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Blaze Bayley “Circle of Stone” album review by Antoine Karam

Blaze Bayley‘s “Circle of Stone” emerges not just as an album but as a monumental testament to human spirit and resilience, encapsulated within the grandeur of heavy metal. This album, released on February 23rd, 2024, is a vivid narrative that weaves tales of human frailty, courage, gratitude, and an unyielding quest for truth amidst the mystique of ancient stones. Bayley, having navigated through the tumultuous waves of life, including a life-threatening heart attack in early 2023, returns with a vigor that is both palpable and inspiring, bringing forth an album that resonates deeply with the listener.

Produced with the meticulous craftsmanship of Chris Appleton, who also lends his guitar prowess alongside Luke Appleton, and complemented by the rhythmic foundation laid by Karl Schramm and Martin McNee, “Circle of Stone” stands as a beacon of heavy metal excellence. The album’s artwork, a creation of Alberto Quirantes of Akirant Illustration, visually encapsulates the thematic essence of the album, marrying the auditory and visual into a cohesive and immersive experience.

From the get-go, “Circle of Stone” grips the listener with “Mind Reader,” a track bursting with energy and an indomitable spirit, setting the tone for an album that refuses to hold back. Each song, from the electrifying “Tears in Rain” to the introspective “The Broken Man,” showcases Bayley‘s unparalleled ability to convey emotion and narrative through music. The album’s narrative bifurcation, as described by Bayley, offers a journey from personal introspection to a broader, mythic exploration of our collective pasts, culminating in the search for truth within the “circle of tall stones.”

The second half of the album, introduced by “The Call of the Ancestors” with its haunting bagpipes and guest vocals, transitions the listener into a saga that is both epic and deeply personal. The title track, “Circle of Stone,” is a mid-tempo masterpiece that encapsulates the album’s thematic heart, with Bayley and guest vocalist Niklas Stålvind of Wolf delivering a powerful duet that is both a call to arms and a reflective pondering of our place in the annals of history.

Tracks like “Absence” and “A Day of Reckoning” further showcase the album’s musical diversity, with the former reveling in its heavy, groovy basslines and the latter offering a somber, contemplative narrative that is as compelling as it is melancholic. “The Path of the Righteous Man” and “Until We Meet Again,” the latter featuring guest vocals by Tammy-Rae Bois and the ethereal violin of Anne Bakker, bookend the album with messages of perseverance and poignant farewells, respectively.

Circle of Stone” is more than just an album; it is Blaze Bayley‘s heart and soul laid bare, a testament to his undying passion for heavy metal and his resilience in the face of adversity. It is a work that not only showcases Bayley‘s vocal and lyrical prowess but also his ability to unite a diverse group of musicians to create something truly special. This album is a must-listen for fans of heavy metal and anyone who appreciates the art of storytelling through music.

Antoine’s Rating: 9/10

Get/stream/download now at the usual digital platforms via this link Blaze Bayley – Circle of Stone (orcd.co), whilst the album is also available to buy on Vinyl LP & CD via www.blazebayley.net

Blaze Bayley Album

Tracklisting:
01 Mind Reader 2:47
02 Tears in Rain 3:06
03 Rage 3:57
04 The Year Beyond This Year 3:07
05 Ghost in The Bottle 3:21
06 The Broken Man 5:47
07 The Call of The Ancestors 1:52
08 Circle of Stone 3:29
09 Absence 3:27
10 A Day of Reckoning 5:05
11 The Path of The Righteous Man 3:44
12 Until We Meet Again 4:33

Lineup:
Blaze Bayley – vocals
Chris Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Luke Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass, backing vocals
Martin McNee – drums

Guest musicians
Niklas Stålvind – additional vocals on “Circle of Stone”, “Call of the Ancestors” and “A Day of Reckoning”
Tammy-Rae Bois – additional vocals on “Until We Meet Again”
Anne Bakker – violin on “Rage” and “Until We Meet Again”
Vicky Kennerley – bagpipes on “The Call of the Ancestors”

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