Here we go again in the Maiden series, concurrent with Mike’s (surely more informed) reviews:
Be Quick Or Be Dead starts this record off with a bang, indeed. Good pace, and just a great guitar song. A solid Maiden track. Gotta say, as it was on No Prayer, I like the growl. It makes him sound menacing! Sure, there are others who are way better at it, but those others can’t sing at the other end of it, not like he does. It makes him a double threat. Now if he’d just control that speed wobble… Anyway. From Here To Eternity’s intro (and underlying riff) sounds like AC/DC! It becomes a mid-tempo rawk track, again with the rough vocals. It’s pretty straight-on rock, not great, but surely not bad. The guitar solo is blistering. Cool shout-along chorus, which would be fun in concert. Afraid To Shoot Strangers takes WAY too long to get going. I was losing interest. What was that, 2:40 into it? I mean, it was pretty enough, I suppose, but no thanks. Some cool guitar lines, and then in the third minute it just goes off. What a solo!
Fear Is The Key didn’t start like I thought it would. A Maiden song with a title like that ought to knock you backwards at a zillion miles an hour! The bluesy-rock chug that results instead is fine enough, but there are so many other bands that do this. Why would they bother? And where it shifts tempo around 3:30 is tough on the ears, a clunking shift without a clutch. Well, at least they’re trying new things, right? Right? Hm… Childhood’s End has a great middle section, and I love the machine-gun tom drums throughout the rest. Otherwise it’s fairly typical of their sound around this time (as I’m learning). They’ve gone half-tempo. Live, it makes sense. Can’t play at full speed all the time – Nicko’s arms would fall off! Wasting Love is one I’d heard before, but I couldn’t tell you where. Was this a single? Was it on Much Music? Anyway, it goes on way too long. It was a good song idea that should have been 3 minutes, not 6.
The Fugitive (as in Harrison Ford? He’d love that) starts off mixing a promising drum/riff pounding with a less-interesting softer bit, which is where the warble-vocals come in. Sigh. This song shifts tempos several times, but it’s more interesting when it’s heavier. He should have growl-sang this one. Chains Of Misery is another mid-tempo rawker with shout-along bits. I dunno, it didn’t grab me, though there’s another killer guitar solo. Those have been consistently awesome on this record. The Apparition is either the template every hair metal band used, or Maiden used that universal template for their song. Either way, it’s not very interesting and we expect more from these guys – and I say that never having tried to write a song like this. For some reason, all I could think of when listening to this was that they should have had an orchestra backing them on this track, like Metallica’s S&M. That would have finished it off perfectly.
Judas Be My Guide restores my dwindling hope that they’d let it rip even a little bit more. Great guitar solos (again), but if you survey this track, it’s like Dickinson is singing one or two notes through the whole thing. Not very varied. Still, one of the better songs here. Holy AC/DC, Weekend Warrior! Sure, break it up with the softer bits, but haha the rest’s guitars and vocals are so blatantly AC/DC that it ought to get them sued! And is that an acoustic guitar in the mix on the chorus bits? I think so! And bringing up the rear is the title track, which I know from hits collections. Huge track. Restores faith that the next album may have more balls. Sorry, but it’s true. Most of this record feels like they’re pulling their punches, and they have absolutely no reason to do so. Only the opener and closer have any real teeth.
If I was making a mix, I might pull a one, maybe two tracks from this record. The guitar solos are stellar, bar none. But this surely isn’t a favourite of all the records I’ve heard so far. Not even close.
And now, here’s Mike’s way better take on things: http://mikeladano.com/2012/10/23/review-iron-maiden-fear-of-the-dark-1992-1996-bonus-disc/