Review Summary: British Lion has more to offer to its creator than to his fans.
British Lion opens with a track whose title might have very easily been an implication. I’ m guessing that the image of Iron Maiden leader Steve Harris ecstatically running around on stage as if he was a teenager, playing “Hallowed be thy Name” with undying, contagious passion, must have caused (at some point) every one of their millions of devoted fans to think to themselves that “This is My God”. However, Harris has confessed in several interviews that the foundation of his success is honesty. An Iron Maiden sounding record made by Steve Harris must bear the Iron Maiden name on it. So anyone who might have thought that Harris would make the kind of album that would just fill the gap between releases would be absolutely wrong; his first solo effort is hardly an album for his fans.
The first three songs (among them “This is my God”) would have made Jerry Cantrell quite proud, not so much because of their quality, but mostly because they share a musical direction not that distant from Cantrell’s accomplishments with Alice In Chains in the early 90s. Harris tries some heavy alternative and doesn’t really succeed, mainly because it is very obvious that he is exploring territory with which he is not familiar at all; his singer, Richard Taylor, has a warm yet somewhat soft vocal style, clearly not suited for heavier material. Nevertheless, all three songs have very memorable choruses-one thing that can be said for almost every one of the songs in British Lion. The result is much better in These Are the Hands, which is alternative friendly again, but groovier, less heavy and carries much more accessible melodies.
There is another side to British Lion as well; in The Chosen Ones and Eyes of the Young, the band performs some UFO influenced hard rock-to the extend where if you called it AOR no one would actually blame you- and this life affirming, upbeat side seems to suit them just fine. They are two of the best songs in the album. A World without Heaven carries a certain “1987” Whitesnake vibe, but it only becomes interesting after the fourth minute, where the band tries an instrumental part with solos and dual guitar harmonies. In Judas the band performs again this energetic brand of hard rock, but despite its promising intro, this song is nothing special really.
Somewhere in between, there is the highlight of the album; Us against the World is the only track in British Lion that would make Iron Maiden fans feel comfortable, as it is based upon heavier rhythms and dual guitar licks; frankly, these kind of harmonic leads are sparsely thrown into the record, but in the overall rock context they sound more like Harris’ early influences, than like Iron Maiden. The record closes with The Lesson, where strings add color to an emotional acoustic theme, but it doesn’t break the rule; as decent as they might be, ballads are not Harris’ best feature.
One part of British Lion finds Harris paying tribute to his favorite bands. The other finds him experimenting in an effort to assimilate several branches of heavy rock. In the whole record he does his best to have as much fun as possible and nowhere does he feel the need to leave his stamp. But take a look at the ingredients: paying tribute, assimilating, having fun and not wanting to leave your personal mark in a record is the recipe for a generic album. Thus, no matter how well executed this album is (it really is an album of well played rock), and despite the fact that it has its great moments, British Lion retains the main characteristics of a generic album; without ever being a disaster or even a failure, it has much more to offer to its creator than to his fans.