Anyone who knows me will know one thing. I love Iron Maiden, obsession doesn’t even cover it, I wear my Maiden concerts upon my sleeve like badges of honour and take great delight in regaling unfortunates in my tales of witnessing the titans of Heavy Metal. They have always be a presence to me since my first footsteps into a metallic world and have never left. If there is a god then surely his name is Steve Harris. I have painstakingly memorised, listened and listened again to each and every Maiden release with much delight and yet still I thirst for more, even a small morsel of Maiden related news helps to quench my hunger.

This morsel this time comes in the form of Blaze Bayley. Many probably remember the ex-Maiden frontman with little pleasure but after seeing The Clansman and Sign Of The Cross performed on the recent Legacy Of The Beast tour I urge you to revisit Blaze era Maiden. Alas I rant, we are here to talk of Blaze’s solo material. The soloist has had a rich career with six full length releases, three of which forming a conceptual trilogy. But back in 2013 Blaze began a collaboration with classical guitarist Thomas Zwijsen and released Russian Holiday an all acoustic release of which forms the bonus tracks to the album we are to talk of now, December Wind. This new 2018 release brings seven tracks of original material to the table, as well as a Maiden cover for good measure.

Blaze is probably the last person I would think of when it comes to acoustic music, his big booming voice really doesn’t appear to fit the delicate brief. Yet to my shock and surprise Blaze delivers a host of new tracks that whilst classical in writing pack a distinctly Metal feel. Eye Of The Storm and The Crimson Tide could easily be re-written with a full band and delivered with full force by Blaze and here’s hoping that they perhaps will be. There is even a little room for the more jovial in The Love Of Your Life which seems comical but cannot help bring a smile to even the most grimace of faces, it’s catchy, fun and whilst not going to be performed live any time soon a joy to listen to (as a guilty pleasure).

And really that’s just it, December Wind gives Blaze the room to experiment with a wonderful collaboration even bringing in violin sections at junctions throughout the album. Not to mention the delightful 2 AM Maiden cover (and Sign Of The Cross cover if you’re including bonus tracks) these are sure to make any die-hard Maiden fan happy. They even tease us at the thought of an all Maiden tour from Blaze, what an utter joy that would be. December Wind is clearly not for everyone, for a start it’s an acoustic album and that isn’t exactly the most Metal achievement.

So whilst this album has a lot stacked against it and is decidedly rather niche in its overall appeal it does fill that niche exceptionally well. As a fan of Blaze’s solo and Maiden era material I thoroughly enjoyed this album, but I can understand it isn’t for the general masses. If you still pop on The X Factor or Virtual XI and like to relax to a little bit acoustic now and then, then give December Wind a spin it’s a wondrous journey from a collaboration that shouldn’t but does work.

(7/10 George Caley)