Welcome back! The epic run of classic Iron Maiden albums continues with 1986’s Somewhere in Time. To me, this
is a very consistent effort. It’s got some serious high points, and the low points are not overly low. It’s an extremely
solid record, front to back.
The big difference between this and prior albums is the introduction of synthesizers, giving this record a truly unique
sound. It was also the first album to not come out the year after the previous album. This can be attributed to the
gruelling World Slavery Tour and the time needed to recuperate afterwards.
This album also featured many songwriting contributions from Adrian Smith and none from Bruce Dickinson, who
wanted to go with a more acoustic direction. Sorry, Bruce, you’re getting synths.
This is one of the most complex creations Derek Riggs has ever done. We not only get the awesome future aesthetic with Cyborg Eddie but the front and back are jam-packed with references and Easter eggs. It’s like “Where’s Waldo”, but if Waldo was references to Iron Maiden works. So, not at all like “Where’s Waldo”.
8. “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”
The weakest track on the album, “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” isn’t terrible overall, but everything else outpaces this one. Shockingly, this is based on a coming-of-age book and film of the same name and not about ancient Greek messenger Pheidippides, who ran a LOT, most notably running from Marathon to Athens to deliver the results of the Battle of Marathon before promptly collapsing and dying. A nicely melodic guitar eases the listener into things before we get to a driving rhythm. A bit of a marathon itself at over 6 minutes, it does last a bit longer than it needs to.
7. “Deja Vu”
Occupying the slot above the basement, “Deja Vu” is actually pretty enjoyable, but it’s a much less complex
composition when you compare it to anything else on the album. I still quite like it, even if the chorus is a bit simplistic (“Feels like I’ve been here before”). Fairly solid guitar work and overall instrumentation carry things along. It also doesn’t overstay its welcome, unlike the #8 track.
6. “Sea of Madness”
“Sea of Madness” is a perfect title because you feel like you’re awash in a furious whirlpool. However, this eddy is not made of water, but of incredibly aggressive, fast-paced guitars and a HUGE presence from Steve Harris’ bass. He slaps the absolute crap out of that thing here, and it makes for a very fun track. Good, solid vocals from Bruce
Dickinson and Nicko McBrain’s pounding drums also help this track along.
5. “Alexander the Great”
The album-closing epic du jour is an apparently historically accurate retelling of the life of the famed conqueror. When you hear Nicko McBrain read the opening as Peter of Macedon, and those delicate guitars kick in that soon give way to a meaty riff, you know you’re in for a sweeping saga. A catchy chorus and great vocals from Bruce keep things marching along nicely, even if his belting of the chorus is a bit cheesy (“ALEXANDER THE GREEEEAAAAAAAAT!”). This is like going to Grade 10 History class but with more leather and synthesizers.
Even though this one became a bit of a fan favourite over the years, it actually hadn’t been played live. That is, until
the recent Future Past Tour. When “Alexander” was announced as being part of the setlist on social media, that
generated a lot of excitement from the Maiden faithful.
4. “Caught Somewhere in Time”
The album opener sets the tone of the rest of the record, not only in terms of theme but with sound. The whole
record has kind of a sci-fi and time travel vibe (though, according to Harris, this was not intentional), and this is a hell of a way to introduce it. It lets you know what to expect when it comes to Maiden’s use of the synths. We get a great head-banging rhythm throughout and some killer solos. It’s also one of the longer opening tracks in Maiden’s catalogue at over 7 minutes, but it works well.
3. “Stranger in a Strange Land”
“Stranger in a Strange Land” starts off with a hugely recognizable bass track; another song where Steve Harris really lays it in. The guitars and synth kick in, and the song continues with terrific rhythm throughout. It’s a bit more mellow than the more frenetic material on this album, which makes for a nice contrast. Surprisingly, it’s not based on the book, but about a dude frozen in ice who was found hundreds of years later. Also, this has one of the BEST Eddies for the single cover, giving us a blend of Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” and Blade Runner.
2. “Heaven Can Wait”
Written from the perspective of a protagonist who believes he is headed to the great beyond, but is all like “Nah, man, I got stuff to do”, this is another one that took me a lot longer than it should for me to appreciate. Excellent riffs, instrumentation, lyrics, and vocals throughout. Plus, we get an all-time great sing-along section with all the
“WHOA-OH-OH“s near the middle. It’s been a minor concert staple for years for a good reason.
1. “Wasted Years”
“Don’t waste your time always searching for those wasted…beers!” The number one song on Somewhere in Time is one of the best of Maiden’s golden age. “Wasted Years” has an unforgettable and immediately infectious opening riff. Bruce’s best vocal performance of the record, and the best guitars, too. The lyrics are much different than the usual literature/mythology-fueled fare in that they’re reflective of the band’s life on the road, both good and bad. Adrian Smith absolutely cooked here, crafting a true masterwork.
More of Ryan Ranks coming soon to CGCM Rock Radio/Website: Ryan Ranks