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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.