Bayley, Blaze - The man who would not die 3.5/5
1. The man who would not die
3. Smile back at death
4. While you were gone
6. A crack in the system
8. At the end of the day
9. Waiting for my life to begin
10. Voices from the past
11. The truth is one
12. Serpent hearted man
As little as a year ago it looked to be all over for Blaze Bayley. After 3 well-received CDs with his post-Iron Maiden band Blaze, everything seemed to fall apart for the vocalist. The Blaze band, already coming apart at the seams by the time their final CD, 'Blood and belief', was released in 2004, finally collapsed entirely, and over a year of a rotating line-ups comprised of faceless nobodies followed. In this time Steamhammer must also have deemed the returns on the 3 CDs unsatisfactory and Bayley was left with no record deal.
A short-lived new line-up, including Kamelot's Oliver Palotai on guitar, also did not last very long before Bayley was back to square one yet again, and seeing out the rest of his career on the glorified cover band circuit with the likes of Paul Di'Anno seemed inevitable.
To his eternal credit, however, Bayley's resolve (as well as the offer of a DVD release from Poland's Metal Mind Productions) has seen him through to having another shot at it, and after some early changes a committed new line-up, now under the vocalist's full name, has been assembled and have delivered what has turned out to be a startling good self-released CD given the circumstances. The title, 'The man who would not die', is as appropriate as they come.
Bayley's main writing cohorts have been the Colombian brothers Nico and David Bermudez, playing lead and bass guitar respectively, and he seems to have unearthed a couple of gems. The former makes a particularly good impression, as his varied and technical solos are a great addition to the mix.
While the recording history of the new band members has had an obvious impact on the music (which takes very mild cues from melodic death and groove metal), and the modern production and musicianship means some superficial comparisons can be made to the likes of Nevermore, 'The man who would not die' is a simple, heads-down heavy metal offering. On one hand, the more ostentatious aspects of 'Tenth dimension' are absent, while at the same time the increased groove aspect to 'Blood and belief' has been toned down, and this sort of '2nd debut' sits more or less in the middle when it comes to Bayley's post-Maiden career, but with a greater emphasis on speed than ever before.
This is not to suggest, however, that the CD lacks any variety, as there are various different styles attempted throughout the hour-long running time. Faster songs like the superb opening title track and the searing, Asimov-inspired "Robot" pile up against mid-tempo groovers, a couple of longer epics and a moving, yet still very heavy love ballad in "While you were gone", a tribute to Bayley's wife who he credits with getting his ailing career back on track. The song has taken on extra poignancy recently with the terrible news that the lady in question is seriously ill in the hospital, and I'm sure I can speak for the entire Metal CD Ratings team when I say that we wish her the very best.
The struggles Bayley has gone through over the last few years have been the biggest inspiration for his lyrics this time around, and the more personal slant he took on "Blood and belief", after ditching the sci-fi theme of the first 2 Blaze CDs is carried on here. A few awkward themes aside ("Waiting for my life to begin" suffers from the same 'struggles of the working man' shtick that Iron Maiden's "2 A.M." did), the investment Bayley has in his words shows through in a passionate vocal display that is a possible career best. The few steps into more fantastical territory, such as "Samurai" and "Smile back at death" (inspired by the film 'Gladiator') add some lyrical variety and also prevent the whole CD from being from being mired in doom and gloom.
It is true that a few songs on 'The man who would not die' do not quite match up to the stand-out tracks listed above (though it would be very harsh to describe them as filler), but the CD is rock-solid and a superb comeback from Blaze Bayley. The man finally seems to have forced for himself the break he has deserved but been denied for such a long time, and as a fan I can only hope the personal trauma he is enduring at the moment does not floor him again. That, simply put, would be just too cruel.
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