Bruce Dickinson - The Chemical Wedding
(6 reader votes, average 4.33 out of 5)

by Ben Perry

Bruce Dickinson - The Chemical Wedding review

Band Name: Bruce Dickinson
Album Name: The Chemical Wedding
Release Date: July 14, 1998

Band on Record:
Bruce Dickinson: Vocals
Adrian Smith: Guitars
Roy Z: Guitars
Eddie Cassillas: Bass
David Ingraham: Drums

Track 1: “King in Crimson”
Doom and gloom are prominent thanks to some great guitar chord playing, but unlike normal doom style playing there is enough melody playing through the track to keep interest peaked. The beginning of the chorus is crushing too, might I add with Dickinson growling out the lyrics (not cookie style, Steve) to fit perfectly with the mood. There is a rich Iron Maiden style solo to cap everything off, too.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 2: “Chemical Wedding”
The music and vocals are perfect on this song, with some keyboard (or perhaps that’s created by the guitars?) sequences during the verses that just ooze an off feeling to go with the perverse nature of the chemical wedding. The vocals are more the normal Dickinson style with higher registers and the chorus has a nasty habit of being stuck in your head.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Track 3: “The Tower”
A great bass and drum rhythm kicks off this song, and carries the groove for the duration as Smith and Roy Z add some intricate guitar melody and riffing to balance it all out. Another chorus that is sung perfectly to get stuck in your head :B. There is a very cool guitar solo with a lot of finger tapping as each guitarist plays off the other. Cool stuff :tup:
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 4: “Killing Floor”
The way Dickinson spits out “SATAN” is perfect for the music of the song as the guitars have more of a thrash feel on here than before. There’s also a weird distortion (or so it appears to me) that gives the solo a cool feeling to it, just before an uncommon breakdown with renaissance style keyboard work, pretty cool.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 5: “Book of Thel”
This song is probably my second favorite on the album; everything on it is just excellent musicianship from the drum rhythm to the many guitar solos and melody that work with Dickinson’s vocals for a full experience. Then, when the speed kicks in there is nothing you can do but bang your head along with it. Great piano outro and some of the mythologies/poetry of William Blake is spoken at the end for a creepy effect.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 6: “Gates of Urizen”
Segueing from the “Book of Thel” that mentions Urizen (a character from William Blake’s mythology) this is another one of my favorite Bruce Dickinson songs. The slow start plays some single-note guitar sequences that leads into a beautiful solo as Dickinson sings over the melody adding his wonderful melody to it. The chorus brings in the doom style guitars again, and Dickinson seems to bleed his vocal chords with the belting out of Urizen’s name. Another good song to get stuck in your head for a long while.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 7: “Jerusalem”
This is the slowest song on the album, and even that is broken up by the chorus when the drumming comes in fast and furious with some of the usual good riffing. The melody on here is stunning, from the guitars to Dickinson’s singing on the entire track. It is definitely good stuff here, and that’s even before the solo!
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 8: “Trumpets of Jericho”
From the first moment that guitar hits I want to raise my fist and yell, and then just go crazy. Absolutely raw and brutal playing from the start to finish of this album, even the normal melodic Dickinson starts off with a sinister vocal number and it just makes for great listening. You simply have to listen to how good this song is, my words almost fail to convey it.
Song Rating: 15 out of 10 (damn right I just did it 8))


Track 9: “Machine Men”
For whatever reason, this is the only song on the album that does not truly grab me. The guitar melody is memorable, and the chorus is another one of the proverbial “get stuck in your head” moments, however everything else does not quite get it done for me. It is a good song; do not get me wrong, but just not the best on this album.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 10: “The Alchemist”
If you want one song to encompass everything this album stands for and holds for you, this would be the song. There are the crushing riffs, softer moments, great vocals and of course wonderful solos. My only fault seems to be as everything is set back for some reason as the keyboards come to the front when I would rather hear other things. The return to “Chemical Wedding” at the end is superb and makes the track for me.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


BONUS TRACKS:

Track 11: “Return of the King”
The same vein of music as the album comes on this track with a lot of distorted guitars and fast riffing, however there is a feeling of more “light” on this number, especially on the chorus. This is just as good as anything on the album, if not a little better than some cuts, as the melody is far more pronounced and forward on here.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 12: “Real World”
The guitar on here sounds really cool, and I love the groove that it along with the rhythm section develops. Dickinson does a great job singing this, possibly one of the best vocal jobs on the album (though, that’s hard to distinguish with all of them being great). Only irksome thing is the breakdown, good guitar melody over a repetitive backing. Not all that bad to be told.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Track 13: “Confeos”
Deep Purple would be absolutely happy about this song, it plays as a loose jam and there are definite parallels to some of the stuff Purple did in their jams. Just listen to that guitar arrangement and keyboard (more like organ, Jon Lord’s organ) bursts. It’s great and has funny lyrics, great ending to the bonus tracks.
Track Rating: 9 out of 10


Overall Review:
This album is one dark, speedy, and thought provoking piece of work. Bruce Dickinson crafted a work that uses some influences of his other band, Iron Maiden, and with the help of Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden the guitars have the same feel as a Maiden album. However, they are in a lower register and seem to be mostly detuned to not only give the speed a darker tinge, but also sound as if doom is upon everyone. The lyrical content deals with religion and how that has been transformed into the mythologies of William Blake that were also used for inspiration here, not to mention the references to King Arthur, the idea of alchemy, and Greek mythology that periodically are expressed.

A main expression in the mythology seems to be a high peak in society that was lost through the ages. “Return of the King,” a reference to the supposed return of King Arthur according to those legends, specifically of the stone monument (think Stonehenge) that his father Uther Pendragon erected before his death. This shows that past as being a time of greatness, particularly if you know the story of the building of the stone monument (if only I could remember the name, or even find it…) you know that Merlin was a part of the building as he used mechanics to move stones much too large for man to move from Ireland over to England in order for the building of the monument. This feat was great for the time, and as the album suggests we seem to have lost the ability to gain greatness like that.

There seems to be the idea that evil, in the embodiment of Satan, is coming and that is what has made society fall from the great times it was in times past. “The trembling world I now despise…His hand is death if you take it now/As you scream into the web of silence/There is nothing that can save you now” (“King in Crimson”) shows the contempt felt for the present world and the impending doom Satan will bring down on everything so that nothing will have the ability to provide safety. “Killing Floor” alludes to the devastation and evil committed by the Nazi’s “Panzer divisions burning in the mud” and again show the decay of our present age in which the atrocities of the Second World War could be committees. Satan is again mentioned in the song as having left his “killing floor” possibly giving a glimmer of hope in this album that oozes with dark themes and music to only enhance that feeling of utter hopelessness.

“Chemical Wedding” and “The Alchemist” are connected songs, not only in the content of alchemy and the idea of combining two things together as the two dead humans join in the chemical wedding. That seems to be an unholy union, as the dead are not known to marry, especially as that marriage is performed chemically instead of divinely as well as “in the same grave.” “The Alchemist” also creates abominations through his alchemic research, such as the “Four-headed dragon for the four degrees of fire” or the creation of a “golden one” that takes the power of creation from God and puts it in the hands of men. This is something that has happened over the last decade of so with the notion that men want to “play God” and therefore perform certain rituals, acts, or medicines in the hopes of gaining something.

If you ever get the time, look into the mythologies of William Blake, which are based on religious notions, but at the same time contain his criticisms of the Church. “The Book of Thel” and “The Gates of Urizen” are both direct references to Blake’s work and each one is the antithesis of the other. Thel is a spirit of purity that lives in an Eden, before venturing out and discovering corruption. However, she does not become corrupt, but flees to her original paradise. Urizen, on the other hand is the embodiment of rebellion and slavery within the Book of Urizen. He is especially dogmatic in religious aspects, showing the critique of Blake on the Church. The parallel of paradise and religious anti-paradise keeps with the theme of the Earth once being a paradise with that falling away through the ages.

As usual, Bruce Dickinson is extremely vague in his lyrics. The idea that he is commenting on the terrible conditions of the present day when compared to the past is similar to work done by the Greek writer Hesiod in his Works and Days epic in which he details the Five Ages of Man. Any way you interpret that album, does not change the fact that it has some amazing music that effectively conveys a dark feeling or presence that definitely comes through the lyrics. Bruce Dickinson still has a great voice, and although he has toned down the screams he works his vocals into a perfect fit for an album this dark while still keeping the melody. This is a work of a man who has not only great musical talent, but an awareness to what is going on not only in the present world but what was written in the past.
Overall Rating: 9.75 out of 10

 

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