Blaze Bayley - Circle of Stone

Genre: Heavy Metal -

After a health scare last year it’s heartening to see Blaze Bayley back in action, and nary a beat missed in the meantime. Circle of Stone is the eleventh full length after his split with Maiden, and by now, alongside Absolva as his backing band of sorts, the sound seems to be set. And it’s a good album. A Blaze Bayley album. Circle of Stone is very much what’s expected. It delivers the bangers, it delivers the thoughtfuls, it delivers the riffing and it delivers Blaze Bayley in ups and downs. But it’s a very safe album. Everything about it plays it safe, by the books. But while safe, Circle of Stone is also plenty of fun. The opening few tracks do all kinds of tricks; opener Mind Reader channels some inoffensive Futureal-esque semi speed, while The Year Beyond This Year is a melodic romper that sees the Appleton brothers show off their fun side on the dual guitars.

Nothing wrong with a few no nonsense heavy metal smashers, but this is the second album filled with them and Blaze can do so much more. After the Infinite Entanglement trilogy ended it seems Blaze is running directionless. Power chord driven songs about self empowerment can only take an album so far. Blaze and Absolva do it great, sure, but I get the feeling Blaze doesn’t really know where to go, musically. The album is good, don’t get me wrong, but what I really miss is those thick, deep numbers that delve into the abysses of monstrous riffage from The Man Who Would Not Die (2008); those soul bending, deeply personal lyrical narratives from the Infinite Entanglement trilogy, and even the epic scale of the Maiden classics from the ‘90s. Blaze can do so much more than by the numbers heavy metal, but Circle of Stone remains content to do just that.

The Infinite Entanglement trilogy was great in part because there was an underlying theme, a story, a narrative. There were narratives also to the early Blaze Bayley solo albums. One is lacking here, but is sorely needed. Lyrics about rising up against challenges and standing up after defeat are all great and good, but they can get tiresome. Blaze never lets down, and there are certainly stellar flashes and moments of power. Rage, one of the singles, starts off slow, with a trilling guitar alongside Blaze’s soft vocals, and then bursts into a raging.. well, rager with massive riffs and stellar vocals. But it is in those slower moments that we get Blaze’s truest self. Album closer Until We Meet Again is an acoustic ballad and a highlight of the album. Ah, listen to me rant… Circle of Stone is a fine album, and while not one for the history books, it’s obvious Blaze and the guys are having all kinds of fun. In the end that’s all that matters; Blaze is still around and he is his truest self.


Standout tracks: Rage, The Year Beyond This Year, Circle of Stone, Until We Meet Again



Musikvideo: Blaze Bayley - Rage
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