It’s about being scared but not really knowing what of. They say that everybody has a secret fear of something, they just don’t always know what it is – until it’s too late.
– Steve Harris (of Iron Maiden) on the song “Fear Of The Dark”
Halloween is drawing close, so it seems appropriate to include a few write-ups this month about fear.
Fear comes in many different forms. In a way, we’re all afraid of something – even the ones that do not admit it. One person is afraid that they will never amount to anything; another is afraid of death or falling ill. There are people who are afraid that they will never find love and then there are the ones who are afraid to commit to anything in life…really, the list is endless. Some fears are rational and some are not. But rational or not, fear is always incapacitating. How are you supposed to be at your best when you have your back against the wall?
In my case, a list of things I am afraid of is way too long (smiling as I write this). Hence, this week, I’ll talk about a song that deals with one fear that I’ve had since I was a kid: a fear of the dark. I remember having this reoccurring nightmare in my twenties where I wake up and a black shadowy figure is standing in the doorway of my room. It’s dark but I can see him standing there, looking at me. I can’t see his face from under the hat he is wearing but I can see his eyes. They’re yellow. The figure stares at me for a moment, then turns away and signals for me to follow him. I’m scared but for some reason, I get up and follow. I walk around the house checking all the closets and cabinets but there is no sign of him. Finally, I go to the bathroom to drink before going back to bed. I look in the mirror and instead of my own reflection, I see his. Petrified, I reach out to take off his hat to expose him. As the hat falls to the floor, I see my own face in the mirror looking back at me with burning yellow eyes. I’m not smiling but my reflections is. At that point, I always woke up.
Our track of the week, Iron Maiden’s “Fear Of The Dark” (both the song and the album by the same name) finds the band attempting to return to the fold after the slight disappointment of No Prayer For The Dying. As an albumFear Of The Dark is a huge improvement over its predecessor. For once, it is actually recorded in a proper studio as opposed to being recorded in a barn with a Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Another welcome change is the fact that while the album does not hark back to the keyboard- and synthesizer-laden progressive-rock direction of Seventh Son Of The Seventh Son, it includes the type of songs that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on that album – “Fear Of The Dark,” is one such song.
“Fear Of The Dark,” along with “Afraid To Shoot Strangers” and “Childhood’s End,” is so strong that for a brief while, you forget that Adrian Smith had left during the recording of No Prayer For The Dying. However, on most of the album Smith’s absence becomes painfully clear. All in all, even though Fear Of The Dark certainly has its moments, it would have benefitted a great deal from Smith’s talent as a songwriter with pop sensibilities. Now the overall record is greatly weakened by mediocre heavy-rock tunes that fall short especially on the songwriting front. Of course, afterFear Of The Dark even the irreplaceable Bruce Dickinson would leave Iron Maiden. At this point many wrote the band off as one mediocre album followed another. Luckily, the classic lineup of the group would make a comeback in the beginning of the new millennium with the incredibly strong Brave New World.
Be that as it may, “Fear Of The Dark” is a classic Maiden track through and through. It includes each and every element and hook that made the band famous. The signature guitar riffs are there, as are the tempo changes, and the sing-along chorus that could be written by just one man: Steve Harris. From the very beginning to the end, this track grabs you and will not let you go until the last note. What’s more, this track has lyrics that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been afraid of the dark:
Have you ever been alone at night
Thought you heard footsteps behind
And turned around and no-one's there?
And as you quicken up your pace
You find it hard to look again
Because you're sure there's someone there
I must say, even though I am a fan of the group, there aren’t that many Iron Maiden tracks with lyrics I can identify with. Their lyrics usually deal with topics that aren’t exactly everyday life for most of us: historical figures (“Alexander The Great”), the Battle of Britain (“Aces High”), Egyptian mythology (“Powerslave”) or the rise of the antichrist (“Number Of The Beast”). Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions and obviously, “Fear Of The Dark” is one of them.
Returning to the nightmare I told you about in the beginning of this write-up, I haven’t had it for years. Yet, there’s something about waking up in the middle of the night that continues to frighten me. It’s mostly the darkness that scares me, being unable to detect what’s happening around me properly. The other night my three-year-old son woke up and started screaming. I went to calm him down, which took a surprisingly long while. He was hysterical, pointing to the corner of his room, yelling, “Daddy, make him go away.” I looked around but saw nothing. I turned on all the lights to show my son there was nothing in the corner of his room. Finally, after a good half an hour or so, I got him to calm down and fall asleep.
Once my son had fallen asleep, I stayed next to him as I had promised. It was three o’clock in the morning and I was exhausted. I had to go to work the next day and knew the alarm would go off in a few hours’ time. Yet, I had the hardest time falling asleep that night. After all, somebody had to make sure that whatever was in the corner of the room stayed there and since I was the dad, it felt like it was my job.
You can learn more about Iron Maiden here:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.