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Paul Di’anno’s Battlezone: Killers In The Battlezone - Fighting Back/Children Of Madness/Killers Live At The Whiskey 1986-2000

It would probably be fair to suggest that ever since his removal from Iron Maiden their original singer Paul Di’anno has, at best, had a remarkably patchy music career. Jumping from project to project and band to band without ever really making any of them stick, the frontman has, if nothing else, been dogged in his determination to keep plugging away. What’s often overlooked is that along that bumpy road Di’anno and his ever changing gangs have, alongside some less salubrious moments, released a few cracking albums. And this three disc collection from Cherry Red/HNE, while appearing under the guise of Paul Di’anno’s Battlezone, actually shines a light on two of the singer’s strongest post-Maiden career projects - but more of that later.

By 1986 Di’anno, who parted with Steve Harris and the boys some 5 years earlier, had already begun and ended a band under his own name and then formed Paul Di’anno’s Battlezone, an outfit that I’d argue with hindsight, is one of the singer’s best two that doesn’t include the words iron or maiden in their name. Alongside John Wiggins (Tokyo Blade) and John Hurley on guitar, Di’anno was joined for the band’s ’86 debut album Fighting Back by future Overkill drummer Bob Falck and bassist Pete West. The album was a vital one for the singer and he’d trust all of the song-writing to guitarist Hurley, with Falck adding the title track - although the singer would still provide all of the lyrics. Unsurprisingly, the album relies pretty much on the classic New Wave Of British Heavy Metal template for inspiration and while it’ll never be held up as one of that genre’s brightest of shining lights, what Battlezone cooked up with their debut is a really strong effort. Di’anno himself was in mighty fine form, snarling, biting and howling for all he’s worth as “(Forever) Fighting Back” explodes the album into life. “Welcome To The Battlezone” quickly follows, the punky vibe you’d expect from a Di’anno led outfit allowing the track to spit with real fury. And from there the standard remains remarkably high, “Warchild” feeling like it could have just about jostled its way onto Maiden’s Killers album, while “The Land God Gave To Caine” pulls back the intensity half a notch with equally convincing results. The default setting, however, remains at full throttle and with tracks like “Running Blind” careening convincingly into view, why not? Added here is the bonus track “Rising Star”, which originally came from a 1987 Metal Killer Kollection compilation, which makes for a fine little extra.

One year later the band returned with their Children Of Madness album and Steve Hopgood (Persian Risk, Killers and many more) on drums, while Graham Bath (also of Persian Risk) had replaced Hurley on guitar. This, of course, meant a change in songwriting for the band, with the two new members and Di’anno forming a strong team across the album. Not too surprisingly, this key alteration signalled a shift in style, but then with it being 1987, the NWOBHM was now being looked at through the rear-view mirror. Instead of that framework, here we get a much more melodic take on the metal approach with, if anything, a strong eye on the style that Queensryche were beginning to gain real notice with now in play. The move suited Di’anno to a tee, the singer finding a refinement in his attack that most might not have expected. The opening trio of “Rip It Up”, “I Don’t Wanna Know” and “Nuclear Breakdown” set the scene superbly, and while that standard isn’t quite maintained right across this album, the title track provides a dramatic mid-paced edge, while “The Promise” beefs things up again quite nicely. At the time this release was pretty much ignored - as the debut had been too - but for me, Children of Madness is an excellent album perfect for its times and one that now deserves a favourable reappraisal. As disc two in this excellent box-set, which comes with a superb booklet containing an informative, if not exactly current, essay about Di’anno and Battlezone and some cracking photos, this album now also finds itself with two bonus tracks, “To The Limit”, which was originally a Japanese only song and “Drawn Under” - the former sounding more like the material on the debut album and the latter a slightly polished attempt of what the second outing provided.

Odd, but still rather welcome, is the inclusion of disc three here. No, it’s not the 1998 Battlezone comeback album Feel My Pain, but instead the Killers (probably Di’anno’s most celebrated post-Maiden outfit - although the original cover art makes it look like a Di’anno solo record) live album from 2001, Live At The Whiskey, which was recorded the year before. With both Graham Bath and Steve Hopgood in the band, the links to Battlezone are clear to see, even if none of that outfit’s material made the set-list. Instead you get four Iron Maiden classics, which are handled pretty well, and a selection of Killers tracks, augmented by their rather awful cover of Marc Bolan’s “Children Of The Revolution”. In terms of adding value to this set, this disc is a good addition, even if it’s relevance is questionable, but the performances are excellent all round and I’ll definitely be listening to it again.

In all honesty, the career of Paul Di’anno post Iron Maiden is more a tale of woe than of shining success, therefore, this three disc collection is a welcome reminder that he and his bands did make some excellent music, even if they also provided drama aplenty.

Track Listing
DISC ONE: Fighting Back (1986)

1. (Forever) Fighting Back

2. Welcome To The Battlezone

3. Warchild

4. In The Darkness

5. The Land God Gave To Caine

6. Running Blind

7. Too Much Heart

8. Voice On The Radio

9. Welfare Warriors

10. Feel The Rock
Bonus Track

11. Rising Star (from Warchild)

DISC TWO: Children Of Madness (1987)

1. Rip It Up

2. I Don’t Wanna Know

3. Nuclear Breakdown

4. Torch Of Hate

5. Whispered Rage

6. Children Of Madness

7. Metal Tears

8. It’s Love

9. Overloaded

10. The Promise

Bonus Tracks

11. To The Limit (Japanese Exclusive Track)

12. Drawn Under (from Elementals)

DISC THREE: Killers: Live At The Whisky (2000)

1. Impaler

2. Wrathchild

3. A Song For You

4. Marshall Lokjaw

5. Children Of The Revolution

6. Three Words

7. Protector

8. Die By The Gun

9. Remember Tomorrow

10. Phantom Of The Opera

11. Sanctuary

Added: July 10th 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Paul Di'anno's Battlezone/Killers @ Cherry
Hits: 566
Language: english

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