Blaze Bayley – Circle of Stone (Album Review)


When the international Metal community thinks of the name Blaze Bayley, they more than likely think of his tenure in Iron Maiden. Taking over for Bruce Dickinson between the years of 1994 and 1999, Bayley provided vocals and songwriting contributions both in 1995’s The X Factor, as well as 1998’s Virtual XI. Two albums in Iron Maiden’s history that may be overlooked, but deserve much more attention, there is no question Bayley left a mark with the band.

These factors aside, those who have followed the story of Bayley are aware he also has led the band Wolfsbane, as well as built himself a strong career as a solo artist. At one time going under the name Blaze (between 2000-2004), since exiting Iron Maiden he has put out an impressive collection of studio albums. In fact, over the last decade alone he has released five studio albums, including his brand new one, Circle of Stone. Released on February 23rd, 2024 through his own Blaze Bayley Recording, the album comes almost three years after War Within Me, and is his eleventh overall as a solo artist. Quite a bit of material to look back on, the resume Bayley has built is a testament to his dedication to music, and with that Circle of Stone offers you plenty of passionate insight. 

Consisting of twelve tracks in total, Circle of Stone arrives after several highs and lows in Bayley’s personal life. To start with, he became engaged in late 2022 to Kate Ross. A very positive milestone indeed for the vocalist, tragically months later in March of 2023 he suffered a heart attack. Naturally something you never plan for, reportedly the recording sessions of Circle of Stone had just wrapped up just two days prior to the event and Bayley’s bypass surgery. Life-changing, fortunately Bayley has recovered nicely and is gracious to have the chance to witness the blood, sweat, and tears he put into Circle of Stone reach curious listeners. 

All important to reflect on, he and his regular team of Guitarists Chris Appleton and Luke Appleton, Drummer Martin McNee, along with Bassist Karl Schramm created an album that offers reflections on the human spirit and the array of emotions we feel along the journey of life. Feeling very much like the tales of wisdom earned, and the humility to admit one’s own mistakes, bringing it all together are strong, melodic guitar riffs which are matched by impassioned singing from Bayley.

With so much to dig into, your spirit is uplifted by songs like “Mind Reader” “The Year Beyond This Year,” along with “Ghost in The Bottle” which remind you as long as you stand by your convictions, and do not dwell in vengeance, you can achieve anything.

This is while others like “Circle of Stone” (featuring guest vocals from Wolf’s Niklas Stalvind) and “Absence,” keep you flying high with killer arrangements. And beyond these moments, other absolute must listen songs include the beautiful “Until We Meet Again” (featuring duetting with Tammy-Rae Bois), but also bold standout “The Broken Man.” Looking further into “The Broken Man,” this is a song that will appeal to your senses with its self-awareness and wisdom that outlines the imperfection of being human. A heartfelt reflection of showing gratitude toward those who stood by through peaks and valleys, it could possibly be one of the best ever recorded by Bayley.

Overall, Circle of Stone is an album that could only be created by an individual who has lived life. It is one thing to write songs about life through characters or metaphors, but it is another to put yourself into the storyline of each song… and that is exactly what Blaze Bayley does here. Truly a Heavy Metal album for the grounded and thoughtful listener, Cryptic Rock gives Circle of Stone 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Blaze Bayley - Circle of Stone album cover
Blaze Bayley – Circle of Stone / Blaze Bayley Recording (2024)

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