Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986, which now shifts to the releases I didn’t discover until after 1986]
Artist: IRON MAIDEN
Album: SOMEWHERE IN TIME
One of the great musical joys of my life was “discovering” Iron Maiden when I was in my early 30s. A band I should have loved in high school when they emerged as the standard bearers of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (or NWOBHM, which really rolls off the tongue), for some reason I didn’t join my friends in their adulation of Maiden in spite of the captivating album covers and heavy, anthemic music. It took a visit to a used record store around ’97 or ’98 to open my eyes. I purchased four of their early classics on LP for around $1-$2 each (this was well before the vinyl resurgence that made such bargains a thing of the past), and my jaw hit the floor as I laid my ears on Killers, The Number Of The Beast, Piece Of Mind and Live After Death for the first time later that day. Within a year I owned their entire catalog on CD, saw them in concert (with returning vocalist Bruce Dickinson) and I was as passionate about them as many artists I had been listening to for decades. I’ve been eager to tackle their discography for an Iron Maiden “complete albums” series but I haven’t had the time. Until I get to that, I can at least share my love of their music as I discuss their 1986 album, Somewhere In Time, in honor of its 30th anniversary.
This isn’t one of my most-played Maiden albums but I got reacquainted with it this past week. They wrote & recorded it in the aftermath of a grueling world tour in support of the brilliant Powerslave and, even though it didn’t live up to its predecessor (or any of their earlier releases), they still delivered enough new classics to make it another essential release. Although Dickinson’s “air raid siren” voice is as strong as ever, he was physically & mentally wiped out & didn’t bring in any of his own material. Bassist/bandleader Steve Harris wrote or co-wrote 5 of the 8 songs, while guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray contributed the rest. The original Side 1 includes three fantastic songs. Album opener “Caught Somewhere In Time,” with the expected galloping rhythm, introduces guitar synthesizers to the mix for the first time. These undoubtedly alienated some fans but they fit seamlessly into the Maiden sound. “Wasted Years,” the first single release and one of the album’s shortest songs, is a driving melodic metal track with a catchy chorus. “Heaven Can Wait” features another catchy chorus as well as a chant-along section in the middle that surely came alive with thousands of fans joining in. Side 2 is bookended by two epics: “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” and “Alexander The Great (356-323 B.C.).” Both showcase Harris’ love of prog-rock with various shifts in tempo & mood, as well as incredible guitar shredding and Dickinson’s impressive pipes. Even though they’re each missing a hook to separate them from other Maiden epics, it’s hard to complain when they sound so good. “Stranger In A Strange Land” has an almost-funky groove, and the combination of synths, fuzzy guitars and catchy melodies make this possibly their most radio-friendly, mainstream metal song. “Deja-Vu” condenses all that’s great about the band, with rumbling bass and their twin guitar attack, in just under 5 minutes. Somewhere In Time is an excellent album that only pales slightly when compared to the greatness that came before it (as well as the masterpiece they would unleash two years later). Otherwise it’s certainly one of the best releases of 1986.
For a more detailed analysis of this album from one of the world’s (and certainly Canada’s) biggest Maiden fans, check out this post from Mike Ladano.