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20th Anniversary - 40%

FullMetalAttorney, July 17th, 2013

If you ask the average person to rattle off the names of five classic metal bands, you can be reasonably certain Iron Maiden will be one of them. The band is almost universally beloved by metalheads. Their output from The Number of the Beast through Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is considered one of metal’s few sacred cows.

I grew up in a very small town without any friends who knew more about metal than I did. first learned of the band from a book. See, before Wikipedia, Allmusic, and Metal Archives, there were actually books that listed thousands of albums and had ratings accompanied by short descriptions of the bands. My mom had one of these, and I pored over it looking for metal bands. I never got around to getting any of their albums for a long time, and finally got into the band while in law school. Since I came to them relatively later in life (compared to most metalheads), it should mean something when I say their output from 1982 through 1988 absolutely deserves that sacred cow status.

But they are not without their faults. Tomorrow, May 12 [2012], marks the 20th anniversary of Fear of the Dark. The record follows No Prayer for the Dying, and between the two of them they constitute what is considered the low point of the Bruce Dickinson years. It’s easy to dismiss a bad record as the result of a bad lineup, but that excuse can’t be applied here as Adrian Smith was not a primary songwriter, nor is the rhythm guitar a serious problem.

But I came to the band around 2006. I got Fear and Powerslave at basically the same time. So perhaps that gives me some clarity of vision, an outsider’s take on the record that may put it in a different light.

Well, just because that’s possible doesn’t mean it’s true. The majority view of Fear is that it has a handful of great songs and a load of garbage. The majority view is correct, as I see it.

There are three absolutely killer tracks on this record. “Childhood’s End,” “The Fugitive,” and the incredible title track stand up alongside the very best the band has ever recorded. “Judas Be My Guide” and “Chains of Misery,” aren’t bad either. Either one could be the worst song from “Piece of Mind,” which is to say that they’re still pretty damn good. But that’s where the praise must end. “Fear is the Key” could have been a great song, except that for the last couple minutes Dickinson is just winging it. He truly sounds as if he has nothing prepared, but they went with the first take anyway. There are four tracks beside that are so dull they aren’t even worth mentioning, full of boring riffs and what sound like improvised vocal lines.

Then there are two incredibly bad songs. “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” is just fucking awful. Some of the leads could have been salvageable, but it’s too long, too boring, and too stupid. I have no idea what they were thinking, and even some of its production choices are curious. “Weekend Warrior,” on the other hand, has the band’s thinking clearly printed on its sleeve. It’s a piss-poor attempt at emulating the teenage rebellion anthems of the 80’s hair metal bands, but it fails for multiple reasons. Maiden was the alternative to hair metal garbage. They don’t grasp it all that well anyway, so it ends up sounding like a parody.

The Verdict: Even a (for all intents and purposes) classic lineup can fuck things up. There are numerous other examples of that. If you put Maiden’s 90’s albums up against Metallica’s, you’re presented with an interesting question: What is worse, to fail at doing what you’ve always done well, or to mostly succeed at trying something questionable? Fear of the Dark is, for the most part, a failure, although it gives us a few enduring sing-along anthems.

originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/

It’s hard to tell if it’s a step up or down… - 70%

Evil_Carrot, March 11th, 2013

Fear of the Dark is often bunched together with No Prayer for the Dying as Maiden’s two mediocre albums, before Bruce left and the dreaded Blaze era began. The difference between the two albums, however, was that while No Prayer… felt like a mediocre album that, while not bad, was entirely forgettable, Fear of the Dark gave us an album that was a very mixed bag, and while No Prayer felt less like a return to the roots and more like “Maiden By Numbers” or a tribute band doing original material, this sounds like a band that is trying to respond to that criticism, but is entirely unsure of a new musical direction. Musically, it goes back and forth between experimentation, standard fare Maiden sound, and “what the hell were they thinking?!”. As a result, we get a confused album that hits the mark and, well, quite a few times gives us a few of Maiden's greatest, if not least memorable, moments as well as some of the worst material they have ever written.

The great stuff: Be Quick or be Dead kicks off the album with some immense power and speed with Bruce spitting out his vocals angrily, but right off the bat it’s obvious he’s still going with his more raw vocals from No Prayer. Still, this is up there with Aces High as far as energetic, speedy Maiden songs. Afraid to Shoot Strangers starts off very melodic with Bruce singing in a raspy near-whisper. The first several minutes are actually quite beautiful, and let me tell you, it was really something when I saw it live as well. It gets a little heavier about halfway through and goes through an aggressive solo before going to a more melodic ending. Childhood’s End is a darker, mid-paced song. The chorus is a little odd, consisting of a sort of short tam drum spasm and riff being repeated as Bruce spits out two-word chorus lines, but it’s direct and to the point. It’s a little out of the ordinary for a Maiden song, but not as much as some of the other experiments on the album, and it gets to the bridge/solo section that’s classic Maiden. Overall, it’s a decent and memorable song. Judas Be My Guide took a while to grow on me, but it’s a fun song with a catchy verse and catchy chorus. The verses and choruses focus on simplicity and it works for what might have been an okay live song if the band had been a more cohesive unit both live and in the studio at the time. I always thought it was strange how pessimistic the song was for a Maiden song. Not that I’m not used to any dark Maiden songs, but unlike most others where the darkness seems like a foreboding warning or some kind of depressing reflection song, the attitude of this song, along with lines like “Everything’s wasted, is that all there is, can I go now?” seem genuinely pessimistic. Maybe this is a reflection of Dickinson’s feelings on the band and his interest in a solo project at the time. Or maybe I just read into these things too much and it’s about war or something.

What could I be forgetting? Oh yeah, apparently some people appreciate the title track. It seems like while the quality of any of the aforementioned songs could be argued as well as any other song on this album, just about every Maiden fan loves the album's closer, the epic Fear of the Dark, and why not? It’s an amazing song, especially live. Melodic, dark, beautiful in the intro, and then just exploding where even on the album version you can imagine how Bruce would be running around the stage like a madman in an arena. And do I sense some Middle Eastern influence in the very beginning? God, how I love that style in metal. It truly is classic Maiden and is really a fine example of it on an album that otherwise sounds like it’s written by a band whose unsure of who they are anymore. It’s also one of the moments on the album where Bruce shows his voice still has some fucking power behind it. Although his rasp is still certainly here, there are also times it sounds like it was recorded with the Bruce from Powerslave.

The decent stuff: Fear is the Key is an average song with a cool, Middle Eastern-sounding riff which, as I mentioned before, is a sound I’ve always loved in metal, however it’s much more predominant in this song. The chorus is pretty fun and catchy enough, however there are the forgettable verses and the inclusion of a middle part that just doesn’t fit feels a little forced and features Bruce saying the word ‘lies’ about 30 times. It was as though they felt the need to add a progressive part or something for no reason. There’s also a strange noise and guitar squeal part that sounds like Dimebag Darell might be getting ready to play Floods in there somewhere. However, Bruce does a pretty fucking sick Ian Gillan impression at one point. Overall, not a song I’d call good, but also not bad. The Fugitive begins rather heavy, the chorus is catchy, and the “I AM A FUGITIVE” part would have probably been a good live piece, but the rest is pretty forgettable. Neither of these songs are terrible. I never feel the need to skip them, but if you asked me what songs were on the album, these are the ones I’d probably forget.

The controversial stuff: these songs will probably fit into either the decent or shitty category depending on who you ask. I don’t think you’ll find many who will say these are amazing because they’re not. However, liking or hating them is completely dependent on musical taste. They all sound like things Maiden would have never done on any album before this, so I credit them for trying new things. Unfortunately, just attempting an experiment doesn’t necessarily make it successful. From Here to Eternity: Have you ever heard an AC/DC song? Well then you’ve heard every AC/DC song ever. AC/DC wrote one song, then wrote it 500 more times. Why do I bring this up? Do you like AC/DC? If you do, you might dig this. If you don’t, you WILL hate this because this song is that one single AC/DC song. Bruce even seems to be doing his best Brian Johnson impression. Personally, AC/DC is alright with me, however I only like them when I’m in the right mood, and if I want to listen to AC/DC, I’ll put on AC/DC. I don’t put on Maiden to hear AC/DC. So while I don’t hate this song, I see no use for it. Wasting Love is a power ballad, pure and simple. You should be able to tell from that opening riff. I’m not entirely sure who the hell was ever asking for a power ballad from Maiden. If you’re the kind of guy saying, “FUCK POWER BALLADS!!”. this might not be for you. Personally, I enjoyed it and thought it was interesting to hear Maiden do something along that line. I originally thought I never wanted to hear Maiden do a power ballad and I originally skipped this song constantly, but it ended up growing on me. It also chooses to be an entirely depressing song, seemingly about loneliness and isolation rather than a love and/or lost love song like many other power ballads I’m familiar with. Ok, not a massive change of pace, but I think we all feel that way sometimes, whether you’re that guy who can’t get into a relationship or have been married for 20 years. Decent stuff either way as far as I’m concerned.

The shitty: The Apparition is just an awkward song. I can’t even say I have a straightforward opinion on it. It has what couldn’t quite be called a riff, maybe an awkward groove and Bruce almost doing a rap-type thing, a short, decent solo, and then back to the groove rap. Again, I appreciate the band trying new things, but this experiment didn’t quite make the grade with me. Although maybe shitty is a little harsh, Chains of Misery feels like filler. It’s a little too average rock and the layered vocals on the words “he’s got your chains of misery” makes it feel like they wanted to make an arena rock anthem or something. However, the part of this song that really made me group it here rather than controversial is the incredibly and undeniably awkward “he’s got the key to your heart” part.

Then there’s Weekend Warrior. Both The Apparition and Chains of Misery I could see enjoying and, really, I can listen to the album without skipping them, but this song just pisses me off. It’s apparently about a soccer (sorry, I’m North American, “football”) game which, while I suppose is understandable as they all are apparently soccer (/football) fans, there isn’t shit about soccer that’s metal or belongs on a metal album. The lyrics are relentlessly cheesy, especially in the context. “Maybe someone will die… someone will die… someone will die.” Shut up, Bruce. No one dies in soccer. The intro attempts to be melodic, but just kind of meanders, then it goes into a groove similar to The Apparition in a way. Before each chorus the meandering riff from the intro comes in as Bruce repeats whatever the last two words he just said 4 times or so and complains about his friend changing and being an asshole when he plays soccer. The chorus is pretty generic Maiden stuff, but the lyrics for it suck. Even the chorus is among the least interesting I’ve ever heard from Maiden. It’s like they wanted to try my patience for 5 and a half minutes before giving me the godly Fear of the Dark. This song alone impacts my view of the album to drop the score about 3 percentage points. Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but this song exists to piss me off and accomplishes it in ways that are unimaginable. This isn’t a song Iron Maiden should have ever written. Fuck Weekend Warrior.

So, while No Prayer for the Dying disappointed fans by being a somewhat safe, back to the roots album and having for the most part a lot of/too much continuity, Fear of the Dark disappointed fans by having very little continuity. The album blasts off with Be Quick or be Dead, possibly one of the heaviest songs the band has written, into an AC/DC-sounding rock song. From the worst song on the album, Weekend Warrior, to what is considered the best, Fear of the Dark. The band tried too many things on one release, and while many individual songs definitely work, the whole album is less effective and comes off as confused and disjointed. About half the album the average fan will enjoy more than No Prayer, while the other half will be hated, resulting in something of a musical cocktease.

A failed experiment is still a good result - 73%

BastardHead, February 7th, 2013

I know this probably sounds strange, but Fear of the Dark was actually my introduction to our gods that are Iron Maiden. I mean, I knew about the other albums, I knew the choruses to "Run to the Hills" and "Number of the Beast" from a young age like every child with good parents should, but I'd never heard of albums like Seventh Son of a Seventh Son prior to my pre-teen years. I've mentioned it a thousand times before, but my early taste in music was largely the work of my mother. She was less into Maiden than she was, say Dio and Metallica in the 80s, but an appreciation was there nonetheless (likely due to the fact that Iron Maiden was and is utterly ubiquitous in the scope of metal fandom). I was born a little over a month before No Prayer for the Dying came out, so the fact that Fear of the Dark was the only Maiden album I could find in her CD stash during one of my 11 year old raids makes sense considering it was around that time she'd stopped buying tapes and recovered from taking care of an infant. I remember looking at the cover art and thinking "Well this is weird, didn't their mascot have long hair?" (a full eighteen years after his first haircut, of course), and figured oh well, it's probably cool so I'll just take it up to my room and listen to it while I do my homework.

Long story short, I didn't think it was great, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Now, eleven years later, my opinion has actually managed to soften. Seriously, the more I listen to this album, the more I like it. I'd always claimed that this was the last Maiden album worth listening to, but I didn't consider it one of their "good" ones until recently. Everybody knows the dichotomy of last two albums of Dickinson's first run (NPftD was bad because it was homogenous and bland while FotD was bad because of wildly inconsistent songwriting and an identity crisis), and maybe I'm just a total fanboy, but I actually really like some of the songs that don't sound like Iron Maiden. I honestly really dig "From Here to Eternity" and "Fear is the Key". No joke.

Maybe I'm not very harsh on this album because I have a nostalgic tie to it, I won't deny that that is a strong possibility. But let's face a sad truth about the band really quickly; as great and near flawless as those seven albums from the 80s are, we've heard them all no less than four squillion times by now. In 1992, we'd already heard them two trillion times. We know who Iron Maiden is, we know what they sound like. And whether or not this album was a musical success, I give it a ton of respect for at least attempting to do something drastically different with their formula for a change. I mean yeah, Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son introduced light synths and took on a much more grand atmosphere, but they still fell in line with what the band had been sounding like since 1983. Even No Prayer was basically just ten filler tracks in a row, with only the odd moment of their past brilliance here and there (Say what you will, I love both "Tailgunner" and "Holy Smoke"). But now we've reached 1992, and you know what? This is new. This is something entirely different. I mean yeah, "Weekend Warrior" is an awful butt rock song and "The Apparition" is annoying but damn at least they're not "The Assassin" or "Hooks in You". Most fans agree they ran out of good ideas when the 80s ended, but at least here they're new bad ideas instead of incredibly safe, faceless ones like the previous album. Sometimes they strike out, but at least they're swinging for the fences.

And when they connect, they really strike gold. The title track is a classic and a live staple, everybody knows that, and it's definitely deserving of the honor with which it's been bestowed. When the band does one of their tours where they say they'll only play old songs that everybody already likes, "Fear of the Dark" is the only track from the 90s that will consistently find itself in the setlist. It's a big, anthemic number, with a great buildup, excellent singalong melody, and a dark overtone that few of their songs really capture. It's the "epic" of this album, and like most of its predecessors, it's easily one of the highlights of the album and one of the band's best songs. I'm also a gigantic fan of the opening track, "Be Quick or Be Dead". The fact that this isn't a live staple is proof that there is no God. This is the closest they every got to recapturing the high speed magic that is "Aces High", with the only real difference being the fact that the vocals are more subdued here. I love it when Maiden really cuts loose and delivers a high-octane barnburner like this, and really wish they'd do it slightly more often than "once every six years".

Those are the only two truly classic songs, unfortunately, though most of the rest at least rank as "good" at the very least. "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" is one of the fan favorites and one of the two songs most people can admit to liking from this album without getting weird looks. Personally, I can't fully get behind it. Of its nearly seven minute runtime, I can only say I adore a little over half of it. That long, moody buildup just goes on for far too long and does nothing to build up the rest of the song. I love how the main melody manages to sound remorseful, I love how the fast part is basically just the big epic release from "Hallowed Be Thy Name", I love the ludicrously over the top guitar solo, I love everything about it except the first two and a half minutes. "Judas Be My Guide" is another great one that deserves more love than it gets, it does a fantastic job of conjuring the atmosphere from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and combines it with the hard-hitting straightforwardness of Powerslave. It's not as good as "Be Quick or Be Dead", but it's another one of the forgotten songs that would be more fondly remembered if it were placed on a different album.

Now, here's where I get hypocritical, did you notice something about those four mostly-great tracks I mentioned? Every last one of them was compared to something the band did in the 80s, right after I spent all that time going on about how I respected them for trying new things. That's because even though I respect and support the band trying something new, there's really no denying that what they did in the 80s was the pinnacle of their career, so when they reach back to that, obviously it's going to be more effective than their newer, more commercial approach. There are two tracks that really exemplify this idea, and those are "From Here to Eternity" and "Weekend Warrior". The former is good, because it has a lot of energy and a fun, catchy chorus, whereas the latter sucks because it sounds like a phoned-in Van Halen b-side that the band didn't even fully believe was good enough to be on the album. "Weekend Warrior" is pretty much the Scrappy Doo of Iron Maiden's career, because it really kind of knocked the band down to its knees, castrated it mightily, and they've since been trying to recover, and never fully succeeding. Yeah, yeah, I know the near-perfect title track follows it, but let's just agree that "Weekend Warrior" is a big, steaming pile of spunk that the band pretty much chokeslammed their own career into.

There are a few other strange experiments, like the country-style groove that might as well jump out of a closet while yelling "BOO" in "Fear is the Key". Despite clashing horribly with the great, mid paced brooding of the opening riff, I still really like this song. It's Maiden trying something new, it only halfway succeeds but it's a valiant effort if nothing else. "Chains of Misery" and "The Fugitive" are two other kinda bad butt rock songs that work for what they are, despite really not being inspired or anything. I know it's kind of a cop out to do what I've been doing here (just pointing out certain tracks and explaining what they sound like in comparison to the rest of the album), but with something as wildly inconsistent and all over the board as Fear of the Dark, there's really no other way to do it. The only real constants throughout the album are the fact that the choruses are all normally pretty weak (barring "Be Quick or Be Dead" and "Fear of the Dark" of course) and the guitars really don't do anything to stand out amongst the pack, a giant rarity for a Maiden album.

The more I listen to this, the more I like it, but at the same time this is an album I "respect" more than I "love". If No Prayer for the Dying was the band half-hearting a ton of filler tracks because they'd used up most of their good ideas, then Fear of the Dark is the result of the band just throwing out a bunch of random shit and anything they could think of in a haze of incense smoke and surrounded by scores of empty beer cans. Only a couple of these ideas really stick, but I applaud the band for trying, if nothing else. For most fans, this is probably skippable, if only due to the fact that there are only a handful of bona-fide Iron Maiden classics, but if you're okay with an interesting failure, then this is definitely worth checking out. I don't consider this a failure, since I actually like a lot of the songs here that are crapped on ("Fear is the Key", "Childhood's End", "From Here to Eternity"), but I do understand that this was the last stumble before falling flat on their face for the next twenty years.


Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/

Iron Maiden - Fear Of The Dark - 70%

ConorFynes, December 9th, 2011

Despite having one of the band's best-known crowd favourites, Iron Maiden's 'Fear Of The Dark' is a somewhat less successful album for the legends, at least critically speaking. My first experience with the band, the album may have more of a personal significance to me, and while proving to be one of the band's less consistent works, there is some great music here from the band. While not as good as the true classic material of the band, 'Fear Of The Dark' is an at-times wonderful collection of tracks from one of metal's most enduring acts.

'Be Quick Or Be Dead' kicks off the album in a fairly classic Maiden fashion; a fast pace, galloping rhythm, and Bruce Dickinson's howl makes this track one that I would not have been surprised to see one of the earlier records. 'From Here To Eternity' also somewhat follows this formula. Truth be told though, Iron Maiden does take the rest of the album down a somewhat different lane. While it's certainly nothing alien to what Iron Maiden had already been doing, the music is perhaps a little more conservative in terms of speed, with many of these tracks veering towards Judas Priest's 'older' sound. Cutting straight to the point; this is done very well at times, but some songs fall off the wagon, and this may be why some fans of the band do not regard this album as highly. 'The Fugitive' and 'Judas Be My Guide' are two more straightforward tracks that really rock. While the intensity is toned down a bit, the riffs are in much the same style that Maiden had done before. Despite the subdued angle, there is still the care taken to the dual guitar harmonies. Weekend Warrior' is the only miss of a track here, with fairly uninspired guitars and facepalm-inducing lyrics. Here, Iron Maiden virtually declaws their music, and despite being released in '92, 'Weekend Warrior' sounds like it would have been some arena rock track from the heyday of the '80s. One bad apple aside, I don't think it hurts the rest of the songs.

Bruce Dickinson's voice is a point of contention for some, especially seeing as he would leave the band for the next two albums after this. Although some of the melodies are not so inspired or memorable, his voice was still in top shape, although he does not quite sound like himself here. At times, he sounds like Rob Halford- a good thing- and at others, he ad-libs away in the style of Axl Rose- a decidedly bad thing. 'Fear Of The Dark' certainly has some weaknesses to contend with, but the album's two most involving songs take it from being merely decent, to a very good album. Those two are the famed title track, and the lesser-known 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers'. The first of these evokes a maddening response from the crowd whenever its played live, and for good reason. It begins with a classic riff, then takes a breath as it gently builds into the most intense passage of the album. 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers' proceeds in much the same manner, with perhaps a more progressive direction. With these two songs alone, 'Fear Of The Dark' is more than worth a listen to a fan of the band.

Iron Maiden have gone through many phases, and 'Fear Of The Dark' falls on the brink of a rough transition for the band. All the same, there are many good songs, and even some gold to hear with this one. A painfully underrated album.

Good, but not great enough for usual Maiden - 79%

TWadams39, November 1st, 2011

Fear of the Dark is not a terrible album and actually contains some great songs. Though unlike Iron Maiden's previous releases that are in my opinion 100% excellent with every track pulling its weight and no filler, this one seems a bit too average and had a bit of filler.

Lets start with the musicianship. Each member of the band plays well on this album. Bruce Dickinson's vocals are a bit more gritty on this album than most people are used to. They are comparable to his singing on the previous album, No Prayer for the Dying. The bass of course is great, for it is Steve Harris playing. Nicko McBrain's drumming is good as usual. The guitar playing of Dave Murray and Janik Gers is quite good actually, and Janik's guitar solos are one of the highlights of the album.

Before I start the track by track rundown, I want to say that a mediocre song from this band is great when compared to other songs from other bands, but this album didn't live up to usual Maiden spectacularity.

The first track, "Be Quick or be Dead", is a heavy, fast-paced opener that is almost a bit thrashy. It isn't the usual Maiden, but it is still a great song and shouldn't be ignored. "From Here to Eternity", the second track, finishes up the story of "Charlotte the Harlot" that began on their debut album. This one is alright and some may deem it a classic. It is enjoyable, though had more of a rock feel than it does Maiden epicness. "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" is absolutely great. Great music, lyrics, everything, and is a highlight of the album. It has great melodic riffs. There is a live Blaze Bayley version as well that is also pretty good, if not better. "Fear is the Key" is where many would say the filler starts. The beginning of the song is cool, but it changes to a cheesy rock-ish riff. The song has some good parts and isn't terrible and I don't always skip it on my iPod. The next track is a very different song compared to most in the bands repertoire. "Childhood's End" is, in my opinion, an excellent song, though some may disagree. The song has emotion that can really be felt during the chorus which has interesting drumming. Give it a chance. "Wasting Love" is met with a lot of disappointment as many deem it Iron Maiden's power ballad, and they aren't exactly wrong. But just because a song is mellow doesn't mean it is bad. It isn't glammy Poison bullshit, so give it a chance. You may like it.

"The Fugitive" is filler because of the lyrics. The song isn't bad. Actually it's rather catchy, but the lyrics are too generic and simple for Iron Maiden and left me disappointed. "Chains of Misery" is just okay as the chorus and riff is a bit cheesy. You can call it filler, but it isn't terrible. "The Apparition" is filler. They should have just cut it from the album and the total length would have still been enough and the album would be better overall. "Judas be my Guide" is AWESOME and is a hugely underrated Iron Maiden song with a badass chorus and harmonizing guitar riff with plenty of emotion. It's hard not to sing along. It is classic Maiden greatness. "Weekend Warrior" is filler. I mean, look at the title. Does that sound like Iron Maiden? Skip it and skip some disappointment. Now we get to the title track, "Fear of the Dark". It is a definite Maiden anthem and I don't think the band has played a concert and not played this since it was written. I'm sure you've heard it 'cause it's pretty awesome.

If they had simply cut 2 or 3 of the filler tracks from this album and left it at 9 tracks, this album could be great overall, but the few filler tracks are just unnecessary and detract from the album's overall rating. If you are new to Iron Maiden, don't start with this album. If you already like the band and are familiar with their work, this album is still enjoyably good and you should go ahead and get it.

A Blaze In The Northern Sky (Part II) - 38%

OzzyApu, August 13th, 2010

Filler be damned, but even the mightiest get caught up with such deception. Fear Of The Dark could have been a well-thought out follow-up to the mundane No Prayer For The Dying, even though it still wouldn’t live up to the previous ‘80s flock. That’s a hard family to stick with because heavy metal calls upon them like superheroes. For the ‘90s flock, Maiden sort of crept under the radar instead of going out with a blaze (uh oh) of fury, but Fear Of The Dark proves that the band at least attempted to bring back some of that glory. At heart, the band still had it in them, but it was one wasted bullet that turned into a wasted album.

Unlike No Prayer For The Dying, some good songs shine on amidst the clutter of bad ones. The bar has been raised a centimeter, thankfully, but we’re still a far ways away from “Caught Somewhere In Time” or “Die With Your Boots On,” which is an understandable disappointment. More or less, I was expecting another offering in the same ballpark as No Prayer For The Dying, and new listeners should expect the same to save themselves from utter dismay. The main difference is that when throwing this album in the garbage, there’s a hint of legacy – you can take something away from this that you can look back on and cherish. For me, it was the title track, though for you it’ll probably be something else as well.

Production wise the band sticks to the dry, stock job that excels in mixing and then-modern power, but lacks certain character and style. This can become a love / hate deal between listeners since such production benefits the instruments but detracts from the music in certain ways (atmosphere, for instance). I’d expect the band to notice this and create what they can using the trademark Maiden ambition, but instead they opt to go for flaccid heavy metal (read: rock) tunes that make up the majority of this album. Some of them pass the mark for a number of reasons – amusement, energy, harmonies, riffs, vocals (advice: pick one) – but this album is basically a bunch of copper and a piece of gold in a cove of shit.

You get the Beavis & Butthead-lambasted “From Here To Eternity” (a poppy hard rock jingle), the harmony-driven brooder “Afraid To Shoot Strangers,” the grim “Childhood’s End,” the poignant “Wasting Love,” and the epic monster of a title track to seal the deal. These tracks to me make up the true spirit of Fear Of The Dark; everything else gets in the way with their suckage. This makes five good tracks scattered with seven mediocre-to-lame tracks in a whopping kiddy pool of twelve tracks, which is not the kind of album anyone wants to be stuck in. Between these tracks, Steve Harris is able to make one last stand; it’s a desperate attempt and the organization isn’t better than No Prayer For The Dying, but it serves as a ray of hope for the rest of the band to follow suit. Like the previous album, there are bits and pieces – riffs, verses, solos, etc. – that reside in fractured songs… songs that are butchered by the band in more than one way.

First up is Dickinson, who by this point I’m assuming gave less than a shit. We all know his vocals – those well-known wails burned like stomach fuel and launched like a rainbow in the dark – yet only one track really nails it down. This would be the title track, where Dickinson lurches during the calm intro and initiates tremendous howls of fervent emotion as the song progresses. With “Wasting Love” (for this album) I can bear to hear his soft croons as he delicately cries and moans passionately; each line of the verse is met with flurrying acoustics before the excitement overcomes the listener. Both these songs mark the high points of the album, with the title track being the fluctuated opus penned by an incredibly melodious main riff while the latter serves as the ballad (at most) to show us what the band really wanted.

Hardly any other of the tracks I chose are as impactful as those two aforementioned songs, and the tracks I haven’t mentioned (the ones I’d rather feed to sharks) are too disjointed or flat-out pathetic to live up to the Maiden name. To me, the band got very lazy and decided to keep piling on one song after the other without actually fleshing any of them out. None of the other tracks are worthy because they aren’t very developed – for some shitty band, sure, but by Maiden’s standards this is a mess. The band shouldn’t have to be held to their greatest potential all the time, but there should always be a fine line to keep them from producing mediocre or lifeless songs. I’m trying to get my head around Nicko’s drum beats, which remain the only piece not completely overwhelmed by the same shallowness as the rest of the band. The guy is a comedian at heart, and the same thin hat tatters filled by buoyant snares are the route he goes to keep his kit afloat; the drum bass is still a bunch of dead fish being clubbed, though.

For the rest of the album, listeners have to defend themselves against wasted vocals, incredibly dumb lyrics, some annoying choruses, lackluster riffs, shallow harmonies, inert solos, and shadowy bass lines. Now this is spread out across seven boring, studio filler tracks that you need to put up with unless you burned your own copy with a shorter tracklist (which would be wiser than buying this if you really need a physical copy). Harris usually manages to emulate the guitar harmonies on his sovereign bass with his own licks, but here he mostly follows in their footsteps. Therefore, you’ll get everything mundane played both by guitars and by a blubbery bass, which is still nice in an “every Iron Maiden fan loves Steve Harris like a father” kind of way.

For the guitar duo, I’m not hearing a whole lot of commitment, either; it’s the kind of thing a metalhead can just tune in and notice. On the chosen tracks they mean what they play, but everything else is taken up for the sake of existence – alive, but just breathing. I wouldn’t back anything that isn’t meant to last, and that’s where the majority of Fear Of The Dark disagrees. The precise, consistent flare of the guitar tone is mostly wasted on shallow rock tunes with immobile choruses that bailed on the listener within the first lines of their shameful lyrics. Aggressiveness, class, caution, fervor, and the Maiden style show up too few and dispersed, with even fewer moments of true glory; the band gives us a lot, but unleashes very little – we get quantity over quality.

I figured this had to be better than the previous album and in the end it still seems that way. What good that came from Fear Of The Dark outdoes what good came from No Prayer For The Dying; they both are still pretty bad, though. Pick either one that’s mediocre and bad as a whole or one with crap interspersed with some good, but you’re still digging in the wrong pool. Yes, this is the kiddy section – you want the big kid’s pool, which consists of classics like Piece Of Mind, Killers, and Somewhere In Time, among others. Every decade has its own pool, and this ‘90s kiddy pool still has some crap that needs to be eradicated.

We thought that passion was free - 78%

autothrall, February 27th, 2010

Fear of the Dark is the 9th album of UK heroes Iron Maiden, and in my opinion the best they would release in the 90s. It's one of the band's longer efforts, clocking in at nearly an hour, with a dozen tracks, most of which are at least catchy, if not entirely at the level of the previous decade. The album compensates slightly for its predecessor No Prayer for the Dying, which seemed to thrive on filler, with only a few truly memorable tracks, but Fear of the Dark too seems to take the same excess tongue lashing from fans. It's a little more rock than the previous albums, and about half the songs are laid back and accessible (this might explain some of the loathing), but I'm honestly surprised that a few of them haven't been given a little more attention through the band's set lists over the years.

This was the last album before Bruce Dickinson would split from the band and be replaced by Blaze Bayley for Maiden's most miserable albums, but this possibility was not set in stone at the time, so there is no sense of emergency or desperation here. It's just business as usual, with the same penchant for catchy guitar melodies, carefully crafted leads that never hinge on excess, busy bass that feels central to so many of their compositions, and a top shelf performance from Dickinson. And in 1992, a year in which death and black metal were still taking off, and 'alternative music' and grunge rock were the orders of the day, Fear of the Dark feels somewhat like refreshment, from a band that many people were probably tiring of as they turned towards the next shiny audio bauble. Among such shifts in trend, the album often feels like a statement that the guard will NOT be changing via metal's highly successful dignitaries...oh, what sweet irony!

"Be Quick or Be Dead" is a fine opener to the album, a fast and memorable track which recalls the uncouth power and ribaldry of something like "The Trooper" or "Aces High". Dickinson spits some of his nastier vocals, with a clipped pitch to his voice that sounds like he had just dialed the Beast's number again and was feeling slightly possessed. I enjoy the riffs, I enjoy the way the vocal echoes off in the chorus, and the verse rhythm is pure old 80s barbarity. It's followed "From Here to Eternity", which feels a little like a Dire Straits or ZZ Top track at first, with a decent hard rock kick to the verse and then another obvious chorus with backup vocals that felt a little like AC/DC. This wound up being one of the more popular tracks from the album, at least so much that Maiden would include it on live shows and albums, and I have to say that I'm somewhat less impressed by this than numerous other pieces on the album. Another of the staples is "Afraid to Shoot Strangers", which is a cooler tune with a morose intro section laden in subtle synths and flowing, catchy clean guitar melodies. It feels like a lullaby about the Gulf War gone wrong, but the chorus remains quite atmospheric due to the guitar line that weaves through it, and the track does pick up for some solid driving metal.

"Fear is the Key" has a thundering step to it that feels a lot like a rambling Zeppelin rhythm, but I personally enjoy the vocals here and the message of lost rebellion and youth. The mystical wall of melody that opens and recurs through the track is also quite nice. "Childhood's End" sadly doesn't seem based upon the fantastic Arthur C. Clarke science fiction novel, instead a lament for the poor and suffering of the world. However, it's probably my favorite track on this album, with glorious, cascading melodies that storm behind Dickinson's highly memorable chorus line (though the lyrics are rather weak). Very surprised this song did not take off and become a single or a live standard. Had "Wasting Love" come out a few years earlier, it might have run headlong against popular hard rock power ballads like "I'll Remember You", "Heaven" or "Fly to the Angels", but here it feels a little cheesy until the chords crash in.

The latter half of the album begins with "The Fugitive", an average song with some of the similar, simple and expressive chords that Maiden used to make a name for themselves in the decade prior. Not sure if the lyrics were inspired by the book or film, but alas, they're pretty weak, though the progression of the song does seem to build an urgency that might be shared by one on a run from whatever institution is narrowing in on him, and there's a cool groove buried after 3:30 where the solo begins. I found "Chains of Misery" rather amusing, for all its swagger, vocal hooks and the little guitar fills in the pre-verse and chorus. "The Apparition" seems a little too light hearted, or playful, but the riffs aren't all that bad and it has a nicely wailing solo with some melodies catapulting beneath it, alongside the bass.

"Judas Be My Guide" is a hidden gem, with excellent, flowing guitar melodies that recall the same fire that I loved about so much earlier NWOBHM, simple and blues-based and scurrying off into the night. The chorus is fantastic, not unlike something from an early Queensryche album. "Weekend Warriors" is one of the most loathed tracks on the album, an homage to football hooligans which I also felt could be about corporate paintball matches...but either way, it's acoustic opening makes it sound like a Traveling Wilbury's song, and then it rocks out like mid-80s party Priest. In fact if I close my eyes I could almost envision Halford sharing the vocals here just they did on "The One You Love to Hate". Maybe they should try it some time! The chorus is really not all that bad, and in fact this is not one of the least memorable tracks on the album, so I believe the negativity leveled at it is slightly blown out of proportion. Though believe me, the last thing I want is an Iron Maiden that sings about sporting events. The 7+ title track serves as the finale to the album, and though it's not bad either, it simply isn't one of the most striking tracks in my opinion, so naturally it becomes the one Maiden plays most in their sets and live albums. Go figure.

Fear of the Dark is nowhere near as lousy as the fans and media of the day tried to spin it, they were simply too busy with their tongues and noses up Kurt Cobain's rear to realize that it's just another Maiden album, with a bunch of good songs that, while not about to set the record straight, have a lot of appeal for me even after nearly two decades. The lyrics are among the band's weakest, and there are a few songs that could be clipped. But this is certainly stronger than No Prayer for the Dying, the humdrum X Factor or the abominable Virtual XI, and I listen with anticipation to at least half the songs every time I hearken back to it.

Highlights: Be Quick or Be Dead, Childhood's End, Chains of Misery, Judas Be My Guide

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

The Great, The Average & The Ugly - 74%

drewnm156, September 20th, 2009

I never understood the musical course that Maiden took after Seventh Son. Although Seventh Son was a huge success in Europe and elsewhere, they lost fans or fan’s interest in the U.S. The raw and simplistic attack of No Prayer for the Dying appeared to be a reaction to the highly progressive and produced heavy metal created on Seventh Son. No Prayer in my opinion is the worst release in the Dickenson era. Fear of the Dark was stuck somewhere in the middle of those albums with moments of greatness, average-ness and awfulness.

The production is a ten fold improvement over the sparseness of No Prayer. It is a successful merging of the gloss of Seventh Son with the more live feeling of No Prayer. Rather than the sloppy feel to No Prayer, the production here is crisper, without seeming fake or polished. The performances themselves are not questioned even over some of the more banal material. The solos from Mr. Murray and even Mr. Gers are always a highlight.

The Great. The opener Be Quick or Be Dead is fast, catchy and short, a perfect opener. Although you can tell Bruce’s vocals are straining a bit on most of this album, it works perfectly on this aggressive song. Afraid to Shoot Strangers is a great epic that builds from a slow ballad to a great melody to an aggressive middle section then back to a more mid paced ending. Childhood’s End, a totally underrated song that builds on a cool staccato type chorus and memorable melody line. It is a very dark song both musically and lyrically. Finally the classic Fear of The Dark. What more can be said of this song that is still played frequently on live tours. The second chorus that introduces the galloping vibe is undeniable. These four songs are better than anything on No Prayer and hold up very well against most Maiden classics.

The Average. Fear is the Key, an ok song with social lyrics that fit the time Maiden was trying to live in. The song is too long and the sped up part towards the end seems awkward. It was an attempt at something different which I appreciate. The Fugitive has a great heavy beginning and catchy first verse. The chorus is a bit bland which brings things down a notch. The Apparition is half successful and kind of presages the type of riffing that was used to great success on the X Factor album. It’s not great, but not overly long and different to the entire album. Finally Judas Be My Guide is a simple and catchy song that I enjoy quite a bit, although not typical Maiden fare.

The Ugly. From Here to Eternity is probably the worst Maiden song ever released on a full length. It’s a bland dumb and unconvincing rock and roll song that has no place in their catalog, let alone as a single. Wasting Love actually vacillates between this group and the average group depending on my mood. Since the main melody line and chorus is a little weak and the song is way too long and repetitive, it’s inclusion here. Chains of Misery and Weekend Warrior are just bland, watered down rock songs. Unlike …Here to Eternity, Maiden didn’t try to convince fans these were any good, by playing them live. I do have to admit the pre chorus guitar line in Chains of Misery is pretty cool though, that however is about 12 seconds in the entire song.

One will never know what impact the impending (and probably well known) departure of Mr. Dickenson had on the song writing during this period. The ability to write great songs was still there but most of the song writing was way too average or boring. The band seemed split on whether it should embrace the progression displayed on Seventh Son, or the simplistic form of No Prayer. It took a change in singers and subsequent reunion to fully rekindle those progressive tendencies. However, the change in singers and the dark and epic follow up in The X Factor signaled a direction I was more favorable towards.

Four Good, Eight Bad, What the Hell? - 50%

Five_Nails, September 13th, 2009

NOWBHM gods, Iron Maiden, really dropped the ball on their 1992 album, “Fear of the Dark”. Within this mess of filler and directionless generic pop rock sounding songs, a few gems like the title track (“Fear of the Dark”), “Judas Be My Guide”, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, and “Childhood’s End” really stand out. The problem is that to find those songs, the listener has to sift through eight terribly inane tracks where either the band ran out of ideas and just began repeating choruses at random times or decided to use three minute filler solo and riffing sections that just go on and on. Rather than go through how horrible the eight tracks are, I’ll focus on what gave this album fifty percent.

“Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, the first of the “big four” in this album contains what some would consider filler at the beginning, but this catchy and emotional song still brings a good rousing anthem later on, has some amazing soloing, and changes tempo at 3:44 to ensure that “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” is a quintessential Maiden song complete with minute after minute of harmonic riffing and single guitar soloing, a chant of the song’s title, and a ballad to open it. The drums on this song, as well as the rest of the album, aren’t as well pronounced as in other Iron Maiden albums and seem to have lost the gallop that songs like “Run to the Hills”, “The Trooper”, and “Hallowed be Thy Name” had. Instead, the upturn in the “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” has more of a constant thundering as in “Aces High” that favors the sound of the bass guitar and ensures a clean sounding mix production-wise.

As was stated above, there really isn’t any direction for this album. Other than the title track at the end and “Fear is the Key” in the middle, “Fear of the Dark” goes from being about the first Gulf War to descriptions of our decaying environment to a ballad containing a love song and to what seems as though a continuation of “The Prisoner” from their 1982 album “The Number of the Beast”. The sporadic themes in the songs reflect an attempt to modernize Iron Maiden’s message from the Medieval, historical, and glory-bound focus of NWOBHM to a standout attempt to deter people from fighting, clean up the environment, and try to find a little peace, love, and understanding. Through listening to the album though, this message is easily lost as two thirds of the tracks become exercises in futility rather than meaningful social commentaries.

“Childhood’s End” begins with the combination of each guitar and the drums all kicking in at once creating an interesting harmony. The song brings its tempo up again in Iron Maiden fashion to introduce the solos, riffing, and every other aspect of a Maiden song, but though their formula is so obviously pronounced and the lyrics compare to those of “The Prisoner” and “Children of the Damned” in “The Number of the Beast”, the song is still just as good as their classics. The guitars in this album seem to have the same formula when it comes to their soloing, though. Each guitar takes a solo, and then both guitars join in for a third solo. The formula is repeated sometimes in songs like “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”. Though it’s not a boring formula, it’s still another formula that Iron Maiden has piled up to create most of the tracks on this album.

“Judas Be My Guide” is a really good song that again is held back by the formula. Beginning with a solo at sixteen seconds and then kicking into the vocals, Iron Maiden actually struck some gold with this track though it must be mined out by the endless minutes of mediocre filler tracks surrounding it. The tempo and feel of the song is positive and catchy, the lyrics again are catchy, anthemic, and take some risk in upholding the man who betrayed the Nazarene. The solos are blistering and powerful, and (in a stark contrast from the rest of the album) the song ends when it should. Rather than go on for another chorus or an extra set of solos, Iron Maiden did well to make “Judas Be My Guide” a song that leaves the listener wanting more.

Despite the overall failure of their message, “Fear of the Dark” is still the perfect song to close any true metal album, and the best song on this album. The lyrics are rather lame, granted, but that is completely overshadowed by Bruce Dickinson’s very English accented delivery during the intro, the amazing guitar playing, soloing, riffing, harmonies, (and everything that makes Maiden’s guitars great) the intensity of the song’s tempo, the anthemic delivery by all members of the band, and the fact that this song is an epic, clocking in at over seven minutes long. This song is the kick in the balls that Maiden needed from the first note of “Be Quick or Be Dead”, and by the time this song comes up, it completely wipes the slate clean of the previous futile attempts. If you are to buy this album, it is either for this song, like I did, or because you want to beef up your Maiden collection, either way you can’t go wrong with “Fear of the Dark” for an outro track, but beware because lurking behind the album and song title comes a heaping pile of shit that you must force your way through until you find the prize you seek.

The reason I gave this album fifty percent is the following: ten percentage points for each really good track on the album, “Fear of the Dark”, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, “Judas Be My Guide”, and “Childhood’s End”, five points for good production (a band as rich as Iron Maiden could afford good production by 1992 so it doesn’t matter as much as bands in underground extreme genres), and five percent for excellent though formulaic musicianship (something that is expected from Iron Maiden, therefore it isn’t worth as many points as newcomers to the metal scene). Despite the collaboration of each instrument resulting in some pretty terrible tracks, and the fact that the music itself is nothing really new, just repackaged and written with different riffs, the music is still executed well. In all, this is the kind of album that you should expect to be wasting your money on because with four good tracks out of twelve, no amount of good production or amazing musicianship will make “Fear of the Dark” worth the money you’ve spent. Iron Maiden could have done much better with this album, and fifty percent may be a generous score, but the four songs making up a third of this album that are deserving of recognition and review definitely make this album deserving of the points it gained.

There are, undoubtely, some gems hidden here - 50%

Nhorf, May 16th, 2008

After the lackluster (to say the least) No Prayer for the Dying, Maiden returned with Fear of the Dark. While No Prayer was a 100% straight-forward album, Fear of the Dark is a bit different. Don't get me wrong, the majority of the songs of this record are also very simple and catchy, but the band attempted to create a more diverse record, with the inclusions of a ballad, Wasting Love, and some progressive numbers, in the vein of the band's past works (the title track, Afraid to Shoot Strangers). Anyways, the result was poor: this record lacks direction and, most of all, INSPIRATION.

The performances of the musicians aren't very good as well. Nicko McBrain is no longer delivering technical work, preferring to stay behind the band and play some uncreative beats, which add nothing new to the songs. Steve Harris' bass is pretty hard to hear some times and Dickinson sounds like he's trying to emulate Axl Rose or Brian Johnson, which is obviously a BAD thing. The guitar work is what saves this record from the realms of mediocrity; Gers and Murray play some good solos here and there, like the one on From Here to Eternity, and also some interesting riffs. Despite not being their best performance ever, when compared to the other's contributions, theirs is great.

The record begins, however, amazingly well with Be Quick or Be Dead, a song one million times better than the monotonous No Prayer for the Dying opener, Tailgunner; it features some very fast guitar and drum work. Hell, even Dickinson sounds great here, screaming like Halford in the beginning and with his rasping approach fitting greatly with the aggressive music. From Here to Eternity is another classic, a song that I don't understand why is so criticized by the other reviewers. Sure it sounds like AC/DC, but, hey, in the end it is catchy as hell with that awesome anthemic chorus; the solos are absolutely great too. I love the breakdown too, top notch material, no doubts. Afraid to Shoot Strangers is the last good song before the fillers intoxication, its main riff being the best Maiden ever wrote and the lyrics recalling the Seventh Son days, speaking about death and the meaning of life.

After this track ends, be prepared because you'll be intoxicated with fillers, the first one being Fear is the Key, a plodding song that clocks at five painful minutes. Wasting Love is a poor attempt at a power ballad, although the intro sounds good (I especially like the bass line). The chorus is pretty repetitive though, despite the emotional Dickinson approach. The next three tracks probably form the worst trilogy of songs ever put into CD (or vynil) and I won't talk about them, I hope you never listen to those atrocities, for your own sake.

Nevertheless, there are two more songs on the record that are worth listening: the title track and Judas be my Guide. The latter is an average rocker that compared to songs like Weekend Warrior sounds like a masterpiece. The chorus is among the best of the album and the guitar intro is very good too. About the title track, it certainly is a good song, but not the fantastic tune that many say it is. It begins very softly, with some interesting guitar lines and Dickinson singing calmly. Then it progresses to a heavier part where Bruce sings the awesome chorus. This song is no Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Powerslave, but good in its own way. If you want to listen to the best version of Fear of the Dark, it's better to pick the live one, with the crowd interaction.

Anyways, Iron Maiden absolutely were going through a bad time during the early 90's. After being criticized for the progressive approach they adopted while composing the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album, the band tried to return to their more straight-forward period with No Prayer for the Dying, which was a big mistake, since that record is absolutely the worst ever made by this british group. Fear of the Dark is a huge step forward, there are some really good songs here, but, as I've already said, there are too many fillers and the whole listening experience is ruined because of that. It's better for you to ignore the record and create your own version of Fear of the Dark, with this tracklist:

1.Be Quick or Be Dead
2.From Here to Eternity
3.Afraid to Shoot Strangers
4.Childhood's End
5.Wasting Love
6.Judas Be My Guide
7.Fear of the Dark

Just seven tracks but, hey, why more, the record would sound much, much better if this was the chosen tracklist. Anyway, I totally understand why this album is so poor, since Maiden had already released tons of records and, you know, inspiration isn't endless! After the Fear of the Dark tour, Dickinson thankfully leaved the band and Blaize was hired for the job. Despite his low vocal range, I think that his addition in the band was very good, since he gave to the music a fresher and newer sound.
So, to summarize, this is one of the worst Maiden albums I've ever heard, but, hey, after the huge amount of classic records the act has released, the lack of creativity displayed here is understandable.

Best Moments of the CD (yes, because there are some interesting moments, after all):
-the beginning of the record - what an explosion of speed and aggression!
-the breakdown of From Here to Eternity.
-when the main heavy riff of Afraid to Shoot Strangers is played for the first time.

50 points – Some great songs, but too many fillers. It's better not to listen to this record as a whole, select those seven songs and play them, forget about the others. That's my advice (I gave a positive rating just because of the existence of some really good songs. If that tracks weren't featured on the record, I would give a rating between the 20 and 30 points).

Classic Maiden bows out with dignity. - 70%

hells_unicorn, March 21st, 2008

While often associated with other parts of the largely forgettable 90s Maiden catalog, “Fear of the Dark” carries a similar sense of commercial viability to its incredibly lackluster predecessor “No Prayer for the Dying”, yet lacks a good deal of the problems the former had. The production has been cleaned up considerably, particularly the drums, and almost becomes too slick for its own good. And although the songwriting is still a considerable step down from the songwriting glory days of the late 1980s, there is actually a considerable collection of quality material on here.

Bruce’s vocals are still rough and throaty, but he makes better use of this newfound style and the music mostly conforms to it. “Be Quick or be Dead” and “Judas be my Guide” are the closest to what could be considered speed metal in the context of Maiden’s 90s sound, and between the melodic riffs and the shouted and over-the-top operatic bursts from Dickinson, a fun and memorable result is born. Likewise, slower versions of this can be heard in the arena friendly rocker “From Here to Eternity” (the 4th installment of the Charlotte the Harlot saga) and the quasi-epic film homage “The Fugitive”.

Naturally there are still some bad holdovers from the last album that worm their way into the mix, either sporting goofy lyrics, over-repeated ideas, or musical misfires. “Childhood’s End” has some solid musical ideas, but suffers from over-repetition and a halfcocked vocal delivery. Likewise, “Fear is the Key” has a solid main riff, but goes on too long and goes through an off-the-cuff tempo change with a silly sounding vocal ad lib section. “Weekend Warrior” and “The Apparition” are both decrepit outtakes from heavy metal comedy hour, their so cheesy sounding and musically comical that they induce laughter on first listen, but repeated listens might draw you to shake your head and wonder what the hell they were thinking.

But on the whole, this opus delivers some good listening material and a few classics worthy of a greatest hits compilation. If I had to pick two of the best representations of Maiden’s 90s material, they would come from this album. The title track is an obvious favorite live song; say what you will about the constant repetition and overly formulaic background music, the principle theme just never leaves you once you’ve heard it. Likewise, although the slow narrative section in the first 1/3 of the song drags on, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” delivers one of the most dramatic interchanges of thematic material and guitar majesty to be heard circa 1992.

If you take this album all the way through, it is quite flawed and could only be qualified as good rather than great. But individually several songs on here shine like true diamonds in the rough. Although perhaps not the greatest thing that Bruce could have left us with before his 8 year hiatus, it is a strong constellation that we were left with this rather than what immediately preceded it. It is a good entry level album for a classic rock fan looking to ease his way into the NWOBHM sound, and it is worthy of, although far from equal to the 80s Iron Maiden that most have come to know and love.

Iron Maiden starts making shitty rock music - 46%

Empyreal, October 17th, 2007

I never thought I'd ever stop and say "wow, this sucks total monkey scrotum!" so many times while listening to an Iron Maiden album, but here it is anyway; proof that anything in the whole wide world is possible. Maiden were on a downward spiral after their prestigious Seventh Son, which was a masterclass, epic power/heavy metal album that managed to pack a grandiose sense of world crushing power into a mere 40 minutes or so. They released the merely average No Prayer for the Dying after that, and then hit rock bottom when they released this, their worst studio effort to date and most likely ever. Fear of the Dark isn't consistently bad, as we have a few cuts like the speedy, pugilistic "Be Quick or Be Dead", which is one of their fastest songs to date, the epic "Afraid to Shoot Strangers", the majestic "Childhood's End" and the dark, moody title track which everyone and their catatonic grandmother knows already, but just about everything else is complete and utterly worthless fecal matter that the band should've just released under a different name.

This is barely even Iron Maiden for most of its duration; instead sounding like some awful garage rock band covering them and doing a generally fucked up job of it. And that about sums it up; as half the time, this album is not even metal, leaning toward a very hard rock-ish sound on several songs here. It wouldn't be so bad if they had turned into a classy hard rock band as Slough Feg have recently done, but this is a really fucking terrible hard rock album. Dickinson's vocals are raspy and strained and too loud in the mix (although this opinion may be influenced by the fact that they're so irritating; I'm not sure), and the riffs are a groovy mishmash of half baked ideas by a band that had run out of ideas by this point. Seriously, the riffs may be there and the solos may be pretty good, but there's nothing new on display here. At all. It's just Steve Harris recycling the same old, tired ideas for one more agonizing ferris wheel ride, except this time we have some truly bad outside influences barging their ways in. The production is hollow and dirty and it basically sucks. As for the songwriting...who the fuck are you kidding? "Fear is the Key" is awful, as is "The Apparition" and "The Fugitive", all stupid, groovy exercises in boring, insipid heavy metal touched up with annoying, repetitive choruses. "Chains of Misery" and "From Here to Eternity" are listenable - if you're a fan of shallow, substance-less glam rock. "Judas Be My Guide" sounds like the band wrote it in 15 minutes without much effort put into it, and "Weekend Warrior" is bar none the worst song the band has ever written in their entire career. I could say a lot about the numerous displays of amateurish fuckery the band displays here, from the annoying, overly repetitive chorus to the idiotic, bouncy riff that chugs its way through all 5 torturous minutes of this song, but I'll just say that it sounds like a...well, I honestly can't think of an adjective insulting enough to describe this piece of trash. Ungodly bad.

So, this can be viewed as a collection of Iron Maiden's worst ideas ever, and it's really only necessary for absolute Maiden completionists and die hards. There are some surprisingly terrible, terrible songs here, the likes of which Maiden fans never would've dreamed of before this album was released, and it's puzzling - how does such a mature, sophisticated heavy metal outfit as Iron Maiden sink this low? Maybe they were just "having fun", but that's no excuse at all for how bad this is. Bad songwriting, bad vocals, bad production...this is just all around BAD. I'm done wasting time on this, so in closing, avoid this aberration and just go listen to Powerslave again.

Inconsistent - 53%

morbert, May 1st, 2007

Inconsistent. That’s the best word to describe ‘Fear Of The Dark’. After the hardrockish and far from epical ‘No Prayer For The Dying’ Iron Maiden attempted to make an album incorporating all styles they’d played sofar and more. This time the production was good again. Being transparent and not too much in your face. Gers was getting used to be in the band by now and Bruce Dickinson was singing like he used to again. So far, so good.

‘Be Quick or Be Dead’ could have come straight from the ‘No Prayer…’ sessions and was a perfect speedy opener for the album. With ‘Afraid To Shoot Strangers’, ‘Fear Of The Dark’ and ‘Chilhoods End’ the band presented their fans a threesome of extremely high quality epic songs which were simply mindblowing in all facets. Unfortunately ‘Fear is The Key’, ‘The Fugitive’ and The Apparition’ were typical Iron Maiden songs yet lacked something. Kind of what you would like to call ‘fillers’. Adequate yet soon to be forgotten.

So here we have described about 58% of the album. How about the rest? That’s were it all went terribly wrong. The hideous attempt at immitating AC/DC with a hint of Golden Earing called ‘Form Hell To Eternity’ is a farce an absolutely unworthy. ‘Wasting Love’ is everything Iron Maiden oppososed in the eighties: a hideous radio friendly rock love song. And it’s not even a good one! The aweful singalong choruses of ‘Chains of Misery’ and ‘Weekend Warrior’ are so cheesy it’s almost impossible to describe! ‘Judas Be My Guide’ was deadly boring by the way.

Only four songs worthy of their legacy. Simple math would say:
4/12 really good songs: 33,33 points. Plus good sound and excellent performance by Dickinson = 53 points.

Formulaic, but Effective - 72%

DawnoftheShred, January 8th, 2007

Fear of the Dark might just be the least consistent Maiden album to date, with a broad spectrum of song types that maintain the stylistic departure that began with No Prayer for the Dying. And yet, I find most of the songs on here catchy enough to deem it forgivable as an album. Yes, this is quite mediocre for a Maiden release, but it has enough great moments to prove that even Maiden's mediocrity is quite listenable.

One of my biggest complaints with this is that the band is pushing no boundaries. The instrumentation on this album leaves you to believe they were more focused on releasing this album than writing it, leaving a lot to be desired in the songwriting department. I'd love to put some of the blame on Janick Gers, whose playing is mediocre and his writing much less than that, but this album's weaknesses are not entirely his fault (though a lot of the riffing is reminiscent of Gers' playing on Dickinson's first solo album, aka shit). The drumming and bass are pretty standard, many of the riffs are uninspired, and Bruce sounds like half the vocalist he was on Seventh Son. Iron Maiden didn't even attempt to make this outstanding.

And yet, every song on here manages to spark my interest, if only for a moment. "Fear is the Key" and "The Apparition" are meandering, but make up for it in atmosphere and melody. Straight-forward rockers like "Be Quick or Be Dead," "Chains of Misery," and "From Here to Eternity" have just enough energy and natural catchiness to be considered solid songs. And of course, "Fear of the Dark" is an atmospheric masterpiece, with great lyrics aplenty and a powerful sense of mood. I really can't find enough fault in any song to say that I don't like it, even if some of them are really begging for disapproval.

So I consider this a good metal/hard rock release, although not necessarily a good Maiden release. Fear of the Dark is definitely the underachiever in the band's catalogue, but it performs just well enough to make the grade.

Maiden's worst - 56%

Fatal_Metal, September 29th, 2006

Woah, have Maiden hit rock bottom here. This is their most uninspired and random effort ever. This album has a hard rock overtone to it, check out glam rockers like ‘From Here To Eternity’ or the Bon Jovi-esque ‘Weekend Warrior’, This isn’t bad, except in Maiden’s case – it just doesn’t work especially when they can make longer, more well drawn out compositions that far outclass these songs. The album ahs some absolutely amazing songs - actually six of the albums 12 tracks are amazing. These songs are anything better than the best No Prayer could offer. The problem is the remaining
Six songs. Whereas ‘No Prayer for the Dying’ had no amazing songs but maintained a level of consistency, this release is heavily polarized. Six of the total songs totally stomp and the rest are absolute swill.

Bruce here continues the rasp style developed on ‘No Prayer’ on a few songs, on others though he adopts Bon Jovi-esque vocals (Weekend Warrior especially), then he also tries some 70’s crooning and the most common style prevalent here is the good old’ Bruce style. The guitars have definitely improved, well in 6 song that is. Dave and Janick’s solos are consistently good throught the album. Steve and Nicko still don’t play much of a part in album proceedings.

The six songs to be noted are the first three songs and ‘The Fugitive’, ‘Judas Be My Guide’ and of course, the title track.‘Be Quick Or Be Dead’ starts off the album with a bang – awesome heavy riffing to be found here. This is undoubtedly Maiden’s best opener and speed song, even better than Aces High! The monstrous riffing is combined with Bruce’s vicious snarling and rasping and with a really great chorus, great sense of melody and nice soloing – this thing comes off as nothing short of a masterpiece. Then, ‘From Here To Eternity’ is an 80’s glam-influenced track. Its very singalong and fun, another of the albums highlights. ‘Afraid To Shoot Strangers’ is a great atmospheric ballad akin to ‘Children Of The Damned’, Bruce even croons here. ‘The Fugitive’ is a nice, catchy song with Bruce doing very well on vocals and great memorable riffing to back him up. Then comes ‘Judas Be My Guide’. It’d take a damn awesome track to beat the opener – and yes, this is that damn awesome track. Bruce here snarls with passion while Dave and Gers throw out excellent dual-guitars and awesome catchy riffing. The title track is an undisputable classic and holds on well to other Maiden closers. The song starts off with a beautiful pseudo-Latin strum that really does get one kicked awake after the snoozefest of ‘Weekend Warrior’. The lyrics sound delightfully naïve and Bruce perfectly imitates a man’s phobia of the dark on vocals. The riffing here is absolutely magnificent – very very catchy. The soloing too is excellent.

The rest of the six tracks are not worth dissecting at all. They’re the songs that Maiden thought of at random just to fill in the album length as they were out of ideas. ‘Fear Is The Key’ I guess qualifies as the best among the fillers but it too is goddamn awful. Brcue sounds pathetic on vocals although the music is fine but extremely boring. ‘Wasting Love’ is the worst ballad Maiden have ever done. ‘Childhood’s End’, ‘The Aparation’, ‘Chains Of Misery’ – heck, all stuff written at random with absolutely no sense of coherency or melody in mind. ‘Weekend Warrior’ I need not mention, this one is Maiden’s most blatantly commercial song. If this would have been released as a single in place of ‘Be Quick Or Be Dead’, it would have hit #1 so fast Maiden themselves would be knocked over. The reason is simple, this one has them imitating a Bon Jovi. Check out Bruce – ‘just look at youuuu noooow’ – that’s Bon Jovi, you could almost mistake Bruce for him.

On the whole, this is Maiden’s worst album. Why they insist on keeping the fillers instead of drafting an EP of killers is beyond me. Its like adding Tabasco sauce to a plum – the entire thing (in this case, the album) ends up a mediocre mess. Download the six tracks mentioned and avoid the rest as if they were infected, this isn’t even for a die-hard Maiden fan.

Polarized Maiden/generic 80's rock - 75%

bobbo008, September 15th, 2004

Fear of the Dark, the second album without guitarist Adrian Smith and the last with Bruce Dickinson until a few years later. People have different opinions on this album, but almost everyone can agree it's nowhere near their best. I guess to put it simply: this would be quite a good album.... if it wasn't Iron Maiden.

OK, on to the argument, it definitely has some great moments, but those are mixed with equally horrible ones.

Bad points include songs such as Chains of Misery and From Here to Eternity (and I'm sure I'm missing a couple more) that have that standard 80's/90's "crowd chorus", for lack of a better term, making the songs sound like generic rock, although From Here to Eternity's chorus is almost catchy enough to be a cool song. The other problem of course is Bruce's raspy voice, which is just plain terrible compared to other albums he's been on. It's perceived by many as being obvious that Bruce just wanted out of the band.

On the other hand, you've first got Childhood's End, a song that, besides just being cool, has an awesome chorus that I myself consider very similiar to some of Dance of Death's choruses. Fear of the Dark is the most popular and well-known song on the album that has become one of the most popular live songs. This is for good reason, it creates an awesome atmosphere (that some compare to Dance of Death) and great riff(s), simply a great song and simply the gem of the album.

Overall, the album could use some Adrian Smith and no Janick Gers (Adrian's replacement). Bruce Dickinson's performance is arguably his worst of any album as well. In my and many other's opinion, this is one of the four worst Iron Maiden albums (but by no means THE worst), along with No Prayer For The Dying, X Factor and Virtual XI. Curiously, those are all of the Maiden albums from the 90's.

To put it bluntly, if you don't have Maiden's first 7 albums and their latest 2 (those are questionable be several people), you have no need to get this album.

Too damn much filler! - 63%

Nightcrawler, February 26th, 2003

Fear of the Dark features Bruce's last album with Maiden for a few years, which probably was a good thing as they were going steadily downhill. Then again, Brave New World is not very good either, but that's a different story.
Fear of the Dark is an awfully inconsistent album, with a few killers, some decent songs and some boring as hell fillers.
The music is more straightforward than the classic Maiden, with a definite classic 80's metal vibe, while still remaining the Maiden touch.
The guitarwork is still very melodic but not as memorable as it usually is; many riffs are quite forgettable. Though we have some really nice solos, which also them have a classic 80's metal feeling.
Bruce's vocals are much rawer than before, and sound more aggressive and somewhat hoarse, but they are still very good.
Steve's bassplaying is as usual very evident and well played, not much more to say on that matter.
And then we have the drumming, done by Nicko McBrain. Sure, he's a very fast and nice drummer, but I do prefer Clive Burr as a drummer. His drumming was always very catchy and memorable. Not to say that Nicko is a bad drummer, but Clive is one of the best.

All in all, combining all the things I've said above, they could've put out a quite excellent album of about 8 tracks. But, now there are 12 tracks on here, and there's a bunch of forced and uninspired songs that are just plain bad.

The great songs... The speedy opening track Be Quick or Be Dead, which features Bruce's most aggressive vocal work on the entire album and some damn heavy riffing and drumming. The beautiful ballad Afraid to Shoot Strangers, which features some of Maiden's most memorable and spinechilling guitar melodies ever, and one of Bruce's cleanest and most emotional vocal performances up to date. Judas Be My Guide, which just has damn catchy riffwork and an insanely powerful and memorable chorus. And of course, the title track. Memorable guitar melodies galore here! This song is amazing. The opening verses are slow and atmospheric, before it totally speeds up, and goes into the solo which was made to play live. There are loads of guitar riffs perfect for crowd singalongs.

The mediocre songs... From Here to Eternity is quite hair metal influenced, it seems. Very catchy and upbeat, and a very straightforward guitar solo. Quite nice song, but nothing remarkable. Childhood's End is a nice, melodic song with beautiful guitar riffs playing during the chorus.
The Fugitive is just a decent, midpaced track. Nothing remarkable, neither bad nor good. Chains of Misery is quite catchy, more upbeat 80's metal stuff.

The bad songs... Fear is the Key is midpaced, and just utterly boring. Until it reaches the final section, where Bruce makes a complete fool of himself. Hearing him saying, "they're telling liiies and liiies and liiiiiiiiies" in a very whiny voice hurts my ears. Wasting Love is a ballad that tries to be beautiful, but ends up quite forgettable. The Apparition... There's just one vers, and it goes on throughout the entire song except for a rather boring solo. And that vers is the worst piece of crap they've ever done. Interesting lyrics can't save this from being Maiden's possibly worst song ever. Weekend Warrior is just awkward. It's too upbeat and silly, the riffs are annoying and forgettable, blah blah blah. Basically, this song sucks.

All in all, it could be a great album, but there's too much shit on here. If they just sad down and tried really hard, they could come up with one or two more great songs to complete this album, and then they could throw away all the crap. But, what's done is done, so in an attempt to forget this failure, I'll give Powerslave a spin. Good ol' Powerslave.