In 2012, Iron Maiden's Steve Harris released his debut solo album, British Lion. Only, it wasn't quite a solo album; British Lion was, in fact, a band he mentored in the early 1990s and, decades later, he released this album with a couple of the original members. It was collaboration project of sorts, and now British Lion are back with an album that bears their name, rather than Harris'.
Harris is still in the band, of course, and having an artist of his stature in the band will always raise expectations. It's unfortunate, then, that this album can only fit into the category of 'decent'. It's serviceable, fine, a perfectly adequate rock album. But that's about it.
The Burning lacks originality and creativity, but the problems go deeper than that. Indeed, last year's Ritual by Tygers of Pan Tang wasn't exactly original, but it was exciting, fun and had strong songs nonetheless. This record, on the other hand, doesn't have any fire or energy to save it, and little in the way of excitement. It was easy to forget even whilst it was still playing, and that's never a good sign.
Okay, it's not all bad. 'Spit Fire' is a standout track, with some excellent guitar work and genuine creativity throughout. There are even some background Synths at one point, which add a new element to the record. 'Father Lucifer', 'Bible Black' and 'Lightning' are good songs as well, well-paced and lively.
In fact, not one of the songs could really be classified as bad, but most of the album is lacking something that's hard to pin down. Flair? Passion? Desire? None of these words fit and it's a struggle to find one that does.
However, the primary cause of the album's issues is a less difficult element to find - the production. Harris did it himself, and though he co-produces every Maiden album, it's safe to say that he's just not cut out for it by himself. That the songs lack life and energy is nothing to do with the band members; records need good production as well, and this just doesn't have it. It's a crystal clear sound; everything can be heard and in that respect, it's a good production, but it lacks the grit and bite that rock albums sorely need. In fairness, it's a fine line; Halestorm sound so energetic on most of their albums, but their covers EP, Reanimate 2.0 was plagued with bad production and somehow managed to take the fire out of the band. The same has happened here.
With a better producer on board, this album could have sounded so much better, even with the same songs. It's a stark reminder that the quality of the music you're listening to isn't always necessarily about the songs; without the right production, almost anything can sound dull. It doesn't help that the songs themselves are a tad bland and run-of-the-mill, but perhaps a better producer would have been able to liven them up a bit.
It's a shame; this album may fly under the radar a little bit anyway, but when a name like Steve Harris' is attached to it, it's difficult not to expect more. True, this was never going to be Iron Maiden 2.0 and that's not the point of it - but that doesn't lessen the disappointment of what is no more than a serviceable album. This review has bashed the album more than praised it, but that's come more from the weight of expectation. In reality, The Burning is okay, a solid but unspectacular effort. If you want to do some work with some decent music that isn't good enough to distract you from your task, The Burning is a good shout. Otherwise, look elsewhere.