Blaze Bayley had the honour of fronting Iron Maiden for two albums, and he’s not about to let you forget it. Six of the 15 tracks on the double Alive In Poland are Maiden. No fault there, if you were in Maiden you’d play those songs too, and probably more of them. What Blaze did with his selection is quite adventurous. Two of them were never played live by Iron Maiden — ever.
It’s no mercy, high octane, pedal to the metal from the get-go. “Speed of Light” requires no description beyond the title. It is what it says! Throw some wicked Maiden-esque guitar harmonies on top. Blaze is in great voice, full power, and with passionate delivery. That goes for the entire show.
“The Brave” is borderline thrash but still with a Maiden-y flavour never too far away. From there Blaze goes into a cranked-up version of “Futureal”, way faster than Maiden played it. The double bass parts are insane. It almost goes off the rails but stays intact. The guitar harmonies somehow sound richer than the original.
One of the fun aspects of this live album is that Blaze was very talkative on stage that night. Before “Alive”, he goes off on a great rant about a record label who advised him, “Don’t go out on tour Blaze, it doesn’t sell CDs.” Thankfully he didn’t listen and this album is the fruit of his hard work. “Alive” is a brilliant track, slowing it does to a mean groove like something out of the early 1990s. From rhythm to riff, this thing just grinds along with an irresistible beat. Dig those dissonant chords.
Wolfbane’s “Steel” is retitled “Tough As Steel”, but it’s the same track, only heavier! Like Grim Reaper, Accept and Loudness rolled into one. That rolls right into Maiden’s “Man On the Edge”. Trying to get the festival crowd going, Blaze blasts ’em. “Fucking wake up! The gig has started, we have your money now and we don’t give a shit!” That gets them up, and Blaze plays a pretty faithful version of the Maiden single. No bassist sounds like Steve Harris, but Blaze’s bassist David Bermudez is able to play the challenging part. Another lesser known Maiden single, “Virus“, is a total surprise. This is the full length version with the long intro. Not one of Maiden’s finest songs, “Virus” is much better live. It has more life and Blaze really bites into the lyrics.
Disc 2 continues the spree of Maiden songs. “Two Worlds Collide” was one of the better tunes from Virtual XI and one that Maiden only played on that tour. “Look For the Truth” from The X Factor, on the other hand, has never been played live. A shame that is, since the “Oh, oh, oh” refrain works best live.
Back to originals, “Kill and Destroy” is as heavy as it gets. Post-Maiden, Blaze was unafraid to take things heavier. Yet there’s still a melodic edge. Changing pace, “Silicon Messiah” from Blaze’s first solo album is a prescient warning about technology, delivered with pure gusto and intent. Choppy of riff, loaded with brilliant performances. Into the brutally heavy “Tenth Dimension”, Blaze is still not letting up one iota. He just keeps going at 11 the whole way.
A more direct arrangement of Maiden’s “Sign of the Cross” is the first sign of weakness in the voice of mighty Bayley. He falters at the quiet intro, but recovers when bellowing the verses and chorus. As the penultimate track, “Sign of the Cross” sets up “Born As A Stranger”, the wicked closer. Good enough to be a Maiden tune itself, it’s a great track to go out on. A solid banger, especially the outro.
Alive In Poland certainly isn’t Blaze’s only great live album. The Andy Sneap-produced As Live As It Gets is also highly rated, where you’ll hear “Dazed and Confused” instead of “Look For the Truth”. Both have their strengths, but Alive In Poland has a number of tracks that are not on the prior live album. Buying one doesn’t make the other redundant.