I’m rather amused by the naming convention of British Lion’s The Burning. The album is no doubt intended to be a follow-up to Steve Harris’s British Lion album that was released in 2012 due to the shared personnel and style between releases, but the tweaks they’ve undergone in that eight-year gap can make it feel more like the debut of a new project. It’s a chicken or the egg scenario that recalls a similar jump from Leslie West’s Mountain to Mountain’s Climbing.
Either way, the production is less cluttered, and the musicianship gets an extra boost of energy on The Burning. The drums feel less stiff than before and put in a more active punch that still offers a hard rock flavor. The AOR-tinged vocals remain an acquired taste, but the more confident attitude makes them much easier to get into. The guitars also show off a sharper edge without going into full-on metal territory, and of course, the bass holds dominion with the authority that only ‘Arry himself can dispense.
These improvements, in turn, allow the songwriting to stand out more effectively. I must admit that the abruptness on “City of Fallen Angels” makes for a somewhat awkward start but not as much as the odd alternative rock tinges that defined the last album. The second half takes things in a legitimately compelling direction as “Lightning” and “Last Chance” offer some stirring drama. “Spit Fire” and “Native Son” also make for enjoyable contrasts, the former being one of the album’s heavier numbers and the latter serving as a smooth closing ballad.
But with these strengths to display, I still get a sense of uncanny valley. There’s still a part of me that hears these tracks and wonders if they could’ve been even better in the hands of Iron Maiden themselves. I’ll chalk this up to my personal hang-ups, but the guitar harmonies and bass runs don’t leave very much to the imagination. The more concise runtimes might’ve even been a nice alternative for those burned out on the longer efforts we’ve been getting in recent years.
Overall, The Burning is a solid effort that shows British Lion as a confident rock group. The songwriting is more cohesive, and the chemistry is much better to the point that I wonder how much stronger the last album would’ve been if those performances had been this good. The band is still a way’s away from having much appeal beyond niche Maiden fans, but this is an enjoyable effort when judged on its own merits.