Album review: PAUL DI’ANNO’s BATTLEZONE – Killers in The Battlezone (3CD Boxset)

Cherry Red [release date: 24.06.22]

The career of the currently wheelchair bound singer, Paul Di’Anno has been a journey of detours, dead ends, drug addiction and detainment.

His public profile as a musician began with heavy metal band, Iron Maiden. His 4 year stint as the band’s vocalist has since been well documented.

Post Maiden, this 3 CD package sets out what many music music critics consider to be his creative high points … the two Battlezone albums, Fighting Back (1986) and Children Of Madness (1987), plus the Paul DiAnno and The Killers’ US recording from 2000, Live At The Whiskey.

CD1: Fighting Back (1986)
The punk metal title track, ‘Fighting Back’, a scratchy, garage rock attack on the establishment, opens the album. Swiftly followed by ‘Welcome To The Battlezone’, a raw, powerful piece that catapults us into a London of the future, where law and order has disintegrated and street violence is rife. Both are driving, elemental tracks. Maybe not original, but radical in the way they are presented.
They tell us where the band are musically and mentally (all songs bar one were written by guitarist Jay Hurley).
The theme of anguish and conflict is burned into every lyric as we move through the rest of the album, with ‘Running Blind’ and ‘Welfare Warrior’ perhaps carrying more fire than the others.
Bonus track ‘Rising Star’ is taken from 1987 compilation/sampler album, “Metal Killers Kollection”. ****

CD2 : Children Of Madness (1987)
An acrimonious split with guitarist John Hurley while on tour left a huge hole where the songwriting used to be. And so all four members of the “new, improved” line-up contributed to the songs on Children Of Madness.
NWOBHM fans loved it, critics remained divided.
Replacing the previous album’s lo-fi mutant metal with a classier hard rock sound, most notably on standout tracks, ‘Nuclear Breakdown’ and ‘Metal Tears’ was anathema to some.
For many many others, the power and range of Di’Anno’s vocals on this album, combined with a smoother, slicker production, dragged strong songs, like the manic ‘Rip It Up’ and ‘Children Of Madness’ the track, out into the light of day.

A couple of bonus tracks on this CD. ‘To The Limit’, previously a Japan only track, and ‘Drawn Under’, which appeared exclusively on the “Elementals” sampler album. ***1/2

CD3 : Killers – Live At The Whiskey (2000)

Di’Anno and his voice had been through a lot by 2000. And yet they both come through the dark notes and industrial clamour of this live album intact.
As you might expect, it’s full on. Di’Anno live is a never knowingly underdone event.
Raw and raucous, the band go for power thrash metal early on with their own songs, ‘Impaler’ and ‘Protector’. Then close the show with a flurry of knockout punches, delivering rootsy, Iron Maiden metal right to our door with ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ and ‘Sanctuary’.
It’s an assured performance and a much better live album than we might expect. ****

Di’Anno is currently hospitalised in Croatia. He awaits “the most complicated and difficult of all orthopaedic surgeries” on his right leg. Reports suggest that if the surgery fails, amputation will be necessary. A crowdfunded £11,000 has been raised to help pay for the surgery. Iron Maiden have offered to cover the remaining costs.

Review by Brian McGowan

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