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Class 6(66)

Iron Maiden: Somewhere in time

02/08/11  ||  InquisitorGeneralis

Introduction

Iron Maiden is band for the people, even if they flatly refuse to play exactly what the people want in concert! Actually, that is not true. 2008’s Somewhere Back in Time tour was a classic Maiden fan’s wet dream. Still, people bitched about that one too. One thing that can not be denied is that Maiden today is as much of a force in the metal world as they were a quarter of a century ago when they released what I consider to be their finest album, “Somewhere in Time”. No other Maiden album has found the perfect mix between classic NWOBHM and progressive elements. Fellow (now former) staffer Khlysty fells that this record’s predecessor “Powerslave” was the pinnacle of the band’s career, and he makes a damn fine argument to back that ass up. There was definitely was a downward slide to mainstream accessibility in Maiden’s career, but it certainly came after “Somewhere in Time”.

Joining me in this perennial quest are several of our forum members who I invited to chime in…and do my work for me. Discussing this masterpiece always results in pages and pages of verbal conflict, and vaginal excretion, so I figured I would let the masses speak for themselves on this one. Iron Maiden is for the people. InquisitorGeneralis is for the people. “Somewhere in Time” is my favorite Maiden record. I can say that with a clear conscious and a pure soul. It has every type of Maiden song you could hope for; progressive historical epics, fast guitar-driven rockers, and mid-paced, NWOBHM classics.

Songwriting

Idontneedtowriteanythinghere: Former staffer Smalley has been holding the Maiden flags, especially the “Somewhere in Time” one, high on GD for years so I will let him do most of the talking here. I’m gonna drop a quick 9.5 while you read up on what the Smallmaster has to say.

Smalley: Pit opener “Caught somewhere in time” up against “Aces high”, the opener on “Powerslave”, and you’ll hear some obvious differences right away that are reflected throughout the whole of SiT, like “Caught” starting off with a synth-heavy intro, in contrast to the rawer, guitar-driven introduction on “Aces”. Admittedly, the synths on “SiT” do date the album to the 80’s more, but they also add in a necessary new spice to Maiden’s sound, as does the prog-ier direction Maiden took with the songwriting here, with “Caught” letting the synths do their thang at a relatively leisurely pace for almost a full minute before the song takes off to full speed. Cool shit, and it gets even better after it speeds up, with the song taking on this enthusiastic, sprawling energy that screams it’s ALIVE, an energy that never fails to get my heart a-pumpin’ when I put it on. The lengthy solo section after the first chorus keeps the momentum going strong here, and while the chorus is a bit repetitive, Maiden’s done that plenty of times and still made the song in particular be awesome, so no biggie here.

After that, “Wasted years” is a little less epic, but still the perfect follow-up track, with its inspiring, up-beat mood & lyrics, extremely sing-alongable chorus, and kick-ass centerpiece solo. “Sea of madness” is a bit of a study in contrasts from there, opening with some of the heaviest, most aggressive guitar work I’ve ever heard from Maiden, but then leading into bridge backed up by heavenly, ethereal synth playing, before heading into an incredibly energetic, soaring chorus that rivals “Wasted years”‘s for infectiousness, and with an unexpectedly soft, soothing breakdown later on that absolutely must be praised.

“Heaven can wait” is a bit of a step down from those first three tracks, but only a lil’ bit, as it still has a beautiful intro, some great chorus-vocal chanting, and a catchy overall energy, and speaking of beautiful synth intros, “The loneliness of the long distance runner” takes the cake, and its driving energy will get you in the mood to get off your fat anus and do a lil’ sprinting of your own (at least until the inevitable heart attack kicks in and you die for Maiden, the way it should be).

“Stranger in a strange land” is the appropriate cool-down, its opening bass line never failing to get my head a-nodding, and its toned-down tempo, intimate vocals and mood, and sad, tragic lyrics creating one of Maiden’s most emotional songs to date (if not the most emotional). I honestly can’t think of another Maiden song I like better. At any rate, follow-up “Deja vu” goes a little overboard with the synth stuff, but its great guitar/drums synergy and overall energy level is still fucken awesome.

And, from there… well, I don’t really like album closer “Alexander the great” that much; the intro is real cool, with the howling wind effects, spoken-word stuff, and the slow, gradual build-up, but once that’s over, it isn’t too interesting, save for a few choice parts (especially the long solo section in the second half). Not a bad song, just a step below every other song here. I know, it sucks when your album closer is a disappointment, but everything else here is good enough to give “Somewhere in time” its well-deserved 9 in songwriting. Sure, it is less aggressive than “Powerslave”, as well as different from the other previous albums, but it’s still awesome in a fresh, exciting way, and anyone who likes the previous shit but not “Somewhere in time” is wrong; bands gots to grow or die, after all. Hear that, Khlysty? W-r-o-n-g wrong. Good night.

Imstillhere: Yowza, so there you have it. Smalls comes out swinging and I have to agree with most of that oration. “Sea ov Madness” is my absolute favorite Maiden song and the solo/breakdown still impresses after about 10,000 listens. Same goes for the middle of “Alexander the great”. “Stranger in a strange land” is a slower-tempo classic. “Heaven can wait” and “Wasted years” were clearly written with packed stadiums in mind. I don’t see that as being a “sell out”, I see it as a band creating music that they know will give the fans a live experience to remember. The only song I skip is “Deja vu”, everything else is pure gold. Ryan, take ‘er home…

Ryan Samuel: Song structure is generally great, and there are plenty of great choruses, verses, and bridges to be found all over this puppy. Still, it’s probably the darkest sounding album of all their 80s material, comparatively speaking.

Production

Imincharge: Maiden records definitely sounded best before the band started producing themselves. Harris’ is no slouch behind the mixing board, but Martin Birch’s production on “Somewhere in Time” is flawless. Like 10 flawless. The drums a crisp and clear but not overpowering. The much-dread heartbeat kick is not present either. As expected, Harris bass is right up there along with Dave and Adrian always top-notch guitar sound and style.

Ryan Samuel: Everything has an echo-y, chorus-y, reverb-y sound to it. It makes the album sound quite spacey, a definite first for the band. It also has the heaviest production of any of their 80s albums. There’s also a layer of keyboards throughout, another first, and a neat touch.

Guitar

Irongeneralis: Once you get past the synthesizer parts, which are thankfully few, you realize this is a motherfucker of a guitar album. The galloping dual lines to the title track get my little horsecock up and off the track every time I hear them. The soft intro to “The loneliness of the long distance runner” might be the best beginning to a song Maiden has ever written. Iron Maiden even rule the slower riffs pool with the spacy, slower ones on “Stranger in a strange land”. Fuck me silly, that song rules. The breakdown/solo of “Alexander the great” is Tits McGee as well. I think somewhere here agrees with me…

Ryan Samuel: The soloing during the bridge of “Alexander the Great” is enough to warrant full marks. But it’s Iron Maiden, so they go about providing awesome guitar work throughout the entire album. The spacey, futuristic guitar tone is really nice too.

It’s time for a scoreralis: I am going with a 9.5 because I love everything about the guitars here except for some of the synths.

Bass

9.5. Besides the perm, the accent, the control freak issues, and the simony putting his kid in the direct support slot on several tours (she’s a babe though, I must admit) Steve Harris is an unmatched bass player. No one has or ever will be able to replacate his style, sound, or overall impact in a band.

Vocals

9.5. Bruce Bruce is on point here. I would not say this is his best ever vocal performance, but it has to be in the top three or four. “Somewhere in Time” features a still operatic Bruce in top form. Who else could carry a tune like “Heaven can wait” or “Wasted years” in front of 80,000 screaming fans? A great performance all around.

Drums

9.5. Nicko the McMonster puts forth yet another spectacular performance on “Somewhere Operation Mindcrime” and gives what I believe to be a career-defining performance. The tempo-change in the middle of “Sea of madness” is perfect, and the breakdown of “Alexander the great” shows that Nicko had (and still has) legitimate technical chops. He grooves, he thrills, the drives the pace like an Egyptian slave-master whuppin’ some Hebrew ass up the sides of the pyramids. Nicko needs only one kick drum and one foot to dominate. His fills are text book excellence too. Nicko truly is one of the giants of metal drumming, even if he sometimes gets overshadowed by the other huge forces (Bruce’s vox, the dual guitars, Harris’ bass, etc etc) that make up Iron Maiden.

Cover

InvisibleHanderalis: Let me get this out of the way right quick, this cover is an absolutely gem, a perfect 10. Now listen to The Shadow drop some fucken science on your ass…

The Shadow: The cover for this album is actually a wonderful piece of art, which might require a special review itself, due to its richness of details consisting in many references used by Derek Riggs, which can be found also on the back-cover. So, any little thing that appears in there holds a link to something related to Maiden or the band members. From the brain in Bruce’s hand, to the Icarus in the middle, or the clock ticking at 23:58, to the Aces High bar or the Club Waterloo, or better to the reference to one of the band’s favorite bars in the US, Hammerjacks Night Club in Baltimore, everything has a meaning, and one can spend many hours to identify them all. Or better try an Internet site, although it seems that all of the references still aren’t reveled yet. All in one, the wrap-cover is a nice time travel through Iron Maiden’s history until 1986.

IaGree: Fuck yeah Hammerjacks! That place was a cesspool of drugs, vermin, metal, and loose vaginas. It still is a legend here even though it was demolished two decades ago to make a parking lot for Camden Yards baseball stadium. Instead of watching our shitty baseball team, the Orioles, stink it up I much rather would be doing coke off of a hooker’s tits in Hammerjack’s bathroom. Ah, a boy can dream…

Logo

10. A true classic logo and one of metal’s most reliable stalwarts. it hasn’t changed in thirty years, and it doesn’t fucking need to.

Booklet

N/A. I don’t have it and no one else seemed to comment on it.

Overall and ending rant

This one is all me baby. “Somewhere in Time” has stood the test of time and remains my favorite Iron Maiden album. It’s heavy, epic, melodic, interesting, and downright awesome. Every kind of Maiden track you could hope for is on here. From the blistering opening title track, to the stadium anthems “Heaven can wait” and “Wasted years”, to the deep-cut classics “Alexander the great” and “Sea of madness”; it is all done perfectly. Some may think this record was Iron Maiden’s turn towards a more mainstream sound. I think it is the moment where the band found the perfect balance between stadium epicness (“Wasted years” and “heaven can wait”), sci-fi and fantasy themes (the title track), and classic guitar-centered metal awesomness (“Sea of fucken madness”). I’m taking .5 points off of a perfect score because “Deja vu” and “Loneliness…” strike me as a bit of filler even though they are both damn good songs. Thanks to all who chimed in on this, sorry it took me so long to finally put it out here. Enjoy and up the irons bitches!

9,5

  • Information
  • Released: 1986
  • Label: EMI
  • Website: www.ironmaiden.com
  • Band
  • Bruce Dickinson: vocals
  • Steve Harris: bass
  • Dave Murray: guitar
  • Adrian Smith: guitar
  • Nicko McBrain: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Caught Somewhere in Time
  • 02. Wasted Years
  • 03. Sea of Madness
  • 04. Heaven Can Wait
  • 05. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
  • 06. Stranger in a Strange Land
  • 07. Deja-Vu
  • 08. Alexander the Great