Newest Review: ... since joining Maiden. I love the melodic opening riff combining with Steve Harris' chugging bass after the intro, and when I first heard ... more
Maiden in Time
Somewhere In Time - Iron Maiden
Member Name: Jarisleif
Somewhere In Time - Iron Maiden
Date: 14/11/11, updated on 22/07/12 (18 review reads)
Advantages: Iron Maiden
Disadvantages: Some songs are too long, needed some 3-4 minute singles
"Somewhere in Time" is the 6th studio album by British heavy metal band, Iron Maiden. It was released in 1986 on EMI and produced by Martin Birch. The line-up for the album was Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (guitar), Adrian Smith (guitar), Steve Harris (bass) and Nicko McBrain (drums).
When Iron Maiden released their first official live album with "Live After Death" in 1985, they knew they had to take the band a step further to evolve and ensure that the fans got their money's worth. What transpired was "Somewhere in Time", an album you may think is a concept after reading the review, but it really isn't. Gone are the standard 3 or 4 minute instant singles the band was noted for in previous albums; the shortest song being "Wasted Years" at just over 5 minutes long. Instead we have intricate, almost orchestrated monsters which are carefully laid out and slot together with such precision, you'd swear it was a classical music composition played heavy metal style. The album cover is a work of art that was three months in the making from illustrator Derek Riggs, with a futuristic Eddie at the forefront with the band members on the back and various references to song titles of the past and pieces of Iron Maiden history, like the Ruskin Arms, a pub where the band first played, Icarus from "Flight of Icarus", and a pyramid in the background, from "Powerslave" amongst many other intricate details.
The album begins with the somewhat title track, although "Caught Somewhere in Time" has an extra word compared to the album title. Written by Steve Harris, it's a song about a man who is offered time travel by the devil in exchange for his soul. The devil is tempting him by asking him if he could take him to the future, would he go. The song has some great riffs throughout and the solos are a joy to listen to and even though the chorus basically repeats the song title, it still sounds amazing as Bruce Dickinson's vocals are of the highest standard, and this is probably the best he's sung since joining Maiden. I love the melodic opening riff combining with Steve Harris' chugging bass after the intro, and when I first heard it back in 1986, I knew I was in for a treat.
"Wasted Years" was the lead single from the album, peaking at No.18 in the UK singles charts. The song has made appearances on Iron Maiden set lists on a rotation basis over the years and was part of the North American tour of 2012. It's a song that has meaning for most of the band, in that while on tour it's easy to forget who you really are and what your home life means to you. You go out on stage every night and bring joy to the thousands that come and see you play, and while that's meaningful in its own right, family has to come first. Musically, it's staple Iron Maiden. It sounds great and it's played to a tight beat - the kind of sound you get with a band that has so much togetherness. Some of the best soloing I've ever heard comes in on this record, and the song is definitely part of compilation mixes I create, even now.
"Sea of Madness" is a song that I can take or leave. It's good, but it's lacking something and even now I don't know what that something is. It's played well, there's no doubt about that, but what I think is its downfall is the over production of the song - it almost sounds too clean and nice - and that's something you shouldn't associate with Iron Maiden. It's about the failure of man to live up to the expectations of others. It was written by Adrian Smith, and what he's doing here is telling us that it's okay to turn your back and say enough's enough - it's your life, you live it how you wish. This is an Iron Maiden song that has rarely been played live but I know it has been, even though I've never witnessed it.
"Heaven Can Wait" has become a staple live favourite over the years and is a song about near death experiences, life after death and everything in between. The narrator has died and is going through the tunnel of light, but he cannot understand what's happened to him. Throughout the song, he tries to work it all out but he really doesn't want to go. In the end he's back in his own body, confused and tired, and wondering if his experiences really happened. This is a song I always look forward to hearing whenever Iron Maiden play live because of the audience participation on the chorus towards the end of the song. It's a fast-paced number but if I had to be picky, the synthesizer maybe could have been taken out of the studio version.
"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", written by Steve Harris, is a song about a young man named Colin Smith who threw a race in a juvenile detention centre that he would have won. It's a song based on the 1959 short story by Alan Sillitoe which was made into a film in 1962, starring Tom Courtenay. In the film, we see that Smith is way ahead of the rest of the group and comes to a halt just before the finish line, allowing the others to pass him. What I especially like about this song is the pace of the guitar stumming which fit the bill for a song about running. You can almost imagine the athletes running to the beat. Yet again, there's more masterful soloing just before the main bridge.
You would think that "Stranger in a Strange Land" was inspired by Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 novel of the same name, but you'd be wrong. Adrian Smith wrote the song after speaking to an Arctic explorer who told the tale of seeing frozen bodies of people that didn't make it along the way. This was the second single released off the album and reached No.22 in the UK singles charts and the cover depicts Eddie as Clint Eastwood. It's a slower song compared to most on this album but that doesn't take away the cleverness of the guitars jamming along with the bass over a great drum beat, and Dickinson sings it to perfection. This is one of those songs that's really good but it is very much underestimated by fans.
"Deja-Vu" is a song, as you'd expect, about the feeling you get of doing something that you think you've done before. It has some wonderful harmony and some timely drumming but I feel that the drums are a little too quiet in parts. Nicko has a great knack of playing his drum kit to the limit but never exceeding what's required on the song like some heavy metal drummers do. It's a song I've never heard live but I definitely hope to one day.
"Alexander the Great" is the longest song on the album, weighing in at over 8 minutes long, but what a song this is. It is about the Macedonian King who never lost a battle in his military campaigns in Asia Minor and throughout most of ancient Europe. It begins with some narrative:
"My son, ask for thyself another Kingdom,
for that which I leave is too small for thee"
(King Philip of Macedonia - 339 B.C.)
Then the song is brought in by some light military drumming and a soft guitar riff before the mainstay of the song is introduced. This is quite simply one of the best Iron Maiden songs I've ever heard, and I love the delivery of Bruce's vocals here. It's sung with passion and there's some very obvious respect for the great Macedonian. The bridge on this song is just wonderful and it's a brilliantly constructed number which is my favourite song on the album.
In summary, while this album may not be Maiden's best or live up to the expectations of "The Number of the Beast", it is still a very good record which no Iron Maiden collection is complete without. It has good memories for me, personally, as the first time I saw the band was in support of this album during the "Somewhere on Tour" tour, and I've seen them many times since. For me, this is the album that raised the bar in the traditional heavy metal community during 1986. That's not saying albums released in the same year like Metallica's "Master of Puppets" or Slayer's "Reign in Blood" and Megadeth's "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" were no good; they're of the thrash genre anyway and ground-breaking in their own ways, but the stand-out metal record must be "Somewhere in Time".
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
8. Alexander the Great
My rating: 9/10
Summary: It's a great Maiden album, but is it a brilliant one?