Monday, 18 May 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Blaze Bayley, "Live in Czech"

By: Richard Maw & Nathan Harrison

Album Type: Live Album
Date Released: 03/04/2020
Label: Blaze Bayley Recordings

“Live in Czech” CD//DD track listing:

1. The Dark Side Of Black
2. A Thousand Years
3. Dark Energy 256
4. The World Is Turning The Wrong Way
5. Human
6. Together We Can Move The Sun
7. Solar Wind
8. Virus
9. Life Goes On
10. Fight Back
11. Silicon Messiah
12. The Day I Fell To Earth
13. Eagle Spirit
14. Calling You Home
15. Stare At The Sun
16. Man On The Edge
17. Futureal
18. The Clansman

The Review:

Blaze's live offering captures him and his band, comprising members of Brit metal aces Absolva, at the end of a 59 date (!) tour at the Melodka venue in Brno, Czech Republic at the tail end of September 2019. Having seen Blaze around a month earlier at The Underworld in London, I knew what to expect from a live document of the show.

To fully explore the Blaze live experience, Nathan Harrison, a Blaze Bayley fanatic, of British doomers The Human Condition and Maiden tribute band Maiden's Shadow has been asked to weigh in on this weighty release.

The release takes in a monster eighteen tracks and spans a good portion of Blaze's career.

RM: The overall sound is as live as it gets (to borrow a phrase!). It's raw and most definitely not overdubbed or tweaked in the studio. Similar to the “Live in Francerelease a while back, this represents exactly what the band and Blaze sound like at a live gig- tight, fast and furious.

NH: As with any Blaze Bayley release (and as should be expected) the man himself is the main focus here. Anybody who dismissed Blaze’s singing ability during the Maiden days should give his recent solo releases a go as his voice and range have improved beyond measure – the man is ostensibly a walking diaphragm, such is his building-toppling vocal power. The band behind him certainly sounds tight as always but they don’t quite pack the same punch they do when playing right in front of you. A slightly beefier sound would have benefitted this release – Chris Appleton’s guitar sound is quite trebly but the other instruments aren’t given quite enough bass to compensate. That said, there are moments where the overall sound simply soars – the more epic tracks were the focus of this tour and it shows. “The World is Turning the Wrong Way”, “Together We Can Move the Sun” and “Eagle Spirit”, the stunning closer to the latest studio release, are particular highlights.

RM: In terms of song selection, Blaze has a lot to choose from: Wolfsbane, two albums with Iron Maiden and all of his solo full band records - now close to double figures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Live in Czech” focuses on a selection of tracks from the “Infinite Entanglement” trilogy- with a bent towards the more epic feeling songs from those three albums. There is a fair smattering of Maiden classics here as well- “Virus “(appropriate for these times, sadly) rears its head as do more obvious choices such as “Futureal” and “Man on the Edge”. There is also the title track and “Stare at the Sun” from the “Silicon Messiah” album. The set hangs together well and Blaze sings all songs with total conviction. I personally would like to have heard a track or two from the superb “The Man Who Would Not Die” record, but I am splitting hairs. The fact that there is only one guitarist is of course noticeable on the Maiden material, but so what? Chris Appleton is a phenomenal player and his virtuosity and energy shine through on every track.

NH: As the “Infinite Entanglement” trilogy was the focus of this tour, this leaves little room for anything unusual or surprising in the rest of the setlist – not that there’s anything wrong with the other songs showcased here! The vastly underrated Blaze era of Iron Maiden is represented brilliantly by the tracks chosen here and Blaze picks some of his most popular earlier solo songs to round out the set. The problem is that Blaze’s solo catalogue is so solid that there’s always going to be something missing! Songs from the aforementioned “The Man Who Would Not Die” and its incredible follow up, “Promise and Terror” have been largely absent from Blaze Bayley shows in the last few years so a return for some of these would have been welcome. The songs that are here, though, are some the best – “Stare at the Sun” particularly will always be an incredible song, especially when played live with such gusto by all concerned.

RM: As anyone who has been to a Blaze live show knows, Blaze talks to his audience. A lot. He delivers his song intros in a slow and stilted style- making sure that members of the audience who do not speak English as a first language (i.e. probably almost everyone) understands what he is saying. In a live setting it's an endearing trait. On a live album, it can be a little distracting as it makes for some lengthy intros and breaks between songs. This is, however, offset by the fact that this is a live record- representative of the show, not a live “greatest hits” contract filler. To be fair, the introduction to “Silicon Messiah” is genuinely interesting as it tells the tale of how the band in its current form came to be.

NH: For a lot of his time as a solo artist, Blaze’s general approach to audience interaction has remained unchanged. While it can occasionally be a bit repetitive, his sheer love and gratitude for his fans is undeniably real and he makes it clear just how much he relies on them when he now self-releases everything he puts out. Blaze is also a man who has been through some very tough times - personally and professionally – but has come out of the other side. This determination is reflected in the encouragement and advice he often gives to his audience and the sentiment he puts into many of his lyrics. During these rather trying, scary and altogether depressing and difficult times for many, we could probably all benefit from being a bit more Blaze Bayley about it all!

RM: I think this edges out “Live in France- the more epic material goes over really well live and as this was recorded long after the “Infinite Entanglement” trilogy had been completed the set feels really cohesive. The sound is also a notch above “Live in France- a little clearer, a little more punchy to my ears.

NH: Given its very specific focus, this is a strange album to compare to previous Blaze live releases with a broader approach. Sound wise, it certainly edges out “Live in France but doesn’t quite have the power of earlier releases “As Live As It Gets” and “The Night That Would Not Die”. Blaze’s performance, however, has only got better since these releases and, three studio and two live releases in, the chemistry between him and Absolva as his backing band is tangible.

In conclusion, this is a real live album for fans who witnessed the tour, fans who have the albums but couldn't make the shows or anyone interested in hearing what a real professional metal band sounds like. Blaze Bayley is an international treasure of the metal scene and one who deserves your support. He's out there; year after year, album after album, tour after tour- relentlessly taking real heavy metal to the masses. He's a totally independent artist these days, as he states at the start of “The Clansman”, and his passion and commitment to the faith is unwavering. When the current dystopian world health crisis is concluded, it's guaranteed that Blaze will be coming to a venue near you and bringing his best. This live record is definitive proof that you should go and see him and his band play- after all, as recent events have proven, you never know when that option might be taken away.

“Live in Czech” is available HERE

Band info: official || facebook