william blake

DVD REVIEW: Bruce Dickinson – Anthology (2006)

I acquired this DVD for ridiculously cheap at my old place of employ via their web order service, but after I left their employ so no staff discount.  Its condition is impeccable!  Very impressive.

BRUCE DICKINSON – Anthology (2006 Sanctuary)

Bruce Dickinson is that rare kind of artist, one whose solo work has the same level of quality, integrity and emotional impact as the work with his better-known band. I think it is safe to say that most Iron Maiden fans have enjoyed Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, or at least most of it. This DVD Anthology is a complete collection of all of Dickinson’s solo video material in one 3-disc package.

Up first is Bruce’s live video supporting his first solo album whilst still in Maiden, Tattooed Millionaire. This video, which was extremely rare when it first came out (I never located a copy), was called Dive! Dive! Live! and featured Maiden guitarist Janick Gers. It also features every song from that Tattooed Millionaire performed live, plus several B-sides and a handful of covers.  No Maiden.  As Bruce was proud to say, this video is very raw. Also on the first DVD is the video Skunkworks Live, which was released in the mid 1990’s. It featured Dickinson’s new solo band, also called Skunkworks, featuring guitarist Alex Dickson. I was not a huge fan of Skunkworks, as I found their style (particularly the bass by Chris Dale) not to mesh so well with Bruce’s songs. Most of the Skunkworks album is performed live, plus some older songs and B-sides, and one Maiden cover (“The Prisoner”). This is another very rare performance as once again, the original video was very hard to find.

Disc 2 is the Scream For Me Brazil show, featuring my favourite lineup of Bruce’s band. Roy Z and Adrian Smith on guitars, the hulking Eddie Casilias on bass, and the talented tribal and bizarre Dave Ingraham on drums. This to me was Bruce’s finest moment as a solo artist. The performance itself was never meant to be released at first, this is a rough and raw video feed. However, as grainy as it is, the raw energy and sheer performance chops of Bruce and his ace band come through. The tracklist is a mix of songs from the three albums featuring Roy Z (Balls to Picasso, Accident of Birth, and Chemical Wedding).

Disc 3 is my personal favourite disc, seeing as Bruce’s music videos were rarely shown on Much. Every video is included here. There are some really off the wall videos directed by Storm Thorgerson (check out “Tattooed Millionaire”! Shoes for hats?) and some really cool horror-chiller-theater-type videos directed by Julian Doyle. Further on, I loved “Accident Of Birth” (directed by Bruce himself), mainly because Dave Ingraham makes awesome faces while playing the drums, and is wearing this funny leather aviation hat through the whole thing. But that’s nothing, wait until you see “Road To Hell”. Ingraham is now wearing a gas mask through the whole thing! Julian Doyle’s “Abduction” video is also cool, as Bruce himself is captured by mysterious Men in Black, and experimented upon….

But there are some pretty bad videos too. “Tears of the Dragon” comes to mind, a great song, but a terrible video. Here’s Bruce, looking all pensive…then there’s some weird sumo wrestler looking guy…fire…a beach…Bruce wrecking stuff…I would have preferred to see his band. It was the early 90’s, and this was the kind of video that people were sick of seeing, pompous and self-important. Awful video.

Lastly as a bonus there is an old Samson video directed by Julian Temple. I don’t even know what to say about Biceps of Steel except it’s an odd one! There is also a lot of supplimentary bonus material, including some introductions and explanations from Bruce himself….

This package was extremely well assembled, and is very enjoyable for all Bruce Dickinson fans. You won’t be let down.  Completists in particular will appreciate that Bruce is very hands-on with his product and tends to give the fans what they wanted along with stuff they didn’t know existed.  Full endorsement from LeBrain.

5/5 stars

More BRUCE DICKINSON at mikeladano.com:

Accident of Birth (1997) Man of Sorrows EP (1997)
Balls To Picasso (1994 & deluxe edition)
The Chemical Wedding (1998 Japanese import)
Skunkworks, Skunkworks Live EP (1996)
Tattooed Millionaire (1990, 2005 Sanctuary 2 disc set)
Tyranny of Souls (2005, Japanese version)
RECORD STORE TALES Part 148: Navigate the Seas of the Sun

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REVIEW: Bruce Dickinson – The Chemical Wedding (1998 Japanese Import, single)

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….

5/5 stars

…And it is here that we shall pause again. Stay tuned for more Maiden in the days to come.