Blaze Bayley - December Wind

(CD, Blaze Recordings, 2018)

Doing acoustic takes on well-known songs is tricky business because the new versions cannot compete with the originals, unless the reworked versions bring forth elements that were left unnoticed when all the instruments were plugged in. On top of this, a genuinely good acoustic song needs to have a powerful / expressive voice and strong enough melodies to overcome the lack of distortion, which for many metalheads is a hard pill to swallow. Before hitting the 'play' button with “December Wind” on cue, I already knew it would be something special as I have been following the acoustic doings of Blaze Bayley who knows best that teaming up with Thomas Zwijsen is an already successful recipe. Could this one fall far from the tree that was planted by the previous recordings these gentlemen have released? The answer is a confident ‘no’, and if you allow me, I will lay down the reasons why.

First of all, “December Wind” contains eight songs with seven of them being original compositions leaving “2AM” as the sole cover. If you do not appreciate what Blaze did with IRON MAIDEN, especially with “X Factor”, then this version will be a great opportunity to (re)discover the depth and the darkness that album carries. Yes, listen closely to what Thomas has done laying down the riffs with super-sweet arpeggios revealing a different side of this dark and moody MAIDEN song. Blaze is pouring his heart out singing with the same energy he has whenever he is on stage, and if you have been in one of his shows, then you know damn well what I am talking about. Still, the star of the cover is the guitar and the additional layers laid down by the nylon strings; in simple terms awesome. Believe it or not, this cover is the weakest link as the original recordings are amazing. The sad melody of “Eye Of The Storm” and the dramatic chords as the tempo picks up speed are amazing with the chorus carrying an impossible to resist-not-to-sing melody. “Love Will Conquer All” could easily be a MAIDEN after the Classical tunes Thomas has put together in the beginning before turning up the heat with an epic almost galloping tempo. I love how the guitar gains a louder voice as Thomas is hitting harder the strings during the climaxing part and this is something one can only do with an acoustic instrument and I cannot but appreciate the depth added here. Dramatics to the point of theatrics get on the spotlight during the goosebumps galore “Miracle On The Hudson”. After the playful guitar melodies, the mood shifts gears and gets serious following Blaze’s storytelling singing. Listen how the tension builds up - just like it happens in a good movie (in fact there is a movie about this incident) - hitting the first peak during the galloping part. This is exactly how you make a great acoustic song and how you make up for the missing intensity from the unplugged instruments (vocals included). On the same vein comes the amazing “The Crimson Tide” which was written about the D-Day, and I believe you can spot Winston Churchill’s famous words in the lyrics quoted from his speech a couple days before the Normandy landings or maybe, your metalhead mind will think of “Aces High”. Either way, this is another spine-chilling song and once again this duo has managed to combine emotions and power without going all Heavy Metal.

“December Wind” is an amazing recording and I think can be blueprint on how to make an acoustic album. This is not a collection of re-arrangements (ok, “2AM excluded) but a fantastic set of song full of intensity and emotions. And yes, you will enjoy the playful “The Love Of Your Life” that could easily be a WOLFSBANE tune and is a welcomed change from the rather moody tracks before this. By the way, the two songs I did not comment on are equally amazing and seem to have personal lyrics making them even more special.





01. Eye Of The Storm
02. Love Will Conquer All
03. 2AM
04. Miracle On The Hudson
05. December Wind
06. We Fell From The Sky
07. The Crimson Tide
08. The Love Of Your LIfe


Blaze Bayley - Vocals
Thomas Zwijsen - Classical Guitar
Anne Bakker - Violin