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Even though Iron Maiden didn’t release any new material apart of the live release “En Vivo!” in the beginning of the year and the quite average Deep Purple cover “Space Truckin’” for a compilation, this year can still overall be considered as a success for the band thanks to a successful “Maiden England” tour through North America. In the beginning of the year, guitarist Adrian Smith also joined forces with Mikee Goodman of SikTh for their alternative metal project named Primal Rock Rebellion that came as a fresh surprise. Now it’s the turn of Iron Maiden's bass player and band leader Steve Harris who joins forces with four British musicians and several session musicians for a record entitled “British Lion”.
In fact, there was a band composed of some of the musicians who now play with Steve Harris that had a band under this name and who asked Steve Harris to help them with production twenty years ago. Steve Harris initially agreed but Iron Maiden lived quite a difficult time with the departure of singer Bruce Dickinson and the search for a new front man who would later be found with Blaze Bayley and Steve Harris also had some personal issues with a tough divorce that didn’t give him the occasion to help the young band. Their members also went through some hard times and eventually split up. Several years later, a few members of the split-up British Lion band created a new band and this time, Steve Harris was able to join some of their writing sessions. This is what later became the so-called solo album by Steve Harris. This album should though rather be considered as a band project where the name of the famous bassist only helps to increase sales figures.
Honestly said, nobody would even notice this record if the name of Steve Harris wasn’t written on the cover. The band performs something like an alternative rock release with a few heavy metal influences that simply lacks of energy and innovation.
The bass guitar sound is dominant but sometimes too much and the licks and riffs are not as dynamical or original as they happen to be in Iron Maiden.
Steve Harris’ performance on here is rather disappointing but he is still better than the two guitar players who mostly play unspectacular and monotonous riffs and faceless solos.
But it’s even getting worse if you’re listening to the drum sound. One regular band member and two session musicians performed the drums that lack of dynamism and sound worse than drum computers. Too many cooks spoil the broth, especially when all of those cooks seem to lack of emotional and technical skills. The drumming on the last Running Wild record was definitely better as this quite one that is close to the bad sound of the last Manowar release. I’m though not surprised by the bad quality as the record was mixed by the overrated Kevin Shirley and produced by Steve Harris himself who has never had any talent for this kind of job in the past.
But the story’s not yet over. The vocals also fail to impress and sound horribly thin, especially in the harder tracks such as “Us Against The World” or “A World Without Heaven”. They work though better in the more alternative rock tracks of the album such as in the hypnotizing opener “This Is My God” or the warm-hearted “Eyes Of The Young” that has a somewhat charming influence of the eighties’ commercial rock scene and even a surprisingly good production sound apart of the drumming.
Let’s add to the positive side that the band overall improves its skills in the second part of the record starting with the dynamical album highlight “The Chosen Ones” in the middle of the release that gives this album a little boost.
I will try to give you a little advice right now. Just take this record as the debut release of a young alternative rock or metal band. Forget the name of Steve Harris and his connection to the heavy metal legends of Iron Maiden as we’re definitely talking about two completely different worlds. Try to ignore the highly flawed mixing and production, too. You will then realize that there are in fact a couple of quite catchy songs on the album. It’s still nothing outstanding but the record appears definitely better as it did at first sight.
In the end, I don’t know who might truly adore this kind of record as it varies too much between alternative rock tracks, retro rock numbers and a few more heavy metal driven songs to entirely please to a fan of any of those genres. It’s not a bad release but it lacks of direction, innovation and especially an acceptable production. As many fans, I would probably only buy this at a low price as a collector’s item as I also own a certain number of solo records from Blaze Bayley, Paul Di'Anno, Bruce Dickinson or the latest Primal Rock Rebellion release. On the other side, it’s definitely the weakest offering from any Iron Maiden member outside of the band and fails to impress so that one should invest the cash in a different newcomer band that really needs some support.