You might not have noticed it, but Blaze Bayley released a sequel to 2016’s Infinite Entanglement. Endure and Survive marks the second part of Blaze’s trilogy of concept records. Musically and thematically, Endure and Survive is the audial continuation of its predecessor, a good, honest heavy metal album. It’s heavier than Maiden, but not as modern as BLAZE was. The songwriting is tight, with tracks averaging four and a half minutes, and it’s remarkably catchy. Endure and Survive is rife with double guitar leads, solid solos, and Bayley’s flare for memorable choruses. It’s exactly what you would expect it to be and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What’s charming about Blaze’s most recent solo work is that he seems to have stopped taking no for an answer. Endure and Survive is the second installment in the story about William Black, whose dark secrets are explored through totally-not-cringe-inducing dialogue. Our protagonist is hurtling through space—sent my psychopathic scientists—toward a planet that is being primed for human settlement by genetically modified übermenschen. There are some plot points on which I am not terribly clear—like how is it possible that both Black and the scientists have survived for a thousand years?—but such questions feel pedantic in the face of such good metal. The story structures the album, which flows solidly and rocks from start to finish, and it allows Blaze to touch on his classic themes: loneliness, loss, independence, and the strength of individual character and will in the face of adversity.
Endure and Survive suffers from familiar problems: Blaze is way too high in the mix; the voice acting makes me feel slightly embarrassed for the band and self-conscious; and the whole production has ‘community theater’ written all over it. But then I get into the record and I can’t help but love it. The whole album is littered with highlights. Tracks like “Destroyer” rock fantastic riffs and groovy-as-fuck choruses that cast me back to Silicon Messiah. “Blood” features a completely addictive chorus, and is up there with “Speed of Light” for the thrashiest tracks Blaze has ever written. “Dawn of the Dead Son” kicks off with a triplet feel guitar lick worthy of classic Helloween, and “Fight Back” rocks like late-Maiden without the bloated and plodding feel of advanced age. All-in-all, Endure and Survive is a record packed with solid, classic, authentic heavy metal.
When all is said and done, I just don’t care that Endure and Survive would cheese out Tony Kakko. Blaze’s unapologetic dedication to his vision may ring of your dad’s dedication to his straw hat, enormous sunglasses and fanny pack when on vacation, but there’s a wisdom in that. The true wisdom of age is learning when not to give a fuck anymore and just doing what works. Endure and Survive—Bayley’s 8th solo album since 2000 and a keen description of what he’s been doing all this time—is one more piece of evidence of Bayley’s gritty dedication to just playing heavy fucking metal. And I appreciate that more now than I ever have before.
Tracks to check out: “Blood,” “Destroyer,” “Dawn of the Dead Son”