Review Summary: Oh how the mighty has fallen. A few outstanding tracks but most of this release is a trainwreck. Blaze's career lowpoint to date.
Though it is the third album released under the “Blaze Bayley” name, this is actually the début solo release by the Wolfsbane and ex-Iron Maiden vocalist. Blaze’s most recent band, dubbed the Blaze Bayley Band by Blaze himself, was always officially credited under the Blaze Bayley name until their break-up in 2011. Now Blaze is operating as a solo artist, but this is not immediately obvious – The King of Metal uses not only the same name as before (Blaze Bayley), but also the band logo that had been used consistently since 2007. The sound is not drastically different from the two offerings with his previous band, either – listeners may be deceived.
The album opens with the title track and release single, which is an absolute disaster. Whatever Blaze was trying to say here, the barely coherent wreck of a track just comes off as nasty in spirit and badly written. Too short to really establish itself properly, the production is beefy and Blaze is in full voice but neither can correct the poor writing or taste as the song contains an un-necessary jab at Amy Winehouse, who died during the album's writing/recording process, implying that her commercial success was the result of the media attention her lifestyle received. It is not surprising that Blaze is bitter - the man has suffered much tragedy in his life and faced many career struggles - but that makes it no more acceptable, really. All this is soundtracked by a chaotic mess of riffs.
Thankfully the album never again sinks to this level of awfulness, though that is not to say it is a great effort either. The album feels contrived, with Blaze selecting lyrical topics that seem custom chosen to tug at the heartstrings of metal fans. Blaze has presented himself as rock ‘n’ roll’s ultimate victim for years now, and he does so again here on “The King of Metal” and “Judge Me”. The topic is getting tiresome at this point. Blaze is generous enough to share the spotlight with other fallen heroes though, with tributes to Dimebag Daryl and Ronnie James Dio – “Dimebag” and “The Rainbow Fades to Black” respectively.
Dimebag fans might not appreciate Blaze’s claim that Dime “will always be alive / here in me”, though – even in a tribute song Blaze somehow manages to appear self-obsessed. “Rainbow Fades to Black” never really seems to connect with the subject matter at all – it just sounds like any another metal song. Fortunately, the relentless rhythm section and melodic solos keep the album on life support – maintaining a high standard of performance throughout, with top notch production (recorded in Iron Maiden leader Steve Harris’ personal studio). Sandwiched between the two is the proud “The Black Country” – it feels totally out of place with two songs about grief on either side of it, and is just another cliché – Blaze’s “Hello, Cleveland!” moment.
“Fate” finds Blaze on strong form at last, staying simple and making no wrong moves, with the instrumental sounding like an out-take from Judas Priest’s Painkiller album. The more experimental material works well too, such as “One More Step”, an elegant piano ballad which sees Blaze and the piano unaccompanied by any kind of traditional rock instrumentation. This stops it sounding too similar to “Fighter”, which starts as a conventional rock power ballad, gradually building into a grand, progressive epic. It is strangely reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s post-Blaze output, actually. The song’s focus on instrumentation makes a nice counterpoint to the vocal-centric “One More Step”, though the spoken word piece at the end is one of the finest moments on the album.
Sadly, the album closes with a wimper, with “Judge Me” leading into bland filler tracks “Difficult” and “Beginning”. “Beginning” in particular is utterly directionless. Only “One More Step” and “Fighter” are worthy of comparison to Blaze’s best efforts, while the rest varies from reasonable to downright irritating. Some of Blaze’s former band members suggested Blaze went solo for commercial purposes only, rather than greater artistic satisfaction, and the utter lack of craft on show here gives credibility to that claim. A real shame.