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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!