Blaze Bayley’s new album War Within Me is out, and as fans of his work with Iron Maiden and the majority of his solo stuff we had to check it out.
Disclaimer: I very much wish Blaze Bayley had enjoyed a few more albums with Iron Maiden. Stepping in to fill Bruce Dickinson’s impossibly large shoes back in 1994, his tenure with the British metal institution is, to this day, gladly overlooked and much maligned by a majority of fans. That’s a shame, because both albums released with Blaze on vocals have some wonderful moments. The X-Factor is especially fantastic. Yes, it’s very dark and yes, it is long and brooding and almost a-typical for the band, but it’s also an album that oozes atmosphere and could never have been made with Dickinson. Instead, the band had probably continued on the same rocky and uneven road paved by the utterly miserable No Prayer for the Dying and the slight improvement that was Fear of the Dark. The live material from those days with Blaze that’s on YouTube is both exhilarating and painful as the man gives 200% all the time, fighting a fight he’s unable to win against a crowd who doesn’t want him there. He’s also not helped one iota by a band playing way too fast and stubbornly refusing to downtune the older material to accommodate his lower register. The wheels come off violently during the classic songs where, had the band played them in a lower key, they would have worked; the proof of that is on Bayley’s live records where the material is tailored to his voice. After two albums and two tours, Blaze was asked to leave so Bruce could return and all was well in the Maiden camp.
The good thing is that this is not the end of the story, because Blaze Bayley is nothing if not a fighter. Refusing to sit down and lick his wounds he immediately returned in 2000 with the highly praised Silicon Messiah and he’s been going ever since. Coming hot off his science fiction inspired Infinite Entanglement trilogy, he’s back with his tenth album War Within Me, on which that same fighting spirit is once again front and center. Almost the antithesis of Iron Maiden these days, Blaze delivers ten short, punchy songs that never exceed the six minute mark and waste no time getting to the point without a barrage of acoustic intros and outros to spruce up the length artificially in an effort to seem more progressive.
If you count ten songs and a total running time of just over forty minutes you know this is bite-sized stuff right here, and the best thing about the material is that it’s all good. War Within Me flies off to a great start with the title track and you immediately know what you’re in for. Snappy, up-tempo, no-nonsense heavy metal that really packs a punch. There’s crunchy riffs galore on War Within Me, some really good melodic soloing and Blaze’s voice really seems to get better with each new album. He sounds much more confident now than in his early solo days, and he just keeps getting better. Also helping a great deal is that this album is just packed with good songs. There is no weak moment on it and the pacing is great. After the two opening songs the listener is treated to a slight breather with Warrior before the pace picks up again on the positive and uplifting Pull Yourself Up and the fantastic Witches Night, an absolute scorcher with some fast, machine gun drumming and fiery riffing.
As good as the first half of the album is though, the real highlights are found on the second. Following hot on the trail of Witches Night is the autobiographical 18 Flights, telling the tale about how the band found themselves in the middle of an earthquake in Coquimbo, Chile where they had to stop the show due to it and the ensuing tsunami warning. But the absolute icing on the heavy metal cake is the trilogy of The Dream of Alan Turing, The Power of Nikola Tesla and The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking, each telling the story of these legendary scientists. They’re the absolute highlight on an already great album that closes out with the power ballad Every Storm Ends.
It’s been a while since I’ve heard Bayley so fired up and so inspired. War Within Me flies by and will have you reaching for the repeat button by the time Every Storm Ends, well, ends. The musicianship is top notch too, with Blaze once again being on top of his game. It’s an absolute triumph in the man’s already impressive discography and is sure to end up somewhere in a top spot when it’s time to make year lists again. If you enjoy your metal straight to the point and without unnecessary frills you can’t go wrong with Blaze’s tenth. And if this is the result of a war being fought within the man, I personally can’t wait for the next battle.
Label: Blaze Bayley Recordings, 2021
Buy it here: https://blazebayley.co.uk/
- War Within Me (04:12)
- 303 (03:19)
- Warrior (03:45)
- Pull Yourself Up (04:45)
- Witches Night (04:57)
- 18 Flights (03:45)
- The Dream of Alan Turing (02:47)
- The Power of Nikola Tesla (03:11)
- The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking (06:00)
- Every Storm Ends (05:08)
- Blaze Bayley – vocals
Review by Ralph Plug