2012-09-21

Metal Monument: Iron Maiden - Somewhere in Time

Band: Iron Maiden
Album: "Somewhere in Time"
Style: Heavy metal
Release date: 1986-09-26
Origin: United Kingdom

Tracklist:
1. Caught Somewhere in Time
2. Wasted Years
3. Sea of Madness
4. Heaven can Wait
5. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
6. Stranger in a Strange Land
7. Deja Vu
8. Alexander the Great

Introduction:
After reading both the unauthorized biography "Iron Maiden - 30 Years of the Beast" by Paul Stenning and the authorized "Run to the Hills" by Mick Wall, I naturally felt a big urge to listen to some Iron Maiden. I've always had "Somewhere in Time" as a personal favorite and even though it is considered among the classic Maiden-albums, it has still got it's share of critcisim over the years and is constantly overlooked in comparison with it's follow-up "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" - which I personally don't care for that much. So it is with a great pleasure that I present the Metal Monument that "Somewhere in Time" rightfully is.

Record cover:
When I spoke about Candlemass' legendary debut "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" I said that the album cover was considered iconic. While that word might be wrong for the mighty Maiden's sixth full-length album cover - it is in all ways considered a classic one. Legendary Maiden-artist Derek Riggs is here at his best what with the futuristic Eddie and all. But of course this cover is all about the details. There are numerous websites out there that really goes into a nerd-in-depth-frenzy while it covers all the hidden stuff in the background and what meaning it has to the band's history etc. I wont go through all that though, but you should all take a moment and look at it a bit more carefully. Click me to do so.




1. Caught Somewhere in Time (07.26)
Straight from the opening guitar melody one can hear the difference in the production compared to the predecessor "Powerslave" (1984). It's slicker and more "modern" - well, at least it was back in 1986 - and the bass guitar is of course always the thing you can hear the most. But it's Steve Harris for f's sake! That bass, in combination with those ever-present twin guitar melodies is to me what Iron Maiden is all about. Not 10+ minute-long songs filled with progressiveness just for the sake of it, as the case is with the present incarnation of the band. Here, we are thankfully saved from the ├╝ber-dork Jannick Gers and we can solely focus on the craftsmanship of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.
The verses are fucking ace on this song and even though the chorus on paper should be quite boring with it's constant repeat of the title in the vocal-department, it sure as hell isn't. So basically, this song reeks of everything we've come to expect from the classic Maiden, except it isn't as worn out and played forever in their live sets, such as the case is with some of the other classics - and that is why this particular song always seems so fresh when I hear it. I also have to point out that despite being almost 7 and a half minute long, this demi-title track never gets boring or dull. It's a constant attack of instruments and no boring interludes either. Pure gold!




2. Wasted Years (05.07)
If I remember correctly, this was the first single from the album and I totally get why. It's more "mainstream" than the rest of the songs present here and it's easy to get why the band (and manager Rod Smallwood) thought that "Wasted Years" would be perfect for a single.
While the song itself ain't bad in any sense, the more mainstreamed sound - especially in the chorus - gets old quite fast and it's almost too sing-along friendly for my taste (now there's something I never thought I'd write). The guitar solo present in the track is also a tad to icky for my taste.




3. Sea of Madness (05.42)
This is one of the songs I keep forgetting about when I listen to "Somewhere in Time" and I thought I would analyze it a bit more thoroughly now to see why. The first thing I notice is that "Sea of Madness" is a tad more "rockier" and less epic than most of the songs on the album and that the bass guitar really sticks out (even more so than the rest of the songs), especially while listening to it with headphones.
The vocal melodies in the verses are quite mediocre when it comes to Maiden and they feel more akin to the band's older albums. The chorus then tries to be more epic than the rest of the songs, but it actually feels a bit forced and don't even get me started on the "oh-oh's" in the pre-chorus. It's no wonder why I don't remember this particular song so well when I think about "Somwhere in Time".




4. Heaven can Wait (07.22)
The song begins with one of those infamous keyboards (or guitar-synths?) that this album is perhaps most famous of. But since they are constantly in the background and only adds an extra layer underneath the sea of guitars, bass and drums - one cannot wonder if the album would have sounded any different without them.
Anyway, "Heaven can Wait" has a really memorable verse where Bruce Dickinson shows exactly how godlike he is when it comes to gabble many words at once. Sure, the constant repeat of the title in the chorus might get old quite fast, but it's nevertheless a joy to sing-along to. And when you get to the part where the band shifts tempo and Bruce begins to sing: "Take my hand..." always gives me goosebumps. The "woh-oh-oh" that comes after, while a bit tacky on it's own, actually brings me back to the 80's with a smile on my face.




5. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (06.31)
I have no idea why this song seems to be one of those less revered when it comes to "Somewhere in Time" as I always keep hearing journalists and writers look down on this. The beginning with it's somber atmosphere and fantastic guitar melody is so masterfully done that I always sit and hum along to it. I love how the entire verse sounds like one long pre-chorus, slowly building up to a climax and then comes that wonderful pronunciation when Bruce takes his time with singing the title and finally gets to the word "runn-er" - I absolutely love that small moment.
Lyrically, it might be a bit more corny than the rest of some of the lyrics present, but that is a minor thing that, in my opinion, one can easily overlook.




6. Stranger in a Strange Land (05.45)
Hell yeah! The bass-lines in the beginning are a joy to behold (I vote for the word "behear" to make it's entry in the English language). The build-up here is a bit different to say the least and "Stranger in a Strange Land" at one point seems more progressive than the rest of the lot here and on the other hand, it's also a bit more mainstream. I really like the fact that those two feelings so successfully are combined in this song and it's no wonder why this became the second single off the album.
As I said, it is very different from the rest of the material on "Somewhere in Time" and I also must point out that it takes a genius to actually place this song between "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" and "Deja Vu" where it sits so perfectly. I often feel that too few reviewers point out that particular thing when it comes to classic albums. Sure, all the songs here are good songs on their own, but whilst listening to an entire album from start to finish - one badly placed song on the tracklist can ruin the entire flow. "Somewhere in Time" is a great example of how to decide a tracklist.




7. Deja Vu (04.56)
Together with "Sea of Madness", I find that "Deja Vu" is one of the weakest points on the album, though not really weak. Strange? Well, let me explain then:
 It's most definitely not a bad song and I love the more faster tempo here and the fact that the song is the only one under 5 minutes. A longer playtime would have easily resulted in a lower score from my side. The verses, and especially the pre-chorus "Cause you know this has happened before. And you know that this moment in time is for real. And you know when you feel deja-vu", is marvelous to say the least and it also saves the song from it's quite boring chorus. So what should have been a great climax, now only feels awkward and I cannot help myself from removing a few points because of that. Otherwise, it's a great little rocker. Had I given out half points, "Deja Vu" would have received 7.5 because I'd rather listen to this than "Wasted Years".




8. Alexander the Great (08.35)
The song begins with it's infamous lines "My son ask for thyself another. Kingdom, for that which I leave is too small for thee?". After that, there's a small part of acoustic guitars and march-drums which slowly settles the mood before the "actual" song starts. From verse to chorus to bridges to solos and everything in between  "Alexander the Great" is just... great. Also, I have to revoke some parts from my earlier comments regarding them infamous guitar-synths, because you can really hear them well.
Honestly, I feel it is an outrage that this song isn't regarded in the same manner as "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" or "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" (the song) since it is equally as good. And when was the last time the band brought this one in for a live-performance?




End rating
It is quite hard to rank a particular Maiden-album due to the fact that they've done so god damn many and even those albums which are considered as "weaker" all still contain at least some good songs (except "No Prayer for the Dying" which I absolutely loathe). But I still stand firm behind my statement that "Somewhere in Time" is the best Maiden-album out there, simply because it is so much more consistent than many of the other classics. "The Number of the Beast", "Piece of Mind" and "Powerslave" - how good they may be, still has some songs that are considerably worse than the weakest tracks here - here's looking at "Gangland", "Sun and Steel" and "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)". Still undoubtedly a Metal Monument - "Somewhere in Time" isn't a full score affair.

TOTAL SCORE:
"Make you an offer you can't refuse
You've only got your soul to lose
Eternally.... Just let yourself go
Caught somewhere in time"



7 comments:

  1. For me, the best Iron Maiden's album is "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", but this one is one of the best too.

    My favorite song is "The Loneliness..."

    Great review man!!

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  2. Awesome review. Love your writing. Keep it up.

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  3. Caught Somewhere in Time is the least great song on this album, 6/10 would be more right.
    You should have put better marks on Wasted Years and Deja Vu.
    Alexander the Great was good marked!
    Because it is sooo cool, maybe The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a 10/10.

    Iron Maiden was at their peak in the 8:ties, all the best albums were made then.
    Just take the time and listen to The Number of the Beast and Final Frontier - judge between the 2 albums, in honesty - and tell yourself which one is the best!

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  4. I pretty much agree with EVERYTHING you wrote about this album. And some of your descriptions of the songs are remarkably similar to how I've felt about the songs since their release in '86. I guess great minds think alike. HA!

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    1. Cool! Glad you liked it. I actually read through the entire thing again, since it was so damn long ago I wrote it. And since it's Saturday, I'll just open a beer and play me some Maiden - cheers!

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  5. I remember when this was released in '86 (and I ran right out and got it within a couple days of release) and thinking after spinning it a few times that it was "just another Maiden record". But while reading what you wrote about the individual songs it reminded me of how great this album is. I actually like this one better than Seventh Son.

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    1. I envy you - I was 5 years old then...
      But it's really cool to hear these little stories about how people discover new albums or bands. And the fact that you commented here made me feel the urge to listen to this great album again!

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