The 1980s were a heady time for heavy metal, and through the decade Britain’s Iron Maiden ascended the ladder to become the genre’s greatest and most consistent band.
They were and remain the greatest metal oufit for many reasons. After Bruce Dickinson joined the band, they had one of the strongest and individualistic voices in rock since AC/DC’s Bon Scott.
Ever-inquisitive bassist Steve Harris wrote songs that stood like miniature lessons in world history and mythology.
The twin guitars of Steve Murray and Adrian Harris threw thunderbolts one moment and the next sang in sweet harmony.
And drummer Nicko McBrain had the manic energy and skill to keep the train from derailing.
And as a live act, they had no peers. They were the band everyone else wanted to be.The problem with putting together a “best of” for Maiden is that the band wrote so many great songs. Inevitably, there will be tracks that could have/should have made the cut but didn’t because of disc space. And that’s the case here. Somewhere Back In Time collects 15 tracks from Maiden’s first seven studio albums and the landmark live release, Live After Death, with at least one song taken from each. Although the set represents the earliest studio recordings, the tracks taken from Iron Maiden and Killers both come from Live After Death, so we don’t hear the original versions as sung by Paul Di’Anno.
Mostly, this is a strong collection of songs, with leading candidates including “Run To The Hills,” “The Trooper” and “The Number Of The Beast” represented, along with the superior live version of “Wrathchild,” the haunting “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” the great Dickinson performance in “The Evil That Men Do,” and the rousing “Aces High.” Strangely absent, however, is “Flight Of Icarus,” one of the band’s biggest hits and one that received massive MTV play.
The disc’s main fault is that it is just one disc. As a double set, there would be room for the monumental “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner,” arguably Maiden’s finest moment, along with “Infinite Dreams,” “Moonchild,” “Revelations,” “Where Eagles Dare” and “Murders In The Rue Morgue.”
Still, if you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about this band and haven’t (!) really listened to Maiden, Somewhere Back In Time is an excellent starting point. Up the Irons!