Blaze - Tenth DimensionTenth Dimension got name-dropped in my “Top 15(ish) of the 2000s” from 2010 and I have mentioned it from time to time on the blog. Every time a few readers show up and say stuff like “Oh man, yeah! Such a sadly overlooked record!” And while it is sad that it’s been overlooked, Tenth Dimension was released in a pretty difficult context. Blaze Bayley was basically a musical leper who got signed to SPV because of his name and connections to Iron Maiden. The story of his first post-Maiden band is one where everything was stacked against them, including signing with a label that obviously didn’t expect the band to amount to anything. BLAZE‘s debut album, Silicon Messiah, got released on the same day as Brave New World, and (shock) no one heard it. Yet it was hard hitting, modern and conveniently in a key that worked for Bayley’s voice. It was also produced by Andy Sneap and was thick and heavy. Two years later, the band turned around and dropped a concept album called Tenth Dimension, which not only features some of my favorite artwork ever, but ranks among my favorite heavy metal records of all time. With a review of Blaze Bayley‘s Infinite Entanglement in the pipeline, it got me thinking about this amazing album again.1

Sadly, Tenth Dimension is a bit of the “beginning of the end” in the history of BLAZE. Meant to be a full-fledged concept record, complete with spoken dialogue, the rest of the band vetoed Blaze’s desire for that level of commitment to the story. But it’s precisely this tension within the band over visions for their sound that makes the material from BLAZE so good. The band, which played what one unnamed roadie for Porcupine Tree was called “good, honest heavy metal,” was made up of ‘locally grown’ British musicians. Guitarists Steve Wray (now in Soldierfield) and John Slater both seem to have been influenced by a healthy dose of thrash and heavier alternative rock. Their love of Metallica and Soundgarden shows through in the writing, which is groovy, chug heavy, and laced with wicked hooks. Bassist Rob Naylor—the first to leave—and drummer Jeff Singer (who would go on to play in Paradise Lost), were an excellent rhythm section. Singer is a truly gifted drummer whose technical skill and feel adds a much-needed backbone to this music, while Naylor’s songwriting, playing and tone were first rate. These guys were an extremely tight unit and I think you can reasonably say that Blaze got lucky to fall into this incredible mix of musicians after getting out of Maiden. It helps that one of the guys2 knew Andy Sneap, and so Tenth Dimension benefits from an excellent mix from a guy who would go on to become the guy in the mid-aughts. Hell, it’s even a DR8.

Tenth Dimension is an excellent concept piece and flows with the ease of the very best of its kind. It isn’t littered with “standout” tracks, but instead it maintains a high level of consistency from the opening strains of “Forgotten Future” to the dying strains of “Stranger to the Light.” The down-tuned, groove-oriented writing builds a base for dynamic variation and from that BLAZE delivered. While “Kill and Destroy” and  “Leap of Faith” burn out the gate, with a classic thrash undertone and ripping solos, they’re offset by tracks like “End Dream,” which reminds me of Alice in Chains, or mid-paced groove like “Nothing Will Stop Me.” Tenth Dimension even has a down tempo lull right in the middle, flowing through a perfect ballad—in the classic sense, not the cock rock sense—on songs 7 and 8 “The Truth Revealed” and “Meant to Be.”

Blaze 2002

Ostensibly a classic heavy metal band, BLAZE is a far cry from most ‘trad’ or power metal you’ll ever hear. The band was obviously influenced by classic metal, thrash, and alt rock, but it’s the combination of these different influences with Blaze’s very different vision and direction that makes the whole thing feel unique. While the band chugs, thrashes, and grooves, they also break out classic Maidenisms, lacing songs with beautiful dual guitar leads and epic solos. The choruses are big and memorable and the songs are sharp. The hooks stick and feature impressive and subtle guitar work not laden with the clichés of modern power metal or newer NostalgicWoBHM bands. Rather, BLAZE was unapologetically forward-facing. The idiosyncratic and epic feel of these songs helps to perfectly pace an album that clocks in at 52 minutes. Closer “Stranger to the Light” shows off the band at its best on all fronts: groovy, melodic, heavy, and the thematic repetition of the title track shows just how deeply these guys thought about the whole.

The album has an interesting concept, about a professor who sees the world as interconnected,3 based on the (fairly out there) idea that in order for some of the theories of quantum physics to make sense there would need to be ten dimensions. This scientist wants to make sure that this kind of discovery doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, and the whole album is a blend of very classic heavy metal topics—independence of thought, freedom, struggles with authority, etc.—with a science fiction touch. With gorgeous cover art and really cool thematic booklet (designed by guitarist John Slater), Tenth Dimension is a truly immersive experience. The record features some of Blaze’s best lyrics and performances, as well. Sneap really knew how to get the best out of him and he sounds really good—not too high in the mix, not too dramatic, and with a convincing performance.

Taken as a whole, Tenth Dimension is an exemplary record and one of my all time favorites. While the whole album flows perfectly and is the kind of record that I can’t stop after pressing play, songs like “Tenth Dimension,” “End Dream,” “Stranger to the Light,” and “Meant to Be” stand out to me, while “Leap of Faith” is probably my favorite. More importantly, Tenth Dimension is a snapshot of a band that really was firing on all cylinders. This album will be 15 years old in 2017 and it has aged remarkably well. The sound is fat, the writing is excellent, and it still gives me a feeling of listening to lightning in a bottle. Looking back, freedom really was there in the Tenth Dimension.


Postscript

traybackOn a personal level, writing about Tenth Dimension woke some feelz for me. I remember taking to the Internet looking for Blaze Bayley’s newest project and finding low-fi pictures of the band performing at a tiny club somewhere in England. I spent ages on the Blaze BB, managed to get Lukara (if you read this I owe you £15 and a beer still) to send me a copy of the Tenth Dimension special edition when it was released. I was never really one of the core members of that forum, though, ’cause most of them were going to shows—one even traveling from Brazil to England in the middle of winter for the Big Bash which would end up being As Live as it Gets. Working my shit job and going to school I never had money to make it to England to see the band play and I think there’s nothing more that I regret from this period of my life than that.

Between Silicon MessiahTenth Dimension, and (most of) Blood & Belief, the institution that was BLAZE was a truly excellent, talented, and unique band that never got its due. Ironically, this is largely, in my opinion, because they were fronted by the former Iron Maiden vocalist Blaze Bayley. What should have been their “strength” actually became their greatest liability. Their real strength was based in that this was a real band, not just a backup project for a post-Iron Maiden vocalist. All five of these guys were necessary to make this formula shine; creativity existing at the borders of disagreements and different visions for the band. This fact shines through their truncated discography. Going back and listening to this album (again and again and again…) reminds me of just how special these guys were. I wish that I had been able to witness it all firsthand, but I feel lucky to have seen it happening from afar. I reveled in the band’s successes and when it started to crumble, I really felt it. All these years later, I feel happy to have these albums to go back to.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. And rather than wax 800 words about it as an ‘intro’ to my review of the new record, I thought I’d give it its own post.
  2. Steve Wray, I’m pretty sure…
  3. Blaze Bayley was writing about the theory of everything before it was cool.
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  • André Snyde Lopes

    You’ll take any excuse to write about Blaze… In this case, even no excuse at all!

    • This is an excellent album.

      • Name’s Dalton

        That’s no excuse.

        Oh wait –

  • tomasjacobi

    “he sounds really good—not too high in the mix”
    Sadly this is the problem with the otherwise excellent “Infinite Entanglement”. I find the placement of Blaze’s vocals in the mix really annoying.

    • I’d noticed that, too…

      • tomasjacobi

        It’s a shame..
        But hey, nice write-up. I really love both this and “Silicon Messiah”. It’s mind blowing that albums as good as those two can completely fail to break through.

        • They’re among the very best anyone has released in the “classic heavy metal” genre in a very long time.

          • tomasjacobi

            As much as I like “Brave New World”, I prefer Bruce’s “The Chemical Wedding”, which he did just before re-joining Maiden and “Silicon Messiah” that Blaze did just after leaving. They are both better albums than BNW.

          • I have to try to listen to Chemical Wedding again. I think it had “Kill Devil Hill” on it? But I wasn’t overwhelmed by the record as a whole. Still, I’ve always been of the opinion that Brave New World proved that Maiden didn’t get worse because of Blaze. That album suffers from the same problems as its predecessor, but has much better production and a pair of writers with the power to offset Harris.

          • tomasjacobi

            “Kill Devil Hill” is from “Tyranny of Souls” from 2005. It’s not a bad album but nowhere near as great as “The Chemical Wedding”. If you haven’t really spent time with it you should try and give it a listen some day :-)
            My private theory of why Steve wanted Bruce back is that he heard “The Chemical Wedding” and thought: “Ok, now Bruce is making better albums than we are, we better get him back”

          • Good theory. Honestly, from the Blaze book I think I got the impression that Harris wasn’t ready to jettison Blaze. I think the reunion was driven by management.

          • Assbutt

            In the lead-up to Infinite Entanglement, I watched and read a couple of interviews with Blaze, and he always speaks highly of Steve Harris. “The Man Who Would Not Die” album is a pretty obvious fuck-you to someone (probably management), though.

          • Chemical Wedding is an amazing album, as is Accident of Birth. I was so into those solo albums I was actually upset when Bruce rejoined Maiden.

          • tomasjacobi

            AoB is very good as well. I think he rekindled his love of metal with that one and on TCW he was firing on all cylinders. I also like Tyranny of Souls which he did with Roy Z later which was also good if not as great as those other two. I doubt we’ll get more from those 2 guys since Maiden seems to be getting ever busier.

          • Hah, not just me then.

            I was lucky enough to see Bruce live when he was touring for The Chemical Wedding. It was a medium-sized venue in London and it was far from packed which made for a fucking awesome time, so I was somewhat gutted when I realised that I’d probably never get to see those songs live again.

            I do wonder how Tyranny of Souls would have turned out had Bruce and Adrian not rejoined Maiden

          • tomasjacobi

            I would have loved to see that show. The “Scream for me Brazil” live CD from that tour is great!

    • Jorge de Abreu

      Yes, same here.. I felt like I was trying to like it and there was always that thing getting on my nerves..

  • The Calgary Nerd

    I’ve always said, that Blaze was a great vocalist in the wrong band. Iron Maiden was Dickenson. Not Blaze. This was an amazing album when it first came out and it still kicks ass all these years later. I love this album so much that even after coming here for 3 years this is the first comment I’ve ever made on here.

    • Comment more often!

      • The Calgary Nerd

        Will do Mr. Druhm.

        • Name’s Dalton

          Whooooa, slow down. Let’s not get all commented-out in the first 15 minutes…

          : p

  • Phil Daly

    Such a shame that this and Silicon Messiah seemed to fly under the radar, as they’re both fantastic records. I can remember the first time I heard Silicon Messiah and being blown away by just how heavy it was for a “traditional” metal record. Both that record and this one have a real heft to them, but never feel overdone. Brilliant records both. Have seen Blaze live a few times, both in this incarnation and as Blaze Bayley, and the guy is as honest as it gets. He’s out there doing it because he loves it, and always seems genuinely thrilled that you’ve shown up to watch him. Really is one of the nice guys, and it’s sad he seems to get overlooked.

    • Assbutt

      I think that
      “What should have been their “strength” actually became their greatest liability”
      is really astute. There really seems to be an inherent bias against Blaze based on his time in Maiden, and it’s too bad because a lot of his solo output (especially the first two albums) is so strong.

  • CarvedInStone

    You kinda make it sound like Bayley did nothing of note after Blaze broke up. But the 2 albums he released under the “Blaze Bayley” banner were good as well. Maybe less experimental and more traditional/power metal orientated but still good records. The only misstep I can think of when it comes to his post-Maiden career is “King Of Metal”.

    • I think those records are really a lot different. The whole point is the very unique sound these records had in comparison. And, more specifically, those weren’t bands like this one was.

      • CarvedInStone

        Both “The Man Who Would Not Die” and “Promise And Terror” had a consistent line-up and are credited to the whole band. I’m not arguing that these two albums sound different and a lot less unique than the first three but it was a proper band. It’s after these guys left when it all seems to have fallen apart for Blaze. At least judging by “King Of Metal”.

        • I don’t think it really was the same thing, which was signaled by Blaze switching the name of the band to be “Blaze Bayley,” and the way that they were ultimately just cut out of the picture. Regardless, I think those records are good, I just don’t think they’re good like the first three.

          • CarvedInStone

            On a completely unrelated note:
            Will you do a review for Victor Smolski’s Alamac debut album? I would love to hear if you think that the reservations you had for Smolski going solo were justified or not.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Great album. Reminds me I should listen again to Promise and Terror — that was a good’un. I also love Blaze’s work on The X Factor.

  • Adam

    I need to give this another go.
    Stare at the Sun is one of my favourite songs ever – I think I first heard it on one of Mr Druhms lists on here

    • That would be me, I think. I put “Stare at the Sun” on my Top 50 Metal Songs list.

  • I am embarrassed that I’ve never heard this. This is really good!

    • The first three are all stellar. Silicon Messiah is a 4 or 4.5, TD is a 4.5 or 5, B&B is a 3.5. I know that Steel Druhm really liked Blood & Belief more than I do, though. It’s possible he’d rank them differently.

      It’s also a little difficult because B&B saw Naylor and Singer leave the band. So while the core writing team of Slater and Wray was there, they missed out on Naylor’s great contributions and Singer’s playing. (The drums and bass were good, but the cracks in the armor were showing.)

      • BaboonKing

        Personally, I think Promise and Terror is a much better record overall than Blood and Belief, which I find very uneven. But indeed, the band on the first two albums was outstanding. I tried following some of projects by the departing members, but nothing caught my attention. Soldierfield sounds interesting; anything else you would recommend?

      • B&B has great individual tracks but lacked the consistency of the first two albums. I never thought the drums were all that though, which means I should go back and have another listen. :)

        That aside, it is good to see someone else who holds Tenth Dimension in such high regard, and I’d love to see a retro-review of The Chemical Wedding (assuming it is also considered to be worthy of such).

        • B&B features some of my absolute favorite songs. “Regret” and The Path and the Way” are two of my favorites from the band. “The Soundtrack of My Life ” is also way up there on my list of favorite songs and record the title track is amazing. But I really dislike some of the songs, like “Hollow Head” and “Ten Seconds.”

  • jetblindracos

    I really liked this period of Blaze since I enjoyed his two Iron Maiden
    albums,but I lost interest in the albums following those first
    three.Also liked and still do the latest IM.Good health from Puerto
    Rico.

    • Just had to throw in the bit about Maiden, eh?!

      Thanks a lot for reading and I agree that this period was truly great.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    This. Is meant to be.

  • Jorge de Abreu

    I liked Silicon Messiah a lot, for me the best one of his.

  • jetblindracos

    Nothing overly intentional.Thats what I like about this site,I’ve been
    visiting since about one year ago and it’s fun and interesting reading
    everything

  • Bas

    Thanks for the post, this sounds great !
    I didn’t listen to it back then. The end of the nineties and early 2000’s were a time when I has less interest in traditional metal. That was more the problem for me, not that Maiden released their album at the same time.
    I guess that I was not the only one.. many people turned more towards sludge, stoner, drone etc in those years (it was Grand Magus’ Hammer of the North from 2010 that rekindled my hunger for the more traditional metal)..

  • RIATA de DIOS

    Oh god, yes this album is awesome. In fact everything made by Blaze post-Maiden is great.

  • Arjang Rad

    Huge maiden fan and had no idea that blaze had continued to create music, and never really cared. For 3 days now I’ve discovered his music. .and am losing my fucking mind from sheer joy at how great it is. Last night I dreamt I found a treasure chest, and looking inside I found a blaze album. This is as good as metal gets. Just…WOW.