The Lowdown: Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris intended to produce tracks for a hard rock band called British Lion in 1992, but the band broke up before anything was recorded. Twenty years later, Harris once again approached the band to work on his debut solo album, titled after group itself: British Lion. The 2012 album felt more like a side-project, with Harris’ name front and center and the rest of the band taking a backseat on the billing. For their second collaboration, The Burning, they’ve settled on calling it a proper British Lion album. Arbitrary names aside, Harris and this band of veteran rockers complement each other well on The Burning, which is a more confident and cohesive record than the 2012 effort.
The Good: Falling between the NWOBHM of Iron Maiden and melodic hard rock of Scorpions, British Lion give off a traditional ’70s rock vibe on The Burning. Opener “City of Fallen Angels” sees vocalist Richard Taylor in fine form, recalling Ronnie James Dio’s work in Rainbow. The song hits a balance of metal riffage and melody that has a nostalgic allure, steeped in the musical background of the band’s members. Guitarist David Hawkins can shred out a lead or sit back on pop structures and simpler chord voicing, letting the songs flow for up five or six minutes. Harris’ influence can be heard on straight ahead metal tracks like “Lightning” and “Spit Fire”, which stand out against the slower, mid-tempo songs (“Elysium”, “Legend”).
The Bad: British Lion stick close to their craft on The Burning, which suffers a bit from sameness over its hour-long runtime. Its steady atmosphere and tonal consistency make it a smooth front-to-back listen, but the risk-free songwriting and production comes off as somewhat calculated. Those expecting Harris to try something sonically daring outside of Iron Maiden may be slightly disappointed.
The Verdict: The Burning is a solid, if somewhat safe, hour of carefree hard rock and melodic metal that should satisfy purists and tide over those waiting for Iron Maiden’s next album. Harris and company trust in their decades of combined experience to guide them here, and while they don’t stray too far from their comfort zone, the better songs on this album prove that this project has been a worthwhile realization after uncertain origins in the early ’90s.
Essential Tracks: “City of Fallen Angels”, “Lightning”, “Spit Fire”