Blaze Bayley + Absolva at The Craufurd Arms, Wolverton on 11th November 2023


In the history of metal and rock, there’s probably never been a better introduction tape than AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’, it sets the scene nicely with its lyrical allusions to “rolling thunder” and “pouring rain” proving strangely prophetic. It’s a song that never fails to get the blood pumping, meaning that when Absolva hit the stage, it is with some force. Opening with the title-track from their 2012 debut album Flames Of Justice, they hit the ground running and play like they own the room, and an excitable crowd require little goading to flash their horns and sing along. With a twin guitar attack (that’s not unlike Thin Lizzy on steroids) topped with glass-shattering vocals Absolva make for an arresting experience, and one that’s hard to ignore. They deliver a set that ebbs and flows perfectly with the moody ‘Fistful Of Hate’ nestling next to the thrashy ‘Fire In The Sky’ which ensures things never become staid. ‘Side By Side’ is a song of unity in these fragmented times, while closer ‘From Beyond The Light’ ensures they won’t be forgotten in a hurry. It’s my first time catching Absolva live, but it won’t be my last.

There’s a lot of love in the house for Blaze Bayley, but if there was any doubts then the huge cheer which welcomes him to the stage should put them to rest. Blaze is the perennial rock n’ roll survivor, and that’s something we can all relate to, yet through all the highs and lows, the ups and downs, his voice has been the one sole constant and opening track ‘Alive’ finds him in fine fettle. Immediately making his presence felt, he proceeds to whip up the crowd and doesn’t stop over the course of 75 frantic minutes. Through Blaze’s habitual engagement with the audience it feels as if he has magically shrunk the venue, and turns this evening’s gig into a real intimate affair. Such is his boundless energy, you’d never guess that Blaze has recently undergone quadruple heart bypass surgery because he stalks the stage like a man half his age and turns in an energetic performance (just don’t tell his cardiologist!). Stephen Hawking might not be your first thought when thinking of subject matter for metal songs, yet as ‘The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking’ proves, there’s no reason why metal can’t be simultaneously visceral and cerebral.

When I expressed my desire to catch tonight’s support band Absolva again, I didn’t think it would be quite so soon. However, in addition to playing their own set, they also form Blaze Bayley’s band and without missing a beat they slot into this role perfectly. It is on the Iron Maiden tracks where they really come into their own with the twin guitar assault tying the crowd into all sorts of knots on ‘Virus’, ‘Man On The Edge’ and ‘Futureal’. In light of Blaze’s recent health scare, ‘The Man Who Would Not Die’ seems perfectly apt, while closer ‘Voices From The Past’ is played with so much vitality that you feel there’s so much more to come from Blaze Bayley.

Absolva Set List:

  1. Flames Of Justice
  2. Anthems To The Dead
  3. Never A Good Day To Die
  4. Fistful Of Hate
  5. Fire In The Sky
  6. Side By Side
  7. Stand Your Ground
  8. Code Red
  9. Refuse To Die
  10. From Beyond The Light

Blaze Bayley Set List:

  1. Alive
  2. Ten Seconds
  3. The Unstoppable Stephen Hawking
  4. Pull Yourself Up
  5. Warrior
  6. The Power Of Nikola Tesla
  7. Virus
  8. Every Storm Ends
  9. Stare At The Sun
  10. Man On The Edge
  11. Futureal
  12. The Man Who Would Not Die


  1. Voices From The Past