There are not many artists we know who managed to do what "Iron Maiden" did in the 1980s.
This is one of the only bands known to us that managed to produce 7 masterpiece albums in such an amazing sequence. No falls, no stumbles, no "fillers" or weak songs. Simply Masterpiece after Masterpiece, timeless albums that even after almost 40 years can be listened to from beginning to end without skipping or getting bored from one track or another.
On September 29, 1986 "Iron Maiden" released the sixth album from this inconceivable sequence, and managed to amaze us once again.
We must say, even this time when we held the vinyl purchased at "Allegro" record store on Sheinkin Street in Tel Aviv, in our hands, we were sure it would be very difficult to surpass the masterpiece "Powerslave". After all, this is the album that made "Iron Maiden" the biggest Metal band in the worls at that time. But already during the bus trip back from Tel Aviv to Ramat Gan, as we stared at one of the special covers ever created for any album, we realized that something very special was waiting for us inside. Eddie appeared on the cover in the form of a cyborg. He was standing with a laser gun drawn, in a futuristic world that seemed to us like a combination of the movies "Blade Runner" and "Back to the Future", two movies from the genre we loved so much at the time. The name of the album and the song titles fit in well with the concept of "science fiction", and as we delved deeper into the cover we discovered more and more details and clues related to the band. So much so that it was clear to us that at least in this context this album surpasses its predecessor.
When we reached the scriptures for the word "gin" ("ג'ין") and the four Hebrew letters that make up the explicit name of "the one", that the third commandment forbids us to bear his name in vain, it was already love at first sight and that was even before we heard one note from the album. This may sound silly to you, but try to think of the feeling of an adolescent Israeli boy who sees a caption in Hebrew letters on the album cover of one of his favorite bands.
The build-up that the same boy went through during the trip home, just exploded when the tip of the needle landed on the first strip of vinyl, it was already a total admire. The sound of the guitar synthesizer effect that flooded the speakers left no room for doubt, his favorite band crossed the speed of light and flew forward in "time", also in terms of its updated sound. And no, there was no astonishment or disappointment here as described by some of his friends who did not like the new sound at first, but quite the opposite. A few months earlier, "Judas Priest" had released the album "Turbo", which already included the guitar-synth sound, and this transition made by "Iron Maiden" sounded very natural to him, especially when she did it in such an amazing way and without losing even a tiny fraction From her identity.
The story of this very special album in the "Iron Maiden" repertoire, begins with the end of the "World Slavery Tour" that accompanied the previous album - "Powerslave". The band members finish it exhausted and shattered. This tour was grandiose on every scale. Starting with the bombastic production and stage set and ending with the length and number of performances the band made during it. It lasted for almost a year in a row and included close to 200 performances, including one historic performance that was the first from a Metal band's behind The "Iron Curtain". During this tour, the band performed in front of millions of fans, with only one performance in Rio, Brazil, attended by about 300,000 people. At the same time, the band was working on the iconic live album and video "Live After Death", which were released in 1985.
After the tour, the band took a break of several months to rest, spend time with their families, but also to write and experiment with new equipment, especially the guitar and bass synthesizer effect. The band decided to take their time and not rush with the recording and this is also one of the reasons that this is the band's first album not released exactly in the year following the previous one.
Singer Bruce Dickinson really wanted to get the foot off the gas this time around and make a different album. He arrived at the studio with acoustic songs, but these were rejected by the rest of the band. Bruce did not let his ego lead him and gave way to others ideas, which contributed much to the prominence of the mighty and talented guitarist Adrian Smith on this album, and to the fact that he wrote exclusively (lyrics and music), three of the album's eight songs.
Although the band states that there was no intention to produce a concept album, some of the album's songs deal with the subject of "space" and "time" and especially Steve Harris' fears and complexes from the futuristic and unknown world.
The album opens up with the statement of intent "Caught Somewhere in Time", a song that best sums up the overall vibe of the album. The song written by Steve Harris was inspired by the 1979 film "Time After Time", which is about time travel. "If I said I'd take you there, would you go, would you be scared?" Sings Bruce Dickinson and manages to convey in his thrilling poetry the fear of time travel, when later we discover the heavy price the protagonist is required to pay when he risks losing himself along the way. On the one hand this song reveals the new and updated sound of "Maiden", but on the other hand the band proves that no effect, even if it is a synthesizer, can change its DNA. Steve Harris' pulsating and galloping bass, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith's amazing solos and Nicko McBrain's powerful drumming, are still here and they are "stuck in time" and are not going anywhere.
The second track "Wasted Years" is the first single released from the album and the biggest hit from it. It had probably been Maiden's closest to mainstream track, without losing its unique sound. This is the first song out of three written by Adrian Smith and is also the most different from the other songs on the album. Beyond the fact that this is the only song on the album that has no guitar or bass synthesizer effect, it is the least mystical and most realistic song out of it. The song was written following the band's long tour about the "time" wasted on the road instead of with the family. The original name of the song was "Golden Years" in which Adrian Smith urges us not to look back on the wasted lost years, but always to look ahead.
Also the next track "Sea of Madness" is a song written exclusively by Adrian Smith, who simply spark on this album and proves once again that he is a writer with supreme grace. On the one hand the heaviness in the riffs between the verses, on the other hand the perfect melody in the bridge and chorus, which only intensifies with the amazing submission of Bruce Dickinson. Without a doubt one of the most powerful and beloved songs on the album.
The song that seals the first side of the vinyl "Heaven Can Wait" is another song by Steve Harris that was influenced by a movie of the same name from 1978. A complex and dynamic song that includes several transitions, including the epic stadium part starting at 3:35, where the band allow the audience and the stage workers to go up to the stage and sing with them "Wow wow wow ....", see example here:
The second side of the vinyl opens with "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner". Another mighty song by Steve Harris that starts as slow as in the warm-up before the run, then erupts in a mighty sprint that only gets louder, although ostensibly this is a "long distance" run. How beautiful are the harmonies between Dave Murray and Adrian Smith guitars and what an energetic singing of Bruce Dickinson, who despite the fast rhythm manages to illustrate to us the loneliness of a long distance runner, and all we have left is to wonder if Steve Harris wrote the song about himself?
From here we move on to the second single from the album and the third song written by Adrian Smith - "Stranger In A Strange Land". This song is without a doubt competing with the first single "Wasted Years", for the title as best song on the album. The song was written by Smith following a conversation with an Arctic explorer who discovered a body buried in ice, which had been preserved there for years. Adrian wrote about the same "stranger in a strange land" who set out to explore the land of ice, died during the journey and his body was preserved for 100 years, until futuristic researchers found it. The song opens with Steve Harris' beating bass and continues with Smith's catchy riff, wrapped in synthesizer sounds that add to the drama and atmosphere of the story, which only intensifies through Dickinson's emotional singing. This is one of the few songs from "Iron Maiden" that ends in a fade-out.
We're nearing the end with "Deja-Vu" which begins with the melodic and melancholic bass inro and develops into a song in a fast and edgy rhythm. Another catchy song whose chorus just does not come out of your head, in a way that makes you feel as if "you were already here", or in the lyrics of the song itself: "Feel like I've been here before ..."
Similar to the previous album, here too we ends up with an epic track - "Alexander the Great", which passes chronologically between time stations in the history of Alexander the Great, from Macedonia, through Alexandria and Egypt to Persia and Babylon. Here too the contribution of the synthesizer sounds add to the atmosphere and cannot be ignored, especially in the instrumental part which also includes the amazing guitar work of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.
As perfect and flawless as this album is, it is just a preparation for the "bible" of metal, an album that changed the whole concept of the genre - "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". The imaginary concept will become a full concept, the guitar-synth effect will be upgraded to a full synthesizer, and the epic stories will get a facelift that will be spread over an entire album.