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This is definitely the best BLAZE album. After the disappointing Tenth Dimension, I really thought this was a way better effort. It’s dark, heavy and serious, just the way I like my heavy metal.
Blood and Belief occupies an odd place in the metal canon because I don’t really think there’s much else like it. It’s pretty much shed all the 80s metal influences and is squarely modern in terms of riffing, but it can’t be called anything other than pure good old heavy fuckin’ metal. Where most bands that eschew classic rock and metal influence end up going into another genre (prog, thrash, groove, etc), Blood and Belief is a stodgy, punchy album with a thick, concrete-slab guitar tone, chugging riffing and a reliance on slow, mellow parts to break up the gravelly anthems. We do get some livelier moments when the guitars rip out leads and solos, but most of this is very morose and somber mood-wise – even when the song structures occasionally echo old 80s metal, the mood is miles and miles away. I guess comparisons could be made to Nevermore or Iced Earth’s mid-era stuff, but this is just far better than either of those bands.
The main reason for that is simple – just look at the band name. This is Blaze Bayley’s heart and soul – a concept album about his struggles with alcoholism. The lyrics, while straightforward, are delivered with a lot of heart and passion, and they work really well. Blaze’s vocal delivery is probably my favorite here that he ever did, winding his deep, throaty bellow around some infectious vocal lines and emotional climaxes to songs. The songs ride a sort of emotional wave, with each song different from the last – some are fast and pugilistic, some are mellow bluesy ballads and some are head-stomping concert-style anthems. On standout tracks like “Alive,” the title track, the powerful “Life and Death” and the monster, skull-crushing riff-and-chorus combo of “Hollow Head,” the band sounds energized and like they really mean it. Great stuff.
Unfortunately there are some weaker bits – “Tearing Myself to Pieces” and “Regrets” aren’t the strongest songs on display, though they’re far better than some of the filler on Blaze’s other albums. “Will to Win” is fun, but ultimately kind of shallow, with the most obvious chorus on the album. And despite liking this really well, it never quite rises above just ‘good’ into really great. The theme and passion behind this work are outstandingly done, but the songwriting and overall flow of the album never really transcends the basics. I’m not saying it’s not an addictive album in its way, but I am saying I can’t really give this a 90%+ score and really be justified in doing so.
Still, though – I’d take an album like this, with pretty much all rock solid tunes, over something that overextends its boundaries and falls flat on its face, any day. Blaze Bayley never made a classic album, but he has pretty consistently made entertaining enough albums for years now. This is my favorite from him – go get it!
Blaze plunders on with their 3rd, and so far, last album. And it is really a shame that Mr. Bayley's solo efforts seem to have passed by virtually unnoticed by the metal masses. His past in Iron Maiden alone should be enough to keep many a metalhead more then interested in his work. I think this only shows that the average Iron Maiden fan are not necessarily metal fans in general. Because what Blaze delivers solo is even more relevant in today's metal scene. I wouldn't call the music modern, but it has some influences from the so-called power metal, or Euro-metal, scene of today. Maybe this is mostly heard in the production, but I also find it in the playing. Thus Blaze the band comes across as a much heavier outfit than Blaze the mans previous outlets. The music is also written to fit the mans voice, which isn't at all as limited as we all thought when he was in Iron Maiden. I'm not sure what bands I would compare Blaze to, and that might be a good thing. The album is nicely put together, with a balance between the heavy as stink songs, the mid-tempo stuff, and even some mellower stuff. "Ten Seconds" might be the mans, and the bands, finest moment. This is also the most personal album from Blaze Bayley, lyrics dealing with many of the low points in the mans life, such as alcoholism and depression. 'Blood & Belief' might end in the "best-albums-you've-never-heard" category. And it is truly a shame that more people haven't discovered this band yet.
Killer tracks: Ten Seconds, Blood And Belief
I’ve always been quite a fan of Blaze Bayley. My association with Bayley goes way back to his glorious Wolfsbane days – I remember being rather taken with their quirky hard edge metal style – their debut, the seriously cool ‘Live Fast, Die Fast’ (1989) is still a long time favorite (although its impact was destroyed by a lifeless Rick Rubin production). Of course, most latter day fans of Blaze will recognize him for his days as Bruce Dickinson’s replacement in Iron Maiden. It’s been a while since he was dumped from them too – but it always seems to be a talking point whenever we hear the man’s name. Needless to say, I’ve fallen into the trap also.
Truth be known, Blaze Bayley has been quite the prolific songwriter since leaving Maiden, with this new disc ‘Blood & Belief’ being his fourth since the 1999 debut ‘Silicon Messiah’. In between we’ve had 2002’s ‘Tenth Dimension’ and last year’s ‘Live as it Gets”. Two years on from his last studio effort, Blaze returns firing on all cylinders. However, the return hasn’t been without struggle. Seems as though ‘Blood & Belief’ is the product of a man who literally reached the bottom, dealing with alcoholism and severe depression. Therapy was sought and as a result, Blaze now gives us what is probably his most honest and personal set of songs ever written.
With the backing of producer extraordinaire Andy Sneap, ‘B&B’ is laced with a heavy, modern metal sound. It has the streamlined approach of ‘Silicon’ and fullness and dynamic energy that was displayed on the ‘Live as it Gets’ disc. Additionally, there is a real hefty crunch factor in the guitar riffs laid down by John Slater and Steve Wray, the choruses always melodic and catchy in that typical Blaze Bayley style. Of course, with Blaze enduring such a traumatic last couple of years, there is a slightly darker, reflective tone to many of the tracks written here. Most of ‘B&B’ is very strong song wise, with only a couple of weaker moments (‘Hollow Head and The Path & The Way’) bringing the overall quality down a little.
The one problem that most people seem to have with Blaze Bayley is his vocal style. Granted, the man hasn’t got the strongest set of pipes, but as a vocalist he does his absolute best with what he’s got. Listen, as far as I am concerned, no one actually sounds like Blaze Bayley. The man is certainly no chameleon either – his style is actually quite unique with his ‘British-ness’ as distinctive as it’s ever been. The down side of his style, is that it probably lacks variation and while he tries to incorporate some slower, gentler verses on songs like ‘Soundtrack..and Blood & Belief’, Blaze’s best work is done when he’s belting it out with unrestrained passion. Passion is the key word here - If he’s achieved nothing else with this disc, he should be proud of his vocal delivery on this.
‘Blood & Belief’ is a much stronger than ‘The Tenth Dimension’ and with time it may match the magic of the ‘Silicon Messiah’ debut. Certainly, the first half of this album is as good as anything Blaze has ever done. Aside from darker edge that most of this displays, ‘B&B’ shouldn’t really surprise too many metal fans. If Blaze has pleased you before, then you’ll like this no question. It’s crunchy contemporary metal with a catchy melodic edge – nothing new, but worth investigating.
This is the third ‘solo’ album from former Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane frontman Blaze Bayley. Blaze are always one of those bands that produce work far greater than the sum of their constituent parts. Blaze admits freely that he isn’t the greatest singer ever and his band are solid if not outstanding. The guitars ( from ever- present duo Steve Wray and John Slater) aren’t particularly innovative, yet they don’t ever put a foot wrong through the entire album.
Wayne Banks and Jason Bowld amply hold down the bass end. Special propos must go to Jason for his excellent drumming- worthy of that of a much more experienced performer.
As for the actual songs, I’ll split them up into 3 categories:
Regret. Quite simply the best song on the album, the interaction between Blaze and the guitarists is simply outstanding. This is a heavy, building song and yet the personal nature of the lyrics gives it a tinge of melancholy (especially during the chorus).
Life and Death. The lyrics are once again very personal and this only adds to the depth of musicianship shown on this track. This goes to further indicate the level of musical depth that Blaze have as a band.
Blood & Belief. A very heavy track in the true classic metal mould. The song has a break in it to allow the riff to build up again; this also is beneficial to stop the song getting boring. Slightly confusing lyrics detract from the song slightly, but it’s good nonetheless.
Soundtrack of my life. The interaction and the way the vocals meld with the music is reminiscent of Regret. Though this is slightly inferior, it has a nice haunting opening and an exceptional chorus.
Alive. A solid opener to either album or set, this song is a huge fuck you to all of Blaze’s critics. Once again, this song contains the very personal lyrics that typify the songs on this album.
Ten Seconds. Contains some excellent guitar work, but the lyrics are too inane and repetitive to be counted amongst the best songs on this album. This is one of the tracks upon which Blaze Bayley’s Iron Maiden influences show through (especially with the VXI- like repetition of the chorus).
Tearing Yourself to Pieces. A dirty, almost ‘drugged-up’ track that has an early Sabbath feel to it. Once again, while this is good, it’s not in the same league and Regret etc. The lyrics are again incredibly personal.
Hollow Head. One of the heaviest tracks on the album, the guitar work is once again very good. The lyrics are lacking on this one, especially when compared to the much more meaningful songs on the album.
The Path and the Way. Once again, Blaze’s Maiden influences show through- in the way that the music ( after a punishing opening) mellows before getting heavier again. A song about religion, or to be more precise Blaze’s distaste for it. Not one of the outstanding tracks on the album, yet it’s solid enough.
Will to Win. A song similar to those played during Blaze’s tenure as Wolfsbane frontman. Not bad, but a very cheesy chorus and a lack of real direction mar this one. Solid drumming and the best line of the album manage to rescue this one though.
So, all in all a very solid album. Nothing amazingly innovative and yet nothing sub-standard either. On the whole, this is a very good album and when all the parts are put together a very pleasing product is made. This is a similar album to….And Justice in that it’s so intense as to force the listener to actively listen to it. It’s just not an album that you can put on in the background while you do something else.
Fortunately, Blaze aren’t just a Maiden clone. They have discovered their own musical identity and it seems that they are going from strength to strength with each album they put out.