Friday, 4 October 2013

He is not the Silicon Messiah, He's the man who wouldn't die!

Blaze Bayley is a man who's career I've kept a fairly close eye on. He was working as the frontman for my favourite band of all time, when I first started getting into metal. I bought Virtual XI when it came out and loved it back then, still like it now. I just wish that the rest of guys had held Steve Harris down, and hired some one competent to mix and produce that album, oh and The X-Factor(Oh and if someone could have hidden the notes from The Angel & The Gambler that would have been even better). After listening to some of the Wolfsbane stuff I can understand why he was hired as Bruce's replacement, and of course after hearing how dark X-Factor is, Blaze's vocals fit perfectly.

But couple of years later he was asked to leave, in favour of the return of Bruce Dickinson.

Which in so many ways was the correct decision. That year (2000) we were honoured to be bestowed with TWO excellent heavy metal albums. One being Iron Maiden's Brave New World, and the other Blaze Bayleys Silicon Messiah. While Brave New World was a good album, Silicon Messiah was a mother-fucking great album! It just sounded to good, and Blaze sounded revitalized. Like a man with a point to prove, which he did in spades. Blaze has always had an interesting voice, a very bass oriented baritone, he carries his notes very well and has a lot of passion. There isn't a lot of breadth to it, but he more then makes up for that in emotion and he never hits a false note either.  For that record he hired 4 extremely hungry (metaphorically of course) and extremely talented musicians. And boy do they let rip throughout the album. And the one that came after this Tenth Dimension. Which follows in the same Sci-fi tinged Heavy Metal. During the early part of his career Blaze hired master music producer Andy Sneap, who does have this amazing ability to make things sound big, clean, yet not too polished, with a HUGE emphasis on the guitar sound. No wonder he has done jobs for Nevermore, Megadeth and many many more. Now maybe if only Steve Harris had hired him for both X-Factor and Virtual XI they wouldn't have been so violently shat upon. On his very first album Blaze wrote a song that he still hasn't been able to top, and probably never will. Not that it matters that much, but this song is massive, it's huge, emotional, victorious, ponderous and all around a beautiful song.

Unfortunately it wasn't to last. The band started slowly crumbling, with the drummer leaving first, followed by the bassist. Still he did have the guitarists left, and Andy Sneap was still around to help when Blood & Belief came out. This one was a lot more personal record. It seemed that Blaze's world was coming apart, as can be demonstrated in the song Hollow Head, which apparently was written using Blaze's counselling sessions. In some ways it's also the most controversial song he's done, but that's more to do with fucking metal hipsters who didn't like that fact that it had a lot of groove going on.

Fuck you Metal Hipsters.

There were some other great metal assault tunes like Alive and Tearing Yourself to Pieces. The former being a song where Blaze releases his catharsis of hatred towards his critics, very much like when Iron Maiden did a song(With Blaze) called Virus. As can be guessed Blaze doesn't have much love or patience for those who continually criticise him for nothing else except replacing Bruce Dickinson. Which unfortunately is a legacy Blaze will never get rid of, and shouldn't either. The latter is about... well I'm not entirely sure. It's sort of seems to be in the same vain as Alive... and Virus. But it's got a great groove, fantastic riff and a brilliant chorus section. It would appear that it's about someone who bigs himself up, but refuses to show why he thinks he's such a big guy. Essentially, possibly maybe it's a take down of bullies who suffer from low self esteem and penis envy.

But where Blood & Belief really really strikes gold is in the Power Ballad department. There are three absolutely mind boggling, lighters in the air, hair at the back of your neck rising power ballads to be shown. Blood & Belief, Life and Death and Regret. The one I can relate most to is the last one, where Blaze puts all of his regrets on the table, about all the things that could and should have happened, what he should have, could have done instead, how he should have learned his lesson sooner, that there's a hole in his chest. At first it could be said that he's singing about his time in Iron Maiden, but then again we don't know that for certain. But as I said before, this song is the one I can relate to the most, and it always without fail brings tears to my eyes when I listen to it.

Then things started going tits up. The rest of the band left. With Blaze having to piece is all together again. The one theme that has been going throughout of Blaze's career is that he soldiers on, never gives up, no matter how often life kicks him in the teeth.

After working with several journeymen musicians, even publishing a live DVD, he came across the Bermudez brothers. Formerly of Under Threat Columbian fame. Well sort of anyway. Under Threat play this Thrashy Death Metal, who's singer was probably their weakest link but musically. Not bad. Not bad at all. And thankfully those influences can be heard on the the two albums he made with them. With them he was joined by a guitarist and artist called Jay Walsh, who also created the album covers for both of the albums that he played on. And of course there's a journeyman drummer, who also wrote a book about their experience of working together called At The End of the Day. To round all of this off Jason Edwards from Wolfsbane did the music production, now there's a man who also deserve a great future in that field. Because the job he does on these two albums was phenomenal.

The first one being The Man Who Would Not Die, it seems now that with every album he has to make the point again that he's here, and he's here to stay regardless of what the nay-sayers say. Again it's just a journey of thunderous heavy metal, maybe slightly heavier then previous output. Which isn't surprising considering the musicians backgrounds. It starts galloping with the title song, and doesn't really let up one bit. Even the power ballad which is probably one of the most touching love songs I've heard. And it all ends with an absolute monster of a track called the Serpent Hearted Man.

I went to see them playing in Lancaster in the Yorkshire House. And I have to say that it was one of my favourite gigs that I've ever attended. I lost my hearing for three days, and it was worth while Blaze ripped through his back catalogue and even did some Iron Maiden songs as well. I had the opportunity to speak to Jay whilst out back smoking in between bands. Got a picture taken with Blaze! So I was an extremely happy metal bunny.

I can imagine that this period was probably the hardest for Blaze, but not musically speaking. Sweet Jebus, he had a sweet band going on. Had just released a brilliant metal album and was about to release another. Then in 2008, his wife died.

Then the following year his father had taken ill and died after battling an illness.

I just... I just... No. I've got nothing. Except enormous respect. He still toured through both of those tragedies. And I was always struck by that tattoo he had on his shoulder with scissors and a microphone crossing each other.

Through all of this, he still managed to publish Promise & Terror. Which was a logical continuation of solid block of newly minted metal. No new ground being broken, just solid lumps of metal assaulting your ear canals like re-inforced cast iron gondolas sailed by Charon himself. But the real crown jewel are the last four songs. Remember when I said that Blaze will probably never release as good as a song as Stare At The Sun. Wellllll, I lied. He did four songs tying with all the emotional shitstorm that had been plaguing him. The thing is, while each song are individually great, they are even better when listened together.

Sadly again, this wasn't to last. There were some major problems in camp, and Blaze dissolved the band citing financial and medical reasons. The financial aspect was mainly because of the Bermudez brothers Visa's, and the medical being Blaze's own fragile mental state.

Since then Blaze has been touring by hiring local bands all around Europe. Been doing stuff with guitar wiz Thomas Zwijsen. Mainly on the acoustic front. He's also toured with another former Iron Maiden singer and benefit fraudster Paul Di'Anno. And published another album bravely called King of Metal. Now it has to be explained that when he's singing about King Of Metal, he's not singing about himself but rather his fans. Then there are rather touching tributes to both Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag. The only thing is I've listened to the album a few times, and I just can't get myself to like it. I want to. The lyrics are as good as ever. But musically... and possibly production wise, well the whole instrumentation sounds a bit flat, there's hardly any oomph going on there especially on the guitars. What made such a big difference on the last albums was that Blaze had guys who were very very guitar oriented producing and mixing the albums... and that album cover. I just can't. I can see what he's going for and I'm really happy to see him going on.

But now that the Best Of is coming out with two new songs, I think the next album might actually be good if those two songs are any indication of what is to come. Though again, he might want to get either Andy Sneap or Jason Edwards to do the mixing again.

I am Metal
I hear Metal
I see Metal
I feel Metal
I think therefore I am

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