Promise And Terror
posted on 2/2010 By:
After releasing four albums under the Blaze moniker, Blaze Bayley formed a new band and rebranded himself with 2008's The Man Who Would Not Die. Though it slipped through the cracks here at MR HQ, it proved to be the best power metal album of the year not titled Be Gone. Capitalizing on this momentum, Bayley and Co. have made a quick turnaround with Promise and Terror, arguably the man's strongest exhibition to date.
Now, some won't even give this thing the time of day, simply because the name Blaze Bayley has been significantly stigmatized. This is, after all, the dude that was the face of Iron Maiden during the unquestionable low-point of their career, and to many, that's a dealbreaker. It's long past time to toss that bias aside. (Seriously. It's been over a decade. Not only did the guy have the balls to step behind Bruce's mic stand, but he's taken more than his fair share of bullets for Steve Harris' depth-dredging. Let it go.) Here in 2010, the man is forging ahead, crafting modern, electrifying, thrash-stomping power metal with utmost passion and brutal honesty.
That honesty takes Promise and Terror to the heights to which The Man Who Would Not Die aspired. While tenacious as all hell, TMWWND's success was predicated upon the degree in which the killer trumped the filler. Promise and Terror is far more even-keeled. Each track pulses with punch and purpose, a feat made all the more remarkable in the face of the personal tragedy the man has recently endured. Blaze confronts these battles head-on with opener "Watching the Night Sky." Speedy and straightforward, the track showcases Blaze’s knack for soulful choruses and sets the table for the album’s severely introspective theme. The three-minute scorcher that follows, “Madness and Sorrow,” lets the rest of his band flex their muscles. Eschewing the crushed-velvet pomp that most laymen associate with power metal, these guys are essentially picking up the ball that Susperia dropped after Unlimited. Thrashy and precise, guitarists Nicolas Bermudez and Jay Walsh are as dynamic as they are dexterous--Bermudez in particular--as they shred with glass-gnashing fury. “God of Speed” and “City of Bones” highlight the disc’s midsection, each track pairing wrecking-ball swagger with sweet, slightly-somber melodies that recall vintage Arch Enemy. Hearing honest-to-awesomeness cleans over such adrenalizing necksnap is a luxury rarely experienced, and the chemistry is nothing less than explosive.
The first half of Promise and Terror rocks hard, even when taken simply as a pseudo-futuristic amalgam of modern heavy metal. Fist-pumping anthems and working-class fireworks make this ‘Promise’ aspect of the album an empowering and even-keeled slab of heavy metal. The gears then shift slightly with the mostly-acoustic ballad “Surrounded By Sadness” (which, along with the brittle “1633,” is a rare misstep), and the ‘Terror’ sinks in. With seven tracks of never-say-die resolve under his belt, uncertainty then rears its oppressive head. A dark question lingers…”why?”
Adversity, undoubtedly, makes one stronger, and “The Trace of Things That Have No Words” proves to be an imposing fortress, albeit one built upon a foundation of pain. The vocals are naked and raw: “Nothing can numb this pain / nothing can fill this void / Nothing can heal this wound, nothing can hide this scar / Nothing is what I have, nothing is all that's left / Nothing is what I am, if I am without you...” While Blaze cuts himself open and cannonblasts the arterial, the rhythm section of David Bermudez and Lawrence Paterson show they’ve bolstered their chops considerably since their initial outing. Their spirited grooves give this Gardenian-flavored basher an inescapable groove, and by the time Blaze launches into the final refrain, the volcano bursts. This roiling magma bleeds into the pit-inducing closing of “Letting Go of the World,” and finally cools to the haunting strains of “Comfortable in Darkness.”
At the very least, the concrete crush of Promise in Terror proves that Blaze Bayley is one of the most dedicated, war-torn heavy metal warriors roaming the planet. But it’s more than a statement of will. Not only is it further proof that the only ones that can do this power metal thing effectively are the Americans and the Brits (for real), but it’s a kickass album that is founded on a central tenet that is increasingly rare: truth. There is no barrier between Blaze Bayley and the fans; the dude’s pulling music from his soul, laying it out on a slab, and bringing it to your local pub. Tirelessly. Valiantly. Admirably. Without a trace of pretense or any semblance of a façade. This is metal for metal’s sake, and Promise and Terror is a metal album for metalheads. Enjoy.
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