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At least on par with Maiden's and Bruce's best - 90%

RedRedSuit, July 26th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Steamhammer

(Please see my profile for my rating scale.)

Blaze Bayley belongs to an elite club: Iron Maiden singers. Every member of that club undergoes scrutiny -- not just what they did while IN Maiden, but also what happened when they went their separate ways.

I confess to not knowing much about Di'Anno's career, but Bruce Dickinson, once he hooked up with Roy Z & co. and Maiden's Adrian Smith, produced at least two utter 90s metal classics, Accident of Birth and Chemical Wedding, both of which deservingly got plenty of accolades and popularity (at least in the context of the flagging sales of late 90s metal). Certainly any self-respecting metal person acknowledges that, for example, those albums kicked the living shit out of Maiden's Blaze-fronted material released around the same time. (Not Blaze's fault. They hired him, so they should've adapted to his lower range and changed the music to a lower tuning -- instead he was forced to strain to pretend to be Bruce, which is even challenging for Bruce at this point, let alone Blaze, with his octave-lower high end.)

My point is this. Bruce quit Maiden and assembled a band that eventually made amazing albums, and he was praised lavishly. Blaze "left" Maiden and did exactly the same thing -- except on the FIRST try, not the FOURTH like Bruce -- and he seems to be barely making a living playing small clubs. I guess we can blame Maiden's lackluster Blaze years, and Bruce's frankly amazing voice, for that...

...but it ain't fair. This, the first "solo" Blaze album (I use quotes because name aside this record is obviously a band effort), is incredible.

It's hard to pin down why it's so damned good. Blaze sounds good, yes. Lacking any range whatsoever, he uses his nonetheless powerful pipes and unique testosterone-driven yet melodic timbre, to excellent effect. The guitars have an appealingly dry, crisp, front-and-center sound that is pleasing to fans of metal guitar. The drummer is equally adept at keeping up with fast Maidenesque galloping numbers as he is at punctuating mid-tempo numbers with inventive double-bass footwork.

Yet all those things aren't necessarily in short supply out there, at least individually. Still, somehow, put together, they give this album a unique feel and sound that I've never actually heard duplicated. Heavier than Maiden, more melodic than groove metal, it sits somewhere just off charted territory and is a joy to hear.

Obviously all the great production and strong singing won't matter without great songs, and this album is both consistent AND features SEVERAL standouts and even a true classic. Though at times marred by very well enunciated but stupid lyrics (a lethal combination, just ask Dio) about evil computers (title track especially), all in all the songs have tremendous variety yet all feature an admirable cohesion between the music and lyrics.

Case in point: the closing duo, The Launch and Stare At The Sun (which seem connected). The former is short, fast, joyful, optimistic -- the guy is launching into space. The closer, meanwhile, is about that same astronaut observing the end of the world, as it originates from his now distant home, Earth. It's sad, retroactively action-packed and energetic, full of a range of tempos and emotions, and even featuring a truly memorable and lengthy lead section. It's a MASTER WORK, the closest analog being Hallowed Be Thy Name, which Maiden have never and will never top.

While that duo is the standout, the album is packed with stuff like that. For every mid-tempo crusher (Evolution) there's a melodic thrasher (Born As A Stranger). And if that's not enough, throw in a couple of fantastic atmospheric (but heavy) slow-builders (The Hunger, Identity). All are impeccably musical and structured and performed, lyrics being the one sticking point every now and then.

If you're like me, yes, you'll probably skip a couple lame songs... but a couple is not a lot by any stretch!

Buy this album. Innovators with a huge backlog of classics though they are, not even Iron Maiden themselves have made a single album this strong. Somehow BLAZE the band have produced a masterpiece.

Blaze reaches for the stars. - 84%

Empyreal, April 25th, 2010

Blaze Bayley is kind of like the eternal underdog of metal. He never got much mainstream recognition, and he used to get a lot of flak for his vocal participation in Iron Maiden in the 90s, but really his side project is a whole different beast altogether. A nearly seamless blend of muscular, pounding Power Metal and chugging Thrash, Blaze's solo band - titled BLAZE, surprisingly enough - pushed forward a host of solid, rough-n'-ready albums of metallic might in the early 2000s, and this was the first one of them. Silicon Messiah brings to mind images of futuristic, desolate plains where green is scarce, with only mechanical eyes and robotis, controlled structures dominate most of the land - except, of course, the band of heathenistic rebels living on the edge of society. I guess you could say Blaze and his posse are those rebels.

With a voice like Blaze's, so restricted in range and dynamic, you kind of have to work with what you're given - especially since this is his fucking band, and he wouild probably rather get shot than hire someone else to sing for him. So we get a host of midpaced tunes for the duration of this album, nothing that would require too much vocal acrobatics; just simple, driving metal with hooks to drill into your head and traditional metallic guitars to smash a few heads along the way. Don't expect much in the way of variation or progressivism here; the band knows their limits and performs at 110% in context with them. Blaze's deep, rough bellowing sounds good and energetic, better than in his short tenure with Maiden, and the instrumentation flops between crushing modernized groove metal and 80s-styled traditional metal with sharp teeth to bite and gnash at full speed. Both styles are welcome, and the album never wears out its welcome, even despite a few less than satisfactory tracks.

But the whole thing is just too fucking charming and likable to turn down. There's just really something cool about it. The production has a nice, beefy timbre to it and Blaze's voice is really charismatic. It's one of those times when the stylistic tendencies of a band really manages to transcend the songwriting itself, where I find myself liking it even despite its slight inconsistencies at times. The good songs really are good though, with the stomping anthem "Ghost in the Machine" kicking us off with a mighty, attitude-filled groove and a mean vocal performance. That chorus will be stuck in your head for weeks! "Evolution" rocks, with a futuristic motif and some spacey vocal effects and industrialized guitars that surprisingly work, making for a really cool song. "The Brave" rips through the speakers with careening guitarwork and a crushing tempo, and "Identity" has one of the best hooks on the album. The final duo of the speedy "The Launch" and the soaring epic "Stare at the Sun" makes for one hell of a good impression, too. Very good show, boys!

Oh, sure, there are a few throwaway tracks like the title track, which is catchy but really doesn't have much replay value, and the dragging "Reach For the Horizon," which just doesn't hold up, but who cares? This is a really entertaining and enjoyable album that surpasses the sum of its parts. Silicon Messiah is not great, but it is good, and you will find yourself coming back for more even when you don't think you want to. It's just that addictive. If you don't believe me, try it out for yourself. What do you have to lose?

Damn fine Power/Thrash! - 99%

grimdoom, May 17th, 2008

Blaze Balyey has been given a lot flack over the years, mostly for his time in Maiden (even though the two albums he made with Maiden are the last actual Iron Maiden albums that sounded like Maiden). Shortly after leaving Maiden he set out on his own and his debut album is nothing short of brilliant.

The production is crisp. This is a heavy Power/Thrash affair that doesn't let up from start to finish. The guitars are heavy and precise. There are a few good solos thrown in on some songs as well. The riffs are crunchy and melodic. The guitars are also tuned down to 'D' and thus heavier than Maiden.

The bass doesn't do anything noteworthy. The drums on the other hand are amazing. Jeff doesn't blast through this entire album like most other Power/Thrash bands do, but rather uses the double bass as an effective accent piece. His rhythms are tight and creative (certainly one of the higher points of this CD).

The vocals are typical blaze but arguably a step up from either of the Maiden releases (its apparent that he's been getting vocal lessons and they are for the better). His voice is more natural with the lower tuned guitars.

Over all, this is a very original piece of music. It doesn't sound like, east-coast, west-coast or German Thrash Metal. There is very little Iron Maiden influence in this either. There is only one song where the Maiden-esq harmonies are flagrant, aside from that its all original. There are a few punkish undertones in a song or two.

This is a highly recommended piece of Heavy Metal, especially for the Power/Thrashers out there as they will find a lot to get excited about here.

The beginning... - 84%

L_H, March 30th, 2005

This album is somehow noted by many BLAZE-fans as the band's best, though I can't see why in the world that would be. Sure, it was a very accomplished debut for this band, allowing Mr. Bayley to step out of the Maiden shadow at least musically if not as far as success was concerned, and it does kick the shit out of most of the stuff he did with Harris & Co. The production is fat and thick, the sound heavy, and there's quite a few real killer songs. But, it's not near as consistent as "Tenth Dimension" would be, nor, for the most part, as moving and emotional as "Blood and Belief", and certainly lacks the energy and unpĆ¼arallelled sound of their live album.

But that it's probably their weakest album should not in any way mitigate the fact that it still rules.

What is surprising is that this is not all that similar to Wolfsbane and Maiden alike - B L A Z E go a different path of modern, straight, heavy-as-fuck Heavy Metal. This album had one problem - it came out at the same time as Maiden's Brave New World, which of course drowned attention and sales - though the two are on a par. As noted, it's certainly neither B L A Z E's best album (that being the follow-up) nor their heaviest ( that being Blood and Belief), but it is the one that determined their brilliant and quite distinct sound. Generally, the guitars are very heavy, feature quality riffing and good or even excellent solos, the drumming and bass guitar work are solid as ever - neither of them are really outstandingly great on their own in a technical sense, but that is not what B L A Z E ever were about. The vocals ARE outstanding though, Blaze has a unique and insanely powerful voice that would, as Maiden once correctly noted, stand out like no other from a hundred tapes of different singers, and as always he is the god of emotions. Besides, his range, his most criticized feat, certainly is good enough for his style - no, he won't ever shriek, but do we really need the five hundredth Air Raid vocalist? The songwriting is rock-solid, with some truly glorious moments, a lot of good ones, but also a few that have by now been rightly forgotten ( "Evolution", "Reach for the Horizon", anyone?). Still, the overall style fits Blaze's voice perfectly, and while this would be merely a good album with any random singer, with Bayley this really shines, and for the most part offers enough variation to keep us interested *almost* for the entire length of the album.

We start off with "Ghost in the Machine" - to date still one of the heaviest songs of the band, although also one of the simplest. Makes for a good opener and live staple, but not quite a killer yet. Then, "Evolution" is one of the less good tracks on the album. The weird machine-noises are damn annoying, the chorus is just dumb as fuck, although the pre-chorus manages to rule. Still, skipping this one is a good idea. "Silicon Messiah", on the other hand is a much better song, and where the album really starts to shine for the first time. Begins soft, almost like a ballad, but once again goes to the heavy, powerful sound that is B L A Z E. Really good dark mid-paced Heavy Metal, this one.

After that, "Born as Stranger" takes another step up - the first up-beat song, this one is a brilliant power anthem with a fast chorus - the speed bar has been lifted a good bit for this song. Fucking brilliant, catchy as hell, and adds a lot to the variety of the album - at this point of the album, it's EXAXTLY what we need. "The Hunger" then goes into the opposite direction, being practically Doom Metal - really really heavy and SLOOOOOWWWWW. It's actually quite a good track, but it's more than a wee bit too long, clocking in at some seven minutes. Skipping really depends on your mood here. Either way, after it they put the pedal on the metal again with "The Brave", power anthem #2, which starts with some awesome speedy drums and moves ahead into happy yet heavy riffage - again, very upbeat, but maybe slightly less heavy than the rest of the album. It's great and after The Hunger (if I did not feel like skipping it), very uplifting. Gotta love those lyrics, too.
"Identity" makes for another heavier, mid-paced song, and is a real grower. Another live staple, it's definitely one of the best tracks on here. After that, we get to the definite low point. Sorry, but "Reach for the Horizon" just plain sucks. It's slow and plodding, yet not near as menacing and heavy as "The Hunger", and there's simply NOTHING going on here. Skip this piece of crap, really...

...because what follows is the definite highlight of the album, with probably the two best songs BLAZE ever put out. First off is "The Launch" - oh fuck yeah, total Speed-Power Metal! Oh man, those guitars are racing like on no other track here, duelling leads to no end!. Too bad it's only three minutes, but those are three minutes of straight fucking headbanging! You can almost feel the rocket of the astronaut driving him up the sky. This song is perfectly connected with the one to follow, probably the single best BLAZE song ever. I'm of course talking about "Stare at the Sun", the epic of the album, and this one manages to rule on every level possible, combining the atmospheric with heavy headbanging riffage in a practically perfect fashion. It starts out slow and soft, practically like a ballad, and then picks up and becomes so fucking heavy and powerful - yeah, this is is exactly what Blaze's voice was made for. The perfect way to end an album.

Overall, not B L A Z E's best album for sure - what is to come after this is definitely better still. On its own, however, it is definitely a really good album that kicks your ass, and already better than what Mr. Bayley realeased during his times in Maiden (which, mind you and fuck all the Blaze-bashers, was already good!). It's a combination of modern Heavy Metal with excellent lyrics/themes and one of the best and most distinct voices of Heavy Metal. Absolutely worth buying (especially considering the lack of success for the band saleswise), and a great introduction to B L A Z E - even if the past albums clearly top this one.

Side note: There's two trilogies on this album, in the beginning and the end. The first three songs revolve around man and machine, about a man who transfers his mind into a computer (Ghost in the Machine), and evolves into the "Silicon Messiah" - and also is a parabol on machines taking over people's lives. The last three songs are about a man who makes his dream of going from the Earth he does not like out to space reality, in spite of all obstacles.

The old review sucked for the most part, so I gave it a massive overhaul.

Agh, compared to this, Blaze was better in Maiden! - 78%

PowerMetalGuardian, March 20th, 2003

So after a couple of years singing for Iron Maiden, Blaze Bayley left the band and formed his own. Probably one main reason why you don't hear about Blaze today is because he never took Iron Maiden to the top. But come on, he had to live up to the great and almighty Bruce Dickinson. Nobody could walk in and take over Iron Maiden and soar to the top! Well, on to the music!

This album is pretty decent at being heavy metal, it has some Iron Maiden influences, which I will discuss later on. Here is a rule for Blaze: If you like Blaze in Maiden, then you will like this, maybe a little more. I tend to like it less, which I will also explain. If you didn't like Blaze in Maiden, don't even bother with this stuff! Despite whether Blaze era Maiden sucked or not, is quite irrelevant. The guitar riffs for Virtual XI and X Factor, are from Harris, Murray and crew. This album carries some Maiden concepts, like straight power chords and simple patterns. However there is not a lot of the solo techniques or harmonized riffs in here. In fact, a lot of the riffing off this album is even heavyier than Maiden riffs. Not in a heavy metal sense, rather in the sound of distortion. The best example I have is like Halford's guitarist's distortions.

Solo's are not Maiden influenced, they seem to take there own style, which is better because it is different. A change, if you will, from Blaze's Iron Maiden years. Probably the downfall of this album is Blaze's singer. In my honest opinion, he sang better in Maiden. Some songs have this annoying vocal effect on, totally destroys the sound of the cd. Some parts are definetly Maiden sounding, but it's like he is trying to develop his own style of singing, and I think he is trying to hard. Just be yourself man, you can't change your voice to please the Maiden fans that never liked you. Another downfall is the songs, they are all cool; some good riffs, but not a lot of feeling. While the topics of sci-fi are a good step for Blaze to take. He just doesn't elaborate on them, and the idea just.....dies! An alright metal album, but it could have been better!

Blaze Naysayers Should Listen to This! - 93%

Madman, March 11th, 2003

One of the best albums I've heard. I originally bought this album when it came out and I listened to it constantly for months on end. I still listen to it quite frequently!

This is the debut "solo" album from Blaze, Blaze Bayley's new band. This album proves to all the naysayers who believe that Blaze ruined Iron Maiden that it wasn't his fault for the lackluster songwriting on the two albums he did with Iron Maiden. Blaze shows everyone that he can make some awesome metal and he also shows his fascination with science fiction and science in general as much of the lyrics deal with computers taking over the world as well as space travel.

The album starts with a trilogy. Although it is not stated in the album that the first three songs are a trilogy, Blaze has said in interviews that these three songs tell the story of a man whose soul ends up in a machine and he becomes the "Silicon Messiah". These three songs are definately awesome. "Ghost in the Machine" being a really heavy song, certainly something you can headbang to! "Evolution" is a bit more atmospheric with the dark, haunting vocals. "Silicon Messiah" is the ballad, a very good ballad at that.

After the opening three songs we have "Born as a Stranger", you have to wonder whether this song was written with Iron Maiden in mind as it certainly sounds like a Maiden rocker, especially with the chorus being repeated so many times. "The Hunger" is another kind of atmospheric song, very cool. "The Brave" is also a very Iron Maiden type song, another catchy song to go along with the album. "Identity" comes in next and is probably the best song on the album! I love the way the songs starts up and gets heavy along with the vocal line, I headbang to the riff in this one EVERY time!

The last three songs are another trilogy on the album and they deal with a young man becoming an astronaut and going into space. "Reach for the Horizon" is a great song and builds nicely. "The Launch" is the shortest song on the album and is the most upbeat. "Stare at the Sun" is the epic on the album and it does a great job of ending this great album.

Blaze's first solo effort turned out to be his best release up to this point and I think that he surprised a lot of people showing that he could be involved with something as good as this album, especially after his stint with Iron Maiden being the flop that it was. I would definately reccomend this album to anyone and everyone into metal!