Fear Of The Dark

Iron Maiden

Raw Power Records, 1992

http://ironmaiden.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/20/2004

I am utterly befuddled by the decidedly negative reputation Iron Maiden's Fear Of The Dark album has received over the years by the band's fans since its release in 1992. Never before have I heard an album so unfairly maligned and undeserving of the criticisms often thrown its way. "Fans" of Iron Maiden would have you believe that this album is the nadir of the Bruce Dickinson-fronted years (1982-1992, 1999-present), but I couldn't disagree more strongly.

Expecting a mediocre outing, I unenthusiastically decided to listen to the disc for completist purposes, only to be truly stunned by a seemingly endless run of astonishingly great songs. This is supposed to be a dud? What the hell were/are people smoking?

As is typical of Iron Maiden, the first track blasts out of the gates, this time in the form of the excellent "Be Quick Or Be Dead," perhaps the heaviest song they've ever made. That grand salvo is followed by what I now believe is the finest stretch of songs you'll find on any Iron Maiden album.

All of these songs strike me as being extremely well crafted, from the fresh sounding intense riffs, to the multitude of parts seamlessly stitched together by the inspired, memorable vocal melodies and dynamic changes. What impresses me the most is how the band manages to demonstrate new-found, mature compositional talents without altering the classic Iron Maiden sound. The proceedings are not always loud and intense the way you'd expect them to be by a band of this nature, as there are many clean, amplified acoustic guitar passages of a very sophisticated melodic sensibility, that also incorporate loads of masterful musicianship. How could anyone miss Adrian Smith when the music is this good?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another ridiculous accusation I've heard over the years by Iron Maiden fans is that Bruce Dickinson's vocals are noticeably weaker on Fear Of The Dark than in the past. Listening to the powerful chorus of "Wasting Love" tosses that theory out the window instantly.

Many of Iron Maiden's older albums, even the classic ones, had a problem in the sense that the music often tended to get a bit redundant, but that is not the case on Fear Of The Dark. Every song is clearly distinctive, and at least to my ears, instantly memorable. Maybe showing a bit more diversity than in the past is one of the reasons this album was not as well received. I personally love the slow waltz that morphs into a truly gorgeous guitar line and then explodes into a crescendo in "Afraid To Shoot Strangers." Ditto the tribal, warlike drumming accompanied by the strongly Celtic tinged guitar melody on "Childhood's End." "Wasting Love" is as close as the band ever got to a mid-tempo power ballad, but the haunting mood and soaring chorus show they are very capable of expanding into that area.

Technically I probably could criticize the couple of slightly generic tracks in which the band veers alarmingly close to cock rock (a genre they had always prided themselves on avoiding) on tracks like "Judas Be My Guide" and the strongly AC/DC-reminiscent "Weekend Warriors," but these songs are so damn catchy that I just can't do it. I also shouldn't forget to mention that the title track is one of the best songs Iron Maiden has ever crafted. Really, Fear Of The Dark only contains one woefully sub-par track, "The Apparition." Oh well, I'm certainly not complaining considering how awesome everything else is.

Fear Of The Dark, a misfire by these metal legends? Complete nonsense. All I hear is a bona fide metal classic. I'll take this over such highly regarded Iron Maiden albums as The Number Of The Beast and Powerslave any day, and it's vastly superior to the erroneously well-respected Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son -- a shitty album if I ever heard one. In fact, Fear Of The Dark is a serious contender for Iron Maiden's finest release in my books, along with the underrated debut. DO NOT make the mistake of dismissing this CD.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Raw Power Records, and is used for informational purposes only.