March is a month of late 1980s worship on Maiden Revelations. Guest writer Pål Ødegård discusses Somewhere In Time, the album that made him a Maiden fan for life, and puts the 1986 release into metal history perspective.
SOMEWHERE IN TIME: IT’S PERSONAL
by Pål Ødegård
Drum up a handful of Iron Maiden fans, stock up on beer and have a discussion on how you became a fan, and what your favourite albums are. My answers at these inebriated sessions are always a bit surprising to some fellow Maidenites. I became a fan with Killers, but the album that really hooked me in and made me a Maiden fan for life was Somewhere in Time. It’s still my favourite album from the best metal band the world will ever see.
What is it about Somewhere in Time that makes it such a lasting love of my musical life? Other Maiden fans see it as a weaker predecessor to the flawless Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album. Even some of the band members won’t rank the album very high on their awe-inspiring list of achievements. So, why Somewhere in Time?
Well, it’s personal. Somewhere in Time came along at a time when my love for heavy music had lasted a few years. Me and my older brother read all the metal magazines, and sniffed out all the heavy music we could get our hands on. We explored the mighty old ones, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest. We followed the new waves, either of British, German or American metal.
1986 was an extremely exciting time to be a young metal fan. Metallica were brewing something special in a Danish studio, Slayer were redefining their sound under the guidance of Rick Rubin, and Iron Maiden were due to follow up on their huge success after the World Slavery Tour.
I never was one for devoting all my fandom to one band. In 1986, Metallica, Slayer, Helloween, Dio, AC/DC and Anthrax all played in my First Division of Metal, along with Iron Maiden. And that year, the league was more awesome than ever.
Master of Puppets came first, shocking the metal world in February. My brother and I sat in front of the speakers listening to music change forever. The buzz lasted until autumn. We awaited Iron Maidens release of their new album on the 29th of September. The day before, the newspapers brought devastating news to the metal community. Cliff Burton had been killed in an accident.
Of course, all metal fans and bands grieved the loss of the mighty Burton, at the very peak of his game. But there was something restless and rebellious about the metal scene in 1986 that we haven’t seen since. We all mourned the loss, but at the same time metal grew stronger than ever.
Iron Maiden released Somewhere in Time and continued to conquer the globe. A week later, Slayer unleashed Reign in Blood, and planet Earth had never been heavier. Metallica got back on their feet, and went on to become even bigger than their heroes in Iron Maiden.
It was the extreme highs and lows of that autumn in 1986 that made me a metal fan for life. If you held a beer to my throat and made me name my three favourite albums of all time, it might very well be those three monsters of ‘86. Sitting in front of the stereo, dropping the needle on the groove of the intro to Caught Somewhere in Time, and basking in the music, while scanning Derek Riggs’ artwork for hidden messages.
I still love everything about Somewhere in Time. The reverby and muscular wall-of-sound, juiced up on synthesizers. The melodic triumph of Wasted Years. The dizzying main riff on Sea of Madness. The powerful swagger of Stranger in a Strange Land.
So maybe my fascination with Somewhere in Time isn’t about the objective quality of the music and the songwriting. It’s all about timing and emotion and discovery.
It’s about the magic of 1986, the heaviest year known to mankind.