properly progressive, and most importantly, are so in a metal way as opposed to a rock or hard rock one. This song is Maiden's longest opener yet, topping 7 minutes - yet once it gets heavy, it stays heavy and uses the solo to add melody as opposed to overusing harmonised guitar riffs. Finally it ends in a pure heavy metal way with all of the guitars and drums crashing in that winding down manner that's so representative of the genre. What a song. I still cannot understand how Aces High and similar songs are more popular than this one even among hardcore Maiden fans. It's just following the fucking herd, doing what the casual fans and masses do - not very metal at all. But in any case this is a near perfect song that shows what a great songwriter Steve Harris in particular is, although the whole band is obviously very talented.
Remember I said earlier that if the first and last tracks on the album were the only good ones the album would still be great? Thankfully that isn't the case as "Wasted Years" follows the opener, and while not on the same level by any means it's an excellent song nonetheless. This is certainly more catchy and commercial than most of the other songs on here. But unlike prior Maiden "hits", it's not unbearably shitty and is in fact really good. The intro is a little weird, definitely making good use of the synth in a very "spacey" way, and by that I am referring to sounding futuristic, not high. It works though, and then the heavy riffs kick in just before the half minute mark. The brilliant production really accentuates the bottom end of the guitars, resulting in one headbanging quite enjoyably as opposed to trying to headbang to a riff that doesn't even sound heavy because of shitty guitar production. It's a fairly simple song, not too progressive and certainly nothing like the brilliance of the opening song, but that's the thing - this album is not pretentious. It doesn't try to be constantly prog and epic when it doesn't need those aspects in its sound. This song works well as what it is, and again, the production and the guitars' monstrous tone and huge bottom end prevents it from being anything but true heavy fucking metal. It's a shame that this song is more popular than Caught Somewhere In Time though, and really does show that a lot of Maiden fans are more hard rockers and pop listeners than genuine metalheads.
Instead of being comfortable to settle down into something easier, Maiden ups the ente yet again with the almost brutal "Sea Of Madness". One of the heaviest songs on here(not that anything on the album isn't heavy and metal as fuck, but this song is especially so), it opens with a skullcrushing riff that shows, in this case at least, how Iron Maiden simply used synth to make their sound more epic while actually going in an even heavier direction than they had before, while Priest sadly resorted to pop-metal the same year. Anyway, after this skullcrushing continues, Bruce's vocals kick in, and again they work very well. The pre-chorus and chorus are both extremely powerful, both in heaviness and in the way Bruce sings, and the synths here are both majestic and epic. It's a somewhat dark and even melancholic song in a lot of ways but this is no detriment, in fact quite the opposite. A little later we get a clean break, but do I then become incredibly angry at this non-metal moment? No, because in this case it isn't non-metal and sounds nothing like the clean breaks on their other albums. Instead, it makes the song even darker and allows the solo to work even better than it would have otherwise. Then the heaviness returns about a minute later, and remains until the end of the song.
Another thing worth mentioning here is the absolute lack of any blues influence on this album at all. Sure, if one looked hard enough they could probably find a riff using some part of the blues scale somewhere, but for the most part there is nothing like this. NOTB was the last Maiden album with any significant NWOBHM elements, and after that, Maiden became less and less bluesy with each album. Piece Of Mind didn't have much in the way of a NWOBHM sound but there were a few riffs here and there. Powerslave had even less of such as a sound(one part of that album which I actually kind of like), and had three songs that very strongly influenced early power metal. Somewhere In Time, though, was a far bigger step away from this sound into something closer to speed and thrash metal with a really strong melodic sense and a great deal of heaviness with virtually no bluesy sounds or NWOBHM elements at all - thus it is proto-power metal.
Following the brilliance of Sea Of Madness, one might assume that this album can't possibly stay equally as strong as its beginning, and they would be right, as "Heaven Can Wait" isn't quite as fantastic as any of the preceding tracks. But it's far from bad, and is in fact very good. For a start, it's got truckloads of heaviness and aggression, with the speed now reaching thrash like levels and the riffs crushing - and indeed, a lot of the song is great heavy fucking metal. The two main problems the song has are this: the intro is overlong and slightly annoying, and the chorus is irritatingly happy and, unlike virtually anything else on the album actually does sound quite cheesy. No, make that very cheesy. But it's still quite acceptable. Why? Because aside from the chorus(the intro ain't that bad), everything else about this song is actually pretty fucking awesome. First off, as I said the riffs are crushing and this is pretty much speed or thrash. There are a mixture of aggressive riffs and slower chugging ones, even a chugging breakdown somewhere - I give up, this is pretty much a cross between thrash and power with some good ol' plain heavy thrown in for good measure. In addition, like the title track it's over 7 minutes long and very progressive - there are two solos, one somewhere around the two minute mark and another a couple of minutes later. In between them is a slower crushing section with some great vocals from Bruce and good use of synth and lead. Then the song goes back to its original pattern and finally ends. If one can look past the chorus, this song actually kicks ass.
At this point we come to "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner", a song that is for the most part brilliant, and only has a couple of weak points. It starts out with a slightly depressing lead which repeats a few times, then a slow heavy riff starts underneath with slightly heavier drumbeats, which also repeats, and just before the 1 minute mark it gets almost brutally heavy as crushing semi-thrash riffs come in along with Bruce's vocals. This is not astounding stuff, but works great anyway, as does the chorus. Then we come to the one part of the song I have a problem with - a clean break made up of harmonised lead guitar riffs. It's not bad, and it's definitely far better than the shitty commercial harmonised riffs on a certain other Maiden album. But it's still somewhat unnecessary, or maybe it isn't...I'm not sure. All I do know is that a lot of this section uses very depressing melodies. I wouldn't normally mind this, and I certainly prefer it to overly happy harmonised riffs. Except for the fact that whenever I hear this section, I get this horrible mental image of used tires bouncing across a road under a desolate grey sky in some horrible, industrial, cheap city, and then an image of a fucking emo kid alone in a ridiculously desolate park also under a grey sky, listening to this song and being all depressive and cutting his wrists. Disgusting. Then I am reminded of a woman who I love, who may not reciprocate my affections, and I feel no better than one of those fucking emo faggots, and I get depressed and angry. That pretty much makes the song rather unpleasant to listen to.
The rest of this song is good, and even that section is good - it just makes me feel negative and for obvious reasons I don't like that. Unfortunately it means that a song I otherwise like is very hard to enjoy because it makes me feel down.
Following this, we come to what is in a lot of ways my least favourite song on this album, but which is still good nevertheless, as "Stranger In A Strange Land" starts. It begins with bass and a drumbeat before the heavy guitars come in. It's much slower than anything else on here, but still retains a proto-power metal feel due to the synths and some of the leads. Unfortunately it has a clean break which is slightly annoying, but because the solo playing during it is so good it's still superior to the clean breaks on this album's predecessor. Then the heaviness returns. It's a good song, just nothing exceptional. I must point out that the way the riff fades off under Bruce's vocals and then comes back is a little annoying too, but it's not that big of a deal.
Wow, is this album consistent or what? I've gone through six entire songs and not a single one of them has been bad by any means. And the quality doesn't let up there, as "Deja Vu" is one of the strongest songs on the album. Beginning with some synth playing under a slightly depressive lead, this fades out and then the drums kick in with, unfortunately, a harmonised lead riff that makes me feel very sad if I think about it too much. This, too, is related to the same problem with the same woman and is really quite silly, but true. If I don't and just try to enjoy it, though, I find it to be a great song. After this riff the song gets heavy - really fucking heavy. The drumbeats here are close to full on thrash beats, and the speed and heaviness of the guitars is pretty extreme by Maiden standards too. Bruce's vocals are again great here, proving that when he's more restrained, or given better material to work with, he sings great. When he's allowed to write half the songs on the album and be as cheesy as he likes is when things go wrong, as has happened unfortunately many times over Maiden's career. This song also has a great middle section which is kind of clean, but with really great guitaring, really epic and all of that. It's also a bit depressing in some ways, which is weird as most of the melodies Maiden use aren't, but this album seems to have plenty of them. Odd. The song ends on a good, heavy note. A great song regardless.
However, the best is yet to come, as Iron Maiden now pull out all of the stops for the last song on the album. Hell, they've been pulling out all of the stops for the entire album really - that's why it kicks so much arse. Maiden really did everything right here, and the final song is just the icing on the cake, but what a delicious icing that is. We are talking about "Alexander The Great", an absolute masterpiece in numerous ways, with one or two slight faults that nevertheless do not stop it from ending this album gloriously to say the least. It opens with a quote from Philip Of Macedon and some wind effects, which creates an epic mood right from the start. Then the drumbeat and synths begin, or is it guitars? In this case I'm actually not sure, but this whole section is very light. This is one of the two minor problems I have with this otherwise amazing song - the intro is too long. The whole section repeats a couple of times, but does so very slowly, and then there is a guitar solo played over the drumbeat instead with one of the main melodies. It's great, but did the intro really need to be over a minute and a half long? Actually, maybe it did. That's the thing - I say that I would prefer it to be shorter, but if it was, would it still work as well? Probably not, because this is a song where all of the separate parts come together to form one great whole. They all need to be there, and if the intro was trimmed there wouldn't be the great build up before the heaviness kicks in at around 1:36 into the song. From that point onwards the song is no longer just good but truly awesome. The riffs are slightly middle-eastern sounding here but this is perfectly appropriate given the subject matter. Bruce's vocals are at their most theatrical on this song, and some could look upon the whole thing as somewhat cheesy considering the way it is done. But to be honest, I'm loving it so much that I couldn't care less. It's that brilliant. There's a great use of a harmonised guitar riff not too long after the first chorus which is actually awesome, and when it comes around for a third and fourth time combined with the synths in a higher pitch it becomes close to sublime. So epic and majestic, just like the song's subject matter. It just sounds so grandiose, even more so than anything else on the album so far. After another vocal section we reach the song's second weak point, and unfortunately this is something really annoying that could have been changed. It's a clean break lasting about 40 seconds that has no purpose whatsoever. It could easily have been heavy guitars instead of clean. I suppose they put it in there for an effect of contrast, and it doesn't seem to be done for commercial reasons so I don't hate it, but it's annoying. After this however the song is completely perfect. As the clean break ends heavy riffs come crashing back down with a strange effect and a really strong middle-eastern overtone. Truly epic. Then chugging riffs begin, and over them a brilliant solo commences. This whole section lasts about two minutes. This is how to do prog-metal, kids. Not overuse of clean breaks and harmonised riffs that go nowhere, but genuinely complex songs that also don't try too hard to appeal to the fucking mainstream. The little bass breaks in this section are a little odd, but only serve to make everything more progressive, which for this song is definitely a good thing. Finally, Bruce's vocals come back in, and after a little more of this the song ends with the heavy sort of middle eastern riffs that originally started about six minutes earlier. Wow, what a song!
I'm still baffled by the number of fans who claim that this album is a stepping stone between Powerslave and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son and weaker than both of them, because as far as I can see it's the absolute opposite. Powerslave was an inferior stepping stone to the truly majestic, epic, and progressive, genuinely proto-power metal songs on this masterful album. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son was a good followup but too pretentious for its own good with being a concept album and all in addition to being too commercial and not very metal in many places. I don't know why more people don't see things this way...I guess the mainstream has corrupted their opinions.
I'll briefly touch on one other thing which I think is a big part of why this album kicks so much ass. Bruce's contribution, or more accurately the lack of it. On every other single Maiden album he's sung on save for NOTB, he's always contributed writing to at least one song. Here he is just Maiden's vocalist, albeit a very good one, and seems to be more restrained and mature in that regard too(I.E. no stupid vocal acrobatics like the shit he pulled on The Duelists, again a song from Powerslave. Grrrrr....). Almost every song here was written by Steve Harris, and a couple by Adrian Smith. The result? Iron Maiden's strongest album overall. From the guitars, to the vocals, to the bass, to the drums, to the synths, and the speed, power, progressiveness and aggression all together - everything here just works. I'd go as far as saying this is even stronger than the debut and Killers.
Sure it's a shame that ol' Bruce didn't write any of the songs, but on the other hand maybe it isn't. Most of the Maiden songs I hate the most were either co-written or entirely written by him. Bruce is great for the most part, but it's pretty weird how Maiden's best album, which ironically also has one or Bruce's best performances by a long way, is also the only album aside from NOTB which he did not contribute to in a songwriting sense at all.
If you want to know why this album is so awesome in a nutshell, just listen to Caught Somewhere In Time and then to Alexander The Great. Those two songs showcase everything great about this album, as well as everything Maiden does best. If you're not impressed, then you're a fucking poser.
All in all, it just comes down to, if not the fact that Bruce had no songwriting contributions, the simple nature of the way things happen - Maiden were in a good way at the time, and they really did pull out all of the stops here. And it really does work that well. If you want to hear real heavy metal with real metal riffs that are heavy and metal as fuck that also has brilliant use of melody in a way that is not overly commercial, fantastic and tasteful use of synths, brilliant speed and aggression combined with musical beauty and stunning progressiveness and epic songs of the greatest kind - all rounding out as a collection of brilliant, genuinely prog proto-power metal songs, then look no further than this album.
“Somewhere in Time” is Iron Maiden’s sixth studio album. It was here, that Harris and friends decided to try something new, something completely different from the last three albums. As a result, Iron Maiden added synthesizers, keyboards, began to make futuristic music, and turned Eddie into a cyborg warrior that wears little more than a metallic speedo (It’s actually one of the best Eddie’s created). Naturally this means that there is much more to talk about in this release.
This album is like a journey through time and space. It’s epic, interesting, and mysterious. In one word, I would call it futuristic. Stranger in a Strange Land and Alexander the Great are exceptions; especially Alexander. I will get to the differences of these songs later. This is easily one of Maiden’s most distinct releases. DO NOT start this album hoping for another Number of the Beast (Piece of Mind, Powerslave, etc.), because this album is much different from its predecessors.
I cannot praise the band enough for their performance here. Bruce’s singing never ceased to amaze me on this album. He delivers unique vocals for every song, yet it somehow always fits his style. This album is possibly my favorite bass performance from Steve. Listen for some masterful bass playing on Stranger in a Strange Land and the title track. Steve also wrote most of the songs here so he did an amazing job in that respect as well. Adrian is very prominent on this album, providing excellent guitar work and writing both of the albums singles, plus Sea of Madness. Dave is just as good as ever, but unfortunately did not contribute any songs. Dave and Adrian provide some of the greatest solos ever on this release. Just listen to Alexander and you’ll know what I mean. Nicko sounds amazing on this album and creates a perfect rhythm for each song. Some of Nicko’s fastest drumming can be found here, particularly on the title track. Also worth mentioning is the album’s great production and mixing.
Now, the album opens up with its title track Caught Somewhere in Time. The song begins with some nice futuristic guitar and synth, that successfully creates the image of our badass, half-naked, Eddie flying around in a highly advanced, time-traveling, spaceship. After that great opening, Eddie goes into lightspeed, and the whole band follows with some fast paced galloping riffs, amazing singing by Bruce, and the unsurprisingly brilliant solo that fits the song so well. This is pretty much a really fast paced sci-fi inspired song; a highlight for sure. The next song, Wasted Years is this album’s equivalent to Run to the Hills; super catchy. However, Wasted Years is superior to Run to the Hills. Why? Because Wasted Years has nice epic verses, a good catchy chorus, and some interesting guitar work. In terms of solo, I guess Run to the Hills rivals Wasted Years, considering the solo in Run to the Hills is very good. The recurring intro of this song is the only part that really has the trademark sound of the album. Nevertheless, the song fits very well, and is a good listen. So understand that this album begins perfectly with these two compositions.
Sea of Madness starts off rather heavy, but eventually turns into quite a beautiful masterpiece, and closes perfectly. This song is one of Bruce’s best performances for sure. Bruce’s singing on this song is mysterious and operatic with a hint of aggressiveness at times. Next up is Heaven Can Wait, which is simply epic. Almost every part of this song is fantastic, aside from the overly happy, but thankfully short chorus. This song sounds like a mix of this album’s title track and Seventh Son (which generally sounds rather dark, epic, and fantasy inspired). Track five is The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, a very interesting song. Long Distance Runner has a quiet opening before abruptly speeding up and delivering some intense playing, which then transforms into a beautiful chorus. The funny thing is all of these styles perfectly fit together to create one hell of a song. Keep in mind all of the first five tracks have the atmosphere I have spoken of. That’s about to change with the album’s second single, (The other being Wasted Years) Stranger in a Strange Land. This song is Icy cold, heavy metal. Stranger is no doubt the heaviest song on here, and like I said, it has a perfect icy atmosphere. Here, we end up imagining a frozen desert, rather than a Star Wars inspired spaceship/time traveling journey. Bruce’s singing is another big highlight of this work of art. I also found the solo interesting, as it begins slow and beautifully, before becoming heavy.
The next composition is Déjà Vu, a guitar oriented song. For what little singing there is on this track, Bruce does well, using modern technology to give his voice a robotic touch. The guitar work here is very epic, intense, and deep; it really keeps the song beyond interesting at all times. Another song that fits the albums mysterious and futuristic style (especially the title). Now the closer, Alexander the Great, is perhaps my favorite song of all time. Completely different from the sci-fi feel of the rest of the release, this song sounds Middle Eastern. The song begins with a narrated intro, before proceeding into a quiet melody that finishes with a beautiful and emotional solo. The song soon shifts into its heavy Middle Eastern sound, accompanied by amazing vocals from Bruce. Eventually my favorite solo of all time kicks in. To describe this mind-blowing section, I guess its most simply put as a slow march beat with the greatest guitar playing that’s ever graced my ears. The solo is simply beautiful in every way imaginable. The guitar manages to be both very fast and very emotional at the same time. Additionally, the slow beat that accompanies this fast playing works very well with the guitar and completes the sound. After that masterpiece of a solo, the original Middle Eastern riffs return, along with Bruce, and the song closes beautifully. Synth is very present on Alexander, and makes the song even more amazing. It’s better than I can put into words; you must hear it.
- All of Alexander the Great
- The intro to Caught Somewhere in Time
- Chorus in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
“Somewhere in Time” is what I would call Maiden’s second best release. I liked “Brave New World” a tad more, but this comes damn close to it. In terms of cover and Eddie design I think the two albums tie. Speaking of the cover, this is the best 80’s Maiden cover, plus it contains a ton of Maiden references to satisfy the devoted Iron Maiden fans. Another thing that I like about this album is that it was the first Iron Maiden album to utilize synth and keyboards, two things that they would continue to use excellently. It is unfortunate the band ignores this release aside from Wasted Years and Stranger. A live recording of the title track and Alexander would be awesome.
In the end “Somewhere in Time” is a classic that has not aged in any way whatsoever. Most likely, this album will continue to pass the test of time, and impress new generations of people for many decades to come. That half-naked cyborg version of Eddy will represent one of the greatest albums of all time, for hopefully, many generations to come. The irons should be upped a hundred-fold for this masterpiece. Iron Maiden has truly surpassed themselves.
After the absolute masterpiece that “Powerslave” was, expectations were high for the new Iron Maiden album. Unfortunately “Somewhere in Time” isn't as good as its predecessor; however, it is a fine heavy/power metal album, and why?
First of all, I have to praise the new direction the band took with this record. They just didn't tried to create a “Powerslave part II”, they incorporated new elements to the band's sound, the most important of them being the use of guitar synths; they gave a fresh and new atmosphere to the record, and songs like “Alexander the Great” benefit one hell of a lot with them. The production is also rather different; the guitars don't sound so sharp anymore, nor does the drums; the vocals are definitely highlighted by the production, the same thing with the synths. The bass is a bit more buried under the guitars than on previous releases, but after all it still is audible and tasteful.
Another key element of “Somewhere in Time” is the fast instrumentation; Maiden never played so fast, believe me, and that's why this album carries a strong power metal vibe too. The drumming is almost thrashy sometimes (“Dejá Vu”), with Nicko McBrain delivering another great performance again, technical yet not overplaying anything... One of my favourite drummers, that's for sure!
Adrian Smith is another important musician on “Somewhere in Time”, mainly because of all the songs he composed (he penned the majority of the songs, together with Steve Harris or alone). Unfortunately, because of his huge contribution, Bruce Dickinson wasn't allowed to write anything for this record, which is a shame, since the band owes him songs like “Revelations” and, most of all, the title track of “Powerslave”. Fortunately, he wrote some songs on the sucessor of “Somewhere in Time”, the acclaimed (and widely overrated) “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”.
Anyways, highlights? There are some really great songs here and some pretty average, the latter ones bringing the album down and harming the whole listening experience quite badly. “Caught Somewhere in Time” is one of the best songs here, absolutely dominated by some intricate soloing and a very nice vocal performance by Dickinson. He was in a really good shape during the recording of this piece, just listen to him screaming “Caught somewheere in tiiiiiiiiiiiimee!”... It's truly amazing, I even dare to say that his performance here is better than on “Powerslave” and that's saying something! “Wasted Years” is another great song, catchy as hell and in the same vein as “2 Minutes to Midnight” or “Flight of Icarus”; a rather commercial tune but still amazing. It also features a very nice beginning (Mustaine apparently loves it, since he ripped it off – just listen to “Washington is Next!”).
The best of the bunch is, however, “Alexander the fuckin' Great” and what a song, ladies and gents!! It sounds like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” combined with the epic historical themes that made “Piece of Mind” what it is! Just take a time and listen to that masterpiece, it deserves some listens for you to fully understand its greatness! Absolutely gorgeous song!
With the fanboy mode turned to “OFF”, I'll now speak about the low points of this record. “Stranger in a Strange Land” is one of them, not a horrible song but it does absolutely nothing to make this album better. It's midpaced and features a catchy chorus, but it isn't a song that you'll enjoy that much, that's for sure. At least is better than “Quest for Fire”... “De Já Vu” sounds also really forced, despite the thrashy feel it carries. An uninspired song, to say the least. “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” and “Heaven Can Wait” are both decent, though. I reallly like the chorus of both, but, again, they do nothing to make this album better. Ah, and “Sea of Madness” has a nice beginning and breakdown, but it is unfortunately another average number,
So, with all those average tracks in, the listening experience of “Somewhere in Time” is far from perfect. Nevertheless, there are some great bits here, songs like “Alexander the Great” stand out as absolutely fantastic, so this record is worth listening because of them. Anyway, despite not being the best Maiden album, I recommend this piece to power metal and also “fast heavy metal” fans. And the performances of the musicians are also quite technical at times, so that's another plus. A good album, all in all, better than “Piece of Mind” and “Number of the Beast” and worse than “Powerslave” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”.
Best Moments of the CD:
-The beginning and solo section of “Caught Somewhere in Time”.
-The chorus of “Wasted Years”.
-The intro and middle section of “Alexander the Great”.
Concluding: "ALEXANDER THE GREEEEEEEEAT!" - that's all you need to hear if you want to check this album out.
The biggest problems with Somewhere In Time are very simple. It is an album which is close to genius but falls between two even bigger masterpieces (Powerslave & Seventh Son that is of course). Secondly the lyrical content here is somewhat lacking compared to the earlier mentioned two classics. For example the lyrics to “Déjà Vu” are plain awful. Fortunately the song itself is excellent.
Well, that about wraps up the biggest two complaints. There is of course a reason this album remains one of the all time Maiden classics. That it because it is just excellent and has a lot of character. As said the lyrics are lacking here but the music was once again a step forward. And so were the production and use of (guitar) synths.
The album opens with an epic tune immediately. But because of the high tempo “Caught Somewhere in Time” never feels like an epic but still remains interesting the full length. The speed, dynamics and enormous presence of great melodies makes this song an instant classic. “Sea Of Madness” is one of the more brutal metal tunes here. Though not as impressive as a lot of other songs on this album it holds firm because of its catchiness and heavy moments.
“The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” does what the title says. Almost just like the opening tune it just goes on and on and dares the listener to hold on. It’s a long ride but a memorable one. The pre-chorus and chorus are majestic and the energy of this song is almost unequalled on the rest of the album.
Now the true epic piece here is of course “Alexander the Great”. A song that was completed in the studio and never performed live. It can compete with earlier classics like Hallowed By The Name and To Tame a Land with ease. The lyrics are somewhat dull but the concept is great and so is the spoken intro.
Then we have the two mid paced and catchy singles. “Stranger in a Strange Land” is the heaviest of the two and I never seem to get bored by that heavy main riff and that awesome chorus. This is truly classic eighties pounding heavy metal the way it should be. The other one, “Wasted Years”, has the trademark Adrian Smith intro and is a laid back song about being on tour with a strong yet over-catchy chorus and a great solo.
Leaves us with that song the band has been playing live for so many years. We’re talking “Heaven Can Wait” here. Now this song has actually got one of the weakest choruses on the album yet the band persisted in playing this song live. The middle section of the song is great though and the sing-a-long part always proved much fun live. To be honest it really isn’t one of the best songs here and sounds like a filler compared to the earlier mentioned classics. A good filler that is.
Last but not least the production is very typical. The use of guitar synths has broadened the sound even more, making this album sound majestic at times! This typical sound, which no other Maiden album has, gave the album even more character and emphasised the futuristic artwork. Once again the band managed to combine production and artwork perfectly. The artwork is classy. Though not as good as Powerslave, it obviously still has character and the album cover is fun to look through, trying to find all those references. The futuristic Eddie looks great.
Even though Dickinson would later admit this period was not one of his most inspirational ones, his vocal performance is stunning here. But he and Murray kept a low profile compositionally this time. It was up to Smith and Harris to deliver the songs. Adrian Smith wrote three out of eight songs this time. And three of the better or more successful ones even I must add! But don’t worry, Dickinson would awake on the next album again, and how!
This Maiden album is one of the albums that tends to be forgotten by most metalheads in general and only remembered by hardcore Maiden fans like myself. This is a shame since this is Maiden's most unique album, and the synths add a lot to this album despite the slightly "wimpy" overtones that was associated with synth usage by metal and hard rock bands in the 80s. Maiden were wise and only used the synths for atmospheric and melodic enhancement, unlike Priest whose album "Turbo", which was also released in 1986, almost sounded like fucking techno! Sure, there are some songs here that sound kind of "mainstream" and are pretty accessible, but that's because it came out that way. Maiden write about whatever they feel like at the time, just like Manowar, and eventually some songs end up sounding a bit commercial. The thing that brings this album down is the fact that it contains no songs penned by Bruce Dickinson, and therefore ends up with not being as diverse as it could have been.
The production is excellent. The drums sound like typical drum recordings made by metal bands in the 80s, and they sound monumental! Just like they should! The bass is up front and clanky as usual. One thing about the bass that I've noticed is that there's a lot more clanky high-end sounds this time than on previous Maiden albums. Bruce's vocals are once again top notch, as is Dave Murray's guitar playing. Adrian really shines here, though. And he delivers some of his very finest solos in his career as a guitar player.
"Caught Somewhere in Time" is the perfect opener and the perfect basis for this album. The synth riffs immediately sets the tone for the album, although they're a bit misleading in that they can make someone think that the whole album is drenched in synths, which is not the case as it practically disappears after the intro. It's a pretty fast song with a galloping rhythm and classic Maiden-sounding licks all over the place. Bruce might sound like Ozzy in the chorus, but so what?! Ozzy's not that bad of a singer. But the most amazing thing about this song is the guitar solos. Dave's solo is IMO somewhat of an interlude to Adrian's solo, which fucking crushes a thousand times more than "Deathcrush" by Mayhem! Adrian really knows how to use the tremolo!
"Wasted Years" is THE commercial track on this album, but this doesn't make it bad by any means. The intro riff reminds me somewhat of the main musical theme from the movie "Halloween", except that it doesn't sound as creepy! The chorus is a wee bit too repetitive, though, which is why this track isn't one of the best ones on the album IMO
"Sea of Madness" opens with the most br00tal and harsh riff in Maiden's history! A very chaotic intro which leads us into a song with a highly emotional and sad chorus. Adrian's solo in this song is his best solo ever IMO, and the short ballad section in the middle is nothing short of brilliant!
"Heaven Can Wait" is the album's worst song IMO. The only really good thing about it is the chant section. But otherwise, it's highly mediocre
"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" is my favourite Maiden song ever. The intro riff gives me goosebumps all the time, as well as the chorus. The solos are very 80s sounding in some way, but nonetheless magical!
"Stranger in a Strange Land" is one of Maiden's grooviest songs ever recorded. The riff after the "No brave new world, no brave new world" verse sounds like the main riff from Aerosmith's "Walk This Way". It's one of the low points of the album IMO, and I've never really understood what's so special about Adrian's solo
"Deja Vu" is pure speed/thrash metal! It has a very spooky and futuristic feel, and Bruce's vocals only enhances that atmosphere. The problem is that it doesn't go anywhere, it only pounds away around a very small ring
"Alexander the Great" is the perfect closer. It could be a symphonic/classical piece if it would have been recorded before and with different instruments. There is something special about Adrian's second solo, but I can't figure out what it is. It's a shame that the band have never played this song live
Do yourself a favour and pick this up if you simply like great and majestic metal!
For ten years, from 1978 to 1988, Iron Maiden were without a doubt the greatest band to emerge from the shadows of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene. Combining a crushing bass gallop courtesy of Steve Harris with a virtuostic double-axe attack from Dave Murray and Adrian Smith and, not least of all, employing the skills of two of the greatest vocalists ever to grace heavy metal in Paul Di'Anno and Bruce Dickinson, Maiden were (and still are) a force to be reckoned with. Only one other band in the scene, the now-defunct Angel Witch, could ever have hoped to compete with them, but by the time of this release Maiden had clearly established themselves as the masters of melodic metal with no fewer than five classic releases to their name.
This album, Somewhere In Time, is probably pound for pound the most underrated effort in their entire discography, with many commentators regarding it as nothing more than the bridge between the epic-and-straightforward stylings of 1984's Powerslave and the prog-tinged power metal of Somewhere In Time. And that's an unfortunate fate to befall this gem, because, as I see it, Somewhere In Time is the absolute apex of Maiden's creativity, representing the culmination of the entire history of metal hitherto this release.
In a very real sense, the album is precisely what the title and lead-off track implies: caught somewhere in time. For the first (and second to last) time in Maiden's career, synthesizers, those staples of mid-eighties metal, come to the fore in their sound; but unlike the follow-up Seventh Son, are really brought to the fore here. For many this dates the album firmly in the eighties; for me, however, it provides an insight into a style which would go on to influence bands such as Gamma Ray, Helloween, and the entirety of European melodic power metal.
The aforementioned "Caught Somewhere In Time" opens the record with a majestic synth-guitar riff, providing the listener with a clue as to what innovations the Irons have made in their sound. Unlike Priest's Turbo, however, which utilized synthesizers to attain a more commercial sound, those used here do nothing but make the traditional Maiden style even more sweeping and epic than ever before. Maiden quickly proves that it does not need to use synthesizers to make its music grandiose, though, as we are plunged into a trademark gallop fast enough to qualify in some respects as thrashy. Featuring soaring vocals from Dickinson and an exceptional trade-off guitar solo that smokes just about everything else in metal.
Smith-composed "Wasted Years" continues the standard of excellence set by the opening track and raises it for the rest of the album. With this track Maiden have achieved the remarkable distinction of proving themselves able to write material both commercially successful and metallically acceptable, using the synthesizers to their full effect to create an atmosphere without which would be impossible. This is what Queensrÿche attempted with Empire, though without nearly the success displayed here.
"Sea of Madness" is equally compelling, opening with one of the harshest riffs penned by the band to date, demonstrating that the band had not gone 'flower-metal' with this record as has been alleged by some other reviewers. This song contains an epic vocal line on the part of Dickinson and a wonderful synth-solo with backing female vocals before which the listener cannot but help feel a little melancholy.
"Heaven Can Wait" is a Maiden concert staple, and, to be honest, I can't really see why. Though by no means bad, and certainly not filler, I feel that this is the weakest track here and the only one with a genuinely upbeat atmosphere (not to mention a little too close to "The Angel and the Gambler" from the trepid Virtual XI for comfort). It rocks, but it's not going to qualify for a 'Best Of' compilation anytime soon.
Fortunately we return with the imperious "The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Runner", which begins a trilogy of material so strong that it remains unmatched to this very day in the Maiden catalogue. Bringing the temp down a notch from the preceding track, this wonderful tune opens with a clarion-clear synth-riff sure to depress even the haughtiest of spirits before opening fire with yet another Dickinson-led gallop that conveys so very well what it feels like to be a marathon runner (not that I'd know, of course :D). Of particular interest here is the passage that begins 2:25 into the song, which remains one of the most moving sequences in music of any genre that I've ever heard.
"Stranger In A Strange Land", the second single released from this album, is perhaps the most instantly recognizable track here, and for good reason: it totally rocks. Shifting gears from the melancholia of the last track to something which can only be described as 'danceable', this song demonstrates that one needn't rely on downtuned guitars and second-rate riffing to make a metal track that is genuinely groovy. Harris' mastery of the bassline is in full form here, offering something at once insidious and seductive. Dickinson steals the show however, imparting every last vocal line with the feeling of impending disaster conveyed by the excellent lyrics.
"Deja-Vu", the second-to-last song here, picks up the pace considerably, and is my favorite track here. Featuring an excellent display of prowess by the terribly underrated Nicko McBrain, this track is perhaps the second or third fastest in the band's lengthy discography. On the whole I'm reminded of the track "Born To Lose" on Black Sabbath's equally underrated masterpiece The Eternal Idol with this one, although "Deja-Vu" packs much more of a wallop in its bass-and-drum lines. Bruce sounds downright evil in this track, perhaps introducing the rasp he would unfortunately come to rely on in several subsequent albums.
The final track, "Alexander The Great", continues the Maiden tradition of closing on an epic established with "Hallowed Be Thy Name" on The Number of the Beast, and I hold to the opinion that this is just as good. Opening with a wonderfully militaristic drumbeat from McBrain and a soaring guitar harmony, this track displays the band in their prime, creating a powerful track which carries the rest of the album to the heights.
This album is lost in time, in a land of ice and snow, waiting for rediscovery by the metalhead with the patience to look at it. It's not as immediately hard-hitting a record as something like Piece Of Mind, but if you have an ear for melody and mood and the willingness to involve yourself in the process of listening to an album, you can't go wrong with this.
This is perhaps Maiden’s most accessible and melodic album. The introduction of guitar synthesizers obviously plays a major part in this. Yet one is hard pressed to find fault with it as the material on here is strong. It isn’t quite composed of material with the likes of say a ‘Powerslave’ or ‘Seventh Son’ but its still damn excellent. Also, the production on here is the best I’ve heard from all of their releases. The clarity of the sound is amazing and the synthesizers sound excellent in the fore. The sound on this album would only reach its pinnacle in following release (and in my opinion, the best metal release ever) 7th Son Of A 7th Son. This album too, like Powerslave would prove to be a major influence on Power Metal.
Dave and Adrian deliver some of their best riffs and solos here. The guitars have definetly taken a turn for more melodic regions. The synthesizers allow them to explore some new territory and they use the synthesizer rather tastefully without going on overdrive with it. Some of Maiden’s best solos are in ‘Caught Somewhere in Time’ and Adrian gives us an absolutely godly solo (only next to his own ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’) on ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’. Bruce gives an excellent vocal performance, perhaps even his best vocal performance on any album is here. Lots of double-layered choruses are seen on the album. Steve doesn’t quite play as much of a part on this album as Maiden have gone in a more melodic direction but his contributions to songwriting and basslines are still valuable. He doesn’t quite write as many songs either as this album is dominated by Adrian’s tracks. Nicko performance here is more relaxed as the album has taken a more melodic direction and he does the job well.
‘Caught Somewhere In Time’ starts the album off with an excellent synthesized melody and is the best song on the album. It’s the fastest, least melodic song on the album and the best part of it is the solos. The solos midway through the song are absolutely godly, some of Maiden’s best solos are here. The song’s written solely by Steve ‘Wasted Years’ then has fine lyrics and an excellent sing-along chorus coupled with extremely catchy riffs and melodies. ‘Sea Of Madness’ has a more prominent bass and an exceptional sad chorus. ‘Heaven Can Wait’ starts off very well but the verse sound too hurried for my liking, Bruce doesn’t quite sound good when he sings so fast. The chorus too sounds nauseating – ‘Heaven can waaaa-aaaitt’, too stretched, doesn’t work at all. The song gets better as it goes with an exceptional ‘oh-oh-oh’ (this one is attempted oh-so-much by other bands who sound pathetic at every attempt) sing-along section mid-way and excellent soloing that redeems the song. ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ has an excellent build-up. Bruce does an excellent job on vocals (especially on the chorus) with a triumphant gallop backing him. The solos once again rule. ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ is one of Maiden’s best, very very catchy riffing and an outstanding vocal performance with a godly solo from Adrian adding to its strength. ‘Déjà vu’ then is a rather forgotten song. This remains one of Maiden’s catchiest song, which can be attributed to its excellent use of double-layered vocals and the absolutely awesome twin-guitar melodies. Then, ‘Alexander The Great’ isn’t as strong as Maiden’s other closers but is still excellent. The song builds up excellently, very very epic intro here. The song itself is excellent with brilliant soloing although the chorus is admittedly rather boring. A fine way to end an excellent album.
All in all, this album can be considered as the turning point in Maiden’s discography which lead to metal and Maiden’s pinnacle – 7th son of a 7th son. This album merges epic with accessible to create a raging beast of an album. Well worth the buy unless you have an allergy to synths. The cover art too, absolutely rules. The detailed drawing bears many a secret one would be hard-pressed to find without the help of a FAQ.
Iron Maiden has made a name for itself as the most well-known and also the most uncompromising band in the heavy metal genre. The term heavy metal was coined years before their inception, but the definition did not truly pertain to anything extravagant until they hit the scene. Of all their albums, Somewhere in Time brings together all of the best elements of the band into one pure, unyielding collection of greatness.
My favorite aspect of this album is the sound of the guitars, which sound a bit similar to that of "Powerslave", but with a little bit more crunch. Another point of intrigue is the addition of synths to the mix, which would later become a bit more adventurous in "Seventh Son". The production is high end considering the times, particularly the drums which sound enormous. And as always, Bruce is pumping out the high notes with a vengence. Up the Irons!!!
The songwriting on this album is beyond compare with anything else that has ever been put out by the band. Unfortunately Bruce Dickinson didn't contribute anything to this album, but the other major composers are in full force here, most particularly Adrian Smith, whose idiomatic guitar themes outshine Dave Murray's usually dominant leads in this particular release. Now for a look at the individual tracks.
Caught Somewhere in Time - Steve Harris gets a bit adventurous with this track, throwing in a very prominent synth part to accompany his heavy bass chords and a catchy guitar theme. This song is an early example of what would later become the standard format with German Power Metal bands writing grand epics clocking in at over 7 minutes. The solo section of this song is riveting, dancing around a thundering rhythm section.
Wasted Years - Adrian Smith writes a bonafied metal classic starting with an impressive lead guitar riff, accompanied by a rather unique drum beat visa ve Nicko McBrain and Steve Harris' intricant walking bass. This song follows a very standard format, but the lyrics grab and hold the attention of the listener throughout.
Sea of Maddness - Maestro Adrian Smith strikes again with another classic guitar driven masterpiece. Much like it's predecessor, this song is very catchy and also has a very unique set of motives at work. Where Wasted Years seemed more a technical display, this song exposes Adrian's knack for playing with the structure of a song. Bruce Dickinson also gives a very intense vocal performance, pushing the limits of the sonic barrier. And let us not forget Steve's pounding bassline. Heavy Metal is the Law!
Heaven Can Wait - Steve Harris attempts to rival Harris' catchy masterpieces with one of his own, and quite successfully so I might add. The structure of this song is fairly similar to many of Harris' lengthy epics, full of changes and formal intrigue. The interlude/sing-along section is a nice touch, even if Maiden did just grab a bunch of random guys out of a local pub to get it done. If nothing else, it's original.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - This song is like a high paced Power Metal version of what would later become the title track of Maiden's last album before Bruce split with the band. (For those new to Maiden, I'm referring to fear of the dark. As usual there is a pleathora of themes that come and go, and one rather uniquely catchy guitar solo that I can't get out of my head.
Stranger in a Strange Land - Adrian gives us yet another piece of compositional genius, kicking off with a simple bass drone reminiscent of Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell". Bruce Dickinson's wailing vocals are the primary point of focus, being that the verses in particular sound like an opera recitative. With the exception of the guitar solo, the music functions more as a unified atmosphere of color than the complex multi-voiced counterpoint present in their previous songs on this album, driven by a somewhat gloomy sounding synth line.
Deja Vu - Dave Murray sneaks in his usual token track, but this time with a hell of alot more force than what I expected. While Harris is creating long drawn out epics, and Adrian is busting out timeless metal classics, Dave succeeds in writing the fastest song I've heard come out of Maiden ever. This qualifies as up-tempo Power Metal, minus the overdone double bass pedal. The guitar themes are extravagent, the drums are insane, and Bruce's voice is on point. Kudos to Dave for solidifying his place on this, my favorite of Iron Maiden's albums to date.
Alexander the Great - As far as Harris' compositions go, this is probably tied for the best with Phantom of the Opera and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The sheer number of themes that come and go, the vast changes, and the lyrical storytelling build forth a near 9 minute colossus that towers over the dry 3 minute garbage that you'll hear on your local radio station. This song sets a standard by which I measure every 7 minute or over track on any metal album.
In Conclusion, a must have for any Maiden fan. This album is always passed up for earlier material, but as far as I'm concerned, this album sees the band evolved to their highest state in their 28 year history. Within this album are the seeds of several bands that would come to prominence in the mid to late 90s until today. Namely Mob Rules, Freedom Call, Iron Savior, Gamma Ray and a few others.
For the first time in Maiden’s career, they skipped a year before releasing a new studio album. “Somewhere In Time” was released in 1986, still with the same line-up. Something had changed, though. Maiden included keyboards (or guitar synthesizers) for the very first time. Also, the sound has a futuristic feel to it. The songs themselves are mostly about space and time and distance, so it’s not far from being a concept album.
It begins with ‘Caught Somewhere In Time’, and the synthesizers are instantly there. I wonder how hard it was for Maiden fans at the time to get used to it, hehe. After a short intro, it kicks off, revealing a fast, galloping rhythm. Dickinson has the same skyhigh quality of a voice as usual, and the dual guitar-playing is present. Smith and Murray is the perfect guitar-couple. What amazed me the most when first hearing this album, though, is the superb drumming from Nicko McBrain! I feel this is his best work to date. The solos in the first song are spectacular and epic. Note that Bruce Dickinson didn’t write a single song in this album, and still it’s high quality stuff! Amazing. Anyway, all in all, the first track is a great opener (of course, we all know Maiden have no bad openers…) Track two is ‘Wasted Years’, and works as this album’s ballad. Except that it’s not really a ballad at all. It’s just slower and even catchier than the rest of the album. The lead intro is killer, and after listening to the chorus a couple of times, you’re bound to hum it for a week. This song also features a great, “heartfelt” solo. Perfect.
Then it’s onto ‘Sea of Madness’. This one’s faster than ‘Wasted Years’. The bridge and the chorus is what stands out on this song. There’s a certain epic feeling going through those sections of the song. Thinking of it, nearly the whole album has this epic feel, which is only a good thing. Again there’s an incredible lead guitar solo present. Halfway through the song there’s a section where things calm down, and it’s some of the best Maiden’s done yet. So far, so good. ‘Heaven Can Wait’ is next up. Again you quickly realize you’re listening to another classic, and this is perhaps the best song on the album. Perhaps. This is pretty much perfect from beginning to end, with a pretty fast tempo, and a memorable chorus. About halfway through, there’s a real singalong moment, just like at the end ‘The Wicker Man’. How Maiden accomplish this without it sounding cheesy, is beyond me, but there you are. Then we’re treated with a second solo, which is even better than the first. Then some twin-guitar play again, before the third verse begins. No wonder I love this song. The fifth song has the longest title from Iron Maiden yet: ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’. It begins with a nice intro, then suddenly explodes into yet another fast song. There’s a certain amount of galloping, as well. The chorus on this is perhaps not the most genious one of all time, but as a whole this song is extremely well written. I’m glad Bruce’s contributions to this album were scrapped, hearing how wonderful it is! He actually wrote a lot of accoustic stuff, but Steve didn’t think it was good enough, and didn’t go along with it. Well done, Steve!
Track six is without doubt the worst song here; ‘Stranger In a Strange Land’. That’s not to say it stinks, it’s actually very good, but it simply can’t compare to the other seven songs. It has kind of a disco-feel over it in places, but it sounds better than you might expect from hearing such a description. The line ‘no brave new world’ is repeated in this song, making me think of Maiden’s latest. If I were to rate this song by itself, I would’ve given it a 8/10, so it’s still quality stuff. The guitar solo in this is actually outstanding. Onto what is another candidate for best song on the record; ‘De Ja Vu’. A nice and moody intro, before speeding up (about every song on the album has this progression, without it getting repetitive). There’s a lot of double-bass drumming from Nicko in this song. The verse, the chorus, the guitars, the bass, the singing, the drumming, the sound, the melody lines…it’s all so damn perfect! What’s the word…yes, it’s orgasmic! Talking about those feelings, there’s still one song left. It’s the epic of the album, (not that there’s any lack of epicness elsewhere on the album, but anyway), and the title is ‘Alexander the Great’. Over 8 and a half minute long, it follows nicely in the vein of ‘To Tame a Land’ and ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. The intro is kind of march-based, which sounds great. It’s also very moody. Lyrically speaking, the song’s a bit ackward, thanks to Steve, but Bruce does what he can to make it sound great, he he succeeds. The chorus is again perfect. After four minutes the song calms a bit down, and this is where my favorite part of my song begins. Especially around the 4:52 mark. Who needs porn when you got that section?! The best thing is, that part of the song lasts quite a while, and features several killer guitar solos. The rest of the song is also killer. As you might understand, it’s between this one, ‘Heaven Can Wait’, and ‘De Ja Vu’.
Another review done. Phew! But I enjoyed reviewing this one. No need to say more, is there? Go and buy it! Meanwhile I’m going to listen to it one more time.