Blaze - Blood And Belief

He's got a rum ol' name and in an era when it's only black metallers like Baron Sathar Goatscrote that look to have put some thought into their nom de rock, s'good to have Blaze Bayley about to keep things as old school as befits a one-time member of Iron Maiden...although he could have been christened Blaze by Ma and Pa Bayley, in which case forget all the above.

Gone now from both Wolfsbane, where he started his career, and Iron Maiden, where he replaced author, fencer and part-time solo artist Bruce Dickinson for X-Factor and Virtual XI. Of course, that was before Dickinson decided that the writing of books like The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace wasn't quite where it was at and rejoined Iron Maiden, leaving Bayley on his own before he quickly assembled a band for Silicon Messiah (2000), Tenth Dimension (2002) and the double live album, As Live As It Gets (2003).

As for this year's Blood And Belief, it sounds like a rebirth, which is fitting for an album recorded after Bayley struggled to quit his dependency on drugs and alcohol, something that he was ultimately successful in doing. Lyrically, Blood And Belief gives Bayley the chance to work out his rehabilitation on record with Tearing Myself To Pieces getting down into the gutter to let Bayley relive his lowest moments. Elsewhere, Hollow Head is a raw retelling of the visits Bayley paid to a psychiatrist as part of his recovery and Will To Win has Bayley coming out the other side of his fight, recovered sufficiently to get into the studio to record this album. Of course, the song titles give away the experience of recovery on this album, not only those listed but also Alive, Regret, The Path & The Way and Soundtrack Of My Life.

Musically, Blood And Belief is a great leap back to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and whilst it's better produced than the early albums from the likes of Iron Maiden, Machine Head and Saxon, there's less stuttering speed metal and more the heavy riffing of rock. With John Slater, Steve Wray, Wayne Banks and Jason Bowld all playing alongside Blaze Bayley in the band and produced by Andy Sneap, who was also behind As Live As It Gets, this is a fluid recording of a band finally sounding more at home in the studio than they have done previously. Much of this is to do with Bayley's singing, which unsurprisingly sounds as though he believes in this material and for fans of Iron Maiden, this isn't far from the mix of melody and grunt of metal that one would expect from Blaze Bayley and the band sit tight behind Bayley's vocals.

Having just completed a national tour and with this album now available, Blaze Bayley is in a good position to keep pace with Iron Maiden, if in danger of running short of material now he's clean. The devil not only gets all the best tunes but he also keeps his rock stars staring into the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniels. Anything else and it slips inside the same house as dull musicians writing about AA meetings. Bayley doubtless feels better but come next year, maybe even the year after and we'll see if Bayley still has enough to write about when he no longer sees the world through a whiskey haze.



out of 10
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