In November 2016 BRITISH LION will head out on their most extensive tour yet with 27 dates across Europe opening with a show at the Moto Clube de Faro, Portugal. The same venue where BRITISH LION performed their debut show in February 2013 when Steve Harris - who has strong personal ties to Moto Clube - played live for the very first time outside of IRON MAIDEN. That tour, in support of the eponymous 2012 debut album saw Steve and longstanding friends and fellow band-mates Richard Taylor (vocals), David Hawkins (guitar and keys), Grahame Leslie (guitar) and Simon Dawson (drums) play a series of club shows across Europe. They followed this with a 10 date European club tour in 2014 and UK club tour in 2015, slotting in between IRON MAIDEN new album and touring commitments.
IRON MAIDEN were founded by Steve Harris in London’s East End in the mid ‘70s, built on an ardent desire for a band who would play original songs and never have their ambition compromised or dictated to by the fashions or music trends of the day. In short – Steve’s vision was to create “a rock band that would make great albums, put on superb live concerts, and never, ever sell out”.
Fast-forward to the present day and nobody could disagree that Steve’s dream has become more than a reality. Widely considered one of the most important and influential rock acts of all time, IRON MAIDEN have sold over 90 million albums worldwide, played over 2,000 live performances across 63 countries, and released 16 studio albums including the most recent, 2015’s The Book Of Souls reaching the #1 album chart position in over 40 countries.
With so much accomplished with MAIDEN, Steve astounded the world yet again by releasing BRITISH LION in 2012. The album was the result of many years toil in the limited downtime available to him between MAIDEN tours and activities, so his fellow BRITISH LION band-mates had to learn to be very patient! Steve is keen to tour as much as possible, so going out on the road with BRITISH LION enables him to play the sort of venues not visited since those early days starting out with IRON MAIDEN and to experience again, on a smaller, more intimate scale, that same live vibe. His ethos and mission from the mid-70’s still ringing true today.
BRITISH LION ALBUM BACKGROUND:
The album BRITISH LION was developed under super-secret circumstances between tours, it’s an altogether different beast from Iron Maiden. And according to Harris, the decision to embark upon his first-ever side-project was strictly down to the raw talent of the musicians involved.
“It’s taken a very long time for this to come together,” he says. “A number of years ago vocalist Richard Taylor and guitarist Grahame Leslie sent me a tape. I was just impressed and decided to help them a bit and it went from there.”
“I thought the songs were so strong it’d be a crime if it they didn’t see the light of day.” So after a few years of working on more tracks together with Richard Taylor and now also guitarist David Hawkins, Steve was ready for the next stage, he went to Kevin Shirley in L.A. ready to mix. “It’s very different but there are some Maiden elements in there. Not that I’ve ever worried too much about what people think!”
Listen to these ten mammoth tracks, and that much is certain. With a decidedly heavy rock-vibe, Steve Harris’s British Lion roaring debut paints with a full palette of sounds; brooding, melancholic, righteously indignant and exuberantly heavy, it is a master class in influences. With Kevin Shirley at the mixing helm – whose credits include Maiden as well as Joe Bonamassa, Journey, Rush, and Led Zeppelin among many others – this is an album to sink your teeth into.
From the growling riffage of opening salvo This Is My God – a snarling diatribe about the perils facing the current generation - to the forlorn heavy follow-up of Lost Worlds which showcases Richard Taylor’s soaring, Glenn Hughes-esque vocals, it’s clear that there’s just no pinning ‘British Lion’ down.
Karma Killer, with its dirge-like muscularity is a sound to behold, and Us Against The World, with its massive chorus and unmistakeably Maiden-like guitar flourishes, demonstrates just how far British Lion has flexed Steve Harris’ considerable musical muscle. Dovetailed with guitarist David Hawkins’ positively gargantuan lyrical guitar melodies, it’s a mere hors d'oeuvre ahead of the epic, The U.F.O./Who-loving, riffing-feast of The Chosen Ones, with its swaggering bravado.
A World Without Heaven – at a breathtaking seven minutes and infused with progressive elements without ever teetering into self-indulgence – illustrates perfectly these songsmiths’ colossal abilities to create a mood and stay there. Supercharged by Steve Harris’ inimitable style but infused with an altogether different chemistry that’s a world apart from Maiden, there’s an un-cynical vibe here that’s as refreshing as it is out of place in today’s all-too-categorised industry.
That’s because, as Harris explains, ‘British Lion’ may be a new project but its soul was conceived decades ago. “Yeah, to me it’s just a collection of really strong songs. It’s all about melody and the 70s feel and attitude with a modern edge,” he says. “It’s going out and doing the music you feel is right. “
These are songs with strong lyrical themes such as Judas – which, as Harris explains, “is about religion – someone who’s been more than flirting with belief but feels like they’ve been let down.” Next comes the uplifting Eyes Of The Young – with its upbeat, almost nostalgic lines “Can you recall now the way it used to be/Kicking at the world we didn’t need to see”. Then the really strong melody lines and power riffs of These Are The Hands “You know who you are!” And in The Lesson, we confront a tale of city-dwelling disenchantment that has an almost eerie feel to it.
As for the album’s name ‘British Lion’, Steve explains; “It represented a lot of things to me. I’ve always been patriotic. I’ve always been proud to be British – I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be. It’s a massive part of being me. It’s not like I’m flag-waving or trying to preach, this is not a political statement at all. It’s like supporting your football team, where you come from. I think it lends itself to some really strong imagery too, and to me it fits in with the sound.”
And what a sound! Unexpected, exciting and unlike anything Iron Maiden have done, ‘British Lion’ is a bold move from one of the UK’s most successful, influential and talented musicians. “With Maiden we’ve always done whatever feels right and this is no exception. But as for the sound of ‘British Lion’, it’s just natural that it sounds different to anything I’ve done before as I’ve been working with different musicians. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people and I’m very excited.”