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album09_fotd_a_small lineup1992

 

The Album

The first thing about Fear Of The Dark that leaps out and kicks in the arse is the cover artwork, which for the first time in Maiden's career is not by Derek Riggs. This picture is by Melvyn Grant, who has a long resume of cover artwork on many popular fantasy and horror novels. Apparently the band liked Grant's picture better than Riggs's;although I wish Riggs's picture was also available for comparison. But in any case, it doesn't matter much because Grant's picture is excellent and sets a great mood for the album.As with No Prayer For The Dying, many fans consider Fear Of The Dark to be a sub-par album by Maiden standards. In my opinion there is some excellent and possibly classic material here, in songs such as 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers', 'Childhood's End', 'Wasting Love', and 'Fear Of The Dark'. But overall, the album is not as consistently superb as the albums from the golden era, and contains quite a few uncharacteristically short songs.

Fear Of The Dark represents the end of another era for Iron Maiden after the tour, Bruce Dickinson left the band to begin a solo career until his return in 1999. Unfortunately, one can almost sense Dickinson's discontentment on this album. He continues the rough and raspy style of singing that we first heard in No Prayer For The Dying and on a few songs it sounds like he has completely lost his voice. Ironically enough, his traditional clear and powerful voice returned on his solo albums, some of which are extremely good.

Fear Of The Dark represents the end of another era for Iron Maiden after the tour, Bruce Dickinson left the band to begin a solo career until his return in 1999. Unfortunately, one can almost sense Dickinson's discontentment on this album. He continues the rough and raspy style of singing that we first heard in No Prayer For The Dying and on a few songs it sounds like he has completely lost his voice. Ironically enough, his traditional clear and powerful voice returned on his solo albums, some of which are extremely good.

Fear Of The Dark was digitally recorded and mixed at Steve Harris's own Barnyard Studios in Essex. As with No Prayer For The Dying, there are still some traces of synth on the album, but much less noticeable than in Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.

In closing, I just want to emphasise that despite what you may have heard or read elsewhere, this is not a bad album! It is a little less consistent than some of the earlier albums, but it contains classic material too. Don't be afraid to buy it after you've gotten all of the golden-era stuff.

Similar to 'Holy Smoke' on the previous album which dealt with the greed and hypocrisy of TV preachers, 'Be Quick Or Be Dead' is a politically motivated song that deals with the greed and corruption of the democratic political system.

He says you must vote for what you want to hear

 

Don't matter what's wrong as long as you're alright

 

So pull yourself stupid and rub yourself blind

The song is about money and dodgy deals that some dishonest white-collar people make without a care in the world for those they sometimes drive to ruin. You must be quick and clever if you have no other choice but work with them, otherwise you may end up dead (maybe not in the physical sense of the term, but at least financially). The title of the song is itself inspired by a quote from the Bible that has nothing to do with the theme developed by the lyrics:

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom [...].

2 Timothy 4:1

Dickinson's horrible singing style ruins a song that could otherwise have been pretty decent. He was apparently experimenting, although his clear and powerful voice from the "Golden Age" was sorely missed until the "Reunion" albums.

This is the return of the infamous Charlotte the Harlot on the back of a motorbike! However, the mood of the song is very different from 'Charlotte The Harlot' and '22 Acacia Avenue'. Both the music and the lyrics lack the depth of the previous songs, making this particular piece a big disappointment.

'From Here To Eternity' was the second single from the album, chosen essentially by the band for the catchiness of the music. The lyrics should not be taken seriously, as the whole song is quite simply a joke. The straightforward interpretation is that the song is about a woman's relationship with a biker and his motorcycle, the text being however full of sexual symbolism and puns.

The best feature on this song is the great guitar solos, but otherwise it has the feel of a made-to-be-a-single, which is pretty uncharacteristic for Maiden. At the end of the song, you can hear Bruce cryptically say: "Get on your M11, get on your bike!" Why he mentions this motorway that links North-East London to Cambridge is a mystery...

Bruce Dickinson told the crowd at the Live At Donington concert what this song is about:

[This song] was written about the people that fought in the Gulf War. It's a song about how shitty war is, and how shitty war is that it's started by politicians and has to be finished by ordinary people that don't really want to kill anybody.

Bruce Dickinson 22nd August 1992

The song starts off slowly and quietly, but then breaks into a faster beat, a trademark Maiden riff and an inspired instrumental section. It is actually a very beautiful song and a Maiden classic.

Unlike most war songs that usually deal with the combat itself, like 'The Trooper', or with its terrible consequences, like 'The Aftermath' or Metallica's 'One', 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers' takes us into the mind of a soldier preparing for battle. Although he is nothing but an anonymous element of the powerful tool used by the government of his country and known as the Army, he remains human, with his feelings and his doubts. He's "trying to visualise the horrors that will lay ahead", the main one being the fact that he probably will have to kill (hence, "afraid to shoot strangers").

With the exception of a minority of mentally dysfunctional individuals, the act of killing another man is one of the most traumatic experiences a soldier can face in combat, even more than risking his own life under fire ("When it comes to the time, we'll be ready to die" to die, yes. But to kill?). Like in any other animal species, normal human beings are deeply reluctant to cause the death of their fellow humans and, when they do so, can be marked for life if not given the appropriate treatment. But let's not forget that the individual this song is dealing with is a professional soldier and not a poor conscript sent into the midst of battle with only a crash-course in gun-handling he's been conditioned for this kind of situation and shooting at enemy soldiers is an ingrained reflex through continuous military training some kind of brain-washing. Steve Harris shows here the point of view of a normal man who is understandably "afraid to shoot strangers", but he seems to have overlooked the fact that trained combatants do not feel this fear as strongly as others would, and have therefore less problems in opening fire upon other humans. The consequences of this act can be devastating, but this is irrelevant in the present discussion.

When it comes to the time, are we partners in crime?

What does the soldier really question here? Is he reflecting on the fact that, although he is only an instrument of his government, he is part of a crime that his country is committing? What is the crime, then? Had Britain (and all the other so-called "Allied" countries who participated in the First Gulf War) the right to engage a war with a country so distant for such preposterous reasons as to protect the oil fileds for the West? Or maybe he's simply referring to the fact that his comrades will kill too, thus making them all partners in crime.

But how can we let them go on this way?

The reign of terror corruption must end

And we know deep down there's no other way

No trust, no reasoning, no more to say

These verses are probably the worst written since those of 'Quest For Fire', with the dinosaurs walking the earth at the same time as Man. Not only in retrospect, but even at the time, it was obvious that the First Gulf War was not about ending a dictatorship, but about protecting (and controlling) the crude oil drilling in Kuwait. There's a "reign of terror, corruption" in many other countries, but no one is interested enough in ending any of them in any way. Steve's lyrics sound here like the headlines of The Sun or any other disgustingly jingoistic tabloid "trying to justify to [the gullible population] the reasons to go." It is obvious that the use of force can be necessary in certain situations and that "we know deep down there's no other way", but in the case of this particular war, such justification doesn't stand a close examination of the real reasons to engage in a conflict. What is a fantastic song musically is quite sadly somehow ruined by lyrics that seem to condone a rather dubious international action.

'Fear Is The Key' is sort of a strange song, with a different musical style. It's about the AIDS epidemic that started to become awfully noticeable in the early- to mid-eighties and that was blissfully ignored by millions until the death of celebrities started to occur, making it obvious that no-one was safe when it came to the HIV virus.

The kids have lost their freedom

And nobody cares till somebody famous dies...

While the band were writing songs for the album, they heard about the death of Queen's singer, Freddy Mercury (19461991), due to the HIV virus, and decided to add the AIDS theme to their list of serious topics already contained in the album. The song highlights the fact that, after the so-called "sex revolution" of the 70s, the late 80s and early 90s were the start of a new conception of sex; it wasn't about freedom anymore, but about fear the fear to contract HIV though sexual contact. Something that was supposed to bring pleasure and as Nature had intended life had become a synonym for fear and death...

As mentioned above, the song itself has quite a different style from most other Maiden songs. It's hard to define exactly what it is, but it might be a touch of blues influence. It is not a terrible song, but it lacks that undefinable little something that makes a song special.

Although it has the same title as an Arthur C. Clarke novel (1953) or a Marillion song on their 1985 album Misplaced Childhood, the song is actually unrelated to either of them. Whereas Clarke's story is about an alien species that comes to Earth to prevent Man from travelling to the stars by enslaving him in a society of entertainment and shallow pleasures, and Fish's text deals with the end of a comfortable childhood and the beginning of a responsible adult life, Iron Maiden's song is about all the terrible suffering, pain, injustice, and fear in the world. The lyrics summon those terrible images of children dying of starvation in countries where the leaders do not care for their people, and stress the fact that humans cannot remain children for long on this this planet due either to "natural" catastrophes engineered by man or simply to pointless wars that lead whole countries to ruin.

Pretty much everything about this song is excellent it is among the best songs on the album and has all the makings of a classic. Strangely however, Maiden haven't played it live in concert.

Iron Maiden has never been a "love song" type of band. About the closest they've come has been the 'Charlotte The Harlot' saga of songs, which were anyway pretty far from traditional love songs. 'Wasting Love' is not exactly a love song either, but instead talks about the emptiness and futility of the life of those who collect shallow sexual encounters without ever trying to get into a stable reciprocal relationship.

The lyrics are actually quite reminiscent of 'Wasted Years'. This is an inspired and incredibly beautiful song, and has become a classic concert number for a few years.

'The Fugitive' is based on the original television series (19631967) [see also the IMDb], which was made into a 1993 film with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, then remade again into a very disappointing bland new 2000 series that real fans of the original Fugitive should avoid. Both the series and the film are a tense action-thriller in which Dr. Kimble, an eminent surgeon wrongly accused of brutally murdering his wife, is relentlessly pursued by US Marshal Samuel Gerard. Following his escape from police custody, Dr. Kimble must find the real murderer, a one-armed man he saw at the scene of the crime, before he is found and executed for a crime he did not commit.

It's a good song whose mood matches the subject quite well. There is a double set of guitar solos in the instrumental section, and if you listen carefully you can also hear a bit of synth in the background.

This is a song, which according to Bruce Dickinson himself speaks about the little devil who sits permanently on our shoulder. He dishes out the worst advice possible and, should you listen to him, he can make you ruin your life. We sometimes do the wrong things, and we know that it's wrong but we can't help it... well this is all down to that little ill-advisor Bruce mentions in the song this mischievous creature that holds our chains of misery.

This is an ok song, though for some reason its style and sound is reminiscent of Dokken. The guitar solos are excellent and are the highlight of the song, although they are a bit short.

'The Apparition' is about some kind of ghost or spirit which is imparting some advice about life before it continues on its way. Steve Harris exposes there his views on the world, his feelings, fears and worries. The song is full of good advice, although musically it is a bit of a failure, lacking mood, emotion, and even a decent tune.

'Judas Be My Guide' is a short but incredibly catchy song with an excellent chorus and good guitar solos. This is one of Maiden's shortest song with lyrics, next to 'Futureal'. There was a line in the song 'Son Of A Gun', on Bruce Dickinson's first solo album Tattooed Millionaire, that went:

Just an ordinary man with his orders and his plans

In the shadows of a cross

Ooh in a blood red sunrise

Take me to Jesus with Judas my guide

The song 'Judas Be My Guide' was then developed from there, as these lyrics had a good potential to make another song. The lyrics are about everybody's bad side, which Bruce chose to call "Judas". It's basically about the fact that anyone is able to sell anything at any price...

This song is about the football hooligans that go to the games for the sole purpose of causing trouble. They are not real football fans and have only a limited interest in the match itself, let alone the team they are supposed to support. They only live for the weekend, when they can get into fights with supporters of the other team. Then, they quietly go back to their little jobs the following Monday, as if nothing had happened, only looking forward to the next weekend when they'll be once again able to let loose all the violence and aggression that are in them. This is when you realise that they are nothing after all.

The highlight of the song is the guitar solos, which are excellent. However, the rest of the song is fairly mundane at best.

'Fear Of The Dark' is an instant Maiden classic, and certainly a live concert favourite. It begins and ends softly and ominously, with a tune that is vaguely similar to 'No Prayer For The Dying'. The main parts of the song are fast and exciting and quite frantic highlighting the notion of fear that becomes panic, with perhaps the most recognisable Maiden tune and chorus since 'The Trooper'. The live versions of the song feature an interesting crowd interaction during the instrumental section and it has become part of the setlist ever since the release of the album. Everything about this song is incredible, and it is probably the best song of the album.

According to Bruce Dickinson, Steve who wrote the lyrics is himself actually afraid of the dark. Whether this is true or not is not important, as he seems to have transposed in a very clever way the childhood fear of being left alone at night in the dark a very common fear in children that most of us have probably experienced at a younger age and turned this irrational phobia into an adult metaphor. It is basically about the fear of losing control and drifting into the madness that threatens virtually everyone at one point or another in life.

As Mick Wall recalls in his commentary contained in the 1998 re-edition of the album: "It's about being scared but not really knowing what of," Steve explained at the time. "They say that everybody has a secret fear of something, they just don't always know what it is until it's too late," he added enigmatically.

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