From Piece of Mind (1983), we’re going to flash forward to 1986. It was another great year for new music with Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Van Halen’s 5150, Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, Queen’s A Kind of Magic, and Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time. The latter was the second Iron Maiden album I bought with my own money, the first was A Matter of Life and Death (2006). I read a comment on YouTube that said Somewhere in Time was underrated; since I’m all about checking out the underrated stuff, I ordered the album not long afterwards, and it arrived on December 14, 2020.
During the time when hair metal (or commercial hard rock) was huge, this album marked the band’s first use of guitar synthesizers; coincidentally, Judas Priest also released an album that year, Turbo (1986), which featured guitar synthesizers for the first time. Was Somewhere in Time a hit or miss? Who knows! Either way, the album cover is still spectacular! With all that said, let’s get on with the music!
The album kicks off with “Caught Somewhere in Time,” and at almost seven and a half minutes long, the only thing I remember from this song is Bruce Dickinson showing off his operatic chops in the chorus. It could’ve been shortened to four and a half minutes if it weren’t for the unmemorable guitar solos, but it has an excellent drum outro from Nicko McBrain. “Wasted Years” is a concert staple for a Maiden show and the opening riff is distinct enough to know what song it is. Not only is Adrian Smith a tremendous guitar player, but he is a true lyricist. “So understand / Don’t waste your time always searching for those wasted years / Face up…make your stand / And realize you’re living in the golden years.” Those are words to live by, indeed.
“Sea of Madness” has a chorus that I can relate to, mentally. From high school to my early years of college, I felt like everything I touched fell apart. So lyrics like, “When all you see can only bring you sadness” and “When all you do can only bring you sadness,” really speak to me. “Heaven Can Wait” has a thumping bass riff, but the song is too long; at seven minutes and 23 seconds, it could’ve been shortened halfway, if it weren’t for the “oh oh oh / oh oh oh oh oh oh” part. The latter is catchy, but unnecessary. The concept of the song is weird, too. Dickinson is singing about being too young to die and wanting to do more before his time is up; it doesn’t sound metal enough.
McBrain is the highlight of “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” as he effortlessly keeps time and gets the adrenaline pumping. Along with Dickinson’s out-of-this-world vocals and the memorable guitar solos, there is never a dull moment in this track. Any Maiden track that begins with a killer bass riff is bound to be amazing; “Stranger in a Strange Land” proves it. Written by Smith, it is a headbanging masterpiece that should’ve been huge.
“Deja-Vu” is too straight-forward, in other words, it’s too obvious what the song is about. The song is literally about being trapped in déjà vu, and experiencing the same things over and over again. The chorus is lazy and the guitar solos are unmemorable. “Alexander the Great,” on the other hand, is Maiden at its best because they are the only band that can make history sound fun. I was in awe of McBrain’s drum fills during the guitar solos, and overall McBrain’s drumming is top notch in this album. Even though Alexander the Great died tragically, his legacy didn’t.
Produced, engineered, and mixed by Martin Birch, Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time is a decent record. There are a couple of filler tracks, so if anything, I would’ve replaced “Deja-Vu” with the band’s cover of The Entire Population of Hackney’s “Reach Out,” the b-side to “Wasted Years.” I love Smith’s lead vocals on that track and Dickinson’s backing vocals added the right amount of flavor to it. Though it’s different from Maiden’s musical style, it would’ve added variety to the album. However, the band sounded great with the heavy, yet melodic guitar work of Dave Murray and Smith, Dickinson’s powerful voice, and the dynamic rhythm section of Steve Harris (on bass) and McBrain. I’d give Somewhere in Time a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Comment below your favorite song from Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time album!
Take care and see ya real soon!