Iron Maiden
Fear of the Dark


2.5
average

Review

by Pedro B. USER (349 Reviews)
May 12th, 2022 | 20 replies


Release Date: 1992 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 'Fear' is the Key...to relevancy, that is.

Iron Maiden's contribution to the rock and metal scene, both present and past, can hardly be overstated. From humble beginnings in the late 1970s, the band became an international juggernaut, dragging an entire movement into the limelight along with it, and earning themselves a well-deserved spot in the pantheon of living rock'n'roll dinosaurs thanks to a four-decades-and-counting career built on the back of an easily identifiable and seldom compromised trademark sound.

Still, even the most glowing career inevitably has its lows, and when musical trends shift, even the most veteran artists can find themselves struggling; Maiden was certainly no exception to this, having found themselves (along with so many of their contemporaries) struggling to fend off the grunge movement's all-out assault on anything and everything which even remotely resembled stadium or arena rock. Admirably, the band's response was not to shift or re-think their sound, but to double down on the elements which made it unique; 1990's No Prayer for the Dying saw the discreet keyboard additions of commercially-drivern predecessor Seventh Son of a Seventh Son replaced with an extra serving of aggression, and song structures which were straightforward to the point of being simplistic. The message was simple: Iron Maiden did not intend to sell out, or even change in the slightest.

Unfortunately, this tactic backfired, with No Prayer receiving a lukewarm reaction from fans and critics alike, its lack of timeless classics (the album yielded a single minor addition to Maiden's hit library) perceived as an indication that Steve Harris and Co. were losing their touch. Once again, the band's reaction was to double down on one aspect of their music, though this time, on the opposite end of the spectrum – where No Prayer was direct and no-frills, its successor took on a markedly more complex sound overall, with the band making an apologetically conscious effort to veer away from the previous album's big, dumb choruses and towards something a little more cerebral. This would, in turn, lead to longer and more layered compositions, which would eventually turn the resulting record into Maiden's first-ever double album.

That distinction is only one of the many noteworthy milestones surrounding 1992's Fear of the Dark, an album more notable for its historical context than for most of its content; in addition to being the group's first double-LP, the band's ninth album also plants the first seed for what would soon become a full-fledged shift towards a more prog-metal adjacent sound, and – more importantly – marks Bruce Dickinson's last collaboration with the band for almost eight years, as the singer temporarily moved on to other projects. Shame, then, that his then presumed swansong with the band should turn out to be such an underwhelming album.

In fact, there is a good reason why even most die-hard Maidenheads are hard-pressed to name more than three songs off this album – namely that, while those three songs undoubtedly deserve their status as cult classics, the remaining three-quarters of the album are a variably painful slog through the worst of interchangeable prog-leaning Iron Maiden mid-tempos, broken up only by the occasional burst of mild excitement (the chorus to Wasting Love and the decidedly average Chains of Misery are elevated simply by virtue of radiating a modicum of emotion amid such dreary company.) Fair-to-middling though it was, No Prayer for the Dying at least had choruses; by Fear of the Dark spends most of its running time striving for choruses, without ever quite getting there (cinematic Western spaghetti guitar leads should never be the sole motive of interest in an Iron Maiden song.) Even Dickinson appears subdued, rarely letting his voice leave the confines of the raspier mid-range tone he adopted in Prayer or unleashing his trademark soaring wail. When combined with the uninspired songwriting, this causes large swathes of the album to fade into background music status, something which – again – should never happen in a classic-period Iron Maiden album.

This status quo is rendered all the more frustrating by the realisation that the band can, indeed, still write excellent heavy metal songs. The title track needs, of course, no introduction, having earned its spot on any list of the best metal songs not only of the 90s, but of all time - even if it does sound a little oddly subdued without a rabid live crowd singing along to its every second. Elsewhere, Be Quick or Be Dead is the usual frantic, hard-hitting, balls-to-the-wall Maiden opener, with sung in a thrashy 90s Rob Halford rasp, suitably followed up by hidden gem and Mo Prayer holdover From Here To Eternity; Afraid to Shoot Strangers completes an excellent opening salvo by demonstrating Maiden's proggier formula done correctly,

Sadly, as noted, it is all downhill from there, as subsequent songs stray far too close to one another while showing too little personality to stand out from the pack, eventually resolving into a single, faceless atmospheric mid-tempo lump in the middle of the album, which completely squanders some worthwhile lyricism around themes which deserve this type of discourse, such as AIDS, violence or domestic abuse. And while the bookends are more than good enough to keep this album's head above the water, they have also contributed to the now three-decade-old myth that it is a shining beacon in Maiden's otherwise hit-or-miss '90s career, when in truth, it is fortunate for the remaining material that they exist; for, without them, this album would be left precisely where it most Fears to be - in the Dark.

Recommended Tracks
Be Quick Or Be Dead
From Here to Eternity
Afraid To Shoot Strangers
Fear of the Dark



Recent reviews by this author
Three Days Grace ExplosionsThe Linda Lindas Growing Up
Kirk Hammett Portals3rd Secret 3rd Secret
Symfonia In ParadisumBilly Talent Crisis Of Faith
user ratings (2249)
3.3
great
other reviews of this album
1 of


Comments:Add a Comment 
ReturnToRock
May 12th 2022


4652 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This was intended as a celebratory 30th anniversary review, but ended up being negative. Oh, well...happy birthday anyway, I guess...

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2022


27982 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Happy birthday to the ground!

Digging: Ethel Cain - Preacher's Daughter

pizzamachine
May 12th 2022


15040 Comments


Happy fappy sputversary 💦🍆☔️✔️

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 13th 2022


9563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Criminally underrated album.

Digging: Morgue Supplier - Inevitability

alkostach
May 13th 2022


264 Comments


One of the most overrated albums in metal's history. All tracks on this one are underwhelming. But it's maidens, so it's a good listen anyways.

MrSirLordGentleman
May 13th 2022


15142 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"One of the most overrated albums in metal's history"



Weird since I'd say the general consensus is that this is pretty average besides the t/t and Afraid to Shoot Strangers

alkostach
May 13th 2022


264 Comments


it would seem so nowadays. i remember some good old trash talk on forums from late 90' early 00' when loads of ppl were stating this a masterpiece. and everyone and their mom had to have a fotd t-shirt.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
May 13th 2022


27982 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I had one lol

kkarron
May 13th 2022


508 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Also how on earth did they get away with the production on this? I hate how Nicko's drums sound here. It's like cardboard.

kkarron
May 13th 2022


508 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Super correct review, btw, pos'd.

kkarron
May 13th 2022


508 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I think what I hate most about this album is how it overshadows the actually excellent The X Factor. They were right to part ways with Bruce at that time. The X Factor actually had a vision and a purpose unlike this average pile of average.

alkostach
May 13th 2022


264 Comments


whereas this is overrated, both Blaze albums, while not masterpieces, are criminally underrated.

Blaze was never as charismatic as Bruce, but he's got his niche.

ReturnToRock
May 13th 2022


4652 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This is the definition of a one-song album. There are other good tracks, but without the title track, this would ve viewed as just on par with the albums either side of it.

Also, i remember the FOTD-worship phase, but more so for the song than the album.

alkostach
May 13th 2022


264 Comments


it's a thing i don't get really, as the tt is not even that good. i like 3-4 tracks more than the tt.

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
May 13th 2022


17567 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

JUUDAS MY GUIIIIDEE

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Disharmonium - Undreamable Abysses

ReturnToRock
May 13th 2022


4652 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

That chorus is so bad...!

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 13th 2022


9563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

both Blaze albums, while not masterpieces, are criminally underrated.



Agreed about The X Factor, strongly beg to differ about Virtual XI



Standout tracks



Be Quick or Be Dead

From Here To Eternity

Afraid to Shoot Strangers

Wasting Love

The Fugitive

Judas Be My Guide

Weekend Warrior

Fear of the Dark

MrSirLordGentleman
May 13th 2022


15142 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Agreed about The X Factor, strongly beg to differ about Virtual XI"



Futureal and The Clansman are classics but that's about it

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 13th 2022


9563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ok I spun this and I have to admit it hasn’t aged that well.



While my 1992 me would four this anyway, today I would give 3.5+

alkostach
May 14th 2022


264 Comments


> Futureal and The Clansman
I prefer when two worlds collide, como estais amigos and my no. 1 by far is don't look in the eyes of the stranger.

So probably most tracks on VIX have some fans.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy