Album of the Week 06-2014: Bruce Dickinson – The Chemical Wedding

In the late nineties, Iron Maiden was struggling to maintain their level of popularity without Bruce Dickinson fronting the band. He pursued a solo carreer, initially opting for a completely different sound, but when he reunited with Adrian Smith – another Maiden alumnus who has since returned – he came out with two albums that seemed like an unsollicited application back into the Metal realm. ‘Accident Of Birth’ was good, but ‘The Chemical Wedding’ is vastly superior in terms of songwriting and conceptual continuity. And Dickinson is in optima forma. All this contributes to one of the very best Heavy Metal albums of the nineties.

Besides Smith and Dickinson, Roy Z and two members of his Latin Hardrock band Tribe Of Gypsies – bassist Eddie Casillas and drummer David Ingraham – are an indispensable part of what makes this album so brilliant. First of all, Roy Z is responsible for the bulk of the songwriting duties. The ultra heavy guitar sound heard on this album is most likely his influence as well. Ingraham isn’t exactly your typical Metal drummer with just about no double bass work, but his rhythms are extremely powerful. Also, his drum sound is among the best I have ever heard.

While Maiden was exploring the beginnings of the quasi-Prog sound that is present on much of their recent output, ‘The Chemical Wedding’ is powerful, blazing Heavy Metal with one of the best singers of the genre on top of it. The guitars sound vicious and that isn’t just a matter of the punch in their sound, it’s also the riffs that are just killer. You’d have to listen no further than the mindblowing opener ‘King In Crimson’ to come to that conclusion. The heavy riffs make way for a supreme, goosebumps inducing build-up in the pre-chorus, followed by Dicksinson at his best in the chorus.

And despite it being one of the best tracks of Dickinson’s carreer – both solo and with Maiden – there’s plenty more to enjoy on this album. The epic ‘Book Of Thel’ contains a number of awesome riffs and bass work by Casillas, the incredibly heavy ‘Trumpets Of Jericho’ has the most stomping riffs of the album and Dickinson proving why he is “the air raid siren” in the chorus and ‘Machine Men’ is a powerful composition in the best Smith/Dickinson tradition. Ironically, the most Maiden-sounding track on the album is a Dickinson/Roy Z collaboration named ‘The Tower’. Another shining moment for Casillas. But the absolute highlight – besides ‘King In Crimson’ – is the epic semi-ballad ‘Jerusalem’, which combines William Blake’s poem ‘And Did Those Feet In Ancient Times’ with a perfect exercise in tension building.

‘The Chemical Wedding’ was the last album Bruce Dickinson cut before returning to Iron Maiden for the almost equally amazing ‘Brave New World’ album. It’s a true pity that Dickinson’s return to Maiden doesn’t allow him to work with Roy Z as much as he used to, because these two have real chemistry – no pun intended. And it’s not just the songwriting; Dickinson truly shines as a singer here. This is an album that should be heard by any Metal fan with a sane mind. Only to have it blown away later.

Recommended tracks: ‘King In Crimson’, ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Trumpets Of Jericho’, ‘The Tower’

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