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The biggest problems with Somewhere In Time are very simple. It is an album which is close to genius but falls between two even bigger masterpieces (Powerslave & Seventh Son that is of course). Secondly the lyrical content here is somewhat lacking compared to the earlier mentioned two classics. For example the lyrics to “Déjà Vu” are plain awful. Fortunately the song itself is excellent.
Well, that about wraps up the biggest two complaints. There is of course a reason this album remains one of the all time Maiden classics. That it because it is just excellent and has a lot of character. As said the lyrics are lacking here but the music was once again a step forward. And so were the production and use of (guitar) synths.
The album opens with an epic tune immediately. But because of the high tempo “Caught Somewhere in Time” never feels like an epic but still remains interesting the full length. The speed, dynamics and enormous presence of great melodies makes this song an instant classic. “Sea Of Madness” is one of the more brutal metal tunes here. Though not as impressive as a lot of other songs on this album it holds firm because of its catchiness and heavy moments.
“The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” does what the title says. Almost just like the opening tune it just goes on and on and dares the listener to hold on. It’s a long ride but a memorable one. The pre-chorus and chorus are majestic and the energy of this song is almost unequalled on the rest of the album.
Now the true epic piece here is of course “Alexander the Great”. A song that was completed in the studio and never performed live. It can compete with earlier classics like Hallowed By The Name and To Tame a Land with ease. The lyrics are somewhat dull but the concept is great and so is the spoken intro.
Then we have the two mid paced and catchy singles. “Stranger in a Strange Land” is the heaviest of the two and I never seem to get bored by that heavy main riff and that awesome chorus. This is truly classic eighties pounding heavy metal the way it should be. The other one, “Wasted Years”, has the trademark Adrian Smith intro and is a laid back song about being on tour with a strong yet over-catchy chorus and a great solo.
Leaves us with that song the band has been playing live for so many years. We’re talking “Heaven Can Wait” here. Now this song has actually got one of the weakest choruses on the album yet the band persisted in playing this song live. The middle section of the song is great though and the sing-a-long part always proved much fun live. To be honest it really isn’t one of the best songs here and sounds like a filler compared to the earlier mentioned classics. A good filler that is.
Last but not least the production is very typical. The use of guitar synths has broadened the sound even more, making this album sound majestic at times! This typical sound, which no other Maiden album has, gave the album even more character and emphasised the futuristic artwork. Once again the band managed to combine production and artwork perfectly. The artwork is classy. Though not as good as Powerslave, it obviously still has character and the album cover is fun to look through, trying to find all those references. The futuristic Eddie looks great.
Even though Dickinson would later admit this period was not one of his most inspirational ones, his vocal performance is stunning here. But he and Murray kept a low profile compositionally this time. It was up to Smith and Harris to deliver the songs. Adrian Smith wrote three out of eight songs this time. And three of the better or more successful ones even I must add! But don’t worry, Dickinson would awake on the next album again, and how!