Monday, June 09, 2008

Somewhere in Time (1986)

Let's start with the cover. The one for Killers is the most iconic, and few would argue that Powerslave is probably the Overall Best. But my favorite is this Somewhere in Time. This is the first time I had laid an eye on a Maiden cover, so nostalgia certainly is a factor here. This was the second record in a row where the band was able to tie a general album-tour cycle imagery together with the release's artwork, and given that this is 1986 we're talking about here, it's wise that they went with Future Eddie. In the (relatively) huge amount of time between the release of Powerslave and this album, quite a bit happened in hard rock. Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Ratt had gotten HUGE with their poppier, video friendly arena rock sound, and by 1986, the music world was about to gorge on Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Poison, and the boatload of similar poodle haired bands. On the other end of the spectrum, that year saw the release of both Master of Puppets and Reign in Blood, two landmark albums that blew the door wide open for groups with a much heavier sound to get some play as well. This left the (slightly) older guys to scramble and figure out how to stay relevant. Van Halen hit a huge peak with David Lee Roth in 83-84, and then Diamond Dave left and made room for Hagar. Ozzy released a really weak album (Ultimate Sin) with one really great single/video ("Shot in the Dark"). Judas Preist arena-fied their sound quite a bit and ended up with a really weak album (Turbo) and a REALLY great single ("Turbo Lover"). So it's no wonder that Maiden too wanted to experiment a little after their huge 84-85 success, and they did so by continuing their efforts in epic songwriting and by using synths and keyboards, a move that some fans initially balked at, but which overall really works pretty well. I'll admit that while you can easily call this a very solid record, it's probably the one from the 80's Maiden output that I listen to front-to-back the least. Granted, I probably listen to "Wasted Years", one of their greatest songs, more than most Maiden tracks, but there's some filler on this one and a few songs that go on just a shade too long. Overall, though, the keyboards really add some cool futuristic textures that play into their album design, and the lead guitar work on the entire record is pretty damn good. A lot of really beautiful, almost David Gilmore-esque axework here that contains some damn fine counterpoint to Dickinson's always-enjoyable vocals. Not as essential as some previous Maiden releases, but a really satisfying listen with some really great highs. ("Wasted Years", "Heaven Can Wait", "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" etc)

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