After their hiatus following the World Slavery tour in support of Powerslave, Iron Maiden returned with a bang releasing their sixth studio album, Somewhere in Time, in my birth year, 1986.
For this record, the band decided to experiment with their sound using guitar and bass synthesizers. No time was wasted in showing this off as it’s evident on the opening seconds of the first track, Caught Somewhere in Time. Stranger in a Strange Land was released as a single but I frankly was never a fan of that one. The two shining stars here for me are Wasted Years and Heaven Can Wait. Wasted Years is such a feelgood song and was probably the first time a Maiden track actually made me think. We really shouldn’t be spending time looking for the years we missed in our lives.
We should just cherish the way we’re living now. The album ends with Alexander the Great, a near nine minute epic detailing the life of the Greek King himself. My friend, who got me into Maiden, played that track constantly when we hung out so I’ll always have a soft spot for it.
Maiden hit another one out of the park peaking at #11 on the Billboard Top 200 and eventually selling over a million copies. I love that the subsequent tour was called Somewhere on Tour. That’s such a great name to coincide with the record.
The group’s seventh effort, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, was released in 1988 and would be their last recording of the decade.
It was also their first concept album; being based on the novel, Seventh Son, by Ender’s Game author, Orson Scott Card. The Sci-Fi/Fantasy story tells the tale of a young man blessed with the gift of being the seventh son of a seventh son who must escape the clutches of evil with the help of a fellow gifted woman. Maiden embraced more musical horizons here with the use of keyboards. The distinct sound of keyboards and synthesizers was big with rock bands around that time. Van Halen’s 1984 was notorious for using them which eventually led to David Lee Roth’s departure following its release. The album’s highlight are the delightfully catchy Can I Play With Madness? and The Evil That Men Do, which is usually the only song from Seventh Son that is played live.
The Clairvoyant opens with a funky bassline that can only be done by Steve Harris. Moonchild and Infinite Dreams are not only understated tracks on this album, but understated Maiden tracks in general. Both just seemed to slip through the cracks not acknowledged by the fans or the band’s live shows.
Seventh Son would wind up being their second album to debut at number one in the U.K. Supporting acts for the 7th Tour of a 7th Tour (another genius tour name) in various cities included Anthrax, Megadeth, Helloween, W.A.S.P, and someone whom I feel didn’t really fit… David Lee Roth!
Soon after, Iron Maiden lost one of their familiar faces when guitarist, Adrian Smith, left the band due to creative differences. He was replaced by Janick Gers on the recommendation of Bruce Dickinson. Would this really be the last time the British Metalers would cross paths with Smith?
The band then enters the 90’s with their underwhelming 1990 release, No Prayer for the Dying, and did away with the keyboards and synthesizers, opting to return to the classic heavy metal sound they’re known for.
The LP contains probably the silliest song Maiden ever recorded, Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter.
This track appeared on the soundtrack to the horror sequel, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child and ranks on many “worst metal songs ever” lists. While the song is goofy and reminiscent of a stereotypical metal tune, I still find it to be decent and catchy even if it’s attached to one of the worst, cheesiest slasher films ever. I will take Maiden’s worst over many bands’ best any day of the week. The other two singles were Tailgunner and Holy Smoke, neither of which were very memorable. This may be my least favorite Iron Maiden album that Bruce fronted and I’m sure many fans won’t disagree with me. One thing I will say though, I was disappointed to see that the cover of the later remastered version was edited to not show Eddie clutching another man’s neck. RATS!
No Prayer for the Dying was critically panned by critics and fans but ironically, Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter was the group’s first and only U.K. #1 single. And they say only Americans like stupid nonsense!
1990 also marked the release of Dickinson’s first solo record, Tattooed Millionaire which featured Gers on guitar. The album spawned out of Bring Your Daughter… (which Bruce wrote exclusively) and focused less on an Iron Maiden-type sound with less aggressive, more AC/DC influenced numbers. Mr. Dickinson wanted a record different from his main project and succeeded. There’s a surprisingly decent cover of Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes featured on here!
The band desperately tried to wash off the stench from their previous effort with a much better record. Fear of the Dark was released in 1992 and redeemed the band after No Prayer for the Dying.
It would also be the band’s best record of the 1990’s (which you’ll eventually see isn’t saying much but still…) It hits another home run opener with Be Quick or Be Dead, one of the heaviest songs they’ve ever written and proved the band still had an edge. We get another furious track in From Here to Eternity, some damn good riffs on Afraid to Shoot Strangers, and the title track is damn near perfect and is a crowd favorite at live shows.
Unfortunately, as the old saying goes: All good things must come to an end. Bruce Dickinson shocked fans everywhere by announcing his departure from Iron Maiden in 1993 citing a desire to focus on his solo career. He would leave after recording two really good live albums, A Real Live One and A Real Dead One.
Finally, fans who’ve never attended one of their concerts would be able to hear Dickinson perform tracks from Paul Di’Anno’s era such as Running Free and Prowler. Just as we expected, he nailed them perfectly.
Bruce’s last show with the group was documented in the video, Raising Hell. My older brother actually bought this on DVD for me for Christmas in 2005 and it’s pretty good albeit a little weird. The band performs a concert in their native country of England and throughout their set, unknown figures run in and grab a different band member while they’re performing and “kill” them one by one before finally ending with Bruce’s death in an actual Iron Maiden torture device. There’s also a magic show between songs conducted by Simon Drake. I see what they were trying to go for here but I could have done without the theatrics. The music was still tight though!
Now, how could a band that has gone on for more than a decade with such a prolific front man and singer continue after this? Dickinson arguably gave Iron Maiden their identity and now he’s moved on.
Sadly, the group is once again left without a singer. Was this the end of Iron Maiden? Who could possibly replace Bruce? Check in next week for Vol. 4 of Iron Maiden Mania!
Photo Credit: www.innerselfsm666.blogspot.com for Iron Maiden band photo