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Iron Maiden has made a name for itself as the most well-known and also the most uncompromising band in the heavy metal genre. The term heavy metal was coined years before their inception, but the definition did not truly pertain to anything extravagant until they hit the scene. Of all their albums, Somewhere in Time brings together all of the best elements of the band into one pure, unyielding collection of greatness.
My favorite aspect of this album is the sound of the guitars, which sound a bit similar to that of "Powerslave", but with a little bit more crunch. Another point of intrigue is the addition of synths to the mix, which would later become a bit more adventurous in "Seventh Son". The production is high end considering the times, particularly the drums which sound enormous. And as always, Bruce is pumping out the high notes with a vengence. Up the Irons!!!
The songwriting on this album is beyond compare with anything else that has ever been put out by the band. Unfortunately Bruce Dickinson didn't contribute anything to this album, but the other major composers are in full force here, most particularly Adrian Smith, whose idiomatic guitar themes outshine Dave Murray's usually dominant leads in this particular release. Now for a look at the individual tracks.
Caught Somewhere in Time - Steve Harris gets a bit adventurous with this track, throwing in a very prominent synth part to accompany his heavy bass chords and a catchy guitar theme. This song is an early example of what would later become the standard format with German Power Metal bands writing grand epics clocking in at over 7 minutes. The solo section of this song is riveting, dancing around a thundering rhythm section.
Wasted Years - Adrian Smith writes a bonafied metal classic starting with an impressive lead guitar riff, accompanied by a rather unique drum beat visa ve Nicko McBrain and Steve Harris' intricant walking bass. This song follows a very standard format, but the lyrics grab and hold the attention of the listener throughout.
Sea of Maddness - Maestro Adrian Smith strikes again with another classic guitar driven masterpiece. Much like it's predecessor, this song is very catchy and also has a very unique set of motives at work. Where Wasted Years seemed more a technical display, this song exposes Adrian's knack for playing with the structure of a song. Bruce Dickinson also gives a very intense vocal performance, pushing the limits of the sonic barrier. And let us not forget Steve's pounding bassline. Heavy Metal is the Law!
Heaven Can Wait - Steve Harris attempts to rival Harris' catchy masterpieces with one of his own, and quite successfully so I might add. The structure of this song is fairly similar to many of Harris' lengthy epics, full of changes and formal intrigue. The interlude/sing-along section is a nice touch, even if Maiden did just grab a bunch of random guys out of a local pub to get it done. If nothing else, it's original.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - This song is like a high paced Power Metal version of what would later become the title track of Maiden's last album before Bruce split with the band. (For those new to Maiden, I'm referring to fear of the dark. As usual there is a pleathora of themes that come and go, and one rather uniquely catchy guitar solo that I can't get out of my head.
Stranger in a Strange Land - Adrian gives us yet another piece of compositional genius, kicking off with a simple bass drone reminiscent of Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell". Bruce Dickinson's wailing vocals are the primary point of focus, being that the verses in particular sound like an opera recitative. With the exception of the guitar solo, the music functions more as a unified atmosphere of color than the complex multi-voiced counterpoint present in their previous songs on this album, driven by a somewhat gloomy sounding synth line.
Deja Vu - Dave Murray sneaks in his usual token track, but this time with a hell of alot more force than what I expected. While Harris is creating long drawn out epics, and Adrian is busting out timeless metal classics, Dave succeeds in writing the fastest song I've heard come out of Maiden ever. This qualifies as up-tempo Power Metal, minus the overdone double bass pedal. The guitar themes are extravagent, the drums are insane, and Bruce's voice is on point. Kudos to Dave for solidifying his place on this, my favorite of Iron Maiden's albums to date.
Alexander the Great - As far as Harris' compositions go, this is probably tied for the best with Phantom of the Opera and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The sheer number of themes that come and go, the vast changes, and the lyrical storytelling build forth a near 9 minute colossus that towers over the dry 3 minute garbage that you'll hear on your local radio station. This song sets a standard by which I measure every 7 minute or over track on any metal album.
In Conclusion, a must have for any Maiden fan. This album is always passed up for earlier material, but as far as I'm concerned, this album sees the band evolved to their highest state in their 28 year history. Within this album are the seeds of several bands that would come to prominence in the mid to late 90s until today. Namely Mob Rules, Freedom Call, Iron Savior, Gamma Ray and a few others.