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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.