British Lion - The Burning

British Lion The Burning cover
British Lion
The Burning
Parlophone & Explorer1 Music
Hindsight is 20/20. Love makes you fat and other idioms. And people are assholes. It’s funny to see the same people who tell you ohh that new Steve Harris album is absolute phish, then singing its praises to get a feature and an interview. I was told by many that I should be more “considerate”, more PR friendly, cause it hurts my efforts; it might be true, but then again I’m not used to blowing smoke up people’s arses, so neither will I do so here, because one of the members of this band is Iron Maiden’s talismanic bassist and leader Steve Harris.
So… some eight years after their debut and with a tour under the band’s belt, a second album drops. The band’s eponymous debut largely suffered, due to the songs being rather boring and the vocals while, half decent but lacking passion, but didn’t have any mixing issues. On this follow up the perplexing decision of Harris to remove to eliminate the producer and have his dirty deeds/voodoo six mate handle all those duties, results in a rather amateur job (that hardly sounds tight or big – just clean) on an album that at least makes somewhat of an effort on the songwriting level.
The biggest issue however is not the sound, but the singer. While Richard Taylor is not a terrible singer, he definitely doesn’t feel like the guy that would really make this material shine, with his clean tone and rather limited range. His performances are more enthusiastic than those of the debut, but there are plenty of places where he can be heard holding back to avoid going off key.
“City of Fallen Angels” has a punkish energy, not unlike the first couple of Maiden albums, but it’s also quite reminiscent of the style of some of the earlier albums of one Gary Moore.
The title track, “The Burning”, continues in a similar epic style that adds Thin Lizzy, Dare and Glyder to the influences (all of them Irish bands); it’s actually pretty cool, but while I find the lead tone of the guitars fine, a little more bite in the rhythm ones, wouldn’t have hurt imho.
Case and point, “Father Lucifer”, a weird number, which sounds somewhat like a mix between the first and later Angelwitch albums, with its apocryphal lyricism. More melodic than blatantly heavy, it carries itself nicely. Actually, if Dave Tatum is still singing – I think he’d sound ace, on some of those tunes… oh nice and fierce soloing by the way.
“Elysium” is a little more progressive, feeling like the weird love child between Lizzy, Uriah Heep, Ten and FM. It’s one of those cases where it becomes pretty apparent that either a vocalist with more range or at least a harmony would have made the chorus take flight. Taylor actually sounds quite evocative towards the songs conclusion and it’s sad that a little more work didn’t go towards making this song what it could have been.
“Lightning” isn’t half as bad, but its lyrics sound pretty makeshift and not in a good way… which is a pity cause at the very least there’s a nice vocal melody there. There’s a fired up solo in there, that’s rather impressive, but where a lot of rhythmical build up could have proceeded, the guitars sound simple and subdued. It sounds, like an unfinished demo of something that could have also been the basis of a post millennial Maiden song.
“Last Chance” is an okay hard rocker with an edge that needed a vocalist with some grit… here the rhythm stuff, sticks out as nice, but again, it feels like something unfinished or done in a hurry.
I could also really picture someone like Glyder’s second vocalist Jackie Robinson handling these songs...
“Legend” is a weird song, I was again getting a Glyder/Dare vibe, but then the song takes a very weird turn, with a chorus worthy of some of the better Avantasia songs, if only Kiske was singing it. Not exactly something that I was expecting, but not something that I wouldn’t welcome if it were properly done.
“Spit Fire” obviously reeks of Maiden but in a hard rock way… I could also hear some early Fates Warning (that obviously were influenced by Maiden), a weird falsettizing fella here, would have made this song sound gloriously old school metal.
“Land of the Perfect People” has a Lynottesque lyricism about it, but a more Magnumesque musical backdrop, without the lush of the pomp patriarchs, but I could easily hear Bob C doing his thing here.
“Bible Black” is a pretty syncopated tune; Taylor barely keeps up with at first. It features some pretty neat melodies and even has some quite nice lyrics to complement it…. this is one of the songs that I feel would have totally benefited by a more wholesome production with more layered guitars, maybe keys etc.; it’s actually a pretty bright sounding song for one of such a pessimistic title.
“Native Son” is a sorrowful ballad, which evokes memories of early maiden and has a 70s air that quite suits it… other than some additional orchestration in a certain place, it’s one of the few songs that actually sounds “complete” as it is (even though the guitars could have been mixed a bit lower generally).
Overall, “The Burning” is actually a pretty good album, just one with a choppy production job and underwhelming on a number of occasions vocals. With a Dickinson or Kiske type of vocalist those same songs would have really shone under a much different light. For whatever reason it sounds like good demos of a great album that “could have been”.