Reviews of Blaze Bayley's Infinite Entanglement trilogy (2016 - 2018)
William Black needs a nasal spray - A review of Blaze Bayley's ''Infinite Entanglement''
''Infinite Entanglement'' is the first strike of a conceptual trilogy that goes back to Blaze Bayley's beloved space theme that already dominated his first solo outputs ''Silicon Messiah'' and ''Tenth Dimension''. This album sounds less diversified, emotional and spontaneous than the controversial predecessor ''The King of Metal'' and presents Blaze Bayley's more consistent, intellectual and structured side. His seventh full length solo output in sixteen years comes around with twelve short and consistent tracks that don't feature any unnecessary lengths. The music is deeply rooted in traditional heavy metal but varies from slow-paced ballads with acoustic guitars and violins such as ''What Will Come'' over catchy mid-tempo anthems like ''Human'' to vivid upper mid-tempo tracks in the key of ''Dark Energy 256''.
Obviously, the sympathetic singer will always be compared to his former band Iron Maiden and I must admit that he tries to take advantage of this association since many tracks on this album are closely inspired by the British heavy metal legends. The dominating and galloping bass sound, the melodic twin guitar solos and the tight drumming recall the band on almost every single track. Some parts such as the opening riff of ''Dark Energy 256'' that is a variation of the main riff of ''Futureal'' are simply stated weaker copies of the original classics. At least Blaze Bayley's songwriting is much more to the point, features a slightly progressive atmosphere throughout the entire album and includes some interesting narrative parts and interludes to give the listener a more cinematic experience.
Maybe some fans are expecting Blaze Bayley to sound exactly like he did when he was in Iron Maiden but he has proven on his last solo album and on several guest appearances with bands such as Alexy's Square and Sinnergod that either mid-paced hard rock or a slower gothic rock style suit his emotional yet limited vocals much better nowadays. The less metal and more rock orientated tracks like the energizing ''A Thousand Years', the harmonious ''Stars Are Burning'', the relaxing ''Solar Wind' and the heartwarming ''Calling You Home''' sound much more natural, harmonize well with Blaze Bayley's unique vocals and can be cited as highlights.
The production of this new album is an issue. The drums sound too dry, the guitars lack power and the sound is dominated by the bass guitar and the vocals. Blaze Bayley sounds too often out of tone and nasal and parts of the lyrics are particularly hard to understand during the verses of many tracks. Instead of hiding his flaws with a more homogeneous production, it exposes them constantly. The faster vocal parts in the opening title track ''Infinite Entanglement'' are plain irritating and the constantly struggling vocal efforts in the otherwise relaxing ''What Will Come'' don't fit at all. Blaze Bayley's exaggerated intonations don't fit to the music. One can hear that he put his heart and soul into these songs but they just sound annoying and he should have requested some help from a vocal coach here.
In the end we have a good average heavy metal record but a slightly below average Blaze Bayley album with numerous tracks that offer interesting variations of heavy metal music. The album has a clear guiding line in form of a slightly epic and progressive tone. This is supported by an intellectually appealing lyrical concept, entertaining narrative parts and atmospheric interludes such as ''The Dreams of William Black''. Despite the ambitious approach, the tracks are always to the point and offer a few catchy choruses and harmonious twin guitar solos. On the other side, the production is too thin for such a project, the vocals sound overly theatrical, nasal and loud in both the ballads and the heavier tracks and the album misses a stunning track that truly tries to break new ground.
Final rating: 70%
William Black has digestive problems - A review of Blaze Bayley's " Endure and Survive (Infinite Entanglement Part II)"
Blaze Bayley's Infinite Entanglement record was his most successful release since his debut solo record in the beginning of the millennium in terms of critical acclaim and financial profits. From an artistic point of view, it was however one of Blaze Bayley's least inspiring releases. Exchangeable traditional heavy metal with a terrible production met an average conceptual science-fiction story. The reason why this record was so successful is probably due to the fact that science-fiction themes are quite popular these days and it seems like Blaze Bayley simply jumped on the bandwagon here. Blaze Bayley is a hard-working, honest and sympathetic artist who surely deserves this success but I wasn't too excited about the fact that the last release was the first installment in a trilogy.
Endure and Survive is a step in the right direction in my opinion. First of all, the production improved by a mile. The bass guitar isn't as annoyingly dominating as on the previous release. Maybe the bass guitar is even a little bit too much in the background this time around but that's still better than what was offered on the previous output where that instrument buried everything else. The vocals also sound a little bit more balanced. They are still nasal and overtly dramatic but this time the record doesn't sound as if it consisted of under-produced first takes only. Secondly, the release has a more cinematic and epic atmosphere thanks to more spoken-word passages and conceptual interludes. The story is also getting more interesting. It picks up exactly where the previous record left us and ends with quite a cliffhanger.
This release's biggest flaw is that it sounds very similar to the first installment. The album basically consists of nine rather short mid-tempo heavy metal songs without any surprises and a more epic album closer that ends this release on a gripping note. The rhythm section sounds particularly uninspired since the bass guitar is almost inaudible and the drum patterns are as exchangeable as it gets. The guitar work is better than on the predecessor and offers enchanting acoustic guitar melodies, melancholic riffs and passionate solos. Blaze Bayley gives everything he has on the vocals and his enthusiasm is somehow contagious and almost carries this release on its own. Still, the album is definitely missing a standout track that delivers anything above a good average idea.
Despite its futuristic topic, this album is as conservative as it gets from a musical point of view. If you like old-fashioned mid-tempo heavy metal that could have been released thirty years ago and a science-fiction story that could come from one of the numerous recent video games in the key of Alien, Mass Effect and Soma, this record will fully satisfy you. If you expect something more courageous and creative, you might consider this release good average at best. It's slightly better than Infinite Entanglement but not by much. On a closing side note, the silly album artwork is weird and looks as if the main character had digestive problems. I hope that Blaze Bayley improves in the artwork, production and song writing departments for the third and final part of the trilogy which is due to come out next year.
Final rating: 72%
William Black has smelly armpits - A review of Blaze Bayley's The Redemption of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III)
The Redemption of William Black is the last part in the Infinite Entanglement trilogy. Finally. I have followed Blaze Bayley's career for many years and the sympathetic, resilient and passionate singer hasn't often received the credit he would have deserved for his early solo efforts. Now, he gets massive praise for a trilogy that is ultimately underwhelming and doesn't deserve the attention it gets. Many people praise the trilogy's concept but it feels copied from numerous science-fiction novels, movies and games. A lot of people underline the heavy metal musicianship but aside of a few narrative part and occasional acoustic guitar half-ballads, the three records offer old-fashioned heavy metal by the numbers that wouldn't have stood a chance to survive among competitors in the eighties. Most people praise Blaze Bayley's passionate vocal performance but his efforts often sound strained, out of tone and nasal. This third part is the weakest of the trilogy but even the first two releases were only slightly above average.
Blaze Bayley's has always shined in his most emotional songs that often had a gloomier tone fitting his lower vocal register. This album doesn't focus on emotions but a conceptual story which is already a bad choice for a singer that usually convinces with more personal lyrics. The songs are also often uplifting upper mid-tempo heavy metal tracks that are too fast for Blaze Bayley to follow them vocally and unfold his charismatic vocal chops. The idea to write shorter songs is usually a good idea but in this case, it doesn't work out because the tracks are challenging Blaze Bayley's vocals too much, often lacking song writing development and generally rushing by way too quickly. If you find tracks like the dull ''Redeemer'' with its endlessly repeated chorus, the awkward stop-and-go musicianship in ''Are You Here?'' that exposes Blaze Bayley's lacking vocal skills, the strained vocal efforts in ''The First True Sign'' or the rushed spoken word efforts in ''18 Days'' exciting, you should let a doctor check your hearing. Those songs are painful to sit through.
There are only a few positive elements to point out. The production of the first part was terrible with loud bass guitars and nasal vocal takes, the second part had a lackluster rhythm section but this third installment finally has a mostly decent production with a clear guitar tone, a slightly more organic rhythm section and a good use of radio play samples. Only the vocals still sound too loud in the mixture. Overall, the production is of a slightly above average quality but it's the best that Blaze Bayley has offered us in a while. A few tracks are at least good such as the melodic and epic closer ''Eagle Spirit'' that finally gives Blaze Bayley the chance to vary his vocal skills and convince in the mid-paced and slower parts. A few other songs have a few convincing passages in form of exciting guitar solos in ''Immortal One'', smooth female guest vocals in ''18 Days'' or the harmonious acoustic guitars in ''Life Goes On'' but as soon as Blaze Bayley starts to sing or the tracks speed up, all initial potential is wasted.
Another constant in the underwhelming trilogy is the laughable series of cover artworks. This one looks like the faceless protagonist's armpits are smelling so badly that he actually lifts off. This might be an unintentional climax after the protagonist's initial problems with his nose followed by his digestive issues.
On a more serious note, this record and the trilogy as a whole is only interesting for fans of old-fashioned heavy metal, those interested in conceptual science-fiction stories and the few faithful collectors and followers of Blaze Bayley's career. If you have discovered Blaze Bayley through these three records and think they are great, please give his first three solo albums a chance and I hope you will realize how much more profound they are than what the artist has offered us over the past two years. Somewhere in these three albums, there might be just enough material for one decent full length effort but as it is, this trilogy clearly offers quantity over quality. To be honest, this album only has one good song and as painful as it is to criticize an artist I genuinely admire, I must be honest and say that this album is somewhere between below average and bad. For his next record, Blaze Bayley should hire a vocal coach and focus on his slower and lower register. It's time to let William Black go and for Blaze Bayley to redeem himself with a more focused effort.
Final rating: 45%« William Black has smelly armpits - A review of Blaze Bayley's The Redemption of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III)Zatôichi abare tako / Zatoichi's Flashing Sword (1964) - An emotional protagonist, a set of intriguing characters and stunning sword fights under the backdrop of fireworks - 7/10 (03/03/18) »
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