Friday, February 8, 2013

Iron Maiden - Fear of the Dark (1992)

After selecting randomly the Second Worst Maiden cd that I own (the worst being the one with Blaze Bayley) on the first time through the alphabet, I decided not to rely on chance this time and selected instead one of the first I owned. Since I was 14 when it was released, and had no disposible income, I borrowed this from a friend at school. Well, maybe not quite a friend, but a person that shared my taste in music. Also, it should be noted that when I was in school the internet did not exist and I grew up in a small country town where the one store that rented videos and occasionally sold music always looked at my requests with a raised brow. Incidentally, there was one music store over the hill and not-so-far away from where we lived that we frequented, and even some fifteen years later the proprieter still recognised me (the other store, Everymans, had a higher staff turnover). I guess you could say that my brother and I thrived on music. It was our soul food. To him, it still is, but to me it had lapsed, until this blog has revitalised it.

Anyhow, I since acquired my own, legitimate, copy. It is the 1998 enhanced version, and thus has the videos on it as well. I have also seen Maiden live in concert and that was an AMAZING experience. Better than Nightwish - but only because it was far more theatrical and a much larger venue.

The cover of this album depicts good ol' Eddie (new illustrator, however). Here he is either emerging from a tree or turning into a tree. It's pretty jolly creepy with his gnarled fingers and root-hair and bristly-branch-chin. The booklet is really thick, with lyrics and photographs.

The first two tracks on the album are probably the most commercial. It opens with "Be Quick or Be Dead", a furious rollercoaster ride of a song. The second, "From Here to Eternity" is funnier, and makes you wonder "who's Charlotte?"* It's entertaining, but not exactly deep and meaningful.

"Afraid to Shoot Strangers" is a somewhat mellow number, with melodic chords and a beautiful, haunting beginning.  The vocals dominate, with the music more to create and enhance the atmosphere of wondering. It is another song linked to the Gulf War - from the point of view of a soldier.

The drama continues in "Fear is the Key", one cannot help but feel a certain tension in the brisk chords and chug of the guitars. The lyrics are not exactly positive:
"I remember a time when we used and abused..."
 And Bruce's voice is slightly tortured, and discordancy in the music adds to the mood.

"Childhood's End" is another political song -  the lyrics indicate it is about the children affected by war - starvation,
"... no hope, no life, just pain and fear. No food, no love, just greed is here..."
Their sole power ballad "Wasting Love" is beautiful. I could actually play a few chords of this on the piano (Along with Testament's "Return to Serenity"). I believe it is more about wasting life than love.

A heavier number, "The Fugitive" follows an innocent, caught in the wrong place, wrong time, being hunted down like game. The lyrics are very evocative, and the music matches this. Spectral guitars for mist, faster pace for the running.

"Chains of Misery" has a decidedly sinister edge to it.

With its staccato beat, "The Apparition" is filled with lots of helpful little aphroisms, such as:
"...In a world of delusions, never turn your back on a friend..."
 It's probably one of the most quoteable songs, even if it feels a little contrived.

A bit heavier is "Judas be my Guide". Good bridge, and catchy chorus, but not overly outstanding or memorable.

A lighter-weight piece, "Weekend Warrior" is about the sort of person that becomes someone else on the weekend. I kinda imagine this as being about the sort of person that undertakes pseudo-battles in their freetime. Of course, is a weekend warrior a weakened warrior?

Final track, "Fear of the Dark" is a beautiful, haunting piece which will send genuine shivers down your spine. It is the only song from this album that they perform live (and it is WICKED).

This is probably the most emotive of Maiden's albums. It gets the energetic numbers out of the way in the first two tracks, and then concentrates on making the mood. It has a combination of really good songs - mostly the emotive ballads, and a few blander, rockier numbers. It did not receive particularly good reviews and was the last album with Bruce, but I feel the lower points are far outweighed by the high points.

Rating = 7/10.

* Until you remember "Charlotte the Harlot". There are four songs that make mention to this fictional prostitute - I'm not sure what the other two are - but I'm guessing one is "22 Acacia Avenue".

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