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This is Blaze Bayley's fourth full-length and in my opinion his best effort so far. Even though it's a different line-up the sound isn't changed much; it's modern heavy metal with hints of thrash and full of Maiden-like melodies.
Right from the start you get one of the highlights of the album, the title track. It has everything an opener needs: fast tempo, good riffing and a memorable chorus. Blaze is singing to his critics: he's the man that would not die even after everything, he's pumping out great metal after his stint in Iron Maiden. Other highlights on the album are Smile Back at Death whose lyrics are about Gladiator, Samurai, Crack in the System, the thrashy Robot and the ending track, Serpent Hearted Man. But that is not to say that the other tracks are bad, these are the ones that really stick in your mind from the first listen. Even the ballad While you Were Gone is great, with very good vocals by Blze.
The guitar duo here sounds great. Very memorable riffs all around, some of which would not sound out of place on thrash or melodic death albums and the solos are great too. The bass is unaudible but overall it gives the album a nice low end. The drumming isn't anything spectacular all-around but it shines on the fastest tracks like Robot, Samurai and Blackmailer with nice double-bass.
The production is one of the best I've heard. The guitars have a nice meaty tone but also sound good in the leads. The drums are not very high in the mix and overall it sounds great. Blaze's vocals are also his best and he shines on top of it all, singing very memorable vocal lines and choruses. He doesn't sound much different than his other efforts but this time the music is much more aggressive and his rough vocals complement the music much better than before.
In conclusion, this is Blaze Bayley's best effort, much more consistent than the records before and this time the other band members give their own influence more than before, making this a very solid release and one of the best of 2008. Unfortunately he's yet to beat his reputation as Maiden's crappy 90's vocalist( in most peoples' minds) and thus no one will hear this album, which is a shame.
Four years had passed since the release of 2004’s Blood and Belief. The Blaze Bayley band had gone through numerous line-up changes, label switches, a new band name, and now Blaze himself is the only original member left leading a team of total unknowns. Thankfully, the changes are for the better and have resulted in one of the strongest albums of 2008.
Musically, the band continues to play in the signature style that can only be described as like a more modern Iron Maiden. Blaze's voice is commanding and really inspires the listener despite his lower range, the guitarists constantly impress with soaring twin harmonies and pummeling riffs, and the rhythm section also gets their own chances to show their talents with the bass being particularly prominent during the introduction to "Samurai." However, this album seems to be more aggressive than Blaze’s previous efforts and even shows off a bit of thrash metal influence of tracks such as "Blackmailer" and "Robot." Of course, there are also a few more melodic moments in the forms of ballads such as the moody "While You were Gone" and "At the End of the Day."
The lyrics also continue to be dominated by the personal themes that were first established on "Blood and Belief." However, this album seems to be more optimistic about the future while BAB dealt more with regrets and hardships caused by alcoholism. On this album, Blaze expresses his hopes for a stronger future when dealing with a life of mediocrity ("Waiting for My Life to Begin"), his refusal to back down from his ambitions (The title track, "Samurai"), promises of vengeance to those who tried to stop him ("Blackmailer," "Serpent Hearted Man"), and even a love song written for his tragically deceased wife ("While You Were Gone"). Simply put, Blaze continues to prove why he should be thought of as one of the greatest lyricists in metal.
With such a triumphant return to form, it’s rather tough to find any true flaws with this album. I suppose there are a few songs such as "WFMLTB" and "SHM" that are somewhat awkwardly constructed and the album’s second half isn’t quite as powerful as the first. Not to mention Blaze’s voice may still be an acquired taste for some listeners due to his somewhat limited range. Thankfully, the latter fault isn’t as highlighted as it was during his time with Maiden.
It’s not quite at the monolithic level of "Silicon Messiah" but it’s a very powerful album recommended to any kind of metal fan.
1) The new band line-up sounds great together
2) The lyrics are powerfully inspired
3) Strong balance of heaviness and melody
1) A few songs are a little awkwardly constructed
2) Blaze’s voice may still be an acquired taste for some
My Current Favorites:
"Blackmailer," "While You were Gone," "Samurai," "A Crack in the System," and "At the End of the Day"
As little as a year ago it looked to be all over for Blaze Bayley. After 3 well-received CDs with his post-Iron Maiden band Blaze, everything seemed to fall apart for the vocalist. The Blaze band, already coming apart at the seams by the time their final CD, 'Blood and belief', was released in 2004, finally collapsed entirely, and over a year of a rotating line-ups comprised of faceless nobodies followed. In this time Steamhammer must also have deemed the returns on the 3 CDs unsatisfactory and Bayley was left with no record deal.
A short-lived new line-up, including Kamelot's Oliver Palotai on guitar, also did not last very long before Bayley was back to square one yet again, and seeing out the rest of his career on the glorified cover band circuit with the likes of Paul Di'Anno seemed inevitable.
To his eternal credit, however, Bayley's resolve (as well as the offer of a DVD release from Poland's Metal Mind Productions) has seen him through to having another shot at it, and after some early changes a committed new line-up, now under the vocalist's full name, has been assembled and have delivered what has turned out to be a startling good self-released CD given the circumstances. The title, 'The man who would not die', is as appropriate as they come.
Bayley's main writing cohorts have been the Colombian brothers Nico and David Bermudez, playing lead and bass guitar respectively, and he seems to have unearthed a couple of gems. The former makes a particularly good impression, as his varied and technical solos are a great addition to the mix.
While the recording history of the new band members has had an obvious impact on the music (which takes very mild cues from melodic death and groove metal), and the modern production and musicianship means some superficial comparisons can be made to the likes of Nevermore, 'The man who would not die' is a simple, heads-down heavy metal offering. On one hand, the more ostentatious aspects of 'Tenth dimension' are absent, while at the same time the increased groove aspect to 'Blood and belief' has been toned down, and this sort of '2nd debut' sits more or less in the middle when it comes to Bayley's post-Maiden career, but with a greater emphasis on speed than ever before.
This is not to suggest, however, that the CD lacks any variety, as there are various different styles attempted throughout the hour-long running time. Faster songs like the superb opening title track and the searing, Asimov-inspired "Robot" pile up against mid-tempo groovers, a couple of longer epics and a moving, yet still very heavy love ballad in "While you were gone", a tribute to Bayley's wife who he credits with getting his ailing career back on track. The song has taken on extra poignancy recently with the terrible news that the lady in question is seriously ill in the hospital, and I'm sure I can speak for the entire Metal CD Ratings team when I say that we wish her the very best.
The struggles Bayley has gone through over the last few years have been the biggest inspiration for his lyrics this time around, and the more personal slant he took on "Blood and belief", after ditching the sci-fi theme of the first 2 Blaze CDs is carried on here. A few awkward themes aside ("Waiting for my life to begin" suffers from the same 'struggles of the working man' shtick that Iron Maiden's "2 A.M." did), the investment Bayley has in his words shows through in a passionate vocal display that is a possible career best. The few steps into more fantastical territory, such as "Samurai" and "Smile back at death" (inspired by the film 'Gladiator') add some lyrical variety and also prevent the whole CD from being from being mired in doom and gloom.
It is true that a few songs on 'The man who would not die' do not quite match up to the stand-out tracks listed above (though it would be very harsh to describe them as filler), but the CD is rock-solid and a superb comeback from Blaze Bayley. The man finally seems to have forced for himself the break he has deserved but been denied for such a long time, and as a fan I can only hope the personal trauma he is enduring at the moment does not floor him again. That, simply put, would be just too cruel.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)