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Whereas Bruce's prior release, Accident of Birth, proved to the world of metal that the Air Raid Siren and his cohorts, Roy Z and Adrian Smith, could produce quality metal melded with modern sounds and touches of brilliance from his previous experiences, ultimately it didn't have the all round gloss that The Chemical Wedding would show one year on. Weak tracks like The Magician and Welcome to the Pit fell a bit flat next to more advanced and carefully crafted songs like Darkside of Aquarius and Omega.
This 1998 release however, notably coinciding with the god-awful Virtual XI, built upon the staples of AoB and took them to the next level in a flawless combination of heaviness and beauty. The band performance all the more tighter, the songwriting more free-flowing and the soundscapes more dramatic yet all seamlessly blending into this thematic album.
Dextrous four-part guitar harmonies as showcased on The Tower bring back memories of the wonderful intricacy found on the Powerslave album, whilst big stomping epics like the Book of Thel hammer never fail to get me head banging. The perfect chemistry of Roy and Adrian works as well in the studio as it would do later on the live album Scream for me Brazil.
The customary down-tuned riff-driven songs which have become a Roy Z/Bruce staple, such as King in Crimson and Machine Men, are still here, but it's in the more progressive songs like Jerusalem and The Alchemist where The Chemical Wedding really earns it's corn.
Jerusalem you say? Yes. Well a modern day attempt to turn this hymn into a metal 'anthem' does seem rather trite, but it works very cleverly. Building from the folk-tinged guitars and subtle mandolins, to a heavy backdrop of rousing chords and solos until finally fading out with the jangly mandolins; whereas The Alchemist, starts with a flange-heavy guitar number, showcasing Bruce's best vocal performance on the album, then beautifully drifting into a reprise of the chorus of the title track to end the album.
Some may startle at the spoken speech between tracks, but they add to the uplifting experience that this album gives....perfect listening time.