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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!