There are three reasons to wait four years between albums, 1, you are lazy, 2, you have had a terrible gardening accident or 3, you have spent every minute putting together an outstanding piece of music. Blaze Bayley has went straight for number 3 here folks.
Blaze has gone the full hog here and opted for a concept album.Always a risky proposition as there is no middle ground, they are either great or a complete waste of time and not only that, this is only the first one of a trilogy. It is a sci-fi concept set 100 years in the future with the main character chosen for a long journey. It is a shame we have such a short turnaround for reviews sometimes as this album deserves the full works. I really need this on vinyl with full lyrics. As it is a concept album I am automatically drawn towards pointing out which other concept album it is similar to. There are a few but the closest for me is Queensryche’s “Operation Mindcrime” which in my opinion just happens to be the best concept album ever made so that is my first compliment right there. It has the talking parts between songs and the more I listen to this the more I feel it deserves an animated film or graphic novel to accompany it. Maybe a thought for when the trilogy is completed and released as a box set?
The CD kicks of with the title track and a discussion prior to the beginning of the Journey. The song itself sounds almost Russian. It builds and weaves like a Symphonic metal track all drums and guitars before Blaze starts us on the musical journey. This was the opening number on the set list from the recent tour so I can confirm it works well live too. “A Thousand Years” is a good old classic rocker, a really catchy song with a brilliant chorus. This was also played live and slotted in perfectly. Another difficult thing for a concept album is for the songs to stand on their own two feet outside the whole album but Blaze has managed this with ease. I could listen to any of the songs in any order or, as happened recently, screaming out the chorus to this song as it popped up on shuffle.
“Human” has a riff to break your back and has another excellent sing along chorus. Blaze’s vocals are top notch here as is the frantic drumming. This was pretty much my favourite track from the first play. It is really fast and furious. Next we get “What Will Come”. It starts out with some beautiful Spanish guitar and violins…and just about the best vocal I have ever heard Blaze put down on record. It is almost operatic. The depth is powerful and just a downright stunning song. Sit in the dark, crank up the volume and sit between the speakers for full effect.
With “Stars Are Burning” we get an almost Maiden like chugging guitar and the story takes a sinister turn; a man finally realising he has been played. “Solar Wind” comes at you like a comet and leaves you burnt to a crisp as if caught in its tail. At this point you really notice how you have been sucked into a story and what a great lyricist Blaze is. “The Dreams Of William Black” is a breakdown piece. It is all atmosphere and portrays the battle going on inside our main character. If you took “Calling you Home” and dropped it into any Judas Priest classic album it would slot in without an issue. Blaze does a great Rob impression and the guitar work is very reminiscent of Priest in their heyday.
You cannot help but hear Maiden with the intro to ” Dark Energy 256″. A very powerful song with some stunning drumming once again. The guitar solo is wondrous and you will be singing Dark Energy at the top of your voice. “Independence” brings out the Spanish Guitar again(I take it it’s easier to play in space). It is another spoken/sung story telling piece before kicking in. Although all the songs stand on their own you can feel the whole album’s vibe throughout which works perfectly when played from start to finish.
On penultimate track” A Work Of Anger”, it almost sounds medieval. The guitar is warped and stripped back before it goes full all anthemic, bold and brave. The album finishes off with “Shall We Begin” and sets the scene for what is to come in part two.It is a bit like those Walking Dead mid season finales, you are left screaming at a TV(or in this instance whatever media player your music is on)., lots of no, you cannot finish here but alas yes, you can (you bugger).
So there we have it, Blaze’s first album in four years. An amazing release and I am tending to agree with the man himself when he says he feels it is his best work. It grew on me with every play and I just want part two right now. I just hope I don’t have to wait four more years to get it. This album is so good it deserves to be played live in it’s entirety with a full stage show to compliment the feel of the recording. I was taken aback at how good Blaze was live recently and this just cements the feeling that this man and his band may well be the biggest unsung heroes in the rock business.
Review Ritchie Birnie]]>