Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time

November 27, 2012 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by Kylie

Iron Maiden
Somewhere In Time
1986

After taking a year off following the absurdly long World Slavery Tour, Iron Maiden decided to do a bit of experimentation. The opening notes you hear on “Caught Somewhere In Time?” Yup, synths! While not as ridiculous as the sounds on Judas Priest’s Turbo from the same year, they do sound a bit strange at first. Oh sure, they work on the more “poppy” tunes and great space-filler on a few others, but they’re there, and you know it. It’s that weird, awkward moment where you try something different from your normal sound, and it doesn’t quite work, but the next time, you do that different thing even more different the next time and you get yourself a classic! (That being the follow-up, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son)

Aside from the guitar synths and keyboards, the most noticeable thing about the album is Bruce’s voice. It’s clear that he wasn’t really 100% into the album (he wanted a more acoustic, mellow feel), and the only album other than Number Of The Beast where he had no writing credits. It’s most apparent in “Caught Somewhere In Time” and “Deja Vu.”

As mentioned earlier, the album opens with the fairly synth-y “Caught Somewhere In Time.” Musically, it’s a phenomenal Maiden track, galloping away with the typical lethally melodic harmony lines. However, it suffers a bit from Bruce being just a bit…off (it has to be said). Otherwise, this would be an instant classic.

“Wasted Years,” on the other hand, is that instant classic. It’s so far removed from the Maiden norm, yet is still so easily identifiable as Maiden. It’s an amazingly powerful and moving “pop” song, and Adrian’s guitar solo alone is worth the price of the album. If it weren’t for Seventh Son having three absolutely phenomenal tracks released as singles (and “Can I Play With Madness”), “Wasted Years” would be the Maiden single.

“Sea Of Madness” is a bit like a slower version of “Back In The Village” from Powerslave; it’s built around a speedy Adrian Smith riff, but it lacks flow and the transitions between the verses and chorus are a bit jarring. It seems that H used two genie wishes making “Wasted Years” and “Stranger In A Strange Land” classics and then used the third for the solos on those tracks rather than getting a bit more polish on “Sea Of Madness.” But, like Meat Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad!

“Heaven Can Wait” is Steve’s “pop” track (though it’s another lengthy song), and is right at the point of where Maiden can’t play much faster without reaching Slayer-levels of incoherence. It’s still a fun rocker with the ultimate singalong part (and I love it when it’s in their setlist and pull fanclub members on stage for it…still waiting for my chance, though!), and one of the better songs here.

“The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” holds the record for longest song title from Maiden, but other than the three guitar lead sections, is pretty bland filler (and is the only song to ever only be played live exactly once; it was dropped from the set after the first show of the tour). “Deja Vu” is similar to the opener, with very good music (Dave Murray doesn’t write bad songs) and very blah vocals.

“Stranger In A Strange Land” is a slightly lesser “Wasted Years,” with a bit more mid-tempo to it and two incredible solos. “Alexander The Great” closes out as a lower-quality Maiden epic with some great music, but again, it’s a bit vocally jarring (in that it’s way too literal and lacks flow, but that’s ‘Arry’s fault, not Bruce’s). Other than the fact that Adrian doesn’t want to play it live (and thus it’s never been played live), I can’t see why so many Iron Maiden fans hold this song so close and dear. It’s not that it’s bad, or even that it’s just “good,” but with all the “lost classics,” why this? Especially since “Infinite Dreams” hasn’t been played since 1988.

That said, the b-sides are really worth going for here. The Wasted Years single features “Reach Out” (with Adrian on lead vocals, the only studio recording not featuring the vocalist on lead vocals), a great pop-rock track, and the reworked Urchin track “Life In The City” as “The Sheriff Of Huddersfield,” a total jab at manager Rod Smallwood. It’s definitely the best “joke” track outside of Nicko’s “Age Of Innocence” piss take from the No More Lies box. Stranger In A Strange Land has my personal favorite b-side in “That Girl” (imagine if Iron Maiden wrote a glam-rock love song…this would be it) and the pretty-good rocker “Juanita.”

All in all, Somewhere In Time is a pretty solid album that showcases Adrian Smith as a featured songwriter (3 songs), but is pretty much an awkward transition piece between the masterpieces of Powerslave and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. However, the cover is about as badass as Iron Maiden covers go, with about 14 billion jokes and references in the artwork (like, “that’s the same lamp post as on their debut!”).

 Kylie’s rating: 3.5 out of 5

And because this was one of the best moments of the shows on the 1986 tour: