Steve Harris’ BRITISH LION – The Burning (2020)
‘The Burning’ is a follow-up to BRITISH LION‘s 2012’s eponymous debut album, Steve’s first ever musical venture outside of Iron Maiden which was pronounced ‘a big hearted ferocious triumph’ by the music press.
The new album also find its musical roots all the way back to Steve’s young days ranging from classic rock to traditional hard rock. Now it’s BRITISH LION the moniker instead ‘Steve Harris’, and you can tell this is real band, ready to tour the US in a few days.
When British Lion’s compelling self-titled debut emerged in almost eight years ago, it was an altogether different beast to Iron Maiden – a record that worshipped more at the altar of classic rock than heavy metal.
Since then, they have taken zero shortcuts. They’ve paid their dues, touring the UK’s most intimate venues – often in towns that don’t really get such legendary musicians passing through – sharpening their craft and roadtesting many of the songs that would comprise their next album.
The results speak for themselves on this grand return.
Be it the frenetic, quick-fire tangle of notes on the title-track and ‘Bible Black’, or the rolling groove of ‘Spit Fire’, the first impression gleaned from The Burning is that British Lion have become a much, much heavier proposition than they were eight years ago.
This comes courtesy not only of the magisterial clang ’n’ clank of Steve’s trademark rattling bass, but also the deft crunch of the album’s production.
Yet that’s only part of the story here. Elsewhere, British Lion exhibit a real and welcome appreciation of experimentation and quietude.
Kudos in this respect should go to guitarists David Hawkins and Grahame Leslie. ‘Father Lucifer’ captures them bridging the gap between classic rock, metal and modern rock, while ‘Land Of The Perfect People’ sports a delicate intro that’s almost evocative of Fleetwood Mac in their prime.
These signs of growth are obvious throughout. The band’s debut was rather a baptism of fire for singer Richard Taylor, who had to weather some predictable yet redundant criticisms comparing him to Bruce Dickinson from Steve’s “other” band.
He sings like he has a point to prove throughout “The Burning”. A telling sign of the frontman’s burgeoning confidence comes on ‘Elysium’ – a song that boasts a killer chorus but an even better final passage, as he belts out a series of absolutely massive sustained notes over a swelling choral section.
Equally impressive is his ability to extract emotion from a song. Whether he’s communing with lost souls on ‘Lightning’ or offering a consolatory ear on closer ‘Native Son’, he often brings a moving sense of fragility to the fore.
Clearly, this particular lion has more at its disposal than claws alone.
There’s one moment on “The Burning”, however, where British Lion truly excel.
Arriving seven tracks in, it’s immediately apparent that ‘Legend’ is their most spectacular song to date. Compare it to something like, say, ‘City Of Fallen Angels’ – a song which adheres closely to their debut’s blueprint – and the difference is startling.
Cinematic in scope and epic in execution, it’s the kind of soaring anthem that practically demands an accompanying music video of death-defying feats and natural wonders.
Not only does it sound utterly triumphant, it’s also the sound of well-earned vindication.
Steve Harris has believed in this band for a long, long time. You suspect a lot more people will be joining him this time around.
01. City Of Fallen Angels
02. The Burning
03. Father Lucifer
06. Last Chance
08. Spit Fire
09. Land Of The Perfect People
10. Bible Black
11. Native Son
Steve Harris – Bass (Iron Maiden)
Simon Dawson – Drums (ex-Airrace, ex-The Outfield)
Grahame Leslie – Guitars (ex-The Outfield)
David Hawkins – Guitars, Keyboards (ex-Inner Sanctum)
Richard Taylor – Vocals