I always thought it was about the political state of the world - that we've stepped into unexplored territory and ominous territory, but that's strictly my own interpretation. I can't recall reading anything from the band about the lyrics.
I did read something about the background to the song recently, but I'm struggling to remember what was in the article. It didn't really explain a theme in depth, and I think it said something contrary to my own impression of the song, which was that it draws on the horrors of terrorist atrocities and wars of recent times to highlight a fearful uncertainly about the future. While we might hope that the world will become a better place to live, there's always the risk it could become more bleak. Another reason why I feel this album has some seriously dark moments.
This song has really grown on me and so has this album. Early on, I had a lot of the same criticisms that I've read on this board about the album, but I like it much more than AMOLAD and FF.
Strikes me as a sort of post-apocalyptic type of thing and the song reminds me of Total Eclipse from NOTB in content and in riffage. I really like it, it has grown to be one of my favorites on the album. Bruce is really singing his balls off in the chorus. I do agree that the song is somewhat political/social, which is rare for Maiden.
"Where the fools are lying
And the meek are crying
Where the wolves are preying
On the weak alone"
It might be vague, but it seems to be a criticism of social structures (economic, political) that prey on the weak. It seems to present the context of some post-apocalyptic future scenario of "Winter softly falling to the ground," yet the audience can arrive at the conclusion that if Iron Maiden doesn't support these scenes post-apocalyptic Social Darwinism then they probably don't support it in the context of any scenario. Maybe the lyrics are intentionally vague but Maiden does step out of it's expected level of vagueness more than usual with the lines about "the wolves preying on the weak alone." The rich eating the poor.
I' m generally not thrilled when Maiden does mid-tempo "slow burn" type of songs unless it leads to some big payoff (soaring chorus or cool bridge part - Starblind is a good example of mid-tempo tune that works well). Other than the cool main riff (which reminds me of Tool a little bit), TGU doesn't really go anywhere...other than to blatantly recycle the New Frontier solo bridge riff. 6/10.
Not as hard hitting as the two opening tracks, but this one have grown on my over time. Interesting structure, good melodies and very atmospheric, and fits in the track order. Its still nothing overly impressive, but I always enjoy it a lot.
The Great Unknown is dreary, but amazing. The guitars layer beautifully over Steve’s light gallop, giving us the best use of the three guitarists on the entire album. Dave’s slinky riff layered underneath the song at around 1:12 is masterful and Nicko builds into the second verse with perfection. I love everything this song has to offer: the melodies, the tonality, the structure. Bruce sounds magnificent and the band retains the power they harnessed on the opening track. Everyone gets a solo, starting with a ripping lead from Janick before a stellar unison, followed by a Smith/Murray tradeoff with a couple key changes. The Great Unknown reminds me of the dark ground that Maiden tread on A Matter of Life and Death. Sonic texture is the name of the game on this song and it’s a masterclass.
I... honestly don't know how to comment on this song. I like the quiet opening and ending, and everything in between is pretty good too, but it's not the most memorable song out there. That's all I can really say. 7/10.
The intro is wonderfully ominous and sort of reminds me of the intro to Starblind from the last album. The riff work is great and Bruce gives a very agonized performance as if foretelling people of horrible things that are about to befall them. The solo starts to lose me a little bit as I find that section a little clunky, but I become invested again when it ends with a reprise of the intro. Not a bad song. 7.5/10 (which I'll round up to an 8)
When I've heard this song for the first time I was in a trance (and my spirit was lifted from me).
This was one of my favourites on a first listen, and then, 2 years later, it is still one of my favourite songs from TBOS.
I am so happy that I had a chance to hear this song 3 times live this year, and that I was on a their first performance of TGU in Antwerpen.
Somewhere In Time part is AMAZING!
This song was an instant favorite of mine since I first heard the album two and a half years ago. Some of the greatest and most epic melodies from the album are on "The Great Unknown", and the lyrics are marvelous. A really special song, very suspenseful and atmospheric, has a unique kind of vibe while still sounding 100% Maiden. It's not a 10, as it doesn't quite hold up to the 3 tracks I consider the best on the album, but a 9 sure is!
Great intro, then the song doesn’t take off completely as it could have done. Lyrics are great, but vocals are most likely the worst on the album, even though definitely not as bad as on some songs on the previous album. 7/10
A gentle arpeggiated intro leads into a soft, appealing verse. Muted guitar fills build into a heavier version of the verse. This breaks into an uptempo pre-chorus where Bruce unfortunately strains a lot to hit the notes. This gives way to an appealing chorus where Bruce unfortunately still strains a bit.
A pretty good solo leads back to the painful pre-chorus and the pretty good but still strained chorus. A nice harmonized section leads into a pretty amazing Adrian solo and a decent second solo. An extended intro reprise takes us out on a final soft vocal.
I hate to say it, but this is a great song that's marred by Bruce's subpar vocal performance on the higher notes. If he'd nailed it I might have gone as high as a 9, but as it stands it's only a 7/10.
I've just upgraded the mark from 4 to 5/10 because I like Bruce's delivery of the word "ground" in the intro (sounds a bit like Tim the Enchanter).
However, I still find that this song is, for me, lacking structure (at the end of the solo, it is as though they said "I don't have anything to link it to the next part" "Pff, who cares?") and much too demanding for Bruce's voice to sound well (in other words, his screaming throughout the chorus or post-chorus or whatever it is - do they themselves know?- spoils the song further).
Don't get me wrong, I like progressive metal, but even though Maiden is my favourite band ever, I don't think that their attempts at progressive metal have been really succesful so far, especially in the recent years.
A nice intro with some shockingly strong vocals from Bruce turns into a heavier piece with a lot of power to it. Despite Bruce straining to reach some of the notes, I think it's a pretty good song overall, particularly in the chorus. The solos here are atypical for Maiden but work well. As a whole, not a favorite from the record but it's really strong nonetheless. 7
The vibe of the song fits perfectly with the theme of the album. The intro (like most of Maiden's intros) is awesome and the verses are very good too. Great pre-chorus and even better chorus. Very hard song for Bruce to sing live. The triple-lead guitar harmony is vintage Maiden! Janick's solo is great - very typical solo for him, the start of Adrian's solo is wow. The song is 6,37 minutes long, but without the intro and the too long outro, the song is a 4 minutes long mid-tempo Maiden rocker. After Dave's solo (good solo too, flows well with the drums) the song ends quite strange and unexpected, just when it gets going. The outro is great live. 8/10