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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Metal Louvre: Iron Maiden - Somewhere in Time

Perhaps the highest achievement of Derek Riggs' cover art for Iron Maiden, Somewhere in Time remains one of the most stark and strangely graceful albums of their entire catalog. Yes, this Eddie-Terminator is full of space-blasting angst and the android hand scratching at the wall (reminscent of the human mit pawing in a death throe at Eddie's shirt on the Killers album cover) implies sheer brutality. There's a Ridley Scott dystopia serving as Eddie's future-flung playground and ghosts of the Maiden past playfully interacting within (for one thing, a shadow of the self-titled Iron Maiden's cover is blurred beneath the "Eddie Lives" graffiti on the extreme right) make Somewhere in Time one of the most exciting paintings Riggs has ever done.

Maiden's devout will debate over the merits of Somewhere in Time as an album while I'm one of the few who stake it as the last full-on masterpiece in Maiden's career. I mean, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" and "Alexander the Great" alone, come on... Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was a near-musical masterpiece, but Somewhere in Time established a bit of a new world order (pun intended) in Maiden's long-continued musical voyage. I remember everyone waiting slack-jawed for this album to drop with the advance word there would be synthesizers on the album. Most were repulsed by such a prospect and some still today criticize Maiden for introducing keys into their work.

They hardly saturated and demoralized Somewhere in Time or Maiden's future albums like Judas Priest hiccuped with Turbo. Maiden accented with the keys but still retained a heavy gallop and breathtaking prog on every turn with only a couple straightforward rock numbers like "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Wasted Years." No worries, as far as this writer's concerned. "Wasted Years" is one of the greatest metal songs of all-time, synths and all. In fact, the use of synths on Somewhere in Time made the cover's futuristic vision all the more pliable.

Once again, this is artwork best savored on vinyl as the flipside extension art creates a panorama of spaceport wonderment even more delicate and textured than Powerslave. You have to appreciate the Powerslave nods in Somewhere in Time's artwork, like the glowing pyramid tip and the planted heiroglyphics-as-graffiti. It's even more zany fun Maiden themselves appear in the painting on the reverse image, watching their undead progeny resurrect himself (remember, Powerslave was supposed to be the first actual "death" of Eddie in mummified form) and brandishing his phaser with the stun switch turned off.

And the "Stranger in a Strange Land" single artwork with Eddie as a cyber Clint Eastwood was pretty boss, too. Wish the poster was still in my possession.

As you might insinuate, here at The Metal Minute we're celebrating the release of Iron Maiden's new album The Final Frontier with an all-week Metal Louvre dedicated to the curators of this museum of heavy. Enjoy the best of Maiden's artwork leading up to a review of The Final Frontier thereafter...


bob_vinyl said...

One of the things that makes the cover so amazing is all the detail. You could easily spend several spins of the album's 50+ minutes and not get bored just looking at the cover. It's not my favorite depiction of Eddie, but is clearly one of their best covers.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Exactly. I first had it on cassette and laid on my bed the entire time the album played looking at it. Then I picked up the vinyl copy in a record store after it came out and stood there an easy 15 minutes looking for more details since cassettes obviously are the worst format in every sense. Too bad I wasted so much money on them in the 80s, dratted things.

bob_vinyl said...

Oh yeah, there's so much there that you'd miss with a cassette. It's one of those records where you wish there was such a thing as a 36" record!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

perfectly stated