Nightman Listens To – Steve Harris – British Lion

Greetings, Glancers! So, we’ve listened to solo Dickinson, and we’ve listened to pre-Maiden Dickinson. It’s time to tackle some alternative work from Maiden’s primary songwriter Steve Harris. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of his solo, or non-Maiden work and I have no idea what this will be like. Harris has been with Maiden from the start, and they are a fairly prolific band, and while they do change it up a bit in each album you generally know what you’re going to get – fast paced metal. Maybe Harris wanted to explore other avenues, other sounds? Maybe this is more streamlined rock? Maybe it blues? Maybe it’s simply material he didn’t feel was good enough for Maiden, or suited the direction the band was going in at the time. Lets consult the online world – the album was released in 2012, and came about after a band of the same name contacted Harris in the early 90s. It seems he was impressed with them to the extent that he decided to mentor and eventually join them as a side project. Fair enough, lets do this.

This Is My God: A promising start – heavy, but not punishingly so. An immediately different sound than Maiden. There’s a lot of wah and effects on the guitars, not something Maiden usually play with, and the vocals and style are very different. It’s at a slower pace than I was expecting, but feels very assured. It’s almost more in the vein of something like Audioslave. There’s a spoken part in the middle that we could have done without, but I do like the chorus, and overall I think it’s a good song.

Lost Worlds: The bass is more prominent here. I appreciate the melodies in the opening tracks, there’s a lot of focus on their crafting rather than knocking us on the head with volume or speed or technique. There seems to be a lot of negativity against the vocals – I must say I really like them so far, but then I’m not an entrenched metal fan who can’t look beyond sheer force. he has a great tone and a lot of emotion and range. This is… actually great stuff. There’s a fake ending leading into a softer acoustic section which closes the song.

Karma Killer: This starts with a fat, wah based riff, crashing steady drums, before the vocals and bass take over in the verses. Not a fan of the pronunciation of ‘deeper and deeper’. The chorus is fairly simple, vocals matching the fat riff. Maybe the heaviest feeling song, but the weakest so far.

Us Against The World: This has the most Maiden intro so far. I know, I shouldn’t be comparing them, but I wouldn’t be listening to them otherwise. The comparisons fade in the verse, and we’re back on track with more atmospheric melodies. The vocalist is somewhere between the guy from Khoma and Gary from Haven. This has much more interesting chorus than the previous song. It must be said that there isn’t anything new here, it’s just emotional, commercial heavy rock.

The Chosen Ones: This starts like ACDC, or early Maiden. It doesn’t feel like it will fit with the rest of the album. The verses are muck, but there are moments in the pre-chorus and chorus which work well enough. It’s all very cheesy and is very out of place – like a different band from the one who performed the previous songs.

A World Without Heaven: This starts off like Fear Of The Dark era Maiden, a more atmospheric rock feel. I like the punch of the chords, I like the vocal melodies and emotion in the verses, though the chorus needs a bit more force or grit to really push it forwards. I will say that the pronunciation of ‘heaven’ is awful. Why is it ‘havan’? That almost puts me entirely off the song, which is unfortunate as the rest of it is great. The extended instrumental section seems tacked on for the sake of appeasing Maiden fans, but it’s much more simplistic than what we would get from Maiden, and the guitars are very plain. Still a good song though, just held back from being great.

Judas: Deeper vocals this time around. The guitars move between metal and rock, the verse melodies are largely one-note and uneventful, while the chorus for some reason reminds me of The Stereophonics, and that’s never a good thing. After the second chorus the song takes a very abrupt shift – like mid note – into some weird faded acoustic section which I probably enjoyed more than the louder half of the song. The loud part comes back for the last minute.

Eyes Of The Young: What is this happy horseshit… was my first thought on hearing the opening riff. This is clearly going for the positive, yearning anthem. It has crowd friendly ‘wooh ohhh’ chants and decent enough melodies, but it doesn’t quite work. It’d fine, but it’s no Summer Of 69. 

These Are The Hands: Another slower start. Don’t worry, it’s still heavy. It follows the atmospheric and melodic qualities of the reset of the album. This one feels a little more assured and complete, and it’s a great vocal performance. I like everything about this one – it’s not amazing, but very catchy and the melodies flow superbly throughout.

The Lesson: It’s only four minute so it probably won’t be an epic closer. It starts off in that vein though – piano and strings, two of my loves. It’s like a condensed version of a latter day Maiden intro. Lots of not quite off key guitar and bass. It never gets out of that first gear though – I keep expecting the volume to switch, but it’s content to remain soft and… miserable isn’t the right word. It’s good, but an odd choice to end the album.

I assumed when I started this post that this would be an early 80s band. I wasn’t expecting them to be so recent, and I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. I know that many will complain about the vocals – it’s not Bruce essentially – but I enjoy that sort of sound and tone. There are moments when the vocals could have been more urgent or forceful, but on the whole I think they suit the songs very well. Let us know in the comments what you think of British Lion – if you’re a Maiden fan, does this style grab you too, or do you crave Dickinson?