Somewhere in Time was recorded after the mammoth World Slavery Tour to promote Powerslave, and the release of one of the greatest heavy metal live albums ever made: Live After Death. But Bruce Dickinson was in a different creative place to the rest of the band after the rigours of touring for such a long time, and none of these songs bear his name in the wrting credits, so it was up to Adrian Smith to fill the gap by contributing a huge amount to this album.
Caught Somewhere in Time, written by Steve Harris, kicks off with guitar synths and Smith/Murray harmonies before plunging into a headlong classic Maiden gallop. There is a significant change to the Maiden sound in evidence. It sounds more sophisticated and progressive and, despite not contributing to the writing, Bruce Dickinson’s voice is in fine form.
Wasted Years is the first track written solely by Adrian Smith on the album. It has one of his greatest riffs and heartfelt, melancholy lyrics with a brilliant chorus. It has since become a huge live favourite. The guitar solo is brilliant and, as in all his writing, he never overdoes the drama but gets the emotional power and tension just right.
Sea of Madness is another Adrian Smith track with a great heavy, bluesy riff and pounding bass. It has another great, melodic chorus and the lyrics are wonderfully melancholy again, but with such gorgeous uplifting melodies. The quiet middle section is a huge departure for Maiden and adds another dimension to the album.
Heaven Can Wait is a brilliant Steve Harris anthem that has become another live favourite. It sounds so uplifting in the verses and has a huge chorus, with a singalong bit in the middle which prompts the entire road crew to join the band onstage when they play it live. Dave Murray’s guitar solo is particularly wonderful before the singalong, and then Adrian Smith launches into one of his great bluesy solos with lashings of tremolo.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is another Steve Harris track. It’s a ferocious galloper with some terrific guitar harmonies and the always-brilliant Nicko McBrain pounding the hell out of his drums. The track also has some synth sounds in the background which began to feature more and more in Maiden’s music. Some of Kai Hansen’s guitar solos with Helloween particularly remind me of the solos in this track.
Stranger in a Strange Land is one of my favourite songs. Written by Adrian Smith, it starts with Nicko’s drums and Steve’s bass and builds into another classic Smith riff. The lyrics, about solitude and Polar exploration, are terrific and it has another great chorus. Adrian’s guitar solo is gorgeous, building from quiet and melancholy to a goosebump-inducing roar. He is my favourite rock guitarist and this album really shows off his brilliant songwriting.
Deja-Vu is a Murray/Harris track. The subject matter isn’t perhaps the most profound, but is Fear of the Dark? It’s a nice little track with some lovely guitar harmonies and fits in as a sort of next-to-last kind of song. It just has the misfortune of being surrounded by stronger material. But you need different flavours on any album so that’s fine.
Alexander the Great is a Steve Harris epic. It doesn’t quite fit thematically or musically with the rest of the album, but it is brilliant in its own right. It just sounds a bit like Maiden looking back to A Piece of Mind or Powerslave than looking forward, but it’s no bad thing to have just one retro track, and as a history lesson it’s excellent.
Somewhere in Time can sometimes feel a little forgotten as it comes after Powerslave and Live After Death, before Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and no live video was made of this tour, but it has some amazing songs that are still live favourites and shows some real progression in Maiden’s sound and the flourishing of Adrian Smith’s songwriting. Wasted Years also featured Reach Out as a b-side with Adrian Smith on lead vocals.
Next time… a concept album? It must be madness.