Sound — 9
A true Maiden album for even non-Maiden fans, and a more than adequate followup to 1990's half-flop "No Prayer for the Dying", 1992's "Fear of the Dark" delivers quite well, even though it foreshadows Bruce Dickinson's departure from the band. Whereas NPftD had its bad or just average tracks, FotD follows a more consistent formula. With 12 tracks (2 more than its predecessor), there will obviously be bad ones, but as a whole FotD is much, much better than NPFTD. The production value on the album appears to be much more professional and just entertaining than NPftD. Containing some of the band's catchiest--albeit not exactly their best--material, tracks like "Be Quick or be Dead", "Afraid to Shoot Strangers", "The Apparition", "Weekend Warrior", and the epic title track/album closer keep the listener entertained from start to finish. Though guitarist Adrian Smith has been gone since "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", Dave Murray and sophomore newcomer Janick Gers manage to muster up some incredible guitar work. "Be Quick or be Dead" has, in my opinion, one of Maiden's greatest guitar riffs; with two incredible solos to boot. "Chains of Misery" has some incredibly complex yet pleasing guitar work as well. "Weekend Warrior" serves up probably the best harmonizing riff on the entire album, and the rest of the song is equally as great. "Fear of the Dark" is monumental in its own right, so really nothing bad can be said about it.
Lyrics — 9
Lyrically, I believe this album surpasses NPftD. "The Apparition", though some consider it to be a weak track, has some incredibly deep lyrics of about (in a nutshell) a ghost coming to talk to you and giving you advice on how to live your life; the phantom, who has obviously already lived before, seems to know many of life's secrets. "Fear of the Dark" has some "Deja Vu"-esque lyrics that talk about what happens when you're alone at night, afaid of the dark. Bruce is basically singing "Have you ever..." or something along those lines, and most of the time, it's true. "Have you run your fingers down the wall, have you felt your neck skin crawl, when you're searching for the light?" In many cases, you'll find yourself nodding and going, "Hey, yeah, I DO do that!" "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" is a wonderful, near-ballad song revolving around the Gulf War, with touching and emotional lyrics. As a whole, the lyrics on this album really can't measure up to, say, anything from "Powerslave" or even "Piece of Mind", but they're still awesome when you compare it to its partially crappy predecessor.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, I feel "Fear of the Dark" is a much more return to the classic Maiden sound of 8 years before, and although it's not particularly my favorite, it still has some awesome Maiden songs. If you have a lot of the band's earlier stuff and are into that, then I suggest getting this album. It's definitely not a disappointment.