Greetings, Glancers – it’s Brucey time! It’s a long time since my last Bruce solo outing, and in truth that was pretty crap. This was his first album after fully leaving Maiden. Unlike his debut, this one I haven’t heard of at all, and I don’t remember anything about it from around the time of its release. I don’t recognise any of the ten tracks below, though at least they sound metal. CLICHES!
‘Cyclops‘ this opens with a bit of an Iron Man vibe, albeit with some pseudo-industrial 90s beats and sounds. I’m not sure how to feel about it, then a crunching riff drops and I suddenly feel a lot better. It spends its time getting to the first verse, then Bruce begins singing, theatrical as always, sounding revitalized. He’s sneering and yelping. The chorus reminds me of Brutal Planet. It’s a while since I heard Tattooed Millionaire, but this feels heavier than anything off his debut. It doesn’t sound like anything Maiden would write, which I suppose is the point. The guitar attack and tone is completely different from your Maiden style, but I can see most Maiden fans getting behind this, even if it is a harsher sound. A great extended instrumental to close out.
‘Hell No‘ opens interestingly enough. A tribal, looping beat. I can only imagine this sounded quite modern in 94. It’s a type of metal I’m not overly familiar with so it feels fresh to me. It carries on with ominous verse and booming chorus. Nicely layered vocals in the chorus – these always sound great when you have as powerful a singer as Bruce. There’s a whispering, then shouting middle 8 just for fun. It’s a good follow up to the first track.
‘Gods Of War‘ has another different type of drum intro. I’m going to level with yoy, let you see behind the curtain. I’m writing this sentence, listening to the song for the first time on 24th March 2020. Earlier today I listened to AC-DC’s Highway To Hell album for the first time and was pissed off by how similar each song was and by how samey the drums were. Basically every song followed the same rhythm, format, and beat. Here we are, three songs into this album and each one has been different in form, rhythm, and beat. But enough of that. I like the more tender nature of the verse and how the pre-chorus veers between effervescent, epic, and vicious. The chorus itself isn’t the best, but there’s a great solo and rhythm section in there. I hope this continues, but so far this is a vast improvement over the first album.
‘1000 Points Of Light‘ opens with a repetitive series of crunching chorus before the venomous drums and vocals join. The verses are somewhat monotone yet there is an underlying layer of funk. The chorus offers more in terms of melody, the instrumental breaks up the funk quota, and the second verse mostly dispenses with guitar. It’s the little changes and choices which prevent this mostly average song from being boring. We even get a little soft jazz ballad breakdown in between solos somewhere in the middle. If the verses were less monotone this would be better.
‘Laughing In The Hiding Bush‘ has a more disjointed feel in its opening moments before the verse finds coherence thanks to another near tribal beat and a great snarling vocal. This time its the verses which offer the more interesting melody over the chorus. Not a lot too this one, just a simple hard rock song.
‘Change Of Heart‘ begins with, is that a slight Latino feel? The beat and the guitar tone certainly suggest as much. The verse vocal is despondent and mournful. Melodically it reminds me of Audioslave’s Like A Stone. I’m waiting for the metal to come. A crunch of sorts comes for the chorus, it’s a brief chorus – I would have liked a little more to it, but it’s good while it lasts. It’s a song which feels like it could have been, in the right ot wrong hands, a power ballad in another life. Dickinson keeps things grounded, even when he’s tackling subject matter he usually doesn’t, such as here.
‘Shoot All The Clowns‘ has a beat which a lot of rock bands adopted in the mid 90s, or which a lot of pop artists did when they wanted a little more oomph. It does feel a little, not dated, but it does scream mid 90s. Dickinson is enjoying the vocals here, giving it the snarl from his previous two Maiden albums. It’s all quite funky too and was that a Welcome To The Jungle in joke? It all continues in this vein until Bruce decides to give rap a crack, and a fair crack it is because we know the man can do anything. A strange entry in his canon, but it’s quite fun.
‘Fire‘ has a good old fashioned dinosaur stomping riff and drum intro which treads onward through the verse. Now this one reminds me of Slash’s Snakepit and several other rock and metal bands of the 90s. It’s loud and violent and it cruises but the melody isn’t there so it slips from memory. There’s a little hook in the chorus. Is that actually Slash playing the solo – it sure feels like him.
‘Sacred Cowboys‘ brings the speed again. It also brings the rap again. It’s cool that Bruce is trying stuff that he either wouldn’t or couldn’t in Maiden. Jeepers, take a breath there son, you’ll faint. It’s another which lacks melody in the vocals, until the chorus which thankfully is a good one. I’m not sure I’d listen to this again, but it does stand out in memory as one to recommend to fans who may not have heard it – just as a bit of an oddity and something different. Bruce keeps it from being a failure and there’s some variance and depth in the instrumentation.
‘Tears Of A Dragon‘ closes the album. There’s different versions of this, I’m going for the 8 minute one, which certainly begins in epic form, all pianos and building. Then it enters a phase with some muted guitar which reminds me of one of my all time favourite songs – Dangerous Tonight. The verses are a little cheesy but we’ll excuse him. It builds to what I assume is the chorus – epic melodies. Yeah, it is more cheese than not, but it’s good and I think I would have loved it more if Id heard it at the time. Into an instrumental section which soon begins to gallop along with all manner of string synth sounds. It even manages to sound like Beat It. And like a precursor to Knights Of Cydonia. Good solo. From the name, he’s obviously poking fun at the whole thing. I like it – it doesn’t hit the peaks of other epics I love, but like I say – many of those epics I’ve been listening to for more than 20 years so this would have some catching up to do regardless. Then he rips the arse out of it for the final minute.
This was a much stronger effort than Bruce’s first solo. While I couldn’t identify a common thread tying it all together, beyond Bruce and beyond it being a hard rock album, there wasn’t anything bad I can pull away from it. Mostly good songs, a few very good songs, and the rest are passable. Metal vocalists don’t have a great track record when they go solo, but I’d wager that this is one of the better ones and there’s a lot here for fans of heavy music to enjoy.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Cyclops. Gods Of War. Change Of Heart. Tears Of A Dragon.