Thursday, January 30, 2020

I've come around--Blaze Bayley is pretty awesome

I'll admit it, I more or less bailed on Iron Maiden in the mid-late 1990s. Metal in general appeared to be tipping into obscurity. Grunge ruled the airwaves. Rob Halford had left Judas Priest, Black Sabbath appeared done, and Metallica put out Load (and Reload). Yuck. Denim and leather had given way to flannel and hackeysacks. It was grim times, man, especially for a young man just off to college who suddenly discovered his passion for metal largely out of place on a hip campus of adherents to Pearl Jam.

So when Bruce Dickinson left Maiden, I checked out on the band. Not the previous incarnation with Bruce--I never stopped flying the metal flag, even when it was decidedly uncool to do so (a slightly ridiculous display of integrity that I still cling to). But I could not get on board the Blaze Bandwagon. I remember listening to a couple songs and being baffled by the guy's voice--powerful and rugged, but not operatic like Bruce's, lacking the same dynamism and range. I didn't buy The X Factor or Virtual XI when they came out. I probably had the chance see Maiden in some small venues, but couldn't be bothered to look.

In hindsight, that was a foolish decision. While of course Bayley is no Dickinson, and in humble fashion readily admits as much (in any interview you read with the guy he basically says he was keeping the seat warm until Bruce's inevitable return), they put out some pretty darned good songs in that era. Sign of the Cross. The Clansman. Lord of the Flies. Futureal. So good in fact that they put the former two in the setlist when I saw them last August. They were among the better songs Dickinson and co. played that night, IMO.

And of course, Blaze gets credit for singing the sublime Judgement of Heaven. Perhaps my favorite of this "dark age" of Iron Maiden.

Recently I found an acoustic version of the song during my Youtube crawlings, and felt compelled to share here. Blaze sings with such earnestness and genuine passion, you can't help but get behind the guy. And the lyrics in this one... wow. They resonate with me, deeply.

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