A visit form the legendary Blaze Bayley has become something of a spring tradition to us in Scandinavia. Though known to most for his brief stint in Iron Maiden, Blaze’s solo material stands on it’s own and has found a following. They’ve been coming to Finland every year but they’ve had to cancel a few Helsinki shows due to the sad fact that the live venues here keep closing their doors. But this was to be their triumphant return! They had a new album to sell and two new albums worth of new material to play, last year’s Infinite Entanglement and its part deux, Endure and Survive, from this April. On top of that, we had two opening acts ranging from the theatrical local band Silver Bullet, to Iced Earth’s very own Luke Appleton performing solo on acoustic guitar.
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Listen along to the setlist on Spotify:
Amy: I had been under the impression that Silver Bullet would be starting at 20:40-45, as that was what one of the three Facebook events had listed as the start time, but the drummer took the stage at 20:30, followed by an intro track and… Leatherface murdering a lovely young lady with a chainsaw. I can’t say I was expecting the night to start out that way, so bonus points for the surprise. The band took the stage, which was decorated with a black picket fence and pedestal adorned with chains and a lantern, and the singer, Nils Nordling, was dressed like some sort of medieval undertaker or torturer – another surprise. As the first notes struck, the sound was wretched and raspy, but like a true professional, Nordling backed away from the mic and let his voice power out the notes and vibrato without the assistance of the mic until it was quickly remedied.
It was cool to see Hannes Horma – the former bass player of Turisas – on guitar; he’s clearly a well-versed showman and was always great live on bass, but he proved himself a very capable and stylish guitarist, notably in the second track, “More than Meets the Eye.” For the third track, a Gothically dressed young lady took the stage next to Horma dancing seductively, making it evident that this horror movie -inspired band has a flare for visuals. The girl soon shed her corset (possibly with a bit of zipper trouble), revealing lingerie beneath. Her striptease was slightly awkward at times, but I’ll forgive her because she wasn’t exactly in a tearaway outfit. But then… once her skirt came off… she just… stormed off stage. Like her 9-5 shift ended and it was time to clock out. I don’t know what happened there but it was really odd.
It was pretty much the end when Nordling stopped to chat with the crowd before announcing “Tormentor”, which a few guys in the crowd clearly knew. They had pulled in a decent crowd by this time, with a few heads bobbing, and I wondered if some of the crowd had been late because of the incorrect start time. Two naughty nurses came on stage along with Jason Voorhees (of Friday the 13th fame), teasing him with a kinky leather whip and riding crop, before pulling out a switchblade and stabbing him repeatedly, then slitting his throat. He shook it off, y’know, ’cause he’s Jason, and pulled out a butcher’s knife and stalked off after them. Props to Horma for rocking a solo while traversing the cramped stage back to his spot after they all left.
When our photographer, Marco Manzi, wondered if this show would be like King Diamond at Tuska 2013, we weren’t expecting him to be dead on. The performance was quite good on the whole and the band was very competent. Musically they weren’t exactly reinventing the wheel, and Vincent pointed out that these guys are about 30 years late for their genre – so this is definitely for fans of mid-80s metal that need some new music to remind them of the old, as well as for fans of the horror genre in general.
The roadies changed the stage over to the Blaze Bayley band stuff, and then Luke Appleton of Iced Earth fame took the stage for what turned out to be a short acoustic set. This was an odd experience, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Appleton had flown in just for the Nordic shows on this tour, and thanked “Star Bullet” for their set (oops). Appleton started his set with Iced Earth’s “Burning Times”, and followed with something I didn’t recognize and Dio’s “The Last in Line”, before moving on to Black Sabbath and then ended his set with another Iced Earth track, “Watching Over Me.” He invited his brother, Chris Appleton (who is also one of Blaze Bayley’s guitarists) up to sing the Sabbath song, which was pretty cool – he was pretty dull to watch but he did a decent job of it vocally. The acoustic aspect of the set was nice, but it was a bit evident why he’s a backing vocalist and not the lead – he sings decently on the whole and has the right spirit and feel for the songs, but doesn’t quite have the voice and the oomph of Matt Barlow (ex-Iced Earth), Stu Block (Iced Earth), or Dio. However, he had a lot of earnestness that I appreciated and was clearly having fun, so even though it was a bit like self-accompanied live karaoke, it was still enjoyable to watch, and I am enthusiastic to see him with Iced Earth if/when they come tour here after the release of Incorruptible in June.
Vincent: So at this point of the night we’d had what amounts to a Thor (the band) tribute and a cruise-line acoustic covers act. It was dinner and a show sans the dinner. Luckily, the headliner was Blaze Bayley himself. I’d seen all of their Helsinki shows since 2008 so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. This new band (Absolva) I hadn’t seen yet, however, nor had I heard anything from those Infinite albums live. On the Rocks was also a new conquest for them and I didn’t know how many people they could pull in. My fears for that subsided, however, as the place had filled with fans of classic heavy metal well before they took the stage. Blaze fans are often a unique mix of nerdier metallers and biker dudes, with nary a lady in sight.
Blaze finally ascended to his post accompanied by an instrumental intro. The band all had their backs to the audience, which I assumed could have looked dramatic if the lighting had been thought through. The intro was pretty standard and literally one-note but once the first song kicked off, all was forgiven. “Endure and Survive”, the titular and opening track of both the album and this show, started things off with a bang! The band sounded great! All the instruments were perfectly balanced and the vocals came out clearly. The crowd was 100% with them and most were at least familiar with the song. Without so much as a hello, they continued on with the second track, “Escape Velocity.” Why break up a great flow, right?
The third track came in just in time to assuage the nagging feeling they’d be bold enough to play the new album in its entirety. Since going solo, Blaze has amassed an impressive discography of eight studio albums. However, he always has a Maiden song or two up his sleeve (or… vest). “Futureal” has always been a crowd favorite and tonight was no exception. It was the perfect time for it. After that, we got the heaviest song from Endure and Survive: “Blood.” Invoking horrid imagery of bloodshed and mass murder, the up-tempo track had us all pumping our fists in the air. “Alive” from Blood and Belief flowed in the same vein of feelings of anger and resentment. This followed by the dystopian sci-fi of “Silicon Messiah”, another fan favorite. So far this had been a perfect, energetic, thrilling set.
Getting back to the new album was “Eating Lies”; a nice enough slow song to cram in there. Personally, I would much have preferred hearing something like “Regret” or “While You Were Gone”, but you review the show you got, not the one you wanted. Blaze hasn’t played a lot from the era of The Man Who Would Not Die and Promise & Terror since cutting ties with them, possibly for rights issues. That being said, most sets include either “Samurai” or “Robot”, and surely enough we got “Samurai.” It was fairly disposable. It does have a bit where the audience gets to wave their fists in the air and shout “Die!” though (always cute).
In between another few from the new albums, we got another gem from Iron Maiden. Though “Judgement of Heaven” came with an inherently Jesus-y vibe to it, it was admittedly a welcome change of pace. “Stare at the Sun” – yet another classic from Blaze’s first solo album – followed soon after. The arrangement with only one guitar seemed severely off; Blaze had, up to this point, been almost uncharacteristically on key, but here he had some trouble. The song fell completely flat, which was a real shame since it’s such a fantastic track.
For many the highlight of the evening came in the form of Iron Maiden’s “The Clansman.” By this point the dance floor had become a veritable furnace, powered by sweaty, long-haired lads all crying for freedom. [Amy: This song is was my first favorite metal track, so I stuck around for the sole purpose of seeing it and pandering to my 15-year-old self; she was not disappointed!] To me, the feeling was somewhat dampened by the next song. They rarely do Wolfsbane songs but this night they chose to not only play “Man Hunt” but to also stretch it out with solos and such as much as humanly possible. The band was in good form but none of it rang as very interesting.
Those who stuck around after that were treated with yet another classic Maiden track, “Man on the Edge” and two more tracks from Infinite Entanglement. There wasn’t a clear point that could be called an encore, per se, but I suppose saying, “You guys want more?” counts nowadays. After the show, Blaze did his usual signing session to which roughly the entire audience quickly gravitated. I picked up my Infinite Entanglement LP and walked out happy as a clam.
To me, it seemed as if the first half of the set was more polished and well put together. Some of the songs didn’t reach their potential with just one guitar, even though Chris Appleton did prove himself a superb musician. In fact, this band may well rival the line-up of 2007-2011. The fans also went nuts for the new stuff. Blaze himself was in rare form and his on-stage antics were a delight as always. The first two acts didn’t really reach me, but the crowd seemed pretty into them. Kudos, for at least making sure the support bands were of a somewhat compatible genre. They did promise to come back next year with the third and final installment of Infinite Entanglement, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again.
1. Endure and Survive
2. Escape Velocity
3. Futureal (Iron Maiden)
6. Silicon Messiah
7. Eating Lies
10. Fight Back
11. Judgement of Heaven (Iron Maiden)
12. Calling You Home
13. Stare at the Sun
14. The Clansman (Iron Maiden)
15. Man Hunt (Wolfsbane)
16. Man on the Edge
17. Dark Energy 256
A Thousand Years
Photos: Marco Manzi