Somewhere In Time

Iron Maiden

EMI Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Somewhere In Time marked a series of changes for Iron Maiden. This was their first disc to utilize guitar and bass synthesizers - something akin to admitting publicly you cheated on your SATs, especially when earlier Iron Maiden albums had emblazoned in their liner notes the words "NO SYNTHESIZERS!!!". This also was the disc which marked their follow-up to their superstardom, courtesy of Powerslave and Live After Death, so anything they would release would be examined with the musical version of the electron microscope.

Going into this review (and I'm working off of the re-issue from 1998), I admit there's a soft spot in my heart for this particular album. It was the first Iron Maiden record I ever bought (probably followed the next week by Live After Death), and was one of a handful of records which marked my embracing of the heavy metal genre as a teenager. So while there are some people who view this disc as an unwelcome change for Bruce Dickinson and company, there's a part of me which will always think highly of it.

All of that said, nearly 20 years since its release, Somewhere In Time has held its own quite well, though there is a bit of listlessness in it, especially in subjective songwriting. More on that in a minute.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The major point of contention many people have with this disc is the use of synthesizers - and, had they been overused in the course of the disc, I'd agree. But their introduction to Iron Maiden's sound - at least to my tired, old ears - actually helps to enhance things a bit. There's no need to fear that the old Maiden sound has been pitched into the trash along with the bell bottoms and Bay City Rollers 8-tracks; there's plenty of bass thumping from Steve Harris and fluid guitar solos from Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. If anything, the controlled use of the synthesizers brings out the individuals' importance in the band more than anything.

The two hits off this disc, "Wasted Years" and "Stranger In A Strange Land," are indeed worthy of the attention given to them - but the true gem in this collection is "Heaven Can Wait," a track which has become a live staple of Iron Maiden's show. This is another example of how Iron Maiden can write an epic song (if memory serves me right, this one clocked in at eight minutes) without wasting a second on unnecessary fluff. Each note seems to have an urgency of its own, pushing the song to a frantic finale. The choral bridge (mostly made up of Dickinson's vocals) is a haunting moment in this song.

For all of the praise one can lavish on Somewhere In Time, there is a slight hint that the foundation might have had a hairline crack. Iron Maiden, to this point, had always been able to write songs with solid subject lines - airplane dogfights, passage of the dead in Egypt, poems which made us gag in high school but they somehow made to sound cool. On Somewhere In Time, the subject matter grows a tad thin, as songs like "Déjà Vu" and "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner" just don't have the same kind of snap that one had come to expect from the band by this stage in their career. Likewise, while "Alexander The Great" is an entertaining song, it almost feels like the group tries to cram too much history into one song - anyone else remember Monty Python's "Oliver Cromwell"?

Still, Somewhere In Time has remained a solid Iron Maiden release and, unlike many other albums from this period in time, sounds as fresh today as it did when it was first released. Did it live up to expectations the band created thanks to Powerslave and Live After Death? No - but, in all honesty, it would have been asking a lot to top that experience. What this album did do - something no one realized at the time - was close out an important period of Iron Maiden's career, something one would discover just one album later.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of EMI Records, and is used for informational purposes only.