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Battlezone – Children of Madness
Paul Di’Anno’s post-‘Maiden life was full of turmoil and personnel changes, resulting In a ‘mixed-bag’ of efforts in both particularly the 1980’s with some poor efforts, interlaced with stronger moments. Battlezone first came to my knowledge about 4 years ago, when I picked up ‘Children of Madness’, which I had somewhat mixed feelings about. After initial disdain, a resurrection of the album into regular rotation has seen my renewed interest, and growth of respect for the band. I found that the Battlezone releases were easier to come by then the ‘Paul Di’Anno’ or Gogmagog stuff, but luckily, that worked out well because these albums are much better (and heavier).
Anyhow, ‘Children of Madness’ a decent mix of the more melodic influenced material Di’Anno became interested in after ‘Maiden, with enough roughness and balls to keep interesting. Both Guitarists on this one have their credentials in great, yet often ‘melodic’ (you may want to read: ‘soft’) heavy metal/NWOBHM acts Persian Risk and Tokyo Blade respectively, which certainly comes through in tracks like the love-themed ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ and others. I think this a strong mix; retains touches of what Di’ Anno attempted with the almost AOR/Glam self-titled ‘ Di’Anno’, and the melodies attempted in the Gogmagog EP (featuring an all-star cast including Clive Burr), which was pretty awful.
One good example of this melodic/softer sound done well is the ballady love song ‘Metal Tears’, which comes with an excellent name by the way. Slow, emotional minor chords interlaced with soaring emotive, yet sad vocals are interspersed with increasingly energetic and ‘metal’ sounding bridges and riffs. Good arranging by the band-mates to put this piece together just right. Theres also a production influence with something like a siren softly coming in through the background, which adds to the powerful ambience of the piece. The chorus vocal in this one sounds awfully like Tate from Queensryche, which far, far from a bad thing. This one gives additional depth with some emotive backup chorus vocals too, which sound like the guitarists. A strong, yet softer piece.
In contrast, ‘Whispered Rage’ and others kick things off with a decidedly ‘metal’ feel, reminiscent of W.A.S.P. or early ‘Maiden riffs. Subject matter is a bit ‘harder’ while melodic guitar touches are still interspersed throughout. Galloping riffage, mixed with powerful classic Di’Anno verse vocals are hallmarks here. Again one could draw some (admittedly rather weak) comparisons with Queensryche. I enjoy the lyrics and the high pitched screams layered alongside several of the vocals -- Great stuff.
‘Rip it Up’ evokes typical aggressive mid-80’s heavy metal attitude and lyrics with just the right touches of melody again. The lyrics are about rockin’ out across the world and ‘Ripping it Up’, so typically energetic, anthemic qualities are found of course. There’s some interesting background vocals in the second chorus, which are reminiscent of what Rob Halford does on Judas Priest form this era. It’s an incredibly high pitched yet rough scream, under the normal pitched held vocal, which I really love in my metal! It gives it that excellent enthusiasm you want out of it.
Overall, the album is much like above – Paul gives us plenty of rough and ready ‘street’ attitude (the type of attitude one would expect from a hard drinkin’ pub dwelling East Londoner) in his lyrics, and has an aggressive delivery of his vocals. There’s some neat guitar work, with some definite talent being displayed due to the experience of both axemen in some truly legendary NWOBHM acts. The melodic feel of much of the riffage sounds almost like American melodic stuff of the same era, almost AOR-ish at times. This is perhaps best evidenced in ‘Passion Play’ – a romantic, yet not overly sappy number later in the album.
Those sceptical of Gogmagog or the Di’Anno titled stuff would be well advised to check out Battlezone. Though it’s quite ‘soft’ in comparison to his ‘Maiden stuff, Battlezone holds a rough tinge to it which results directly from the character of Di’Anno himself, while still exploring readily the melodic themes prevalent in aforementioned projects. Don’t go into Battlezone expecting Killers or Iron Maiden however, as Paul had very little to do with writing the stuff on those albums, and seems to be drawn to more melodic heavy metal type material. It is done well however, and the quality guitaring makes it listenable for sure. ‘Fighting Back’ is perhaps the better album to go after though, being harder, but this one is recommendable.