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Fear of the Maiden
Fear Of The Dark - Iron Maiden
Member Name: Jarisleif
Fear Of The Dark - Iron Maiden
Date: 06/02/12, updated on 14/09/12 (11 review reads)
Advantages: Quality heavy metal
Disadvantages: Some songs don't make the grade
"Fear of the Dark" is the 9th studio album released in 1992 and produced by Martin Birch by British heavy metal act, Iron Maiden. The line-up for the album was Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (guitar), Janick Gers (guitar), Steve Harris (bass) and Nicko McBrain (drums).
Make no mistake, this is the last of the best of Iron Maiden... if that makes any sense. It was the last Maiden album to feature singer Bruce Dickinson until his return with 2000's "Brave New World", and it was the last album to be produced by Martin Birch before his retirement from the music industry. Things would never be the same in the Iron Maiden ranks with Blaze Bayley on vocals for two albums, and when Dickinson eventually returned, the band's glory days were behind them. The album itself is actually very good and was well received by the public. It reached No. 1 on the British album charts and lead song, "Be Quick or be Dead" peaked at No. 2 on the singles charts, tragically kept off the top spot by a very silly Right Said Fred song, "Deeply Dippy".
The album begins with "Be Quick or be Dead", which is one of the fastest songs on here that grabs you from the start and doesn't let go. I love the arrangement of this track ranging from the riffs to Dickinson's venomous vocals, but one thing that is noticeable is that Bruce's singing is slightly rugged, almost as if he's not been training his voice for awhile, though those of us that attended the 1992 Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park can say for sure that he wasn't missing it that night. Bruce Dickinson said of the song "This deals with money, dodgy business, and corruption. Some people are supposed to rule your life and deal with financial stuff, but you just can't trust them because they try to cheat you at the first opportunity. But if you have no choice but to work with them, then the only way you can deal with it is to be more clever than them."
"From Here to Eternity" is up next and since this album it's become a live favourite with the crowd singing along to the chorus without fail. It's another song about Charlotte, the fictitious prostitute from the east end of London that has been written about the band in other songs. The bridge on this song is amazing with Janick Gers and Dave Murray sharing the solo duties. Some people have heavily criticised the album and this song in particular, but I still go to an Iron Maiden concert hoping to hear this one, and often do. The band obviously knows what the fans want to hear so it can't be that bad!
"Afraid to Shoot Strangers" is another of those Iron Maiden songs that will infuriate some but others will love it. It has a haunting melody to it and a marching drum beat which signifies soldiers preparing to go to war. It's one of the longest tracks on the album and I like the atmospheric sound it takes on, building up to a slow, sombre guitar solo in the middle before launching into the faster bridge. It's during the bridge where I think Nicko McBrain could have thought more about his drum parts and thrown in a roll here and there instead of single hitting the toms. Once the bridge is over, it's back to slowing down and the song finishes the same way it started. Bruce Dickinson said "The song was written about the people that fought in the Gulf War. It's a song about how bad war is, and how it's started by politicians and has to be finished by ordinary people that don't really want to kill anybody."
"Fear is the Key" is a song on which Bruce Dickinson's vocals do sound good, which can't be said for all tracks on this album. Unfortunately, though, the music doesn't do the legendary singer justice. Many people I've talked to over the years are in agreement that this song is filler, and, unfortunately, I tend to agree with them. The ending minute or so just sounds plain awful, almost rushed to a certain degree, and it's a song I don't listen to that often. Bruce Dickinson noted "This is about fear that exists nowadays in sexual relationships because of AIDS. Sex has become a synonym for fear. When we were writing the songs, we heard about Freddie Mercury's death. There's a line in the song that goes: "nobody cares until somebody famous dies", and that's quite sadly true. In the States, mostly nobody really cared about AIDS until Magic Johnson announced publicly that he was HIV positive. As long as the virus was confined to homosexuals or drug addicts, nobody bothered about it. It's only when celebrities started to die that the masses began to feel concerned."
"Childhood's End" comes in with a tidy guitar line that leads into galloping drums and bass which is joined by the two guitars. There is some classic Iron Maiden on this song with some of the more modern stuff the band was incorporating into the music at the time. Sadly, the song doesn't do the album justice and plods along without really screaming out at you to listen to it. Bruce Dickinson said about the song "Steve wrote this one. It mentions the fact that there isn't a single place in the world where humans can remain as kids. In ten years, we've made almost completely disappear the water, the air, the sun. And now, you have to be out of your mind to be willing to give birth to children when you see the current state of the world, so we wonder where this will all end."
"Wasting Love" is an Iron Maiden ballad that I really don't enjoy for the simple reason that it's not the sort of song I like to hear from a band of this stature, and this is just another filler song on what should be one of heavy metal's defining albums of the 1990s. The only good thing about it comes near the end with a well-planned guitar solo which is backed up by some wonderful riffs. Bruce Dickinson: "It's about those who jump from one bed into another, those who sleep with whoever comes their way, without giving or receiving whatever they're looking for, because they are very lonely. They are lonely within themselves, but they are continuously in action, collecting short-term relationships in order to fill the void they feel."
"The Fugitive" pulls the album back in the right direction with some hard-hitting guitar and bass riffs that I enjoy a lot, but the lyrics are sort of bland which drags it down a little but not enough to deter it from being a very good track that rocks. Although it's not made known by Bruce below, I think the song deals with the novel and subsequent Harrison Ford movie of the same name. Bruce Dickinson said "This is one of Steve's. The story is pretty straightforward, a bit like an adventure. It's about someone who's on the run. He escaped from prison and everyone's after him. The lyrics are therefore quite paranoid, to tell the truth! He eventually makes it, he gets out, and he's still running at the end of the song."
"Chains of Misery" is a song that isn't mean to be taken too seriously - especially in the lyrics - but it's a song that promises a lot from the onset and doesn't let go until it ends. I like this song a lot because it doesn't try to be clever but it still delivers in the manner of which any Iron Maiden classic song does. It's rarely played live which is unfortunate because I'd love to hear it on-stage. Bruce Dickinson said "This song is about the little devil that sits permanently on our shoulder. This little devil who can ruin your life. For instance, you meet a girl, you have a great relationship, and all of the sudden you do something stupid with no apparent reason, and you wonder "Why am I doing this?" You don't really know why you act the way you do, but you feel that you have to do it. Maybe it's a feeling of guilt that drives you, maybe you feel that you're not 'good enough' to deserve all this. In any case, you act against your own interest without really knowing why."
The less I talk about "The Apparition", the better, yet I am compelled to do so to complete the album review. Filler is a word I'd use, but hate using about songs on albums. If they're not good enough, why bother putting them out there for all to hear? To be blunt, the song just doesn't get going and not even some really good solos from Murray and Gers can help the sinking that this song continues to do the more it goes on. This is quite easily the worst song on the album, so without further ado, let's move on to the next track.
"Judas be My Guide" is one of the better songs on the album that doesn't fail to put a smile on my face. It opens with a great guitar hook that leads into some cool riffs with a dancing solo before the main part of the song is aired. It's a track that reminds me of early Maiden and especially "Die With Your Boots On" in its style and pace. The chorus is very catchy which is essential for a song to be a crowd-pleaser and that's what I especially like about this song. Bruce Dickinson: "This is a pretty ironic song, actually. I don't know if it will be well received because it's somehow perilous to be ironic in the world of rock music. It's about the dark side in all of us, and I decided to call this dark side 'Judas'. It's this trend that would make anyone sell anything, that would make them care about nothing, that's this little Judas who's inside all of us, and if he becomes powerful enough to rule the world, then... bye-bye!"
When I first read that Iron Maiden was doing a song about football violence, I immediately envisaged what it would entail. The first time I listened to what transpired, "Weekend Warrior", it threw me sideways. Not because it was everything I thought, but because it was nothing like I'd imagined. What I'd initially thought was a fast-paced song with plenty of guts, but what I got was a slow-ish number that still rocks but just not in the way I wanted it to. In fact, the song probably rocks in a non Iron Maiden way, if that makes any sense. Bruce Dickinson noted "This is a very good song which Steve wrote. It's about football and all the violence that surrounds this sport. Hooliganism is a terrible thing. You have those people who don't have any other interest in life but the football game on the week end. Those people indulge in whatever violence they're capable of during the game, having fights with supporters of the other team, screaming insults, then they go back to their little jobs on Monday morning, and that's when you realise that they're nothing."
"Fear of the Dark" is the titular track and my favourite song on the album. In fact, it's probably in the top ten of my all-time favourite Iron Maiden songs - it really is that good. There's not many better feelings at a concert than watching the band play this song when it's an open-air gig and the sky is black. I've witnessed this a few times and it really doesn't get much better than that. This is the song that Dickinson gives it his all in his vocal capacity and it's a real shame that he didn't let go with all guns blazing for most of the others. Bruce Dickinson: "Steve, who wrote it, is really afraid of the dark. It's the story of a man who walks in a park at night and, as it's getting darker, he sees all sorts of worrying things. He becomes totally paranoid because his imagination is working overtime. It's a great track."
In summary, the album is missing a certain spark. 20 years later, I'm still not sure what that spark was. Former guitarist Adrian Smith was maybe a missing factor, as Maiden always sounded better with his playing. It's still an album I listen to now and then, but I unwittingly find myself skipping a few tracks here and there. Having said that, it's an Iron Maiden album and it should be in your collection. The gems on the album make up for the songs which don't quite make the grade, and that is good enough for me.
1. Be Quick or be Dead
2. From Here to Eternity
3. Afraid to Shoot Strangers
4. Fear is the Key
5. Childhood's End
6. Wasting Love
7. The Fugitive
8. Chains of Misery
9. The Apparition
10. Judas be My Guide
11. Weekend Warrior
12. Fear of the Dark
My rating: 7/10
Summary: It's still Iron Maiden, therefore, it's still very good!