Back in 2016 Blaze Bayley reinvented his solo outfit by beginning collaboration with the competent fellows of Absolva as his backing band, as well as the release of Infinite Entanglement. The album started a highly personal trilogy of albums, ended in 2018 with The Redemption of William Black. Three years later amid burning pandemic the man who would not die is ready to return with fresh music, taking once more to the proverbial skies with a collection of anthems to the glory of being alive. A mere 42 minutes long, War Within Me hearkens to the classics of the illustrious heavy metal genre, obviously leaning on the Absolva line of Maiden worship, thick with melodic riffing and soaring, uplifting choruses. There are no real surprises here, just quality melodic heavy metal, filled with the joy of the craft that Bayley’s presence always brings. Ever since that fantastic Infinite Entanglement the man has become more vibrant with each consecutive release; aged like a fine wine, the man is a treasure.
Opening up on some mean ass riffage, War Within Me is a little angrier in the guitar tone than the previous few albums, presenting a slightly different approach. Chris Appleton continues to deliver the goods in terms of memorable riffs alongside a pumping rhythm section as well as some fantastic solos; Pull Yourself Up being an obvious highlight with its extended solo section, Appleton just letting it rip, melodic and punctual. Moving mostly away from the science fiction theme of the previous few albums, the lyrics still deal heavily in personal struggles and empowerment; standing tall in the face of struggles and defeat, as well as historical events and a triptych dedicated to a few of the greatest scientific minds of the past century (and a little further back). Then there’s the show stopper 18 Flights - another highlight from Appleton as well - detailing a night on tour when an earthquake put an effective stop to one of the band’s sets, told in vivid detail by Bayley through melodic verses and pouring out his love for his fans. More focused in every respect, from the songwriting to the minute details, War Within Me is a rollicking affair full of great moments and memorable hooks, delivered by an inspired band having a blast throughout.
Fans disappointed in the latter day turn toward a simpler, straightforward style, rather than the the darker sound and crushing atmosphere of the early solo days will still find plenty to like here. The heavier tone definitely brings hints of Tenth Dimension (2002) and the guitar antics of Appleton keep tossing new hooks in solos throughout the album. War Within Me continues on the sound of the William Black trilogy and developing it in a more straightforward style; less driven by the narrative, and more by the great musicianship of a band that’s become tighter in the past half decade. Most of the songs are fairly short, leaning on the heavy punch of Appleton’s melodic flair and Bayley’s own powerful charisma in soaring choruses, rather than expanding into epics. It’s a comfortable zone, but it’s delivered with passion and crafted with love. Over two decades since his departure from Maiden and debut solo album, Bayley still puts every bit of himself – his vulnerabilities, his strengths, his passion – into his art, continuing his streak of unleashing upon the world the best material of his illustrious career.
Standout tracks: War Within Me, The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking, Every Storm Ends