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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
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).