Part 27 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!
BRUCE DICKINSON – The Chemical Wedding (1998)
Disclaimer: I know nothing of the writings of William Blake. Curious because of this album, I decided to take a crack at them. I did not get far!
Suffice to say The Chemical Wedding is a swirling Blake-inspired non-concept album, a distinct up-ratchet from the excellent Accident of Birth. Upon hearing The Chemical Wedding, I said, “Well that’s it — Bruce has buried Iron Maiden, and his own back catalogue too!”
Seriously heavy, much heavier than anything Bruce has done before or since, The Chemical Wedding is an absolute triumph. The lineup remains the same: Bruce and Roy Z with Adrian Smith, Eddie Casillas, and David Ingraham. With a little bit ‘o narration from Bruce’s hero Arthur Brown (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown). The lyrics range from alchemy to the legend that Christ once went to England during his missing years, it’s a spellbinding listen, as long as you don’t hurt your neck from all the headbanging you’re going to do.
I had one customer who was a Christian. He asked me what was good in new metal, so I put The Chemical Wedding on for him. He ripped the headphones from his ears — couldn’t stand the lyrics! He told me they were “too demonic”, particularly the lead single “The Killing Floor”:
Satan has left his killing floor
Satan – hellfires burn no more
Although there is also a line about “Panzer divisions burning in the mud” so to me this is another commentary on the evil present in the world.
Going through the album track by track would get monotonous. So choose from the adjectives below: “fast”, “powerful”, “scorching”, “heavy”, “grinding”, “wailing”, “throbbing”, “headache-inducing” for the various songs.
There are numerous highlights, but my two favourites are:
“The Tower” – this one has a unstoppable pulse thanks to Eddie Casillas, and is one of the more melodic songs on the album while retaining its heaviness.
“Book of Thel” – with velocity comes the album epic, this one picks up where “Darkside of Aquarius” left off from the last album. I don’t know what a book of Thel is, but judging by the heavy evilness coming from my speakers, maybe I don’t wanna know!
Not to be outdone are the scorching opening “King in Crimson” (does not seem to be about a Stephen King character!) and the melodic Maiden-esque Japanese bonus track “Return of the King”.
The single for “The Killing Floor” had two unique B-sides, “Real World” and “Confeos”, neither of which are as strong as anything on the album. These songs plus “Return of the King” have been collected on the Bruce Dickinson deluxe editions.
When Accident of Birth came out in 1997, I said, “This is incredible, Bruce is back and better than Maiden are. How the hell is he doing to top this one?” Unlike previous solo albums, Bruce didn’t do a complete 180 and change direction. Instead he simply added more fuel to the fire and created one of the best albums of his entire career, one he should be very proud of.
But again, I had to ask the same question, “How the hell does he top The Chemical Wedding“? I couldn’t see him turning up the gas any hotter without foraging into thrash metal territory, or losing what melody he still had. Luckily, fate intervened.
It turns out that Iron Maiden themselves were looking for another new singer. And Bruce was looking to finish his career off doing arenas, not clubs. A phone call was made….
…And it is here that we shall pause again. Stay tuned for more Maiden in the days to come.