Analysis: Caught Somewhere in Time


As you may have noticed, I like Iron Maiden. I can’t remember hearing an album as powerful as Somewhere in Time in years. The first time I put this CD to my player and pressed play I was just blown away. The first measures alone got me. It was love at first listen. I seriously can’t think of any other album from the past ten years like that.

All of the tracks in Somewhere in Time are great in my opinion. I was thinking about this the other day. The thing is that usually when I write songs the catchiest things tend to be very similar. This isn’t the case with this Maiden album, however. The tunes are very different to each other. That’s why I’m going to write an analysis for the songs — or at least for the first one. We’ll see how it goes.

Intro (0:06)

The track starts with very powerful tunes that are still quite abstemious. This amplifies the next riff even more. The synthesizers make the riff sound large and heavy and when the next section kicks off it sound even more powerful. The trick here is that while the riff sounds very powerful there’s still a lot of room here. There is like a void of rhythm that screams to be filled. The void is gradually filled with drums and bass as the riff progresses.

The melody sounds really cold and this is partly because of the chords played with the synth and partly because of the crying harmony between the two guitars. Only the last bars of the riff have a sense of sympathy in them. The melody also builds the tension up by moving the other guitar up an octave. It sounds almost majestic and the first part of the melody has a sort of Egyptian feel to it.

Theme (0:58)

Releases the tension with a calming melody that with the last run has a dramatic twist. This riff’s got a great sense of space to it. Bass and drums fill the rhythm part very densely so the space to the riff is built with the guitars. The melody’s got denser and more fluid beginning and ending with tripping middle section. It creates an echo type of effect to the melody and accents the space-like feel of the track. This riff is a great hook that’s awesomely built up in the intro.

Verse (1:20)

The verse takes a step back in the energy level and builds a room to breathe for the rest of the sections. There’s a sense of urgency in the riff since all of the instruments are playing the rhythm part.

The verse is also brilliantly paced with these gliding sections where the guitars just hold the chords and move around like a kite in the wind. These parts are like a bit of sunshine in the midst of the gray sea of clouds. The theme of the song is also amplified with the lyrics: “Time is always on my side” repeated over and over.

The verse is great because it’s not very interesting, but still not annoying. The catchy chorus-like lines between the more high fiber value sections keep the interest up and really grasp you to the feel of the song and the feel of the theme. Overall the verse sounds rasp and heavy but keeps the energy above the sea level.

Bridge (2:15)

This progression is one of the things I love the most about Iron Maiden. The song would be great even without it, but the riff is there to write a story. It starts off as neutral but then turns into an emotional tide running up to the chorus. It adds so much value to the song that it’s ridiculous. It gives the listener something that can’t be said with words.

The lick idea here that’s being repeated is quite simple. If you strip it down to only the four main notes (with out the hammer-on bits) it would still work. The structure adds a bit to the texture of the riff. You often hear similar tricks with some slow solos and the basic melody here is slow. It’s just detailed a little more.

Chorus (2:37)

The chorus has got a rather malignant feel to it. It should, too, given that the vocal melody is the same as the intro melody. Also, the gliding feel of the verse can be felt here, too. Bruce’s singing mixed with the guitar melody creates an interesting pattern of waves which makes the chorus flow smoothly by. It balances out the crazy-energized drumming of Nicko very well.

The chorus almost sounds tragic and the lyrics really highlight that. I can’t say that I listen the song because of the chorus and it’s really the weakest link in the song. It’s interestingly structured, sure, but it sounds too much like an independent sentence.

Solos (3:32)

After the chorus there’s like a brick wall that stops the playing. Then the first and more dramatic sounding solo begins. The pause is almost like an overture for the solo.

I’m not gonna analyze these solos too much but I just gotta say that I love the contrast between the two. The other one is like a catastrophe montage and the other one more hopeful and sympathetic. They really complete each other even though Dave is forced to play the bad guy here. The ending of the second solo is also great because of the 5th degree played at the background. Again, the tension, although not as audible as in the intro, is magnificent leading to the reprise of the song theme.

Overall

The song really has three parts; one in the beginning, one with the solos and one in the end. They flow very seamlessly because of the riffs that offer breathing room in the between of the different parts.

The theme is very much like something Maiden did in Aces High. It’s what gets the listener pumped up and really sticks in their minds. It appears that you can pretty much get away with any artistic bullshit and dull choruses as long as you have that one melody. Ha, ha.

Seriously though, one of the reasons the song is so great has to do with the parts that build up the atmosphere. Those flowing guitar parts really do their job. If the song didn’t have anything more than a melody, then it wouldn’t feel like anything. 90% of this song is building up the dark and cold futuristic setting. That’s what makes it work.

If I would change anything I’d make the chorus more appealing and maybe shorter. The first chorus could be half of the length it’s now and the second chorus could stay unchanged. I’m not saying this as if I’d hate the song but because I want to be able to know how to make my own songs appeal more to my own taste.

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About Ianuarius

A Finnish guitarist, composer and guitar teacher. View all posts by Ianuarius

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