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Bruce Dickinson

Chemical Wedding (Remaster)

Review by Gary Hill

This re-release of Bruce Dickinson's Chemical Wedding album has a better sound to me by far than the original, and I guess time has worked on me as I really enjoy the disc this time around. When I first got the original release it didn't sit well with me and I wound up listening to it only a handful of times. The remaster, though, I really enjoy. This is definitely not Maiden (although there are moments that you might think are), but it is prime Dickinson. Fans of Maiden should still enjoy it and Dickinson fanatics "must have" it. I think that the bonus cuts here are kind of iffy. I mean, on the one hand it's always good to get more value for your dollar. The problem is none of the material is anywhere near as strong as the original material, and in a way it takes away from the natural flow of the disc. I suppose this is really just splitting hairs, though, as this is a killer album any way you slice it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
King In Crimson
This comes in ultra heavy and stays that way throughout. This metal stomper is very tasty. No, there is no relation to the prog rock band with a similar name.
Chemical Wedding
While this one comes in heavy also, it alternates between mellower dark tones and the heavy. A neo-classical guitar solo is a nice addition.
Tower
A bass line that is the most Maiden like moment to this point comes in, While it's not full on Maiden, it almost has a touch of funk, it's fast paced and calls to mind that band somewhat. The guitars enter and with Dickinson's voice on top this effect is pretty well in place making this the most Maidenesque piece to this point. It's frantic and very cool. There is an instrumental break on this one that has Iron Maiden scrawled all over it.
Killing Floor
A super heavy, more modern metal sound pervades this rocker. The bridge on this one has a weird alterna-metal sound. Dickinson is purely on fire on this one, and the guitar solo is a real smoker, too. That solo wanders in some unexpected and rather dissonant ways. Another shocker, they drop this one back to a neo-classical playful mellow segment for a break that serves to make the metal seem all that much more ferocious when it thunders back in. This one is a killer.
Book of Thel
A major change of pace, this one comes in mellower and with a creepy sound, a bit like some of Alice Cooper's more modern music. It shifts gears shortly, though to a frantic metal stomping mode. This is another that has some Maiden-like tendencies. They put in a super heavy fast and furious performance on the instrumental break. And the vocal arrangement as they come out from there is quite cool, as is the meaty guitar solo that follows. At points this cut reminds me of Ripper Owens era Priest. It's a real smoker! It moves to near progressive rock mellow tones with spoken vocals for its final moments.
Gates of Urizen
This one comes in tentative and mysterious. It has a great texture to the soundscape here, and it serves as the backdrop for the opening vocals. This eventually beefs up, and there is Blackmore like guitar solo later, but still the overall tone stays in the vein of a heavy ballad. This is another strong number and a nice change of pace.
Jerusalem
This one comes in almost like a folk rock ballad, and the vocals come over the top of this type of backdrop. This one grows very slowly for a while. Eventually hints of more metallic power show up, but it takes a while for them to begin to be fully realized. When they are, though, this one stomps with epic metal fury. This becomes one heck of a fiery jam with some seriously inspired soloing. It drops back to the mellow to end.
Trumpets of Jericho
This one has a gritty sort of modern metal pounding behind it. It's all right, but not one of my favorites here. Still, they manage to pull it together rather well on the chorus. This track just doesn't hold up to a lot of the other material here.
Machine Men
This one comes in with a meaty metal riff, and it's another that at times feels a bit like Judas Priest. This is an effective stomper. It has some very interesting textures within it's boundaries. This does have a few elements that lean on nu-metal territory, but the majority is meatier, and there is a great neo-classical guitar solo.
Alchemist
This is a bit strange. It comes in very tentative and sparse, but eventually a nice riff takes it, but this has a very odd new metal sound and has a lot of keyboards in its structure. I'd have to say that this sounds more like Rage to Order Queensryche than anything else, but that even doesn't quite nail it down. This is definitely a different sort of cut. This does have some more progressive rock oriented jamming tied into its musical themes. The most interesting part about this track, though, is that after working through the varying themes here it eventually shifts into the chorus of the title track. This kind of thing is something that people do too seldom, and it really adds a touch of class to an album. I have to say, though that it was more effective on the original version where it closed the disc.
Bonus Tracks
Return of the King
This hard rocker feels a bit like a cross between Maiden and Rainbow (the Dio years) to me. It's a solid rocker, but doesn't really do that much for me. It gets pretty heavy at points, though, and there is a nice guitar solo.
Real World
This one has an intriguing hard rock metal sound, but again it's not all that special.
Confeos
If "Return of the King" felt like Rainbow, this really reminds me of Perfect Strangers era Deep Purple a lot. This is another good rocker, but definitely not up to the par of the rest of the album.
Hidden Track
If you let the disc play on after the last track, eventually a spoken poetry reading comes on to take it out.
 
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