VERSUS: The Chemical Wedding vs. Resurrection

VERSUS: The Chemical Wedding vs. Resurrection

Welcome to Versus. The series where we'll look at two albums in metal history, compare them, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition, we are having a titanic matchup of two of the most iconic and legendary voices in heavy metal history. Two front men, with unique and memorable vocals that are easily identifiable the instant you hear it. But today, we won't be doing albums from the band's they are known for. Today, we are tackling what the fans consider the best of their solo work from websites like Metal-Archives and Metal Storm. Prepare yourself for a matchup of icons in this duel I'm calling "Going At It Alone".

In this corner, we have Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson and his fifth solo album, 1998's The Chemical Wedding. Recorded during his time away from Iron Maiden when left the band in 1993. Dickinson already had a couple albums under his belt in his solo career. Most of his records leaned towards heavy metal in its sound, while also testing the waters in other genres with his experimental alternative record Skunkworks. Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith would join Dickinson's solo band for this album and the previous album, 1997's Accident of Birth. The Chemical Wedding is a semi-concept album based on the works of poet William Blake. A movie was made based on this album and was released in 2008. The album was very well received by the fans and critics, citing it as the best of Dickinson's solo work. What does Bruce bring to the table in this battle of legendary front men?

The album opens with the track "King in Crimson". With a very doom metal sounding guitar tone and ringing sound. Filling the space and atmosphere of the mix. With pounding drums, the song transitions into a bluesy, stoner/sludge sounding riff. Dickinson's vocals are ominous and evil in the main verses, before raising pitch and delivering his legendary highs that match the main riff. With a more straightforward sound, the elements of groove in the track make it a darker and brooding track with Dickinson's dramatic presentation in his vocals. A great guitar solo after the halfway mark, showing the complexity and speed between both Roy Z and Adrian Smith on guitar. An aggressive opening track. Following that is "Chemical Wedding". With a more restrained and simple guitar riff, with Dickinson showing off his range until the song picks up. With the music hanging back even further into the chorus to let Dickinson belt out to the balcony. The song has another great guitar solo and keys near the three quarters mark. Although, I feel like the song is just "ok" in my opinion. I think the track is needing more, almost too simplistic for such a powerful voice like Dickinson on it.

The opening groovy bass line by Eddie Casillas starts "The Tower". Instantly giving off Steve Harris' vibes in the playing. I love the matching guitar and bass groove, with Dickinson delivering his operatic vocals with David Ingraham's drums instantly punching through on the chorus. I love the peaks and valleys of the track, with the slower build on the verse into the crescendo builds and dueling vocal harmonies on the chorus. I also like the chugging-esque breakdown before the guitar solo on the track, with Ingraham putting a little more stank on the drum hits during that section. The bass and guitar sequence after the solo just blend so well and are mixed perfectly to let both shine without outshining the other. My favorite track off the album so far. "Killing Floor" opens with an aggressive, in your face riff with driving and aggressive drums by Ingraham. The groovy riff on the verses, along with Dickinson singing along to the groove, adds some power to the riff. Dickinson's vocals are so evil and more aggressive then usual on the chorus, adding more visceral and snarl to his vocals which I like a lot and fits the tone of the song. I LOVE the harpsichord and almost orchestral transition with Dickinson's vocals, along with bass in the background, before the guitar solo.

With "Book of Thel", the opening guitar starts with a simple guitar pattern, with wailing, reverb heavy guitar wails in the background. Creating a build, before the main riff begins to peak and disappear and then kicks into full gear. The vocal is classic heavy metal in it sound, with Dickinson's vocals, with harmonies hit so good in a pair of headphones. The bass groove at the halfway mark into a bridge like section has such a heavy delivery and attitude in the performance into the guitar solo. The gang vocals at the halfway mark sound so good with Ingraham's punchy drums before going into ANOTHER guitar solo, more frantic and impressively fast, while also technical at the same time. Ingraham gets to shine on this track with a lightning fast drum solo, before the song returns to a punchy riff. Most Maiden fans will love this song since it scratches that itch that fans look for in Bruce's solo work. "Gates of Urizen" has a similar opening with a somber, clean guitar with Dickinson leading the charge in a more retrospective and longing vocal performance. With a more toned down energy to the track, it is a good pace change compared to the high velocity of the previous track. Dickinson's voice shows it can be powerful on the verse without belting every word. The chorus is heavy in a slow-burn kind of way, along with an emotional guitar solo with Casillas' bass adding extra oomph to the impact of the solos. The same similar opening vibe starts "Jerusalem". The song almost has a folk sound to the delivery of Dickinson, almost like storytelling of "a time long since past". The build of drums and the vocals add punch and vigor to the song near the quarter mark. The build of electric guitars and drum at the halfway mark, pick the pacing up big time and the guitar solo with Ingraham's drumming into the dueling guitars just sound so good with the choir vocals behind it.

"Trumpets of Jericho" has an almost nu-metal sounding opening riff to the track, before the drumming of Ingraham's punching snare cuts through the mix. Dickinson sounds pissed in his vocals, while also sounding ominous and evil. With some of his snarly delivery kind of sounding like Rob Halford. The wailing highs of the song's title on the chorus sounds so good and mixed perfectly on the harmonies. Casillas' bass on the chorus add that extra punch in the mix, filling the space of the mix while the guitars sing into the solo at the halfway mark. The ominous choir piece, segueing into the breakdown section straight out of the nu-metal scene is nice and Dickinson plays into the attitude and evil presence of the lyrical themes, especially in his laugh before the solo. "Machine Men" has a classic New Wave of British Heavy Metal opening riff, into a chuggy, down tuned riff into the verse section. Which runs through the whole song and definitely hits that nostalgia of that time frame. A good track overall throughout with the band continuing the same energy and performance from the previous track. The album closes with "The Alchemist". Another NWOBHM sounding opening riff, with a half clean vocals and distorted vocals by Dickinson, hopping from speaker to speaker. The chorus has a similar vibe and feel to the album's opening track. Dickinson's vocals are at his peak as he goes for the brass ring in the album's final track as the band again hangs back to let Dickinson shine one last time. The addition of strings and choir near the end of the track, adds dimension and dynamics to the song as the track closes out a strong release from Bruce and company.

His opponent, is leather-clad Judas Priest front man Rob Halford and his solo project Halford's debut album Resurrection in 2000. Following the disbanding of his groove metal project Fight and his industrial metal project 2wo, Halford created this project as a continuation and return to the heavy metal roots and sound he loved. With a return-to-form, a focus in direction, and a sound Priest fans craved from Halford during his experimental phase of making music. The album was a strong debut and showed Halford at his best as well as the band. But does it stack up against the likes of Dickinson's solo material?

The album starts with the album's title track. With a slow, electronic-laden build, Halford's legendary voice begins to rise, getting higher and higher in pitch and delivery before the main riff kicks the track off. An instant pedal to the metal feeling, the song is off to the races. Halford's falsetto shrieks are so strong on the chorus as Patrick Lachman and Mike Chlasciak match the energy and toughness of the mighty Halford on guitar. Bobby Jarzombek's double bass adds some punch in the chorus before the solo at the halfway mark. Dueling guitars add that aggression to the track, and is a strong as all hell opening track for Halford's debut solo album. "Made in Hell" starts with driving double bass from Jarzombek and dueling harmonies from Lachman & Chlasciak. Halford leads the charge in the verses, with more toned back vocals with his famous highs only showing up during the chorus when shouting "Hell". The guitar solo and energy continue the charge, as fast as the speed of the solo, into the dueling guitar harmonies. With double bass behind it, it sounds so good and are mixed beautifully. On "Locked and Loaded", the song has a groove metal like riff, infused with classic heavy metal in the opening. Halford's harmonies sound so good on the chorus with Jarzombek's drums accenting the riff with that punchy snare in the mix. Lachman & Chlasciak are just solo machines on this track and every track so far on the album, bouncing off each other so well on each solo and main riff.

Next is "Night Fall". With a thundering drum build, the song kicks off in a punch to the face style main riff with matching drums. The drums add a thundering footprint throughout the main riff, and add punch to Halford's vocals, especially on the verse section. The song has an almost classic 80's heavy metal sound, but with modern production. Ray Riendeau's bass does peak through a bit in the track, though I wish it was louder in certain parts. The song closes out with one more strong chorus and is definitely one of my favorite tracks off the album. With "Silent Scream", the song starts with acoustic guitar and light string accents, along with Riendeau's bass adding depth to the somber vocals of Halford on the verse. The song has a retrospective and feeling of loss in the vocals, accompanied by the drums and bass adding a downtrodden feel to the song before the song kicks in hard. Halford's high shrieks accent his lower vocal performance during the chorus of the track. The song's pacing kicks into overdrive at the halfway mark, going for the jugular in the double bass, Halford's vocals, along with the chugging and heavy guitar tone, instantly make you wanna fist pump the air. The song is progressive in its elements and change of pacing through out, which makes it different than what's been on the album so far.

Following that track is "The One You Love To Hate". The song features Bruce Dickinson, which I think is a first in the Versus series, where the opponent appears on the other's album. With an opening guitar riff, very reminiscent of Priest, the double bass kicks in and the instant headbang feeling kicks in. Dickinson starts the song off with Halford following. Both share strong similar vocal deliveries and harmonize really well on the track at the chorus. The chorus is catchy and showcases both vocalists well. Another strong riff machine track by Lachman & Chlasciak. The song flies by, almost wanting more, but the song is still strong and a true meeting of great minds on the track. On "Cyber World", Halford sounds just as he did on early records, which is impressive that he can still belt out the same quality like he was 20 at his age. The double bass during the chorus has good punch to it, but I think if it was a tiny bit louder, it would be the perfect amount of punch to the track. A short guitar solo on the track, with the song more of a showcase for Halford's vocals on the track, but still a decent track overall. A tough act to follow with the star-studded previous track. On "Slow Down", it has a great bass undertone on the track behind the main riff. Halford has more restraint and almost lower voice on the track, going along with the more hard rock sound of the guitars. His highs peak through on the chorus. Showcasing again that he doesn't need to shriek to show power with his unique voice. "Twist" has a very simple melody on guitar opening the track. Similar to a modern rock/metal sound for the time. Midtempo and more laid back in the guitar playing on the verse, letting Halford deliver on the vocals and the band mainly fading in the background. Unfortunately, this is potentially an "ok" song and I think it is sort of one note sadly.

"Temptation" instantly has that nostalgic NWOBHM sounding riff. Halford has that angry, aggressive tone in his performance. I like the midtempo feel of the song during the chorus and as it hits the halfway mark. A short, but good guitar solo near the three quarters mark of the song too. Accompanied with background synth pads and light choirs in the background, but faint. "Drive" instantly has a headbobber opening piece. With a chuggy, bounce to the guitar sound, matched with the corresponding drums. Lachman & Chlasciak continue the riff machine that they are throughout this track, instantly making me want to air guitar the riff and bob my head along. The album's closer "Saviour" starts with a siren-esque wail before the palm muted riff kicks the song off. Halford delivers one last punch for the album with his dynamic highs and gritty low vocals. Strong guitar solos, driving drums and bass, along with Halford's legendary shrieks. A strong closer to Halford's debut solo record.

After listening to the best albums of these iconic front men's solo material, who stands at the top of the mountain as the king of the solo albums? In my opinion, the winner is Halford with Resurrection. For me, Halford had a stronger all around record. Dickinson did try some new things I hadn't heard on Maiden records, which was a change of pace. But musically, it just had moments where the music didn't match the vocals. You have the powerful voice of Dickinson and sometimes musically, it just didn't match or have the same impact that Halford's band had. Halford's album had everyone song just going stronger and stronger throughout the album. I also loved the collaboration with Dickinson on "The One You Love To Hate". Granted, "Twist" was not the strongest song on the album, it was a decent track, just not as good as the rest of the album. Possibly hurting it from being a perfect album. The Chemical Wedding was a good record overall, and I do agree that it is one of Dickinson's best solo material, but if I had to re-listen to a record after I finished it, I'd go with Halford.

Following the release of The Chemical Wedding one year later, both Dickinson and Smith would rejoin Iron Maiden and have remained with the band since. Dickinson would continue to release solo material in his downtime from Iron Maiden, following The Chemical Wedding seven years later with Tyranny of Souls. His most recent record came out this year with The Mandrake Project. He will be touring with his solo project through July of this year before embarking on a tour with Maiden later in the year.

Halford would continue to make music. 2002's Crucible received favorable reviews from fans and critics. Rob Halford would rejoin Priest in 2003 and make his studio album return to the band on 2005's Angel of Retribution. Halford would release a Christmas-themed album Halford III: Winter Songs in 2009 and Halford IV: Made of Metal in 2010, during his break from Priest. At the time of this article, there has been no update if their is new music from his solo band or if the project has disbanded. Priest released their new album this year Invincible Shield, along with a planned North American tour with supporting act Sabaton starting in April.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: The Chemical Wedding vs. Resurrection - Online Poll - StrawPoll
What’s your opinion? Vote now: The Chemical Wedding, Resurrection…

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