Saturday, October 30, 2010

Iron Maiden - Fear of the Dark

So, after an evening of resturaunt/bar hopping with my lovely lass I'm stuck sitting at work for a few hours today.  This is my own doing, but sometimes one needs to sleep in during the week, thus forcing me to make up my time on a saturday, or as I like to call it whilst stuck here... SHATURDAY.  Clever, clever me.

Why not be pseudo-productive while I'm here?  I could do work, but I'm relatively confident that NOBODY does work here on the weekends, just sits and wallows in their own misery because of being stuck here, for however long.  Lo, I shall write my first album review to give myself some sort of sense of accomplishment.  Rock.

Instead of starting off with an absolute legend of an album, or a personal favorite, I'm going to go with an album that I've been spinning lately that seems to be a point of contention for a lot of metalheads.

Iron Maiden - Fear of the Dark (1992)

Maiden's last album with Bruce Dickinson, and the successor to No Prayer for the Dying, which is seen by most people as the weakest album with Bruce at the helm.  They say this is the first time they ever tried to reclaim sounds from the past to reinvigorate them as a band, and I'd say overall it worked.  At the time of release the press thought this album was a heaping pile of garbage, but chances are they all had their wangs directly in Kurt Kobain's asshole at the time (remember 1992 was the peak of grunge's popularity), so who gives a fuck what they think.

I'm an outrageously big Maiden fan, and I just absolutely love this band's attitude and sound, regardless of any minor flaws or lack of originality that can sometimes swerve in front of their direct path to glory.  So, this review could be potentially more positve than some you would see, but I'm not here to be the everyman reviewer for Metal Hammer.  Let us get to the meat.

1.  Be Quick or be Dead:  Maiden jump out of the gates with the barn burner of the album.  A quick drum intro and we're away with what may be their best album opener since Aces High.  Frankly, I'm always partial to starting off albums with a kick in the face, so the guys get immediate points here.  One thing that's easy to notice right away is that Bruce's voice sounds worn out or damaged.  This continues throughout the album, and while it's slightly disappointing on some songs, this one actually benefits from the raspyness.  Quick, short, and to the point.  I dig. 

2.  From Here to Eternity:  This song is a bouncy romp through hard rock land.  Sort of a similar direction as Bring your Daughter to the Slaughter, which a lot of people dislike, so I can see a lot of people disliking this one also.  I think it's actually pretty fun, with a solid chorus, and it's short enough that it doesn't really overstay it's welcome.  Solid.

3.  Afraid to Shoot Strangers:  And what we have here could be considered a ballad of sorts I suppose, although it does pick up pace about midway through.  I have to say, I really like this tune.  The guitar melodies and Bruce's moody vocals really do the trick here.  It may be a tad overlong, but I'm willing to deal with it for the payoffs that show up throughout.

4.  Fear is the Key:  First official mediocre song on the album.  The song starts off with a egyptiany riff and guitar melody that forwhatever reason sort of reminds me if Deep Purple tried to write a song after looking at the cover to Powerslave.  Anyways, the song isn't terrible at the beginning, but I've never been into these damn egyptiany riffs that just plod along, and that goes for a lot of my favorite bands.  There are a few good songs that use this well, but they are few and far between.  That damn "lies and lies and lies and lies and lies and lies" part absolutely crushes this song's ability to be anything aside from middling.  I fucking hate that part.

5.  Childhood's End:  The surprise awesome song of the album.  This song would be proof that Maiden can crush it at trying some new, progressive ideas.  This song's verses are relatively traditional, driving Maiden, but that chorus is so weird and different, in a very good way.  It complements the dark tone of the song fantastically and it absolutely sucks you in.  You can feel the chill in the air every time it kicks in.  Love it.  Oh, the solo section is the shit too.

6.  Wasting Love:  Another very controversial song, mainly because it is often considered Maiden's only power balad.  I suppose that would depend on your opinion of what makes a power ballad, but it's definitely not something maiden throw into every album, which is something I always respect.  Few bands can ever do ballads well.  In fact, I can only think of two off of the top of my head (Blind Guardian and Kamelot), and one of them uses a more medieval folk style, so I'm not sure they count.  So, how does this one stack up?  Not bad at all, actually!  Bruce's voice is impressively emotive and sounds great on this one, and I'd say the success of ballads in general really depend on the singer's ability.  The guitar harmonies are great and memorable, and the lyrics aren't half bad.  The chorus isn't particularly memorable, and once again, I feel this song is a bit overlong.  But not a bad job, here.

7-9.  The Fugitive, Chains of Misery, The Apparition:  Now, these 3 songs are, to me, the reason why I wouldn't consider this a great album.  All 3 of the worst songs on the album back to back to back.  All three are mediocre to less than mediocre.  The Fugitive would be the best of the bunch probably, what with it's upbeat tempo and solid riffage.  Chains of Misery is an ok little number in passing, but in all honesty you won't remember much of it after a throrough listening of the album.  Yay, gang vocals?  The Apparition just sits there, with a similar tempo to Fear is the Key.  No like.

10.  Judas be my Guide:  Aaaand, we're back!  This is a fun ass song, and it almost sounds like early Queensryche, what with it's melodic chord structures in the verse and that wild, swerving vocal melody in the chorus.  Another short and sweet number, and it's very good.  God damn does that chorus sound like Queensryche.  Cool shit.

11.  Weekend Warrior:  A song about soccer hooligans.  As you might expect, the song is rather weak by maiden standards.  The riffage is actually similar to Priest song from the 80's, in that it sounds like it was made to be played at a party or something.  I would not play this at a party.  And fuck, Bruce's voice sounds BAD on this song.  It almost sounds like he was drunk or something while recording it.  Some vocal melodies are very questionable and his backing vocals during the chorus sound like he's just yelling at you for whatever reason.  Blargh.  I lied about 7-9 being the worst tracks here. 

12.  Fear of the Dark:  Everyone knows this one, as they should.  One of the, if not the best live songs in Maiden's bag of tricks.  It's a classic, there's not a lot to be said, aside from the fact that I hope maiden never retire this song from their setlist.  The crowd explodes every time.

So there you go.  FotD is a solid album, with some very good tunes, one classic, and a sprinkling of turds and mediocrity.  If you like Maiden, I don't see how you wouldn't at least get SOME enjoyment out of this one, but there's no denying it has it's issues as well.  Overall, definitely still a solid one.