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
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
IRON MAIDEN - FEAR OF THE DARK (re-listening 2020)

1- Be Quick Or Be Dead:
When this single came out I was absolutely blown away. This proto thrash furious track penned by Mr. Gers and Mr. Dickinson is a breeze of fresh air on Maiden's kinda self contained previous record and man did it sound exciting! The guitar riffs sounded powerful and angry as hell, with Bruce's siren scream making its presence from the get go and presenting an even raspier approach than the one the harnessed in the previous album that truly matches with the aggressive nature of the song. The pre-chorus is simply wicked and while the refrain is quite simple we're immediately thrown into a great bridge. To wrap things up a couple of roller coaster like guitar solos and by the end of the song all I was thinking was "Man! If the rest of the album is on this quality level this is going to be huge!". Little I knew how dead wrong I was as I was about to discover by the day the album came out. Nevertheless it's still a monster of a track that simply takes no prisoners. And although I still love it kinda fell a tiny bit in my rank. Still an undeniably great and relentless song. 9/10

2- From Here To Eternity:
Starting with a cool bass line complemented with some heavy bluesy guitar lines, the start of this track looks ok. But as the verses start flowing I find myself listening to one of British metals' finest bands ever, a legend of an institution, playing some American sleazy cheap FM hard rock. Are you kidding me? The harsh vocals that made wonders for the opening track sound absolutely awful here and even the lyrics are ridiculous. Charlotte's adventures third part - or fourth if you count with Hooks In You - deserved more than a "she was hitchhiking and the devil came with his big bad bike that ensorceled the chick who immediately fell in love with it and they roamed to hell and lived happy ever after" bullshit. Ah! then there's that chorus: "EHH! Ain't a bad place... eh is from here to eternity" is what I hear since the choir is so bad ir seems it was recorded by a bunch of drunk football supporters. Really, with the exception of the opening line and Dave's solo this song is utter crap. 4.25/10

3- Afraid To Shoot Strangers:
This gulf war drama filled chronic is one of the band's most interesting compositions. It's divided into 3 really distinct sections over its 7 minute length. Featuring a 12 by 8 strange time signature (that Nicko divides into a somewhat waltz like drum line) the first section is as calm as haunting with keyboards backing up some really nice fingerpicking guitar lines while Bruce's soft voice makes his presence be felt for the first time in this record. Although being a melodic section the anxiety of a soldier before going into battle and his inner questions about "what am I doing here?" are absolutely achieved and the ambiance is simply superb. Speaking of superb I think that's precisely the word to define the guitar harmonies that are the base of the second section, a quick shift for your regular 4 by 4 with lots of melody and working as some sort of refrain. The track then enters its 3rd part and this one is much more expected since it's basically an uptempo guitar harmonies and solos filled cluster. And although there's nothing new here, it works wonders for the track, since its sped up and adrenaline full nature resembles the chaos of battle. The song than returns for a last go on the beautiful chorus section until it fades with grace. Epic, dramatic and a bit unusual in its morphology this song is truly a gem that deserves our praise. 8.75/10

4- Fear Is The Key:
God have mercy! What have I done to see my pre-teen heroes do something so bad? Why.... just why??? Well this thing doesn't start in such an awful way with a cheap attempt of recapturing Zeppelin's Kashmir ambiance with a bit of Purple's Perfect Strangers (although falling short, obviously) but what follows is absolute garbage. This sleazy funk metal guitar riff begins and man... Bruce's voice is again sounding like crap and both the pre-chorus and refrain are absolutely mediocre. At least the the bridge before the song enters the "lies and lies and lies" bridge is decent. Speaking of that bridge it's quite interesting but the idiotic fashion Bruce repeats the verse's lines like he was a footbal reporter simply ruins it. The lyrics really approach a serious matter and have merit for that. But they are so poorly written it's embarassing. To sum it up this is a disaster. Hated this song's guts when it came out and still hate it now. And as far as I'm concerned this is by far biggest turd ever recorded on a Maiden studio album. 3/10

5- Childhood's End:
A cool pompous guitar melody with keys and Nicko's cymbals resounding give way to a tom filled tribal drum pattern that Harri's bass immediately reinforces while another really interesting guitar lead composes what will later be the chorus. It then goes to the verses that are really reminiscent of The Clairvoyant ones and really sound ok. Bruce's voice is also sounding good especially on the chorus. As for the soloing part transition it seems a bit forced but overall there's nothing wrong with it. Overall a really solid and melodic song with humanitarian concerned lyrics with some great details here and there that makes me smile again. 7.25/10

6- Wasting Love:
Maiden playing ballads? Mmmmm... something tells me it won't work out but ok: let's see where this is heading to. And it starts ok since the initial lead (although being a bit whiny) has its undeniable charm. Nicko's drums could do something a bit more appealing though (namelly on the breaks). Then the expected typicall fingerpicking guitar slows down the mood and Bruce starts singing. And mother of mercy... what's wrong with this man? Once again every time he raises his tone the voice sounds raspy and strained, completely disrupting the already vulgar melody it is intended to work upon. And once again I'm tortured listening to this demigod of a singer going out of tune a couple of times. As for the lyrics, although dealing with the subject of love, at least they're not your cliche lovy dovy crap and in all honesty are really well penned. But then comes the chorus and man is this thing awful! Some badly put together chords with a tenor singing on top while the bass simply fills gaps and the drums... oh man... the drums on this part are so lame. It hurts me saying this about such an excellent drumer as Nicko but that "thum thum! thum thum! pah!" sticking to the whole irritating pattern is the absolute epitome of mediocrity and reinforcing the worst part of the chorus is far from being a good idea. Well, on the positive side Janick manages to pull a simply gorgeous solo and the song's clip is also really good. But to be fair, this is a really poor track especially in a format the band never did (a pure ballad) treading once again on that hard rock radio friendly area. It has a couple of good parts but the bad ones absolutely turn this track into a mess. Next! 4/10

7- The Fugitive:
This thing starts and I'm in Maiden land again and can't avoid releasing a sigh of relief. After a rumbling intro a typically gorgeous Harris style bass makes its way before Bruce and the keyboards back up the whole thing and man does this thing sound great. Then the verses are simply an extension of this section and although I expected something more exciting after such a great intro I must admit it works decently. Bruce's voice sound cleaner than the majority of the other songs while the lyrics are quite uninspired to be honest. So, if the chorus is top notch this song will surely be an highlight on this album. And when the chorus begins "disappointment" is the only word that comes to my head. Not that it's awful or bad but it's so dull and sounds so flat that completely makes the song lose its balance. On the other hand the soloing section is interesting has some really cool parts (especially that breakdown before the last solo). It's a pity since this track had everything to be a really solid Maiden tune (something by then I was starting to conclude is absolutely rare in this album) but the deflating chorus kinda blew it. Hey... at least it features some great sections and sounds like proper Maiden! 6/10

8- Chains Of Misery
: Kicking in with a Sabbath like strong riff when it reaches the verses it's plain to see this song is some sort of really heavy tune with some hard rock sparkles here and there and although being far from top tier it really sounds enjoyable. Bruce's harsh vocals here work really nice. A brief pre-chorus featuring an interesting guitar scale makes way for the refrain and... oh no! Not again! Although the melody is absolutely mundane the major problem here is that the "From Here To Eternity drunk football supporter choir" is here once again to torture our eardrums while chanting the song's title in their beer filled fervour. Why? God... just why? After the second time we have to suffer through this treat a really melodic and cool solo begins but Bruce thinks it's a good idea to ramble upon it when it should be heard in its entirity (they call it solo for a reason). The following solo although a bit more generic is also really cool and delivers its share of melody. Then the song returns to the chorus and you know what that means. Chains Of Misery would have been a reallly solid and decent heavy song wasn't it for someone letting semi inebriated people roaming around the recording studio. And that's a pity. 5.75/10

9- The Apparition:
Well... for starts I must say this song is strange to say the least. It starts immediately with the sang verses and the guitars are really lackluster here. Bruce's voice sounds quite ok then. It then goes to a really typical Maiden cool bridge with some keyboards that work really well and that serve as a launch pad to some great soloing and interesting sections, especially the one after the first solo with the guitars and bass harmonizing (it really reminds me of DiAnno era stuff). Then the main verses are repeated and the song ends. Really? Is that it? I mean... there are some good ideas here but this has all the aspect of being a scratch of a soon to be a song, really far from the finished product. The degree of laziness here is of the charts nd I'll only give it a pass because it has some really exciting parts in its couple of roughly put together sections. So now do me a favor: get in the damned studio and finish the song will you? 5/10

10- Judas Be My Guide:
After a pompous intro this thing gives way to a typical metal solo immediatly. Then comes the verses and although being a bit out of Maiden scope (more into something like the heaviest hard n' heavy tunes of the late 70's) I must admit this sounds really on point. Bruce's aggressive approach does wonders on this one really gives it some edge and works in a brilliant fashion. Nicko's drum line on this one unlike several other tracks in the record is also tight as hell, especially on the pre-chorus. Nothing too complicated but complements and brings value to the track like it's expected from a master calibre drumer like Mr. McBrain. And the chorus is also as simple as great, with the fantastic vocals assuming all the protagonism here (seems like someone locked the drunk choir outside by this point). We're still given a typical dual guitar gorgeous harmony before the bridge that leads to your typical heavy rock soloing section. So there you go: if Maiden wanted to go a bit more into hard rock and gave me this throughout the majority of this album instead of american fm radio BS I would really buy it. Not that I adore it or consider it to be top tier Maiden but it sure is engaging, well written and preformed, melodic and exciting while keeping some traits of the band's traditional sound. 7.25/10

11- Weekend Warrior:
I must admit I kinda fancied this track the first time I listened to it and I still do. But with the passing of time a question kept haunting me and that question was: "what is this song doing here?". And quite frankly I found the answer... it does nothing but mischaracterize this mess of an album even more. Because if songs like From Here To Eternity, Wasting Love, Fear Is The Key sound nothing like Maiden and are absolute strange bodies in this record, Weekend Warrior is the by far the most blatant example when it comes to this. To be fair this song has some really cool melodic calm guitars that flow into something that kinda reminds me of Yes' Owner Of The Lonely Heart groove. A kinda stop and go chilled out tune with some interesting sections and basic lyrics. Unlike many people I like Bruce's approach on the verses and the transition to a softer tone when the ryhthm goes still (portraying the make believe second life some supporters live versus the one they have to face back to their daily reality). The last solo is also really good with an excellent background fill. But all this is irrelevant because this song sounds raelly bad here... it's that simple. If I didn't knew I would say Bruce composed it since it has some traits that resemble some of his early solo songs. But the fact it was made by Dave and Steve puzzles me even more. So would I listen to this song if it was on Balls To Picasso (as an example)? Yeah sure: it has some cool passages and sounds quite balanced. But as an Iron Maiden song? Nah... No way José! This is like if Slayer pulled a Polka or Helloween did a Tango in one of their albums. It could be decent (as Weekend Warrior is) but would never mix well with its vicinity. Still, regarding the song's lyrics, I'm surprised they didn't let the "From Here To Eternity drunk football supporter choir" give it a go for a last time. Surprised and grateful! 5/10

12- Fear Of The Dark:
Ok, if there's a Maiden song that severely suffered from overplaying in my country it's the title track from Maiden's 9th album. So I'll try to be fair while commenting a song that I must admit I'm really fed up. The intro to The Sisters Of Mercy's Temple Of Lo... ehem... I mean, Iron Maiden's Fear Of The Dark is pompous and epic, something this album really lacks. The still part does one hell of a job of creating ambiance with a superb use of keyboards and is the first of some absurdly compeling sing along parts. Then the whole thing goes uptempo in a simple yet effective heavy metal tune. The chorus is also really basic but well put together and after the second go round where Nicko halves the chorus' pace we're in for a sequence of some of the most beloved live parts by Maiden casuals (and others). The first and second guitar harmonies work as true gigantic anchors live pulling those "whoa! whoa! whoa! whoa! " chants from the audience and they have truly that epic Maiden flavor. After a duel betweem Dave and Janick another harmonic variation this time with Bruce reinforcing it with the song's title has that same magnetic effect. Then the song goes for a last spin on the verse/ chorus combo and ends with a shorter version of the still and sinister intro. Fear Of The Dark is indeed an inteligent and crafty song. The lyrics are a bit basic but then again composition while this and Afraid To Shoot Strangers are what you get closer to a Maiden epic on this record. And curiously enough both were the only ones that outlived this album's tour, especially the title track. That can't be a trick of chance and speaks volumes about this song. Do I think it's overrated? Hell yeah! Am I sick of listening to it? You Bet! But is it a great composition especially when compared with many of the garbage I had to endure throughout this album? Absolutely! Has it deserved its place among Maiden pantheon (although in a lower shelve than the absolute masterpieces)? I must agree, especially due to its reception when played live. Great song but I still don't wanna listen to it until I go to the band's next gig, ok? Thank you. 8.25/10

Bonus tracks/ Original B' sides:

Nodding Donkey Blues:
Another funny vibe blues with piano B' side with hilarious lyrics. The boys having fun, nothing more than it. 3/10

Fear Of The Dark is a mess, period. Not that it's absolutely devoid of great tracks: BQOBD, ATSS, FOTD, JBMG and CE are great material as far as I'm concerned but the rest varies from filler quality to absolute trash. And the lack of coherency among tracks on this thing is embarassing. Half of them have almost zero Maiden DNA which would be ok for me if those weren't precisely the songs that sucked the most! This is a record that shows a band astray, lacking harmony, on the brink of collapse, something that would prove to be true with Bruce quiting Maiden. On the bright side the production is really nice (although I'm not a fan of that snare drum sound) and it still gave birth to some hidden gems and Melvyn Grant did an excellent job while filling the huge shoes of Mr. Riggs: that vampire like Eddie and the way the moonlight is used... wow. Nevertheless I expect Maiden to never make an overall record as bad as Fear Of The Dark again. 5.75/10
 
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karljant

Ancient Mariner
Well, at least you didn’t give The Apparition a 1.
Nah! Like I said it has good ideas... but it simply doesn't sound like a finished song to me. I would love if the guys picked those sections, polished some edges and added a couple more cool parts.
 

jazz from hell

Ancient Mariner
IRON MAIDEN - FEAR OF THE DARK (re-listening 2020)

1- Be Quick Or Be Dead:
When this single came out I was absolutely blown away. This proto thrash furious track penned by Mr. Gers and Mr. Dickinson is a breeze of fresh air on Maiden's kinda self contained previous record and man did it sound exciting! The guitar riffs sounded powerful and angry as hell, with Bruce's siren scream making its presence from the get go and presenting an even raspier approach than the one the harnessed in the previous album that truly combines with the aggressive nature of the song. The pre-chorus is simply wicked and while the refrain is quite simple we're immediately thrown into a great bridge. To wrap things up a couple of roller coaster like guitar solos and by the end of the song all I was thinking was "Man! If the rest of the album is on this quality level this is going to be huge!". Little I knew how dead wrong I was as I was about to discover by the day the album came out. Nevertheless it's still a monster of a track that simply takes no prisoners. And although I still love it kinda fell a tiny bit in my rank. Still an undeniably great and relentless song. 9/10

2- From Here To Eternity:
Starting with a cool bass line complemented with some heavy bluesy guitar lines, the start of this track looks ok. But as the verses start flowing I find myself listening to one of British metals' finest bands ever, a legend of an institution, playing some American sleazy cheap FM hard rock. Are you kidding me? The harsh vocals that made wonders for the opening track sound absolutely awful here and even the lyrics are ridiculous. Charlotte's adventures third part - or fourth if you count with Hooks In You - deserved more than a "she was hitchhiking and the devil came with his big bad bike that ensorceled the chick who immediately fell in love with it and they roamed to hell and lived happy ever after" bullshit. Ah! then there's that chorus: "EHH! Ain't a bad place... eh is from here to eternity" is what I hear since the choir is so bad ir seems it was recorded by a bunch of drunk football supporters. Really, with the exception of the opening line and Dave's solo this song is utter crap. 4.25/10

3- Afraid To Shoot Strangers:
This gulf war drama filled chronic is one of the band's most interesting compositions. It's divided into 3 really distinct sections over its 7 minute length. Featuring a 12 by 8 strange time signature (that Nicko divides into a somewhat waltz like drum line) the first section is as calm as haunting with keyboards backing up some really nice fingerpicking guitar lines while Bruce's soft voice makes his presence be felt for the first time in this record. Although being a melodic section the anxiety of a soldier before going into battle and his inner questions about "what am I doing here?" are absolutely achieved and the ambiance is simply superb. Speaking of superb I think that's precisely the word to define the guitar harmonies that are the base of the second section, a quick shift for your regular 4 by 4 with lots of melody and working as some sort of refrain. The track then enters its 3rd part and this one is much more expected since it's basically an uptempo guitar harmonies and solos filled cluster. And although there's nothing new here, it works wonders for the track, since its sped up and adrenaline full nature resembles the chaos of battle. The song than returns for a last go on the beautiful chorus section until it fades with grace. Epic, dramatic and a bit unusual in its morphology this song is truly a gem that deserves our praise. 8.75/10

4- Fear Is The Key:
God have mercy! What have I done to see my pre-teen heroes do something so bad? Why.... just why??? Well this thing doesn't start in such an awful way with a cheap attempt of recapturing Zeppelin's Kashmir ambiance with a bit of Purple's Perfect Strangers (although falling short, obviously) but what follows is absolute garbage. This sleazy funk metal guitar riff begins and man... Bruce's voice is again sounding like crap and both the pre-chorus and refrain are absolutely mediocre. At least the the bridge before the song enters the "lies and lies and lies" bridge is decent. Speaking of that bridge it's quite interesting but the idiotic fashion Bruce repeats the verse's lines like he was a footbal reporter simply ruins it. The lyrics really approach a serious matter and have merit for that. But they are so poorly written it's embarassing. To sum it up this is a disaster. Hated this song's guts when it came out and still hate it now. And as far as I'm concerned this is by far biggest turd ever recorded on a Maiden studio album. 3/10

5- Childhood's End:
A cool pompous guitar melody with keys and Nicko's cymbals resounding give way to a tom filled tribal drum pattern that Harri's bass immediately reinforces while another really interesting guitar lead composes what will later be the chorus. It then goes to the verses that are really reminiscent of The Clairvoyant ones and really sound ok. Bruce's voice is also sounding good especially on the chorus. As for the soloing part transition it seems a bit forced but overall there's nothing wrong with it. Overall a really solid and melodic song with humanitarian concerned lyrics with some great details here and there that makes me smile again. 7.25/10

6- Wasting Love:
Maiden playing ballads? Mmmmm... something tells me it won't work out but ok: let's see where this is heading to. And it starts ok since the initial lead (although being a bit whiny) has its undeniable charm. Nicko's drums could do something a bit more appealing though (namelly on the breaks). Then the expected typicall fingerpicking guitar slows down the mood and Bruce starts singing. And mother of mercy... what's wrong with this man? Once again every time he raises his tone the voice sounds raspy and strained, completely disrupting the already vulgar melody it is intended to work upon. And once again I'm tortured listening to this demigod of a singer going out of tune a couple of times. As for the lyrics, although dealing with the subject of love, at least they're not your cliche lovy dovy crap and in all honesty are really well penned. But then comes the chorus and man is this thing awful! Some badly put together chords with a tenor singing on top while the bass simply fills gaps and the drums... oh man... the drums on this part are so lame. It hurts me saying this about such an excellent drumer as Nicko but that "thum thum! thum thum! pah!" sticking to the whole irritating pattern is the absolute epitome of mediocrity and reinforcing the worst part of the chorus is far from being a good idea. Well, on the positive side Janick manages to pull a simply gorgeous solo and the song's clip is also really good. But to be fair, this is a really poor track especially in a format the band never did (a pure ballad) treading once again on that hard rock radio friendly area. It has a couple of good parts but the bad ones absolutely turn this track into a mess. Next! 4/10

7- The Fugitive:
This thing starts and I'm in Maiden land again and can't avoid releasing a sigh of relief. After a rumbling intro a typically gorgeous Harris style bass makes its way before Bruce and the keyboards make their way and man does this thing sound great. Then the verses are simply an extension of this section and although I expected something more exciting after such a great intro I must admit it works decently. Bruce's voice sound cleaner than the majority of the other songs while the lyrics are quite uninspired to be honest. So, if the chorus is top notch this song will surely be an highlight on this album. And when the chorus begins "disappointment" is the only word that comes to my head. Not that it's awful or bad but it's so dull and sounds so flat that completely makes the song lose its balance. On the other hand the soloing section is interesting has some really cool parts (especially that breakdown before the last solo). It's a pity since this track had everything to be a really solid Maiden tune (something by then I was starting to conclude is absolutely rare in this album) but the deflating chorus kinda blew it. Hey... at least it features some great sections and sounds like proper Maiden! 6/10

8- Chains Of Misery
: Kicking in with a Sabbath like strong riff when it reaches the verses it's plain to see this song is some sort of really heavy tune with some hard rock sparkles here and there and although being far from top tier it really sounds enjoyable. Bruce's harsh vocals here work really nice. A brief pre-chorus featuring an interesting guitar scale makes way for the refrain and... oh no! Not again! Although the melody is absolutely mundane the major problem here is that the "From Here To Eternity drunk football supporter choir" is here once again to torture our eardrums while chanting the song's title in their beer filled fervour. Why? God... just why? After the second time we have to suffer through this treat a really melodic and cool solo begins but Bruce thinks it's a good idea to ramble upon it when it should be heard in its entirity (they call it solo for a reason). The following solo although a bit more generic is also really cool and delivers its share of melody. Then the song returns to the chorus and you know what that means. Chains Of Misery would have been a reallly solid and decent heavy song wasn't it for someone letting semi inebriated people roaming around the recording studio. And that's a pity. 5.75/10

9- The Apparition:
Well... for starts I must say this song is strange to say the least. It starts immediately with the sang verses and the guitars are really lackluster here. Bruce's voice sounds quite ok then. It then goes to a really typical Maiden cool bridge with some keyboards that work really well and that serve as a launch pad to some great soloing and interesting sections, especially the one after the first solo with the guitars and bass harmonizing (it really reminds me of DiAnno era stuff). Then the main verses are repeated and the song ends. Really? Is that it? I mean... there are some good ideas here but this has all the aspect of being a scratch of a soon to be a song, really far from the finished product. The degree of laziness here is of the charts nd I'll only give it a pass because it has some really exciting parts in its couple of roughly put together sections. So now do me a favor: get in the damned studio and finish the song will you? 5/10

10- Judas Be My Guide:
After a pompous intro this thing gives way to a typical metal solo immediatly. Then comes the verses and although being a bit out of Maiden scope (more into something like the heaviest hard n' heavy tunes of the late 70's) I must admit this sounds really on point. Bruce's aggressive approach does wonders on this one really gives it some edge and works in a brilliant fashion. Nicko's drum line on this one unlike several other tracks in the record is also tight as hell, especially on the pre-chorus. Nothing too complicated but complements and brings value to the track like it's expected from a master calibre drumer like Mr. McBrain. And the chorus is also as simple as great, with the fantastic vocals assuming all the protagonism here (seems like someone locked the drunk choir outside by this point). We're still given a typical dual guitar gorgeous harmony before the bridge that leads to your typical heavy rock soloing section. So there you go: if Maiden wanted to go a bit more into hard rock and gave me this throughout the majority of this album instead of american fm radio BS I would really buy it. Not that I adore it or consider it to be top tier Maiden but it sure is engaging, well written and preformed, melodic and exciting while keeping some traits of the band's traditional sound. 7.25/10

11- Weekend Warrior:
I must admit I kinda fancied this track the first time I listened to it and I still do. But with the passing of time a question kept haunting me and that question was: "what is this song doing here?". And quite frankly I found the answer... it does nothing but mischaracterize this mess of an album even more. Because if songs like From Here To Eternity, Wasting Love, Fear Is The Key sound nothing like Maiden and are absolute strange bodies in this record, Weekend Warrior is the by far the most blatant example when it comes to this. To be fair this song has some really cool melodic calm guitars that flow into something that kinda reminds me of Yes' Owner Of The Lonely Heart groove. A kinda stop and go chilled out tune with some interesting sections and basic lyrics. Unlike many people I like Bruce's approach on the verses and the transition to a softer tone when the ryhthm goes still (portraying the make believe second life some supporters live versus the one they have to face back to their daily reality). The last solo is also really good with an excellent background fill. But all this is irrelevant because this song sounds raelly bad here... it's that simple. If I didn't knew I would say Bruce composed it since it has some traits that resemble some of his early solo songs. But the fact it was made by Dave and Steve puzzles me even more. So would I listen to this song if it was on Balls To Picasso (as an example)? Yeah sure: it has some cool passages and sounds quite balanced. But as an Iron Maiden song? Nah... No way José! This is like if Slayer pulled a Polka or Helloween did a Tango in one of their albums. It could be decent (as Weekend Warrior is) but would never mix well with its vicinity. Still, regarding the song's lyrics, I'm surprised they didn't let the "From Here To Eternity drunk football supporter choir" give it a go for a last time. Surprised and grateful! 5/10

12- Fear Of The Dark:
Ok, if there's a Maiden song that severely suffered from overplaying in my country it's the title track from Maiden's 9th album. So I'll try to be fair while commenting a song that I must admit I'm really fed up. The intro to The Sisters Of Mercy's Temple Of Lo... ehem... I mean, Iron Maiden's Fear Of The Dark is pompous and epic, something this album really lacks. The still part does one hell of a job of creating ambiance with a superb use of keyboards and is the first of some absurdly compeling sing along parts. Then the whole thing goes uptempo in a simple yet effective heavy metal tune. The chorus is also really basic but well put together and after the second go round where Nicko halves the chorus' pace we're in for a sequence of some of the most beloved live parts by Maiden casuals (and others). The first and second guitar harmonies work as true gigantic anchors live pulling those "whoa! whoa! whoa! whoa! " chants from the audience and they have truly that epic Maiden flavor. After a duel betweem Dave and Janick another harmonic variation this time with Bruce reinforcing it with the song's title has that same magnetic effect. Then the song goes for a last spin on the verse/ chorus combo and ends with a shorter version of the still and sinister intro. Fear Of The Dark is indeed an inteligent and crafty song. The lyrics are a bit basic but then again composition while this and Afraid To Shoot Strangers are what you get closer to a Maiden epic on this record. And curiously enough both were the only ones that outlived this album's tour, especially the title track. That can't be a trick of chance and speaks volumes about this song. Do I think it's overrated? Hell yeah! Am I sick of listening to it? You Bet! But is it a great composition especially when compared with many of the garbage I had to endure throughout this album? Absolutely! Has it deserved its place among Maiden pantheon (although in a lower shelve than the absolute masterpieces)? I must agree, especially due to its reception when played live. Great song but I still don't wanna listen to it until I go to the band's next gig, ok? Thank you. 8.25/10

Bonus tracks/ Original B' sides:

Nodding Donkey Blues:
Another funny vibe blues with piano B' side with hilarious lyrics. The boys having fun, nothing more than it. 3/10

Fear Of The Dark is a mess, period. Not that it's absolutely devoid of great tracks: BQOBD, ATSS, FOTD, JBMG and CE are great material as far as I'm concerned but the rest varies from filler quality to absolute trash. And the lack of coherency among tracks on this thing is embarassing. Half of them have almost zero Maiden DNA which would be ok for me if those weren't precisely the songs that sucked the most! This is a record that shows a band astray, lacking harmony, on the brink of collapse, something that would prove to be true with Bruce quiting Maiden. On the bright side the production is really nice (although I'm not a fan of that snare drum sound) and it still gave birth to some hidden gems and Melvyn Grant did an excellent job while filling the huge shoes of Mr. Riggs: that vampire like Eddie and the way the moonlight is used... wow. Nevertheless I expect Maiden to never make an overall record as bad as Fear Of The Dark again. 5.75/10
Nice review. I enjoy FITK though.
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
Nice review. I enjoy FITK though.
Now that's a problem! :D :D :D :D Nah, seriously, it isn't... we all have our own likes and that's the beauty of the whole thing. Thanks for the compliment and enjoy Maiden. BTW sorry for the grammar errors since it's not my native tongue and sometimes lack the patience to review what I write properly.
 
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