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There are few more polarizing characters in metal than poor old Blaze Bayley. Given the impossible task of filling the almighty wailing shoes of Bruce Dickinson with neither the stature nor vocal tools in his arsenal to do so was always a disaster waiting to happen. Only Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens would truly be able to appreciate the sheer weight of pressure and expectation that comes with replacing a metal legend at such a high profile and feverishly revered band. And so it was after two badly received albums and the inevitable return of the Bruce, Blaze was cut off and left to salvage a carrier that was probably more hindered than helped by his time in Maiden.
Since then Blaze’s solo output has been surprisingly strong, solid and dogged with his first three releases under the moniker Blaze displaying a heavier, edgier sound than anything he did with the Irons. More recently he has returned under his own name and 2008’s The Man Who Would Not Die restored him to the spotlight and showcased again his tenacious personality and ability to meld modern, power and traditional metal values into a accessible entertaining cohesive whole.
Ironically since Blaze has morphed into Blaze Bayley there has been more of a group mentality than on previous releases, and Promise and Terror pretty much picks up where their previous album left off with the whole band returning for this sophomore release. The first half of the album continues on in the TMWWND vein with the dizzying fret work of ‘Watching the Night Sky’ (Blackmailer-esque) coupled with a simplistic yet powerful title sung chorus launching proceedings. Other standouts include 1633 with a nice bass intro and build up, God of Speed a biker song Quorthon and Manowar would be proud of and the military march of City of Bones. Full credit must go to axe twins Bermudez and Walsh who provide an array of majestic leads and crunching rhythms throughout.
The final four songs of the album mostly deal with the recent loss of Bayley's wife who passed away prior to the album being written. Each song covers one of the four steps of dealing with personal tragedy: loss, pain, grief, and acceptance. Of these Surrounded by Sadness and The Trace Of Things That Have No Words are the strongest yet they are all moving in their own way.
Overall if you’re an established fan and thought The Man Who Would Not Die was a career highlight then you’ll be more than pleased with this stirring effort. For those who haven’t got around to checking out Blaze post Maiden or got a little lost or indifferent around ‘Blood and Belief’ then get on board cause the man has definitely still got it and aimed with this current crop of bandmates as support he’s only gonna get better next time round. A must for fans of straight up from the heart Heavy Metal.
Remember this guy? You should. Blaze Bayley is perhaps best known for taking Bruce Dickinsons place as the frontman of Iron Maiden for a while in the 90s. Now, however, he runs his own race, and delivers his fifth studio album, 'Promise and Terror'.
Bayley's road to success started out in the relatively unknown band Wolfsbane, a heavy metal outfit from the british suburbs which he fronted for nearly a decade, until rumours told of Bruce Dickinson leaving Iron Maiden, after deciding to focus on his solo career. The rest of the band chose to continue without him, and eventually they found his replacement, among hundreds of candidates. The two albums Bayley appeared on did very poorly in the charts, and fans showed obvious displeasure over the changes, both with the simplistic music and the new singer, and thus they laid most of the blame on Blaze for what seemed like the band's downfall. In 1999, Dickinson returned, and Bayley parted ways with the band. Since then he has released several albums, toured hard throughout the world and really got to show what he's good for. Now it remains to see if he's still got the balls, the guts and the throat to keep fighting for a place in the spotlight.
There's both a very familiar sound, but also something new and exciting that meets us on this album. It's hard not to think of Iron Maiden when you hear the voice of Bayley, but the rest of the band manage to build something completely different around his voice that gives it, not necessarily a unique, but a very different sound compared to what we have heard from this guy before. The other members come from a lot of different genres, and each of them are bringing their own booze to the party, including an aggressiveness and a surprisingly vigorous pace on songs like "Watching the Night Sky 'and 'Madness and Sorrow' which reminds me a bit of the good old thrash of the mid 80s.
The frontman's vocal performance is of the highest quality and fits perfectly for this type of modern heavy metal. His voice apparently ages like fine wine, and although he hasn't got a particularly rough voice, it still booms like a thunderous roar, which I consider to be a rare quality these days. The rest of the band is doing a fine job keeping up with him, but they still fall short on a few of the songs while Bayley pours his heart out, delivering the best of the best.
There are both some memorable tunes and riffs here, and a few beautiful, acoustic breaks in between, like on 'Surrounded by Sadness', but there's just an unsatisfying amount of fillers on this album that makes it somewhat unremarkable. It's not a bad album, by all means, but there's a lack of creativity from the rest of the band, that you just know they've got the potential to do, at least considering their technical skills. Or maybe I'm just so taken by the protagonist himself, who sets the benchmark so high that I expect too much from of the rest of the band.
All in all, this is a solid record, but it just doesn't match up with albums like 'The Man Who Would Not Die' or the brilliant 'Silicon Messiah'. It's a bit tame and overpolished to stand out in this genre, but I've still got high hopes for the future.
The X Factor…
Now that the denim-vest-clad, old timey Powerslaves have been scared off and have shuffled off to Buffalo, we can get down to business.
I will admit now that I’d never heard the aforementioned albums as IRON MAIDEN just doesn’t do it for me (I’m not apologizing! So there!), but there’s always that part of me that’s a sucker for the forgotten periods of these sort of acts; it’s been both blessings in disguise (BLACK SABBATH’s “Headless Cross”) and unnatural disasters (JUDAS PRIEST’s “Jugulator“), so when the time comes I wouldn’t mind checking out what’s considered the nadir of Steve Harris and company. But until then, all I can do now is sample the solo material of Mr. Bayley, the front man of the damned during those crazy, hazy years.
So let’s give it a go…
I’d never heard any Blazey-boy’s earlier solo material as well, and I guess I can’t complain on using this particular piece as my first step into the Bayley world. Personally I’m quite glad this guy continues having a post-MAIDEN career, given all the negativity surrounding the albums he fronted. In accordance with this disc I don’t really hear any older MAIDEN influence, but rather I sense a serious DIO feel, reminding me quite a bit of his “Killing the Dragon” era, taking in its speed and simple-yet-epic riff approach into something that’s all his own. Musically this disc has plenty to behold and enjoy; old-schooly guitar and bass tandems, harmonic lead noodlings, skip-to-my-lou double-bass percussive bashing, and the slightly intense voice of Blaze himself, which of course is to be at the forefront of the overall performance. In reality this guy doesn’t have a bad voice, combining the wailing of Ozzy with the all-over-the-place operatics of Warrel Dane which comes off as earnest if a little overdone in certain parts…I could honestly see why this guy was chosen to lead IRON MAIDEN during that iffy period. All this comes together in a fairly enjoyable disc, where the likes of “Madness and Sorrow”, “God of Speed”, and “City of Bones” are worthy enough contenders to warrant more than a select few future listens.
So all in all I was pretty impressed with this. The bar wasn’t set that high, and most expectations were met, though not wholly exceeded. Thumbs up.
Blaze Bayley’s career finally seems to be gathering a bit of momentum, and after the enforced break caused by the implosion of the Blaze band and being left stranded with no record deal, the ex-Maiden frontman and his new associates haven’t looked back since the self-funded release of their debut ‘The man who would not die’ back in 2008. Near-relentless touring since then – carrying on even after the tragic death of Bayley’s wife – seems to have got them on a roll, as ‘Promise and terror’ is very much ‘part 2’ to its predecessor, a direct continuation of the thoroughly modernised heavy metal style found there.
All the ingredients to ‘The man who would not die’ are left untampered, and although it lessens the overall impact slightly through familiarly, the “if it ain’t broke” adage has never rung truer here. The identical production job certainly aids the continuity, but you get the impression of a band who have found their own sound and are for the moment at least happy to mine it as deep as they can.
The only real discernable difference is that the lyrics here are even more dark and introspective than last time around. There are still ventures into other territories, though overall ‘Promise and terror’ is very much a soul-searching CD, particularly on the final 4 songs which form an interconnected suite where Bayley really digs deep to confront the inner turmoil forced upon him in the last couple of years. Even from the get-go, the lyrics to the opener “Watching the night sky” would be heartbreaking if the song wasn’t such a condescend ass-kicking.
And that is the important thing to remember – just as Bayley hasn’t allowed his tragedies to halt his career, nor has he allowed the music on this CD to be any less hard-hitting than it was before. The riffs are still often quite crushing, and Larry Paterson and David Bermudez provide a rock-solid rhythmic base for everything else, while also leaving room for a bit of flare. “1633” provides the latter with a bit of time in the spotlight, as the lurching bass-line undercuts almost the entire song other than the typically massive chorus.
Bayley of course has been using every ounce of his Maiden experience throughout his solo career, and makes every song as powerful and anthemic as possible, with more sing-a-long “whoa-oh” moments on the CD than many bands would manage in a career.
Other than looking for a catharsis for his demons, the theme of self-empowerment that Bayley has been banging on about for years remains integral to his lyrics, most notably on the speedy, defiant “Faceless”, but even to be found in the slightly melodramatic recounting of an attempt to break the land speed record in “God of speed” or more obviously in “City of bones”, which details the WWII siege of Leningrad. Lyrics are rarely of great importance to me when it comes to enjoying a CD, but while I’d never say Bayley was a legendary wordsmith, the passion he channels into what he sings is integral to the band’s success. The sheer forcefulness of delivery in “The trace of things that have no words” (part 2 of 4 at the end) is breathtaking and no doubt something he wouldn’t have managed were he not pouring his heart and soul into every word.
Compared to ‘The man who would not die’, ‘Promise and terror’ maybe throws up less stand-out winners, but on the whole is probably just as strong as it conversely doesn’t suffer any weaker moments like the uninspired “Crack in the system”. It shows a band of 5 men all pulling in the same direction – the complete opposite of the Blaze band, which eventually led to its untimely collapse – and apparently ready to let nothing stand in their way. One thing you can say about Blaze Bayley is that he certainly practices what he preaches, and he and his crew are living examples of the no compromise attitude he sermonizes on these songs.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
With the release of 2008's "The Man Who Would Not Die," Blaze Bayley managed to come back to the metal world with a massive bang after a long period of external inactivity and an entirely new backing band. The release of this effort so shortly afterwards successfully secures the power that he reclaimed and helps keep the momentum going that the previous album established.
This album appropriately picks up where TMWWND left off in terms of musical style. Many of the songs are performed in the band's signature fusion of thrash and power metal with commanding vocal lines, uplifting anthem-suggesting choruses, and dark textures. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule with "1633" being a mid-tempo borderline epic and the last four tracks forming an interesting mini-suite of sorts, the highlight of the latter being the acoustically driven "Surrounded by Sadness." I also find it kinda funny that "God of Speed" isn't as fast as its title would suggest. Great song though...
And with this being the first Blaze album since 2002's "The Tenth Dimension" to not feature a single line-up change, the band seems to have come closer together and improved their chemistry. The guitars packed with energy and the rhythm section gets several chances to shine throughout the album. Blaze himself puts on a pretty decent performance though he sound a more little strained than before. Then again, the slightly raw production might have something to do with it...
Like previous albums, the lyrics are pretty well-written though they don't seem to be as emotionally gripping as before. They mostly seem to deal with a combination of determination and longing with more melancholic bits here and there. Though there are some exceptions to the rule; "City of Bones" tells a tale of a city fighting to survive and "1633" is also worth noting for its theme relating to the plights of Copernicus.
It seems that this album's biggest flaw is that it progress too much from the previous album and does seem rather derivative at times. Most of the up-tempo tracks may give the listener a feeling of deja vu with their tried-and-true execution. This is best seen in album opener "Watching the Night Sky," which kinda feels like a rewrite of "Samurai." "1633" also has a tendency to make me think of Jag Panzer with its main melody resembling that of "Face Of Fear."
Overall, this album could be best described as Blaze Bayley's "The Mob Rules" or "The Last In Line." It has a familiar feel that should make it instantly accessible to well-established fans but those who didn't like his previous efforts will find this to be no different. It is still a very strong album and may end up being one of my favorites for 2010.
1) Even better band chemistry
2) Good song variety
3) A few new interesting elements
1) Not that much progress from previous efforts
2) A few derivative moments
3) The production isn't as polished as it could be
My Current Favorites:
"Watching the Night Sky," "Madness and Sorrow," "1633," "Faceless," and "Surrounded by Sadness"
Promise and Terror is the 2nd full-length offering from the former Wolfsbane/Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley, and follows in the footsteps of its predecessor The Man Who Would Not Die, as well as the albums he released with the lineup known simply as Blaze. It's pure power and speed metal with a dash of the classic, frenetic NWOBHM sound of his first major label band. The man's vocals remain in the same, charismatic range, but he's always been good at what he does (with the exception of the ill-fated Virtual XI), so it's clear pretty quickly that this album will wither or thrive based solely on the rhythmic thrust of the songs.
And, to be fair, most of the tracks here offer you the same, busy approach to power metal that you'd hear from a lot of the band's European contemporaries. They are more complex than a HammerFall, but riff after riff, the writing seems to only border on greatness, never picking its bulk up to cast itself over the wall. "Watching the Night Sky" is a good old frenzied anthem that zips past like a UFO of plucky, Maiden-esque rhythms and early Helloween fervor, but once the dust clears, I just didn't remember a damn thing about it, except perhaps the elevation of the vocals in the latter half of the predictable chorus. "Madness and Sorrow" is a blazer of Iron Savior-like proportions, yet for the bustle and squeal of the picking and the somber shuffle of the verse riffs, it feels like nothing more than three minutes of momentum with a half-decent lead. "1633" is a little more somber and effective, with speed metal guitars thrusting through a middle paced, and Bayley's words of woe striking closer to the heart.
There are a few more exciting tracks deeper into the album, like the flashy "City of Bones" which has rhythms reminiscent of Arch Enemy's Burning Bridges era, or "Faceless" which is a mix of Blaze's infamous barroom brawl lyrics from his old days and a ringing melodic mesh of riffs, but even these aren't exactly destined for a jukebox anytime soon. "Time to Dare" has a strong, soaring melodic intro, but dulls itself down through the verses, and perhaps the best of the material here is confined late in the track list, like "The Trace of Things That Have No Words" or the plodding, immediate tension of "Letting Go of the World". The acoustic ballad "Surrounded by Sadness" is actually pretty hooky, with a nice melancholy to the burning and simple lead guitars.
Promise and Terror is yet another solid effort from Blaze Bayley, but like so many of his albums post-Wolfsbane, it's just not enough that you're going to continue to come back to it. There is not a single song here that lacks riffs or competence, but none of them really blow you away. I can hardly consider it tragic: Blaze is a good singer, he always has been, and his solo bands generally deliver...there is just an elusive, intangible 'something' missing that would hurl them over the barrier. And if someone deserves some hard earned success, it is probably this man.
Highlights: The Trace of Things That Have No Words, City of Bones, Letting Go of the World