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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.