Fear of the Dark: individual album judgement by yours truly

Randalf

Ancient Mariner
On towards the sea we go!

So, going chronologically forward, it is time for Fear of the Dark. As usual, I'm more focused on my general thoughts and vibes, rather than being too specific with numbers, but I'm doing my best at scoring... we'll see how it turns out!

Be Quick or be Dead
Offering one of the better, even best, embodiments of Bruce's raspier vocal approach and tight band effort overall, it's definitely a strong opener. I assume it was an efficient live piece back in the day, but I believe it would have been even better if it was played live somewhere around 1999-2004, with a bit heavier approach and more depth on vocal department. And even now, I think the band could do it justice, as the song would gain some interesting edge with a heavier approach, especially since the intensity of the original would be hard to replicate now. Well, setlist fantasies aside, it's a solid song. There's not much to say about it, in the end, as everything works and it's definitely one of the more successful attempts at the "very 'off the streets', raw and powerful etc. thing that they experimented in the early 90's. 8.5-9/10

From Here to Eternity

I used to really like this song when I first listened to this album, but over time, not much of that love remains. Still, I sort like the attempt at more of a hard-rock direction and it somewhat successfully adds up the "different and experimental" nature of the era. However, this isn't really a field of their expertise and while I indeed kind of like the idea, it's not really that good of a song. Trying to be rock and groovy, but it doesn't quite do either. Even the "sing along" chorus doesn't quite live up to what it's trying to be. 5/10.

Afraid to Shoot Strangers

The album has already showcased one of it's initial strengths: versatility. Afraid to Shoot Strangers is totally different effort than the previous two tracks, and one of the era-defining songs no doubt. While the somewhat eerie tone in the album suits it very well, I'm also a huge fan of the live versions (especially 2012-13 ones), where it's even more emotional and direct. A huge song, great vocal lines and a stunning instrumental section make it basically one of the album and era centerpieces. 9/10

Fear is the Key

As so many others have mentioned, it's an interesting Led Zeppelin-y thing. A bit better effort on the "experimental and different" field than From Here to Eternity, but once again, not the most solid and coherent overall. The chorus is great and towards the end things get very psychedelic. I quite like the breakdown there, but... I don't know, maybe it's a bit too intentionally out there or something, but it doesn't really hold together that well. It's full of interesting, different pieces, but it just doesn't... fly. Bit of an odd one and very different to score, but I believe it lands somewhere between 5 and 7, probably closer to 7, after all so... um. 6 it is! A song like this is expected to somehow stand out, but it just doesn't do that the way it probably should.

Wasting Love
One of the more "commercial" efforts and actually not bad at all. The arrangement, vocals and overall tone is full of pain and agony, but instead of making the song more effective, it somehow makes it more dragging. I like the melodies, the chorus is somewhat punchy and there's some potential, but it's not really more than that. Some of the cover versions have actually fleshed out some of the better elements of it and if the album was a bit more tightly packed, Wasting Love would breath and pace things out pretty well there, but now it sort of underlines the overall mediocrity of the album more than it manages to stand out from the rest. As mentioned above, it wouldn't feel out of place on Bruce's Tattooed Millionaire and it does fit in the vein of Winds of Change, Man of Sorrows and Tears of the Dragon - that all more or less originate from the same era. An early prototype of the upcoming Bruce's solo stuff or later, say post-reunion era slower pieces, but not quite as musically interesting as some of his better "experiments" or as strong on the traditional metal side of things, so... yeah. I like it, but that's about it. 7/8?

Childhood's End

Strong melodies, cleaner vocals and overall, more of a classic Maiden sound here. The rhythmic department shines here. Once again, an interesting track that is pleasant to listen to and would have worked well in the live set too, but it's neither too distinctively different or strong enough on the "classic Maiden" category to really stand out and be remembered as criminally underrated deep cut from the dark days.

As it is, it's good. It's enjoyably to revisit and to throw into some Maiden playlists every now and then and it has a few great things going on. Somewhat dark and gloomy yet melodic. Would not have been out of place on pretty much any of the later albums either, so if it was dropped from FOTD and rediscovered in, say 2014, for TBOS, it would have worked, I believe. Anyway, it's one of the stronger songs on this album. Solid 8

The Fugitive

Another solid effort! I used to love the vocal melodies and granted, I still quite like how Bruce comes in with "On a cold October morning... frost lay on the ground!" Retaining the darker and heavier approach, it's another almost-fan-favourite. Nice solos, ok chorus. A good song and it's tipping it's toes, or probably the whole foot, on the "better half" of the record, but once again, not really standing out. While Childhood's End has some almost-majestic qualities, The Fugitive - good as it is anyway - falls on the more indifferent ground in the end. Still, ok! 6.5 Tempted to give 7, but I don't know...

Chains of Misery
A bit better result of the ventures on the hard rock field than From Fear to Eternity. Some cool vocals and even a few very dynamic sections and overall, it does a lot of things right, but... yeah, once again we got to the "BUT NOT QUITE..." issue: experiments, yeah, cool. Catchy chorus. Yeah cool. But does it really hit you? Not really. It's another attempt at the direction Bruce and co. made work a bit better on his solo outings with more groove on things, but here... nah. Ok, but that's the thing: I never really feel like "oh I really want to listen to this song now." 6?

The Apparition
Oh, one of the first "worst Maiden songs" candidates I could name when I was discovering the discography for the first time. Over time, I've learned to appreciate the idea just a tad bit more, but... eh. No. While the earlier "experiments" were quite ok, even if not really that great, this one just falls very flat. It's cool that they tried different things, but it all feels more forced than organically creative on this album. 3? 4? Who cares, I just don't really like it.

Judas be My Guide
NOW!!!

Part of the effect is, of course, the consistent mediocrity on some of the stuff in between the aggressive opener and this one, but Judas has nothing to shame even beside some of the 80's stuff. It's not quite Aces High or The Trooper, but it's a solid rocker with aggressive and intense grip from start to finish, with absolutely nothing that shouldn't be there. Bruce's delivery is among his best on the early 90's Maiden records and the chorus is huge. Should have been played live - and I try not to say this about unplayed/underplayed Maiden songs too often. 9. I get that outside this particular context, it's not up there with the very best Maiden songs, but then again, there's absolutely nothing wrong in it either.

This one fucking rocks, and sometimes that's more than enough.

Weekend Warrior
Ehm. The Uninspired Experimental Adventures journey into the world of very serious football fanaticism. This has become a mantra, but once again, I appreciate the effort, but it doesn't quite take off or feel natural. I used to like the chorus and granted, I still don't think it as total garbage, but the song just doesn't either the groove or the grit to make it's initial concept work. 5,5, maybe?

Fear of the Dark
It's a legendary song and I have absolutely nothing new to say about it, other than the general praise. On the album, it's definitely one of the strong three along with Be Quick and Judas and those, with a couple of solid additions from the middle, form the spine of the record and make it work. The song is properly "set loose" on the live setting, but it's a good listen on the album too, even if not quite among Steve's very best compositions. Then again, that might just as well be a serious understatement, given it's popularity and setlist status. I feel that between the more energetic and fast live renditions of the 90's and the "rediscovered spookiness, darkness and heaviness" of the most recent LOTB tour performances, the narrative and mood of the song was often a bit lost; for example, the 2008-2014 live performances are good, but it was delivered as more of a standard sing-along setlist piece rather than a text that Bruce, most notably, would really dig into. Anyway, there's no denying that it has stood the test of time and no matter when or where it is played, it works. 9.5.

So... Fear of the Dark. Pretty much like it's predecessor, it's actually pretty easy and fun to listen, but not nearly as solid and coherent as the 80's albums, or as thematically strong as The X-Factor. It has a few great song and a lot of stuff that is far from being outright bad, but equally far from being remarkably successful either. Being probably the most stylistically versatile Maiden record, it's a bit tragic that almost none of the experimental elements end up being the most memorable or otherwise outstanding moments here, for after the outrageous opener the spotlight is taken by the more traditional sounding tracks. Artistically, it's very mixed bag of oddities and contrast: at the same time, it's looking back - and not entirely unsuccessfully, as the "traditional" songs end up being among the highlights, intentionally keeping up with the trends (Wasting Love) and trying to experiment and take the more direct "rockn'roll" approach of the No Prayer record a bit further. As I've said many times already, I kind of like the effort, but the band doesn't really sound too natural on those experiments. They're not all that bad, but there isn't that inspired spark of creativity to be found in it - at least from a listeners point of view. The "experimental" or whatever direction might have benefited from Adrian's input, but to be fair, Janick has a large role in many of the best and most fresh sounding moments on this record.


6.5
The younger brother of No Prayer for the Dying is much more ambitious and has some special talents the big brother lacks, but is nowhere near as honest and good-spirited.

Previous scores:

Randalf said:
Iron Maiden: 8
Killers:
around 7.5
The Number of the Beast:
around 8
Piece of Mind:
around 9 or even above?
Powerslave: Another 9, maybe
Somewhere in Time: 9 (A BLASPHEMY?)
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son: 10
No Prayer for the Dying: 6.5
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
The Apparition
Oh, one of the first "worst Maiden songs" candidates I could name when I was discovering the discography for the first time. Over time, I've learned to appreciate the idea just a tad bit more, but... eh. No. While the earlier "experiments" were quite ok, even if not really that great, this one just falls very flat. It's cool that they tried different things, but it all feels more forced than organically creative on this album. 3? 4? Who cares, I just don't really like it.
0CF6FA10-9422-4610-AE54-6D606F8CB841.jpeg
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
It’s all good! I really liked reading your reviews, all of them very well thought out and put together. :)
 
Be Quick or be Dead

A heavy as all get out drum bash intro leads right into a classic Killers-era twin guitar progression - right off the bat, the listener knows that FOTD will be a more metallic and tr00 slab of songs than NPFTD 9/10

From Here to Eternity


the pace is brought down a bit here - no era of Maiden is recalled here (the hard rock that was popular in the late 80's seems to be an inspiration here - maybe Aerosmith's "Love In An Elevator"?) Bruce sings like he's enjoying the proceedings though, which elevates a rather mediocre track to being a decently hummable and listenable track (once or twice per year for me) 6/10.

Afraid to Shoot Strangers


third track in a row that sounds little (if anything) like the song/songs that came before it. Really dig the reverb-y quality that the intro guitar links and synth washes hit my ears with. Birch's production sets a fantastic mood for a song that combines the best of a despairing ballad and a roaring balls-out rocker. Incredible guitar leads throughout and Bruce really lets it rip as each repeat chorus increases in intensity - pretty much a perfect track here, one I listen to often. 10/10

Fear is the Key


bests Zeppelin at their own game (though a band called The Tea Party was composing similarly Eastern-themed rock around the same time) - Maiden thankfully eschews the cliched "baby baby baby oh baby baby baby" lyric repetition that sinks so many LZ songs for me. Once again, Bruce sings like he has a personal connection with the subject matter - "remember a time when we used and abused" is a great refrain. I'm not inspired to listen to this track too often though, and thus it falls a step below the hallowed 8-9-10 rating range. 7/10

Childhood's End

Birch's production once again shines here - soaring and glorious guitar harmonies chime throughout. Nicko's repetitive pattern actually works to my ears - pounding the main and rather uncomfortable subject matter home. I can't rate this song below a 9, there's just too much greatness to be heard and it might in fact be my most played track on the entire FOTD album. NOTHING on NPFTD matches the intensity found here. 10/10


Wasting Love

Love the bend-y and blues-y sound of the twin guitar harmonies here, nice change of pace and 'Arry's bass and Nicko's drums still have room to shine (all hail Disappearing Armchair/Masa/Pool Bully Birch!). Good moral to this one also, I reckon (a counterweight to the prevailing 2000's-2010's "hookup culture" wisdom)
9/10


The Fugitive

Great emotional resonance on the "On a cold October morning... frost lay on the ground" section - the rhythm parts move the song along nicely and give a feeling of mystery and intrigue. I don't play this one often, but when I do I wonder why I don't in fact play it more often. 8/10

Chains of Misery

Plods along - not sure if the gang vocal chorus are a fun diversion or an overwrought nuisance. I can't remember the last time I listened to this one all the way through - could I be missing something, something that will only reveal itself to my ears after 28 years of this song being in my life (I've probably listened to this song less than 1/2 of the years its been in existence) 6/10

The Apparition


HUGE step up from Chains of Misery - now we're REALLY COOKING again. I can only describe the stop-start riffs as full of SWAGGER and attitude. I've often imagined Bruce sitting with me towards the back of a pub, relating the tale to me as we throw/roll the dice and reminisce on tales both fanciful and down to Earth. Rarely mentioned in discussions of this controversial Maiden track are the lead breaks - exhilarating and unexpected/surprising are adjectives that come to mind.

Torridly underrated - there's been many times where I place the FOTD CD into my player and listen to The Apparition by itself (I've also turned at least 3 people onto Iron Maiden with this track - fans of pop music and even R&B will find lots to love here - and I was a fan of both styles as a boy in the 1980's.) I hope to cover The Apparition with my own band someday. 10/10

Judas be My Guide


as pure as rock/metal can be, just a delight from beginning to end. No part really sticks out, so Judas just misses out on being a 10/10 track -- the middle eight section "I live in the black I have no guiding light" just flies by and could've been more impactful. All in all, a near perfect track, downright criminal that its never been played live. 9/10

Weekend Warrior

not many redeeming qualities here. Plods and lumbers along, probably my least favorite Iron Maiden song - I will break my motto and rate this one lower than a 6. A decent rhythm and the fact that its a bit out of the box for Maiden standards saves this from being a 3 or 4 rated basement dweller. 5/10

Fear of the Dark

Bittersweet in a way, as this track heralds the closing of the Martin Birch era -- having never been afraid of the dark, I've been somewhat unmoved by the plot and themes, but to say that this song doesn't rock with a sense of drive and purpose would be a overly bitter reaction to a song that has become a live concert classic. Even on first listen, I felt as though I had heard this song before, yet what my ears had heard before was more convincing and a more impactful song: In concert, FotD is a 9/10, but on album I can't rate it any higher than an 8/10


Underrated, diverse, and only bested by the dark and brooding/intense pathos of The X Factor within Maiden's 1990's- output, Fear of the Dark ranks as an 8.08/10

Best Song: "Childhood's End"
Worst Song: "Weekend Warrior"
 
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Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
The Apparition

HUGE step up from Chains of Misery - now we're REALLY COOKING again. I can only describe the stop-start riffs as full of SWAGGER and attitude. I've often imagined Bruce sitting with me towards the back of a pub, relating the tale to me as we through dice and reminisce on tales both fanciful and down to Earth. Rarely mentioned in discussions of this controversial Maiden track are the lead breaks - exhilarating and unexpected/surprising are adjectives that come to mind.

Torridly underrated - there's been many times where I place the FOTD CD into my player and listen to The Apparition by itself (I've also turned at least 3 people onto Iron Maiden with this track - fans of pop music and even R&B will find lots to love here - and I was a fan of both as a boy in the 1980's. I hope to cover The Apparition with my own band someday. 10/10
my satisfaction is immeasurable and my day is saved
 
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