Despite metals declining popularity in the mainstream during 1992, Iron Maiden remained unaffected, their status as metal’s number one band still safe.
Written by: Dangerzone
ARTIST: Iron Maiden
ALBUM: Fear Of The Dark
LABEL: EMI (UK)
SERIAL: 7243 8 35877 2 8
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Bruce Dickinson – vocals * Dave Murray – guitars * Janick Gers – guitars * Steve Harris – bass * Nicko McBrain – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Be Quick Or Be Dead * 02 From Here To Eternity * 03 Afraid To Shoot Strangers * 04 Fear Is The Key * 05 Childhood’s End * 06 Wasting Love * 07 The Fugitive * 08 Chains Of Misery * 09 The Apparition * 10 Judas Be My Guide * 11 Weekend Warrior * 12 Fear Of The Dark
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Despite metals declining popularity in the mainstream during 1992, Iron Maiden remained unaffected, their status as metal’s number one band still safe, although Metallica were on the verge of overtaking them, something already achieved in the US.
This album came a decade after Bruce Dickinson debuted on ‘Number Of The Beast’ back in 1982, and more than ever his position in the band was in question, a solo career beckoning. Still management insisted Bruce was going nowhere and Maiden released their third U.K. no 1 album, following ‘Number..’ and ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’.
US wise they managed a top twenty placing, but it was clear Maiden were falling behind there, as a reduced arena tour suggested. More importantly the music was increasingly dire, this the poorest Dickinson era effort to that point. Too many throwaway ‘heavy’ ballads and worn out themes and musical ideas suggested a change was at hand.
It begins promisingly, ‘Be Quick Or Be Dead’ and ‘From Here To Eternity’ the kind of forceful, straight ahead metal Maiden were renowned for, fast and simple with direct hooks. The pairing continued Maiden’s amazing British singles success, reaching numbers two and twenty one respectively.
The slide starts in earnest with the near seven minute war epic ‘Afraid To Shoot Strangers’, which although a fine composition represents everything that was wrong with Maiden in the 90’s.
The structure used became so laboured with future releases, that it seemed Maiden were repeating themselves over and over. A slow intro, ridden with keyboards, a moderate buildup, then a brief explosion of sound, before ending as it began. It appeared Maiden were deliberately avoiding all out fury, in favour of subtlety.
The trio of ‘Fear Of The Key’, ‘Childhoods End’ and ‘Wasting Love’ were perhaps Maiden’s most poorly received work to that point, dull ballad like material with little urgency. Maiden were trying to show they had another side, but by that point it was too late to tread such ground.
‘The Fugitive’ is a re-write of 1982’s ‘The Prisoner’ basically, your average ‘on the run’ rocker, with no inspiration in lyrics and music. This is so by the numbers metal, that Maiden should be ashamed. ‘Chains of Misery’ moves into almost bizarre hard rock circles, with a hook AC/DC might appreciate. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
The lyrics to ‘The Apparition’ read like an essay, musically it’s stagnant and plodding, save for a blinding set of solos from Gers and Murray, which redeem this album on so many occasions. A brief moment of inspiration arrives with the furious ‘Judas Be My Guide’, three minutes of metallic crunch and more tremendous guitar soloing.
Unfortunately it’s followed by perhaps the worst five minutes of Maiden’s career, ‘Weekend Warrior’ which saw Harris at the peak of his socially conscious lyrics, this an anti soccer hooligan plea. So bad its funny, the lyrics are awkward, with some lousy acoustic guitars in the mix. It’s hard not to cringe at such lyrics like ‘and the game begins, the adrenalin’s high, feel the tension, maybe someone will die…..’ Way to go there.
Another typical epic concludes things, the fast then slow antics of the title track, which are more convincing than much of which preceded it.
This is the type of album which is bad enough, that it is actually enjoyable. Place it however next to ‘Piece Of Mind’ (1983) though and you’ll see why this is regarded as Maiden’s recording nadir. I refuse to accept that Blaze Bayley’s two albums are worse than this. Equal nearly, but not worse.
Maiden were bankrupt creatively, something Bruce Dickinson was well aware of, and a year later he was gone, clearly upset at Maiden’s slide. How someone like Paul Dianno could put out ‘Murder One’ that same year, metal of the heaviest sort, while his former employers wimped out big time, is mind boggling.
There are pundits who claim Maiden lost it after 1984’s ‘Powerslave’, and in a way they did, and this was the realisation of that claim. Compared to Slayer this might as well have been AOR. This was one of my first experiences with Maiden, and because of that it retains a place dear to me, but only that it causes laughter whenever heard.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)