'Fear of the Dark' was Iron Maiden's last album before Bruce left the band and many see it as following the downward trend set from 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' and 'No Prayer For The Dying'. To be honest I think this is quite a good album, although admittedly quite different from the real early material on 'Iron Maiden' and 'Killers'. There is a difference in tone and style: no galloping at great speeds or synths seen on 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' or 'Somewhere In Time', but instead slightly slowed down (I'm not talking about the plodding of 'The X-Factor' or 'Virtual XI') and with rawky, crunchier guitars wuite similar to AC/DC.
So on with the review...
Be Quick or Be Dead (3:24) Funnily enough this is actually quite a quick track and begins with a drum roll. Straight away you can tell a difference in Bruce's voice and it bears a certain gruffness and almost hoarseness to it, although at other points he does that high vibrato thing he likes to do which sounds great. It has quite a catchy chorus: be quick...or be dead! and then goes into a guitar solo which is pretty good, what you expect from an Iron Maiden song really. A good speedy opener 8/10
From Here To Eternity (3:38) Now this is what I meant by an AC/DC style song. A really cool bluesy lick on the intro and some rawky singing from Bruce which sounds quite like Bon Scott. An okayish chorus, though it has a small crowd chanting it along with Bruce which is a bit annyoing. Bruce says 'start your engines!' followed by a pick scrape, whammy bar action and soloing. Good song overall 8/10
Afraid To Shoot Strangers (6:56) This song starts with a quiet clean guitar and intro. Bruce's singing comes in and it's surprisingly tender after the previous two songs, though it is about soldiers who fought in the 1st Gulf War so that would be why. In the lyrics, he balances up going to war for the ordinary soldier: 'forget and forgive' but 'the reign of corruption must end'. Then at about 2:45 a really cool riff comes in which reminds me a bit of 'Sign of The Cross' for the first bit. Then it breaks into a speedier, distorted gallop before heading into a solo and after that a bit of cool duelling. The song finishes with that really cool riff mentioned above. A great song 9/10
Fear is the Key (5:35) This song opens with a really creepy sounding riff and the verse guitar sounds uneasy and restless which I guess by the title of the song is what it is supposed to do. Quite a catchy chorus starting with the words 'I remember a time when we used and abused...' and it sounds great. Quite a negative song with negative lyrics such as 'fear is the key to what you want to be...you're outnumbered by the bastards till the day you die'. I don't really like the last bit, it has chugging guitar and acoustic strumming and it's not great. Finishes with another chorus. Am okay song 7/10
Childhood's End (4:40) A catchy but simple opening riff and some cool drumming from Nicko. The chorus has negative lyrics again 'No hope, no life, just pain and fear' Can you see why the album's called 'Fear of the Dark yet'? The intro riff is repeated and then goes into another great solo. Repeats a verse and chorus then end. Not bad 7/10
Wasting Love (5:50) One of my favourites ont this album and quite a slow song. A simple acoustic riff in the verse which is a bit different from the distortion but then back into the chorus which is really good. Just a few crashing powerchords but I'd imagine a bit of a sing-along at concerts. Bruce's vocals are good on this, soft at the start and growing in uneasiness and then into the chorus in which he sounds superb: nothing complicated but still great. Palm muted playing on the intro riff followed by a guitar solo which I really like with a couple of double stops. Back into that cathcy chorus which is repeated with a guitar over the top. Great song 9/10
The Fugitive (4:54) Intro on this sounds a bit like the chorus for 'Childhood's End'. Doesn't sound anything too special but I like the lyrics in the verse and it's about the first time you can hear the bass clearly. Change in tempo for the chorus 'I am the fugitive, but I've got to clear my name it begins'. Not a great chorus, there are better ones on this album. One of the worst on the album 6/10
Chains of Misery (3:37) Another AC/DC style song in my opinion and another with backing chanting on the chorus. The verse consists of power chords and Bruce's voice sounds quite rawky and gruff. A slow down for a mini solo before speeding up again for the proper solo and some more dualling. The chorus is back on again and I find the chanting a bit annoying to be honest. Again, not a great song 6/10
The Apparition (3:54) AC/DCish again and I love the opening and verse. It's just simple punchy powerchords but it sounds great. A change in tempo and a bit of synth comes in before the solo. Goes back into the intro riff. Maybe could have done with a bit more variety. 7/10
Judas Be My Guide (3:08) The shortest on the album (and I belive one of the shortest non-instrumental Iron Maiden have ever done) but one of the best. A great opening riff and ominous sounding riff before Bruce's vocals come in, dripping with scorn. The chorus is excellent and easy to sing along to: 'Juuuuudas my guuuuide whispers in the niiiiiight, Judas my guuu-uuuide'. You gotta love it. A brief dinky riff before into the solo then back into the chorus and then it's gone! Just over 3 minutes but great 9/10
Weekend Warrior (5:39) This song is basically about being a football hooligan. Punchy powerchords followed by a soft acoustic riff reflecting the change in mood displayed in the lyrics. A second verse before going into the chorus, again very simple but catchy. A good bridging riff follows the solo before launching into another solo, and a pretty quick one at that. Quite a good song 7/10
Fear of the Dark (7:18) Ah the title track definitely the best known to have come off this album for a very good reason. It is, in short a classic and the live versions are even better (get the Rock in Rio DVD). Opens with that famous creepy riff before taking a change in tone and some clean guitar and another guitar which follows the vocals. The verse is done by plucking powerchords that Iron Maiden use so often and is really easy to play (as is most of this song). Then out of nowhere is launches into another classic riff...yet so simple! I love the lyrics on this song 'Have you run your fingers down the wall, and have you felt your neck skin crawl when you're searching for the light?!' as a sample and the verse and chorus consist of crashing powerchords. Then in the second chorus it sounds brilliant, this time with a chug and palm muting which is great to bop along to (watch 'Rock in Rio' and see Steve Harris jump as if he's on a pogo stick!) Then it launches back into the second riff, before going into a bridge which roughly follows the intro and vocals. The solos are defintely the best on the album, the first is a bluesier one followed by a speedy one. Then there is a slow down in tempo a slow chorus, before speeding back up to go into the last verse and pogo chorus. The song finishes in the same way it starts with the quiet guitars. Amzing song, one of Iron Maiden's best so a definite 10/10
So overall a I think quite a good album, though not up to earlier efforts but still not as bad as it often said to be - in the special Iron Maiden edition of metal hammer it gave it 6/10. To be honest, if the 'Fear of the Dark' wasn't in the album then it would probably only get 7.
This is my first review so any comments etc welcomed. Also, sorry I couldn't really describe the solos because I find it a little difficult to do...