Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time (1986)
I recently labeled Cloven Hoof a better version of this band (“That’s just your opinion, maaaaaan!”). If you want to dispute that, I highly suggest you use this album.
Sure, Iron Maiden’s earlier output has its charms and its numerous strengths, but Somewhere in Time is notable for being a successful expansion of the band’s horizons. You might’ve heard hints of this in the longer songs of previous albums, but only in the unholy year of 1986 (home to a preponderance of influential and popular metal recordings not seen again for some time) did this become the norm. We were also lucky to get the more narrative-focused Seventh Son of a Seventh Son out of this approach. Unfortunately, Maiden was pretty inconsistent about actually using it after that, and then my knowledge of their works dwindles to sub-zero.
In general, this is an album of evolutionary change; nothing here is different enough to render the band completely unrecognizable. For instance, Somewhere In Time is reliably faster than its predecessors, albeit only incrementally at many times. Synthesizer parts make their debut as MIDI from guitar and bass, but only as background and texture; the rest of the band seems to adopt a thicker, muddier tone to complement this. The overall trend here is towards a more “atmospheric” experience, but this is closer to the archetypal Bruce Dickinson-fronted Iron Maiden than my initial description may have lead you to think. It’s not an unfamiliar change if you’re familiar with ’80s metal. I don’t write about it THAT often, but you’ll find the ’80s littered with bands who tried to elaborate on themselves. Veterans of this blog might note this being one of the big ideas I discuss a lot, but I digress.
The key is that by trying to expand themselves as songwriters, Iron Maiden has pushed my buttons. Pretty classy of them, and pretty prescient since I was not to arrive until five and a half years after this recording’s release. As the world rapidly runs out of 2014 to call its own (unless you’re in the Islamic world, in which case you’ll get another shot at it in a few centuries), I get the feeling you’ve already picked up on my listening tendencies, and you could probably make recommendations for me if you really felt like it. That would certainly be an interesting inversion of this blog’s usual premise, wouldn’t it?
Highlights: “Wasted Years”, “Sea of Madness”, “Alexander the Great”
I’ve gotten out of the habit of telling my readers my plans for the upcoming year since they have this tendency of going all Robert Burns on me. Better than going Scott Burns? You tell me. By the time you read this, it may very well be 2015, so if that’s the case… greetings from the other side!