Blaze Bayley Records
Review: Carl Pickles (The Guv’nor)
This is something of a strange one to review, since I’ve got a lot of time for Blaze Bayley. I’ve met and interviewed him a couple of times and he’s an excellent bloke. He always, and I do mean ALWAYS puts on an excellent show. The real strange thing for me is that I know Blaze’s guitarist, Chris Appleton. Another excellent bloke. You’ll have heard several of my chats with Chris if you listen to The Wyrd Ways Rock Show.
What’s stranger (for me, at least) is that I know his little brother, Luke (Iced Earth bass player) and I met all of those through Chris’s mum, Lynne!
So here’s my somewhat biased review:
Welcome to the second of a three album concept, following the adventures of one William Black. This chap made his debut on last year’s Infinite Entanglement album, and will make his third appearance next year, going by the release schedule for the last album and this one.
To do the introductions, Blaze’s current band is made up of members of British Heavy Metal act, Absolva, in the forms of Chris Appleton (guitar & backing vocals), Martin McNee (drums), and bassist, Karl Schramm. This album also features backing vocals from Mel and Jo of up-and-coming British Symphonic Metal band, Aonia, making it something of a showcase of Northern England’s underground talent pool.
As you’d expect if you know about both Blaze and Absolva, the album gets off to a strong start. There are some unusual backing vocal effects going on, and this permeates the rest of the album. Certainly no complaints from here. It’s always good to be a little surprised. Something that can definitely be said is that Endure and Survive has a sound that’s very much it’s own. The vast majority of the songs wouldn’t feel out of place on one of the stronger Maiden albums (and praise doesn’t really get much better than that, really, does it?).
There are times when spinning this one that it strikes yet again how good Blaze’s voice really is. Not sure the operatic inflection fully works, but if it allows him to harness the full power of his instrument, fair enough. He’s developed an awesome set of pipes as he’s got older, and is a very different singer to the one who left the Tamworth Terrors, Wolfsbane, to join Iron Maiden all those years ago. Another thing that slaps you in the ears is that Chris Appleton’s rhythm guitar playing, right the way through is both exemplary and imaginative. Think Geezer Butler on the early Sabbath albums, and you’ll get the idea. He doesn’t do “the usual”. This guy should be a much bigger star than he is.
As I mentioned earlier on, you’re really not going to mistake this album for anyone else. It’s Proper Heavy Metal. Now, I will freely admit I’d probably enjoy the narration that appears at various junctures more if I’d listened to the previous album more recently (that’s one I’m going to have to put right in short order). Still, it doesn’t get in the way of a very decent collection of songs.
It’s not all Traditional Metal, though. There are moments of light and shade. That’s something Blaze has learned from a certain Mr Harris. Eating Lies, for example, sets off with a little bit of acoustic, leading into some emotive guitar playing from Chris. Of course, Blaze puts his all into it, as you’d expect. After a bit more Proper Heavy Metal, Remember is a real curveball. Spanish guitar from Chris and an accordion and violins. It’s the sort of thing you might hear accompanying a Latin thing on Strictly… if that sort of thing floats your boat. Anyway, this song is almost a palate cleanser and is, oddly enough, one of the standouts.
Right the way through, the Absolva boys, Chris, Karl and Martin show their quality. The drumming right through this album shows a quality and deftness some might find surprising (having seen Absolva a few times, I wasn’t). On the strength of this album alone, Blaze and the boys should be well up the bill on the SOPHIE Stage at Bloodstock, at the very least.
So to sum it all up… yes, it’s a concept album. It’s part two of three. But don’t let that put you off. Is it up there with the likes of Operation: Mindcrime? It’s less histrionic, more measured and if anything a little more coherent, but only time will tell. It’s certainly worth top marks.