Paul Di’Anno’s Battlezone – Killers In The Battlezone

Paul Di’Anno’s Battlezone – Killers In The Battlezone
Cherry Red Records
Release Date: 24/06/22
Running Time: Fighting Back 44:40
Children of Madness 50:53
Live At The Whiskey 50:18
Review by Simon Black
Fighting Back – 7/10
Children of Madness – 6/10
Live At The Whiskey – 10/10
Overall – 7.5/10

Paul Di’Anno has had such a chequered career. The erstwhile Iron Maiden frontman was famously removed from the act as the rigour of the gruelling touring schedule and his party animal lifestyle didn’t align. But despite having the credibility that fronting that great act for its formatively successful years, it never quite translated into as successful a solo career. The challenge here was as much about branding and direction as anything else. When you’re famous for being in a hugely successful global band, trading in people wanting to hear that incarnation’s greatest hits with that original voice for the  decision to avoid Maiden’s songs in his sets in his initial Di’Anno project’s era was perhaps unwise (his choice, no doubt as he was still tamping about getting the boot). The next project was Gogmagog, a bizarre ‘supergroup’ comprised of former and future Maiden players created by oddball Jonathan King. That went in completely the opposite direction and refused to do any original material, which was no more logical. So he was on his third post-Maiden project by the time Battlezone comes to pass, having perhaps burned a bit of bridge loyalty from the fanbase from having two false starts, which is a shame, because this is really where he started coming into his own, with albums full of original material that sounded like the next logical musical step and live sets that catered to demand for nostalgia.

This box set from the lovely folks at Cherry Red takes the two Battlezone original studio albums and gives them a thoroughly good modern clean up spit and polish for this decade. Generally, it’s that clean up that makes this worth digging into, as the original releases really struggled with lack-lustre production and cheap low-grade vinyl, which is a shame because Di’Anno deserved better at the time. Also included on the set (and somewhat bizarrely since it’s not a Battlezone release) is the “Killers – Live At The Whiskey” from 2001. 

1986’s “Fighting Back” really is the point where Di’Anno’s credibility and career start to re-establish themselves, but it’s an uphill struggle from here on in as he’s back into the underground. The music really kicks up a notch though from previous projects, with some skilful performances from the instrumental line, some better-crafted songs and a vocal performance that feels like the successor to the seminal “Killers”. The challenge is it’s nowhere near as strong from a song-writing perspective than either of Maiden’s first two records and although vocally Di’Anno really captures motes from “KiIlers” (the album) in particular, it feels more like a promise of better things to come than a sure fire hit – with a fairly equal mix of songs that work and those that really are just there to make up the run time. Where this version scores in droves over it’s original release though is that an awful lot of work has gone into trying to make this sound like it wasn’t recorded for five pounds, a thrupenny bit and a packet of crisps in a dead cheap studio. Unfortunately, no amount of remastering can hide the way songs just fade out in mid-flight as they fight to make the material fit on two sides of old money vinyl. Nevertheless, Di’Anno is on top form and that’s what ya pays ya money for…

“Children of Madness” has seen a lot of churn in the Battlezone line-up in a really short time, with Sid Falck (Drums) and John Hurley (Guitars) having left under a cloud (and a few thrown punches) after the debut record’s tour. The irony of two members of Di’Anno’s band having to be fired for their behaviour is not lost on this old hack… That’s a bit of a shame really, because the USA leg of that tour was a definite success, and re-established Di’Anno’s credibility. Sadly, this line-up failed to build on that road success, with replacement guitarist Graham Bath not wanting to do the gruelling touring (once again, the irony) and getting fired, so that crucial line-up consistency from studio to road fell flat. 

That’s a shame because this is a much stronger album than “Fighting Back” musically. For a start it’s not trying to sound like “Killers 2”, with a musical tone that takes note that NWOBHM is dead and gone and arena / Radio rock is where it’s at. But once again, that style needs lavish production, and “Children of Madness” sounds tinny and flat, again with the annoying habit of fading out even though the band are still at full pelt at the end of a track. Musically this is more Melodic but no less Heavy Metal, and Di’Anno’s voice seems to have gone up a notch, with his trademark gruffness being augmented with some genuinely long, high and loud screams that work well. What doesn’t work well is the drum sound, and even this cleaned up version is totally dominated by an intrusive snare and a complete absence of bass, which is such a shame, as the arrangements, writing and performances are so much of an improvement – although it still struggles to keep the quality and consistency through its run time. The Battlezone project would wind up after this (resurfacing briefly at the end of the 90’s), with a few year’s passing until Di’Anno’s more Power Metal sounding Killers project launched. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable record and it’s attempts at polish contrast nicely with the more rough and ready approach of the debut.

A lot of years and line-up churn have passed by the time “Killers – Live At The Whiskey” was recorded at the turn of the millennium. In fact by this point his post-Maiden career has encompassed no less than eight separate branded acts, none of which with the exception of Battlezone’s brief success Stateside and Killers in general made much of a dent. Killers was probably the most successful, given that it was picked up by major label BMG after a successful showcase (ironically the A&R guy was impressed with the Maiden songs covered in the set and had not realised they were not his to release, as the band at this point hadn’t written anything original). That brief and only major label support meant that Killers got noticed and I have fond memories of their debut “Murder One” in 1992, as well as catching a fantastic live show at Nottingham’s Rock City. 

Killers was an on / off project, like most of Di’Anno’s work and this show came from the second bite of the cherry. The set is an equal mix of material from their three studio albums and Maiden classics. Live is where Di’Anno is in his element however, as shitty production values don’t apply and the man can do what he does best which is completely own a crowd. The choice of originally material is wise – ‘Impaler’, ‘Marshall Lockjaw’ and ‘Die By The Gun’ are all belters that work equally well with the much loved ‘Wrathchild’ or ‘Remember Tomorrow’, but nothing beats the chill down the back of the neck hearing him scale the heights with the seminal ‘Phantom of The Opera’, even if the band may struggle to play it half as well as Maiden do. But then it’s a bloody hard piece of music to play live…

This is an older and wiser Di’Anno that knows his range and excels in delivering it, with the experience of what works in a set list. Consequently, like most of the live albums from the back half of his career, it’s an absolute belter of a performance, and worth the investment in this set for in its own right. It was fascinating to hear the original Battlezone pieces too, with their much improved sound so this makes a nice snapshot of some of the better moments of a somewhat turbulent solo career. 

Fighting Back
01. (Forever) Fighting Back
02. Welcome To The Battlezone
03. Warchild
04. In The Darkness
05. The Land God Gave To Caine
06. Running Blind
07. Too Much Heart
08. Voice On The Radio
09. Welfare Warriors
10. Feel The Rock Bonus track
11. Rising Star (from Warchild)

Children of Madness
01. Rip It Up
02. I Don’t Wanna Know
03. Nuclear Breakdown
04. Torch Of Hate
05. Whispered Rage
06. Children Of Madness
07. Metal Tears
08. It’s Love
09. Overloaded
10. The Promise
11. To The Limit (Japanese Exclusive Track)
12. Drawn Under (from Elementals)

Live At The Whiskey
01. Impaler
02. Wrathchild
03. A Song For You
04. Marshall Lokjaw
05. Children Of The Revolution
06. Three Words
07. Protector
08. Die By The Gun
09. Remember Tomorrow
10. Phantom Of The Opera
11. Sanctuary


Fighting Back
Pete West – Bass
John Wiggins – Guitars
Paul Di’Anno – Vocals
Sid Falck – Drums
John Hurley – Guitars

Children of Madness
Paul Di’Anno – Vocals
John Wiggins – Guitars
Graham Bath – Guitars
Pete West – Bass
Steve Hopgood – Drums

Killers Live At The Whiskey
Paul Di’Anno – Vocals
Graham Bath – Guitars
Cliff Evans – Guitars
Steve Hopgood – Drums
Gavin Cooper – Bass


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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