When Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden in 1993, many thought the British heavy metal giants were done. However, as the story goes, Steve Harris and company brought former Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bayley to the fold, for the unenviable task of stepping into Dickinson's mighty boots. And the journey of filling Bruce's iconic vocal cords not only was a daunting one for Bayley, but it was also marked by both personal success and torment.
As much as being chosen as the frontman for Iron Maiden was a dream come true for Bayley, his tenure as the band's vocalist coincided with a challenging period for the legendary act. Dickinson's return loomed on the horizon, leading to Blaze's departure in 1999, after recording two albums, 1995's The X Factor and 1998's Virtual XI.
In a recent interview with Metal Hammer, Bayley candidly talked about he dealt emotionally with his dismissal at the time. His response was raw and unfiltered. "It was horrific," he admitted. "I’d be making all these plans for my solo career: ‘I’m going to come back with a new project, I’m going to use everything I learned from Maiden and from songwriting with those guys, it’ll be incredible.’ And then a couple of hours later, I’d be sobbing. I couldn’t say so at the time, but I was destroyed.”
"Let’s face it, Bruce Dickinson is the absolute benchmark of what it is to be a heavy metal frontman." Bayley added. "He’s one of the greatest singers and performers in any genre of music, and he’s just left your favorite band and they’ve got this idiot from Tamworth in? A lot of fans hated me on principle. There is a percentage of fans that still hate me. There are some people who have never even heard me, but still hate me because I’m not Bruce.”
Apparently, listening to listening to Iron Maiden's 2000 comeback album, Brave New World didn't make Blaze feel any better. For many, it's just another great Iron Maiden record, but for him, it was a painful reminder of what might have been. “Yes, I listened to it, and I’ll admit that I cried my fucking eyes out. It’s a really good album, but I knew that if things had worked out differently, I would have been working in the studio with those guys, I would have been singing some of those songs. There was this sense of great loss that hit me really hard.”
Bayley's honest account of his own emotional turmoil is a stark reminder of the personal sacrifices musicians make for their art. It's easy to forget the human aspect when all we see are the dazzling stage lights.