A month ago, I wrote about my first-ever experience that opened the doorway to the wonderful world of metal music. Many of you wrote back about your first exposure. AMG laughed his ass off and told me that my taste in Europe sucks.1 But that was part of the story. There was another song that grabbed me that year. A song that stood the test of time about as well as, if not better than, “The Final Countdown.” A song that, when played, will guarantee smiles, thrown horns, and a hearty, horribly off-tune sing-along. Today, I get the pleasure of inaugurating the album it came from into our hallowed Yer Metal is Olde! halls. I am, of course, talking about Somewhere in Time, the oft-maligned sixth full-length from Metal Gods Iron Maiden.
I know what you’re thinking. “But Grymmothy, AMG already covered Somewhere in Time in his epic list of worst-to-best Maiden albums.” You would be correct. Also, don’t call me “Grymmothy” ever again. It is true that Somewhere in Time got a lot of flack in its day for having guitar synth, but unlike Judas Priest‘s Turbo, Somewhere in Time has aged quite well. For starters, “Caught Somewhere in Time” stayed the course as a ripping Maiden album opener, complete with Bruce Dickinson’s soaring vocals, Steve Harris’ galloping bass lines, and the twin-guitar duels from Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. In fact, if you ignore the guitar synth, the album is pure Maiden through and through.
The deeper cuts on Somewhere in Time are also horn-throwingly incredible. “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” and album closer “Alexander the Great” deserve some live love, as both are phenomenal Harris-penned epics, with the latter having never been performed live. “Heaven Can Wait,” a former live staple, possessed one of the heartiest chant-alongs in their catalog. That said, it was Smith’s contributions on Somewhere in Time that win the day. “Sea of Madness” has one of my favorite choruses in all of Maiden‘s repertoire. “Stranger in a Strange Land” was a bluesy almost-ballad recalling the sad fate of a man frozen in ice, and proved to be a hit single. But those two songs couldn’t hold a candle to another Smith-penned anthem that I refer to as “The Song.”
Yes, nine year-old me’s first exposure was Europe‘s “The Final Countdown,” but it was “Wasted Years” that kicked me through the doorway of metal music and locked the fucker shut behind me. The lyrics detailing Smith’s growing homesickness, Dickinson’s awesome vocals, the most epic of choruses, and of course that jaw-dropping descending E Minor tremolo riff that opens the song… that was the music that said to little me, “Hey, this right here? This is metal, kid.” This song always puts a smile on my face. It’s the song that my fiancé and I sang along to en route to and from Chinese food dinner on Christmas.2 When people think of Maiden, they think “Run to the Hills” or “The Number of the Beast.” Whenever I play them this song, however, they hunt down their entire catalog and realize what they’re missing. Folks, that is the power of “Wasted Years.”
Granted, the lyrics aren’t the best, and those synths are overbearing at times, but to damn Somewhere in Time because of them would be criminal. While not my top pick for my favorite Maiden album (that would be its follow-up, 1988’s awesome Seventh Son of a Seventh Son), it comes a very close second, and I am proud to induct the album into our hallowed halls. Up the Irons, damnit!