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Somewhere in Time: Part 1
Iron Maiden have a colossal seventeen studio albums. By my count they have another thirteen live albums, and various compilation records. That’s a huge output even if you realise their debut was released in 1980.
Old schoolers will tell you they prefer their early stuff. ‘Killers’, their sophomore effort, perhaps epitomised the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ that heavily influenced pretty much every metal band of the late 80s. It sounds lean and dangerous.
Others will tell you that Maiden really started with ‘The Number of the Beast’ (1982). It was the first album to feature current vocalist Bruce Dickinson, and spawned three metal anthems with ‘Run to the Hills’, ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’, and the title track.
One of my favourites is album number five. ‘Powerslave’ featured the singles ‘Aces High’ and ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’. It also had the thirteen minute epic ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and launched the band into metal lore with their epic ‘World Slavery Tour’ that featured a whopping 189 concerts in just under a year.
By all accounts the tour was a massive success, but took its toll on the band mentally and physically.
The next album was ‘Somewhere In Time’ and saw the band experiment with their sound for the first time since ‘The Number of the Beast’. It was now 1986 and 80s metal had begun to embrace that most 80s and least metal of musical instruments. The synthesiser. Specifically, Maiden were utilising guitar synthesisers which you can read about here. The TL:DR of this, is that it allows the output of a guitar to sound like a piano synthesiser (while still also sounding like a guitar). Notable uses of this sound are on Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ (1984), and Judas Priest’s ‘Turbo’ album (1986).
Queen’s use of the sound is now iconic. At the time, Judas Priest’s effort was derided (but over the years has garnered some aficionados). The futuristic, sci-fi, sound that Priest were aiming for, was captured perfectly by Maiden on ‘Somewhere In Time’.
There have been some reports of conflict within the band prior to this albums release. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson wanted the group to go in a kind of Led Zeppelin-esque direction and had penned some acoustic tracks. The rest of the band really didn’t like this and those songs never saw the light of day. Guitar player Adrian Smith had previously co-written a few songs, but on this album he contributed three fully written tracks. One of them was the lead single from the album and often their closing song at concerts ‘Wasted Years’.
It’s one of my favourite Iron Maiden songs and the theme of enjoying the moment, rather than continually looking to the future is advice that everyone should heed.
Don't waste your time always searching for those wasted years
Face up, make your stand
Realize you're living in the golden years
In the next post I’ll take another look at this album and share my experience of hearing it live recently.