It’s taken seven and a half years to release a follow up, mostly due to scheduling conflicts and other crap that shouldn’t affect the fans in the first place, but here we are at long last. The second album by British Lion, known initially only because it is the “side project” of Steve Harris, titled The Burning. The first album, released under Harris’ own name in 2012 is criminally underrated, so a follow up was a long time coming (literally). What The Burning then goes on to be is at first a fairly underwhelming listen, but one that with repeated listens (and there will be many) begins to unravel itself and its mysteries. More confident than its predecessor it still follows in the same footsteps, but doesn’t ask your permission to go nuts with its nuts out when it wants to. And it’s not even driven entirely by Harris’ bass as much as the first album was.
So while it started off underwhelming on first glance, The Burning will not disappoint once you really get into it. The keyboards adding the backdrop touch make the progression and the climaxes stand out all the more, especially in masterfully crafted tracks like Last Chance, starting out as a solemn ballad but turning into a big sounding melodic piece of bombastic hard rock destined for crowd pleasing, and Spit Fire with its take no prisoners approach and burning guitars that drive the song. Graeme Leslie and David Hawkins’ guitars themselves are pretty fire, sticking close to the hard rock riff foundation but detouring into heavy metal melodics in some sweet lead sections and instrumental parts allowing for the direction take another step beyond the already very solid groundwork. Hawkins kicks off a few pretty sweet solos as well, highlighting otherwise blander tracks like Father Lucifer and pushing them upward; the track in question getting that final kick right at the end thanks to a blazing performance from Hawkins.
It’s a little harder around the edges, dealing some more heavy metal roughness blended with old school street-y vibes. It still also maintains every bit of sensibility and well rounded smoothness, especially in the storytelling, emotional pull and vocalist Richard Taylor’s vibrant delivery. And when you’re not expecting it to sound like Maiden, it sounds like old school Maiden with twin guitar harmonies and Harris’ trademark galloping bass lines. The title track boasts a chorus just like this, while Spit Fire begins with one of those Maiden like intros you love immediately. But the album’s still also about two songs too long, clocking in at an hour’s runtime when a fifty minute run would do the anthemic content better justice and without overstaying its welcome. All in all, The Burning really takes all the good parts of the first album and takes off for new heights. It’s just a massive turd of a shame that fans will probably have to wait another seven and a half years for another roar of the British Lion, because scheduling conflicts.
Standout tracks: Elysium, Last Chance, Spit Fire