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In 1985 Iron Maiden was on top of their game. They completed their World Slavery Tour, which was their longest tour, and they had 5 successful classic metal albums. How do you follow up something like Powerslave? Well, some say that this is the beginning of Maiden's downfall, but do I agree?
Let's get one thing out of the way right now, I really like this album, and it used to be my favorite, until I bought the classic albums prior to this one (The Number Of The Beast, Piece Of Mind and Powerslave). I prefer each and every single one of them above this one. But why? Well, this album isn't bad, as said earlier, but Maiden's music started to change during this time. Somewhere in Time was the first Iron Maiden album to feature guitar synths, you hate them or you love them. Iron Maiden wasn't the only band experimenting with guitar synths during this time, Judas Priest did the same with their Turbo album. But back to the synths, I like them, they build a cool atmosphere (as in Sea Of Madness for example) and they really add to the futuristic theme that the album cover has.
Another big change this time around, is that guitarist Adrian Smith wrote many of the songs on this album, including the singles Wasted Years and Stranger in a Strange Land. Smith and Harris provide most of the songs on this album, instead of Dickinson / Smith / Harris. Murray has co written one song, Déjà Vu. So Dickinson's song material was refused in favour of the songs of Adrian Smith. Each of Smith's songs are catchy and interesting, like Wasted Years. But, what about the songs? Well, the album opens up with the furious Caught Somewhere In Time. The song starts with guitar synths and builds up and up and up until it explodes in a frenzy of riffs as Steve Harris gallops along on his bass. Dickinson's voice is really outstanding, though it sounds a bit forced on the chorus. This song has some epic guitar dueling, and Smith really shines in this track, his solo (the second solo) is one of the best guitar solo's ever, it's a long solo and it's plain amazing. Wasted Years is a upbeat rocker and is without a doubt one of the bands most commercial songs, and it's a pretty good song as well.
This spoken part opens the final song, Alexander The Great. It is another Harris epic and it's pretty damn epic. This song is about, as to be expected, Alexander The Great. It features long instrumental sections and a bunch of guitar synths here and there. The lyrics are pretty cool containing historical detail as well. This song ends the album with the following lyrics: He died of fever in Babylon. This marks the end of the song, and the entire album.
This is a pretty solid Maiden record. I really like the melodic sections and the fantastic guitar solos, but I miss some of the power which was found on previous albums. Their next classic would be the follow up to this album, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.
(Originally written for www.ultimatemetal.com)