Reviews

#947: Last Of Our Kind

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 80:  The Darkness

 

RECORD STORE TALES #947: Last Of Our Kind

By the time that I decided “enough with the bullshit” and quit the Record Store at the end of 2005, The Darkness were truly one of my favourite bands.

The band’s newest album One Way Ticket To Hell…and Back was really resonating with me.  It was the kind of triumphant rock that felt appropriate as I started my new life, post-store.  Uplifting.  Carefree.  Nostalgic.  I had a Darkness shirt with their logo in silver scroll.  I was downloading rare live tracks from Limewire and buying imported singles.  All the stuff that properly qualifies a person as a “fan”, but with the additional emotional kick that this was “my” band.  I didn’t know anyone else who liked them.  Well, there was one.  I had just met Jen, my future wife.  In her CD collection was a copy of Permission to Land.

Two weeks after quitting the store I was back in the workforce.  I had what I wanted:  a boring job!  There were several days straight of just make photocopies.  Nobody to talk to, and with the clanky-clank of the copying drowning me out, I passed the time by singing.  Specifically, I sang my favourite Darkness tunes.

The most attractive tunes have the biggest and most bombastic choruses it seems.  Huge drum fills, big multi-layered vocals, and all the trimmings.  Songs like “Dinner Lady Arms”.

I used to be able to come close to hitting the notes. Just approximating the correct intonation, because who the fuck cared? Nobody could hear me.

Also on the playlist:  “Hazel Eyes”, “One Way Ticket”, “Growing On Me”, “Givin’ Up”, and “Friday Night”.

I made a Darkness “Greatest Hits” CD with all those tracks, a bunch of great B-sides, and couple bootleg live tracks.  The best of which was a ragged live take of “Givin’ Up”, sadly now lost.  That’s the problem with downloads.  In the golden glow of memory, it was the best version of the song ever!

Sadly, the Darkness were hitting a rough patch.  Justin Hawkins went to rehab to clean up, and then quit the band afterwards.  In shock, the band looked inward to new bassist Richie Edwards (who replaced original Frankie Poullain).  His surprisingly powerful rasp was perfect for a new start.  They reconfigured themselves as the heavier Stone Gods, while Justin launched his new band Hot Leg.  In this battle, Hot Leg sounded more like the Darkness, while the Stone Gods had a stronger album in hand.

Lineup changes continued to ensue.  Original Darkness drummer Ed Graham left the Stone Gods due to ill health, and was replaced by Robin Goodridge, formerly of Bush.  This left guitarist Dan Hawkins as the only Stone Gods member that had been in the Darkness.  Regardless, they managed to record a second, more stripped down album.  This second album was never released, because suddenly in 2011, the original lineup of the Darkness was back!

The comeback album Hot Cakes returned the band to their classic sound.  Most importantly, it was only the first in a series of great albums, the best of which might be 2015’s Last of Our Kind. The title track of which is the most quintessentially “Darkness” of any song they have released since their debut.  The music video features Justin Hawkins at his most Freddie, and a new drummer:  Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen’s Roger.  Talk about rock royalty!

Not to ignore the important contributions of Emily Dolan Davies, who played drums on the album and in the music video for “Open Fire”.  As an in-demand session drummer, Davies was praised by Justin as having “revitalized” the band with her hard-hitting style.  Since her departure, Rufus has held down the drum stool on Pinewood Smile, Easter is Cancelled and the forthcoming Motorheart.

That’s right.  The Darkness have a new album coming.  They may or may not have doomed us to a long pandemic with the prophetic Easter is Cancelled, but they sure are going to rock us anyway.

Long live The Darkness!

A Year to the Day: Rest in Peace, Eddie Van Halen

‘Twas only a year ago I wrote these words:

There will never be another Van Halen.  No player before or since will have the ingenuity and influence he did.  From modifying his own guitars and amps to achieve the perfect “brown sound”, to brutalizing the strings with a drill, he was an innovator.  He was the most important of all the guitar innovators. And he sheepishly grinned through the whole thing as if to say, “Who, me? I did that?”

A year later, it’s only more certain that there will never been another Eddie.  You can read my full memorial here:  Rest in Peace to the greatest guitar player of all time.

The week Eddie passed, we did a tribute to him on the LeBrain Train.  You can watch that tribute below, starting at the 20 minute mark.

As if that wasn’t enough, we followed that with another Van Halen show: VH deep cuts!  One thing for sure, Eddie certainly inspired a lot of conversation on the LeBrain Train over the past year.  You can watch the deep cuts below, starting again at 20 minutes.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect, and play some Van Halen tonight.  Tonight, I’m going to go with “Dirty Movies” from Fair Warning to spotlight the greatest gee-tar picker of all time.  What song or album will you play for Eddie tonight?

REVIEW: Leatherwolf – Street Ready (1989 Japanese import)

LEATHERWOLF – Street Ready (1989 Island/Polystar Japan)

Leatherwolf progressed in just three albums from an unremarkable thrash band to a melodic, heavy rock quintet with a knack for a hook.  They also had a gimmick: the “Triple Axe Attack”.  Unlike most bands of the time, Leatherwolf boasted three guitarists.  Geoff Gayer and Carey Howe handled the leads while singer Michael Olivieri played the rhythm.  Their first album was just OK, but on their second they signed to a major label and had some decent production.  They also wrote better tunes, and embellished their sound with keyboards and ballads.

By the third, their songwriting chops had really grown.  In the end, this album is less heavy than the first two; a little more straightforward. It still retains thrash metal aspects mixed with ballads, but on the whole this album is more middle of the road.  Track for track, it’s free of filler and each song has some kind of memorable hook that makes return visits a pleasure.

Traditional metal guitar harmonies and thrashing chords blend on the opener “Wicked Ways”, which careens from slow to fast and back again.  Focus is solidly on the guitars, though Michael Olivieri certainly blows all the fuses on lead vocals.  A great melding of styles, like an 80s Iron Maiden song fueled by nuclear fusion.

For a song called “Street Ready”, a dirty groove is most appropriate.  That’s where Leatherwolf take this nasty little tune with bite.  The riff recalls their single “The Calling” from the previous album.  But the first single this time was the balladesque “Hideaway”. A power ballad with the emphasis on power.  Singer Michael Olivieri had a great range and plenty of lung capacity.  A ballad with bite.

Back to heavy, “Take A Chance” is quite thrash, but faster than the mainstream.  The choppy riff could have come from an early Scorpions album, when they had sting.  Keeping the pace is “Black Knight”, an instrumental thrash rocker with amazing drumming courtesy of Dean “Drum Machine” Roberts.  Faster and heavier than anything since their debut.

Back when albums had sides, side two opened with a big powerful anthem, a roll of bass, and earthshaking chorus.  “I am the thunder that starts the rain.”  This song must have been a killer live.  Slow in pace, but the weight comes from that heavy anthemic feeling, defying the storm.

A second ballad “The Way I Feel” is soft by comparison, but doesn’t lack backbone.  Comparable to “Share A Dream” from the last album. Not for everyone — thrash metal people should certainly avoid.  Everyone else will enjoy its melodic power.  Speaking of power, back in that direction is the ragged “Too Much”, careening off the rails at top acceleration.

“Lonely Road” takes us back to huge anthem territory, like “Thunder”, but faster.  A soft keyboard intro is deceptive.  This ain’t no ballad.  This is a banger; you have to let it get going.  They go full-on for closer “Spirits In The Wind”.  Great tune with lots of metal guitar thrills.

In Japan however that wasn’t the closer.  A bonus track “Alone in the Night” is tacked on for added value.  This originated on the 1988 Return of the Living Dead Part II soundtrack (which also featured Zodiac Mindwarp and two Anthrax tunes).  It has a thinner sound to it, indicating it came from a separate recording session.  Not one of Leatherwolf’s better songs, but not a throwaway either.  Just not as memorable, but a valuable addition.

Song for song, Street Ready is the best Leatherwolf album.  Metal bands just don’t try to sound like this anymore.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Danko Jones – Power Trio (2021)

DANKO JONES – Power Trio (2021 Sonic Unyon)

Let me tell you something’ people.  Danko Jones?  He’s the real deal and he’s back with Power Trio, an absolutely smokin’ new album heavy on the riffs and attitude.

Something about this pandemic has been driving our favourite artists to create some of their best work.  From Lee Aaron to Styx and Iron Maiden, we’ve been getting a lot of seriously great albums this summer.  Danko Jones joins their ranks with 11 of his best tunes to date.

“I Want Out” is relentless hammering with nothin’ but pure soulful metal aggression.  He gets a little sly on “Good Lookin'” before the pounding of the mighty axe resumes.  Great guitar and vocal hooks.  “Saturday” brings the party with no less adrenaline or acceleration.  Let’s use that word “relentless” again.  Power Trio is an album with the emphasis on power.  The band take it down to a mid-tempo slammer on “Ship of Lies”.  “Everybody knows it’s getting old, let’s sink this ship of lies.”  Amen, brother!  Great jagged riff, chunky tone.

Potential album highlight “Raise Some Hell” sounds like an anthem for bands sidelined by the pandemic.  “I’m tired of watchin’ it go by, sittin’ in the fence,” sings Jones as he looks forward to getting back out there for some rockin’.  “‘Cause sooner or later we’re gonna break the spell.”

“Blue Jean Denim Jumpsuit” has the best title on the record, but does this thing ever move!  The riff is like an engine.  The guitars on “Get To You” take on a more traditional metallic tone, though the song maintains the Power Trio drive.  “Don’t you let them get to you,” preaches the man; someone who knows.  “Jealousy don’t look good on ’em,” he roars.  “Take it as a backhand compliment, every time they take the shots.  Every sling that gets thrown at you only serves to drive up your stock.”  Wise words my man.  Just as Dee Snider took on bullies in the 80s, Danko is here to continue the work in the 2020s.

“Dangerous Kiss” has bite, as it clocks in as the shortest bomber on the album.  Second shortest is “Let’s Rock Together”, a real upbeat corker of a stomp.  Like classic Andrew W.K. but with a guy who can really sing.  The screamin’ “Flaunt It” turns up the tempo even faster, taking it to punk rock velocity.  This serves to set up the optimistic AC/DC-like closer “Start the Show”.  Yes, let’s!  Special guest Phil Campbell on guitar.

There have been several albums this year that were deemed to be the records we needed in 2021.  Add another worthy contender to the list.  Power Trio is another in a long line of consistently good Danko Jones.  The biggest difference is that we need Danko more than ever now.

4.5/5 stars

Power trio:  Danko Jones, Rich Knox, John Calabrese.


BONUS ==>  Misheard Lyrics

“I’m tired of watching it go by sittin’ on the fence,” totally sounds like “I’m tired of watching Nickelback sittin’ on the fence”!

REVIEW: Max the Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021 EP)

MAX THE AXE – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021 EP)

Pandemics suck, but last year Max the Axe began working on a remedy.  Three new songs — one cover, two originals — and a new EP called Oktoberfest Cheer!  With this year’s Bavarian festival just around the corner, Max is ready to rock your beerhallen.  It’s the second release with the same lineup:  Mike Koutis (Max the Axe) – lead guitar, Eric Litwiller (Uncle Meat) – lead vocals, Mike Mitchell – lead bass and Dr. Dave Haslam — lead drums.  It’s a much more punk rock affair than the last album Status Electric.  Perhaps it’s even a concept record about intoxication!

Opening with the original “Pygmy Blow Dart”, Max sounds like Queens of the Stone Age jonesing for a smoke.  Litwiller is in full Homme mode with the groove of the Axe behind him.  “I think I’m going downtown, looking for some dope.”  Ah, the quaint pre-legalization setting!  By the end, the band is in a singalong, looking for some smoke.  “Round and round, and round and round…”  Hey guys…check the local dispensary!  There’s one on every corner now.  Great bass solo in the middle, right before Max rips on the six string.  Fans of the last album will love it.

The Black Flag cover “Thirsty and Miserable” is outstanding, full-on punkfied Max.  Definitely some influence from Lemmy’s version of “Thirsty and Miserable” too.  This track kicks and Litwiller sounds legit.  They could play it two or three times in a row and you wouldn’t get bored.

Finally the punk-inflected EP ends with the title track “Oktoberfest Cheer!”, a song destined to be a seasonal hit.  Feather in cap, beer on tap…October is here so raise up that beer!  You can picture the festhallen going mad for this October anthem.  This is the clear hit, frantic and haggard as it may be.  Adorned with festive accordion, it’s punk rock unlike any other.  You can play it year after year…or in August.  Don’t crush my smokes, don’t spill my beer!

The great thing about this EP is that it’s under 10 minutes in true punk fashion and perfect for repeat plays.

Kitchener knows.

5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Slash’s Snakepit – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (1995)

SLASH’S SNAKEPIT – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere (1995 Geffen)

Somewhere in the multiverse is an alternate reality where Axl Rose did not reject Slash’s songs for the next Guns album.  In that version of history, the new Guns N’ Roses was not titled Chinese Democracy; perhaps it was called Back and Forth Again.  And it would have sounded a lot like It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, the debut album by Slash’s Snakepit that we received in our reality’s year 1995.

As it went down, Axl said “no” to the songs Slash had finished, so Slash put them out as his first solo album.  And then Axl wanted them back.  In 1994, on the VHS The Making of Estranged: Part 4 of Trilogy, you can hear Guns working on one of these songs.  In the background, the music that would eventually become Slash’s “Back and Forth Again” is playing with Axl whistling overtop.  In the alternate reality, somebody’s listening to it right now as a Guns N’ Roses song.  In ours, it will only be Slash’s Snakepit.

Although Slash was enthused about his new music, and was eager to make a raw bluesy rock n’ roll album, Axl had other plans.  Who was right in the end?  It’s hard not to see Axl’s point of view.  Slash’s 14 songs had just one hit and 13 fillers.  Most of the best GN’R tracks were not written by Slash; they were written by Izzy Stradlin.  Left to his own devices, Slash’s batch of songs here lack memorable hooks.

Let’s start on a positive note at least — the lead single “Beggars & Hangers-On”.  Written by Slash n’ Duff with lead singer Eric Dover, this is a song that any band from Skynyrd to the Crowes to Zeppelin to Guns N’ Roses would have been proud to play.  Check out that riff — it’s as regal as the blues gets.   Powerful and soulful aching vocals from Dover.  The chorus roars, bright and bold, and you could only imagine what Axl could have done with it.  Matt Sorum’s drums splash at all the right moments, in his trademark fashion.  It’s a damn perfect song.  And it made people really excited for the album that was to come, Guns or no Guns.

Well, there were some Guns.  Slash had been working with Matt Sorum and the recently fired Gilby Clarke.  On bass was Mike Inez from Alice in Chains.  Though not in the Snakepit lineup, Slash also imported Dizzy Reed and Ted “Zig Zag” Andreadis from GN’R.  With those players, it sure sounded like Guns.  Only Dover really differentiates them.  Dover…and the songs.

There are fragments of brilliance through the whole record.  The acoustic intro to “Neither Can I” for example.  The circular snaky riff to the manic “Be the Ball” (not to mention Slash’s lyrics, which seem to be his personal life philosophy).  The boogie-woogie of instrumental “Jizz Da Pit”.  The wicked Inez bass on on Gilby Clarke’s “Monkey Chow”.  The Aerosmith vibe to “I Hate Everybody (But You)”.

And it’s a long album.  70 minutes of solid rock without a lot of variation.  Which is one reason why Slash’s 14 songs wouldn’t have cut it for Guns in 1995.  Appetite for Destruction had a variety of different songs on it, even if all shared a go-for-the-throat ferocity.  Slash did get the straightforward live sounding rock album he desired.  The guitars sound absolutely thick and offer a hint of what Slash and Gilby would have sounded like together on an original Guns studio album (like naturals).

It’s just a damn shame Slash’s solo debut is so disappointing.  It bears witness that Axl might not have been wrong.  You could make a hell of a GN’R album* out of the best tracks its members came up with.  But this isn’t it.

2/5 stars

* Alternate 1995 Chinese Democracy:

  1. Chinese Democracy (GN’R)
  2. Beggars and Hangers-On (Slash)
  3. Better (GN’R)
  4. Dead Flowers (Gilby/Axl – Stones cover)
  5. I.R.S. (GN’R)
  6. Street of Dreams (GN’R)
  7. Tijuana Jail (Gilby/Slash/Matt)
  8. Madagascar (GN’R)
  9. Absurd (GN’R)
  10. Six Feet Under (Duff/Matt – Neurotic Outsiders)
  11. This I Love (GN’R)
  12. Back and Forth Again (Slash)

REVIEW: Metallica – Enter Sandman (Remastered 2021 German CD singles)

METALLICA – “Enter Sandman” (Remastered 2021 German CD singles – 5″ Maxi CD and 3″ Pockit-CD)

The Black Album box set is coming!  Batten down your wallet because it looks absolutely incredible.  Yet on the 14 CDs and 6 DVDs, you won’t find the specific live tracks released only in Germany on the new set of “Enter Sandman” CD singles.  (There is also a glow-in-the-dark vinyl single, but it is missing the live tracks.)  All the discs maintain the style and design of Metallica’s original 1991-1992 singles.  This is an appetiser for what is to come, including two of the newly remastered Metallica tracks.  Proceeds went to German charity.

“Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” are the two remastered studio cuts included.  The remastering sounds good and the tracks are not brickwalled.  Fans will be pleased to know that Metallica opted out of the Loudness Wars this time.  Good thumping bass, nice and prominent.  Crisp, clear, and loud enough.  “Sad But True” is really punchy.

The live tracks are all taken from Frankfurt or Stuttgart, shows not included in the box set.  The 5″ Maxi-CD and 3″ Pockit-CD each contain two exclusives.  Just like in the days of old, you have to buy both formats to get all the tracks.

“Through the Never” is one of the thrashiest songs from the Black era, and the very dry recording here is evidence of non-tampering.  Tasty wah-wah from Kirk Hammett.  “Damage, Inc.” brings thrash the old school way, Metallica as frantic as ever, barely holding it all together, but making the heads bang no matter what.  By the end it’s a total steamroller.

The teeny little 3″ CD is no less mighty.  “Of Wolf and Man” is choppy and heavy.  Hunting relentlessly like the titular wolf, Metallica are out for blood.  What’s really wild is the long jammy section at the end which contains a surprise.  Finally the Budgie cover of “Breadfan” ends the whole series of tracks with an explosive go-for-the-throat attitude.  Sloppy but foot on the gas the whole way.

What’s better than a wicked set of Metallica CD singles, including a 3″?  What could beat that?  How about if both discs were pressed in black plastic?  Would that do anything for ya?  These limited singles are sure to be collectible for their exclusive tracks and unique traits.  Try the German Amazon site for international shipping.  Contrary to a report in Bravewords, these singles do ship worldwide.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Senjutsu (2021)

IRON MAIDEN – Senjutsu (2021 Parlophone)

Out of the wild blue yonder, Iron Maiden have returned with a new album to allow us to temporarily escape from our pandemic woes.  Once again, it is a 2 CD monster, boasting 82 minutes of music.  With only 10 songs, you can do the math and figure out that most are long-bombers.  The tunes recall all sorts of flavours of Iron Maiden, from Seventh Son to Virtual XI and the Dickinson reunion era.  New influences emerge as well, on this beefy but steadfast Maiden album.  Maiden turned a corner on The X Factor, incorporating quieter atmospheric sections with the riffing, and Senjustu utilizes this technique on many of the tunes.  Senjutsu might be the most Blaze-era-like of the Dickinson albums.

This time Maiden have gone for a Samurai motif with the album artwork, and this is reflected in the opening title track “Senjutsu” (Smith/Harris).  Only the second time, after The Final Frontier, that Maiden have opened with a title track.  It actually has a similar vibe at first to that opener, with stomping drums (which tie into the lyrics).  Nicko McBrain is a superstar on this album.  Then Bruce Dickinson heralds his own return with an exotic melody and still powerful lungs.  Range be damned, he goes for it on every song.  “Senjutsu” is a varied track that relies mostly on a pounding rhythm and is a little different from typical Maiden.

Onto a short 5:00 firecracker, “Stratego” (Gers/Harris) is like a Brave New World song.  To the point, steady gallop, heavy on melody.  Heavy keyboard backing, which is consistent on Senjutsu.  An album highlight if only because there are so few short songs, but strong regardless.

First single “The Writing On the Wall” (Smith/Dickinson) opens with a western motif, a new side to Iron Maiden.  It’s a little drawn out for a single, and takes a few listens to digest.  You could almost say it’s closer to Led Maiden.  In the latter half, Adrian Smith rips out one of those solos that is almost a song unto itself.

Long bomber “Lost In A Lost World” (Harris) unfortunately recalls Spinal Tap’s “Clam Caravan” at the outset.  At the 2:00 mark it drops the Tap and gets to the riff, which is a kicker.  The song meanders a bit, perhaps a little too much, recalling some the Blaze-era’s musical excesses.

“Days of Future Past” (Smith/Dickinson) sounds like reunion-era Maiden, hooky and wailing.  It’s the shortest tune at only four minutes and wastes no time getting to the point.  The effective Smith riff forms the bones of the song, in the tradition of something like “Wicker Man”.

The closer on disc one is called “The Time Machine” (Gers/Harris) and is not based on the movie, nor is it typical Iron Maiden, at least until the gallop returns.  The vocal melody is quite different and keyboards are prominent.  This track could work really well live for those times they want to get the crowd bouncing.

The sound of seagulls and crashing ocean set the stage for “Darkest Hour” (Smith/Dickinson).  Dark, understated, and brilliantly performed by Bruce.  Summoning all the panache he can muster.  The chorus goes full power, and Smith’s solo is something else, a mini composition.  Then Dave Murray comes in with a complementary one, as good as any the duo did in the 80s.

Senjutsu might be defined by its closing trio of songs, all in excess of 10 minutes and all written by Steve Harris.  Indeosyncratic Harris songs, and if you know Iron Maiden then you know what to expect.  Bass intros, soft keyboards, gentle guitar and bashing riffs!

“Death of the Celts” sounds like a sequel to “The Clansman” from Virtual XI (both songs written by Harris).  It lacks the unforgettable cry of “freedom!” but instead has a glorious long instrumental section, and some incredible guitar solo work from Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith in a single row.

A different kind of dark bass intro brings us “The Parchment”, then WHAM!  A riff blasts you in the face.  It’s a little exotic and a lot Iron Maiden.  Think “To Tame a Land” without the Kwisatz Haderach.  Of the Steve epics on this album, “The Parchment” might be the most perfect.  It is definitely the longest.  A big part of its being is a series of great Janick guitar solos, but also a sense of tension.

Finally, “Hell On Earth” is a remarkable closer, as the music goes on and on for a while before Bruce starts singing.  But that music is awesome — textured, powerful, and memorable.  Then Bruce delivers a melody a little left of center, and the song becomes another Maiden classic to be enjoyed years from now, every single time.  So much packed into 11 minutes.  The Maiden March, some wicked Murray soloing, riffs and more.  The total package.  It fades out, and that’s the album.

Janick Gers really shines on this album, as his solos repeatedly jump out of the speakers on tracks like “Stratego”, “The Parchment” and “Death of the Celts”.  Sadly there are no Dave Murray co-writes this time.  Dickinson continues to impress, as he staves off the ravages of time better than many of his contemporaries.  Nicko is a relentless machine, and Adrian and Steve turn in performances as good as the ones they are famous for.

Senjustu, the surprise album that we didn’t see coming, is Iron Maiden doing what they do.  There are a few twists and turns, but this is the album we would have expected from them if we knew they were making one!  There are fans who miss the old days and wish Maiden would put out an old fashioned heavy metal album one more time.  They tried that once with No Prayer for the Dying and it didn’t work.  Maiden have been a metal band with a foot in progressive rock for a long time now, and they show no interest in abandoning this direction.  Long songs with Maidenesque writing and structure is what you will get.  And most of us will just be grateful for it.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Blaze Bayley – Alive In Poland (2007)

BLAZE BAYLEY – Alive In Poland (2007 Metal Mind Productions)

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.

4.5/5 stars

VIDEO: Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back reissue board game / figure unboxing