Monday, February 09, 2009

Iron Maiden: Somewhere in Time

When this album first came out, I didn't take to it right away. It had a different sound because this was the first time Iron Maiden made significant use of sythesizers. Of course, in the mid-1980s, it seemed just about every heavy metal and hard rock band experimented with synths, to varying degrees of success, and this new sound caught me off guard. I never expected Maiden to venture into such territory. As such, the album seemed a little weird at first, but it grew on me. The synth sound is subtle, acting more as accompaniment rather than stealing the show. The guitar licks of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith still stand supreme, excellent as ever, and Nicko McBrain really shines with his drumwork.

As for the cover, Eddie is now a cyborg, and he is back to his killing ways. The art is dense with references to previous Maiden works as well as the movie Blade Runner and the book it was based on, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Someone put a list of the references and what they mean on Wikipedia, if you care to check it out.

The album opens with "Caught Somewhere in Time," a decent song about time travel, I think. This is followed by the popular "Wasted Years" (one of my favorites) and "Sea of Madness," one of those Maiden tunes that sounds strangely upbeat given its theme, which in this case is madness, if you couldn't guess. Next is "Heaven Can Wait" (complete with a sing-along section!), and then it's "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner," a song that's based on a short story that I am not familiar with at all.

After that come two songs that are among my favorites, "Stranger in Strange Land" and "Deja-vu." The former has a sound that is a little different from the usual Maiden fare, but it's very enjoyable. It is about a man who explores an icy wasteland. He dies, and his frozen, preserved body is discovered a century later by other explorers. This has nothing to do with the Robert Heinlein book of the same name. "Deja-vu," on the other hand, has everything to do with déjà vu.

Rounding out Somewhere in Time is the metal biography "Alexander the Great." The Maiden boys pretty much nailed it on this one. The song has a martial feel, totally befitting the subject matter, and the guitar solos are vintage Maiden.

This is a good album, despite my initial trepidation over the synthesizers. It is full of solid songs, and it is well worth a listen if you like Iron Maiden but haven't checked out this whole album.

UPDATE: "Stranger in a Strange Land."

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