Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blaze Bayley - Promise and Terror (2010)

Promise and Terror is the 2nd full-length offering from the former Wolfsbane/Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley, and follows in the footsteps of its predecessor The Man Who Would Not Die, as well as the albums he released with the lineup known simply as Blaze. It's pure power and speed metal with a dash of the classic, frenetic NWOBHM sound of his first major label band. The man's vocals remain in the same, charismatic range, but he's always been good at what he does (with the exception of the ill-fated Virtual XI), so it's clear pretty quickly that this album will wither or thrive based solely on the rhythmic thrust of the songs.

And, to be fair, most of the tracks here offer you the same, busy approach to power metal that you'd hear from a lot of the band's European contemporaries. They are more complex than a HammerFall, but riff after riff, the writing seems to only border on greatness, never picking its bulk up to cast itself over the wall. "Watching the Night Sky" is a good old frenzied anthem that zips past like a UFO of plucky, Maiden-esque rhythms and early Helloween fervor, but once the dust clears, I just didn't remember a damn thing about it, except perhaps the elevation of the vocals in the latter half of the predictable chorus. "Madness and Sorrow" is a blazer of Iron Savior-like proportions, yet for the bustle and squeal of the picking and the somber shuffle of the verse riffs, it feels like nothing more than three minutes of momentum with a half-decent lead. "1633" is a little more somber and effective, with speed metal guitars thrusting through a middle paced, and Bayley's words of woe striking closer to the heart.

There are a few more exciting tracks deeper into the album, like the flashy "City of Bones" which has rhythms reminiscent of Arch Enemy's Burning Bridges era, or "Faceless" which is a mix of Blaze's infamous barroom brawl lyrics from his old days and a ringing melodic mesh of riffs, but even these aren't exactly destined for a jukebox anytime soon. "Time to Dare" has a strong, soaring melodic intro, but dulls itself down through the verses, and perhaps the best of the material here is confined late in the track list, like "The Trace of Things That Have No Words" or the plodding, immediate tension of "Letting Go of the World". The acoustic ballad "Surrounded by Sadness" is actually pretty hooky, with a nice melancholy to the burning and simple lead guitars.

Promise and Terror is yet another solid effort from Blaze Bayley, but like so many of his albums post-Wolfsbane, it's just not enough that you're going to continue to come back to it. There is not a single song here that lacks riffs or competence, but none of them really blow you away. I can hardly consider it tragic: Blaze is a good singer, he always has been, and his solo bands generally deliver...there is just an elusive, intangible 'something' missing that would hurl them over the barrier. And if someone deserves some hard earned success, it is probably this man.

Highlights: The Trace of Things That Have No Words, City of Bones, Letting Go of the World

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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