(1992) Iron Maiden – Fear of the Dark: Anniversary Special

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It’s nearly impossible to pick which of IRON MAIDEN‘s many incredible heavy metal songs is the most iconic, and while it may not top the list, the title track to 1992’s “Fear of the Dark,” what with its haunting chant-along part, is definitely a live staple from these Brits. While these gents are still managing to release relatively decent material despite a 4-decade lifespan, there’s something to be said about the classic albums of the ’90s that really put MAIDEN on the map. As such, we’re exploring the aforementioned “Fear of the Dark” today for its 30th anniversary!

The album kicks off at full-force and full energy with “Be Quick or Be Dead,” as wild shredding and a proper Bruce Dickinson air raid siren scream blasts out. The high energy, punchy track is a brilliant way to get things going. Immediately, it’s nice to hear MAIDEN with good mixing and mastering, as the more recent albums have been a bit of a disaster on that front. Then the band continues the Charlotte the Harlot saga in “From Here to Eternity,” where we learn that Charlotte has fallen in love… with the glorious motorcycle that becomes her downfall. The chill boogie that begins the track is quite alluring, along with the understated drums and slick riffing that goes overtop. They tease a slow-down with “Afraid to Shoot Strangers,” though it is merely a tease, as they pick the speed up as the song goes on. The first increase in the riffing speed isn’t quite the explosion you might expect as it reaches the halfway point, but the band remain true to form in the way the riffing almost tells its own story. Finally, it does kick up yet another notch before approaching the end, making for an interesting triple-layered song.

“Fear is the Key” is more of a traditional slow-down and, personally, one of the less exciting songs on the album, though it does benefit from a darker tone and feel to change things up, which is extremely well-suited to the album and its name. However, “Childhood’s End” is – in my personal opinion – one of MAIDEN‘s best and most underappreciated songs, with it’s beautiful main riff that is endlessly tinkered with, as well as the potent lyrics. “Wasting Love” is then another more laid-back piece, though parts of the riffing feel vaguely familiar from past songs. Bruce Dickinson‘s softer take on the vocals works well, especially as he throws big, powerful notes into otherwise gentle melodies to create a wonderful effect.

“The Fugitive” has a very classic IRON MAIDEN feel, which would be right at home with older material like “The Prisoner,” with continued strong riffing, but perhaps slightly blander vocal parts than on other tracks. However, this leads into another personal favorite song, “Chains of Misery,” which opens on a really catchy note and utilizes a darker singing style from Dickinson. The build-up to the chorus is fabulous, while the chorus itself remains deeply catchy.

The next three tracks are arguably a bit more of the band’s filler-style material, as “The Apparition” is a mid-tempo piece with stopping riffs… not bad but doesn’t leave much of an imprint beyond its soloing. “Judas My Guide” is a bit more classic rock ‘n’ roll, but feels slightly out of place on an IRON MAIDEN album, though it is still fairly catchy. “Weekend Warrior” almost feels like the band had taken a stint of listening to country in theme (though not execution), while Dickinson‘s singing style is quite close to what he uses in his older solo material (pre-Accident of Birth), which is interesting considering it was written by Steve Harris and Janick Gers.

Finally, the album comes to a close with “Fear of the Dark,” one of the band’s most well-recognized tracks. Opening on its dark and haunting riff, the song then moves to the melody, executed still by one of the guitars, as Dickinson joins in a soft and mysterious tone. The chorus is one of Dickinson‘s most brilliant vocal performances in general and definitely one of the most outstanding on the album. Masterful solo work also represents this album very nicely in this track, making it a bombastic finale to the whole album, bringing it full circle in theme and mood.

Boasting twelve full-length tracks, IRON MAIDEN‘s “Fear of the Dark” was a very well-received addition to the band’s discography, and for damned good reason! If 1990’s “No Prayer for the Dying” was a bit of a disappointment, the band kicked themselves in their own asses for the next release, proving that they hadn’t lost sight of who they are. Even if not every track is an instant hit, there is enough fantastic material on the record to make the overall experience a fabulous one. If “Fear of the Dark” was a return to form, it was a strong and welcome return!

Tracklist

  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. Judas Be My Guide
  10. Weekend Warrior
  11. Fear of the Dark

Lineup

Bruce Dickinson – vocals
Dave Murray – guitars
Janick Gers – guitars
Steve Harris – bass
Nicko McBrain – drums

Label

EMI

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