Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson released his fifth solo album ‘The Chemical Wedding‘ on September 15, 1998, through Air Raid Records. This album was a blend of heavy metal and literary inspiration, drawing from the works of an iconic figure in English literature and art.
Who Inspired Dickinson to Make the Album?
‘The Chemical Wedding’s narrative is rooted in the artistic and poetic works of William Blake. It features both sung and spoken excerpts from his prophetic works, such as the phrase ‘And did those feet in ancient time’ in the track ‘Jerusalem.’
The album’s visuals also pay homage to Blake, with the cover art derived from his painting ‘The Ghost of a Flea.‘ Interestingly, the title of the album and its eponymous track finds its origin not in Blake’s work, but in the Rosicrucian manifesto ‘The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz.’
Iron Maiden influenced the album as well, with Adrian Smith, the band’s guitarist, contributing to the album’s creation. This collaboration marks the album as Dickinson’s final solo effort before his and Smith’s return to the band in the following year.
In 2008, a film titled ‘Chemical Wedding,‘ featuring a screenplay by Dickinson, was released. While the film includes the album’s title track, it explores a different theme. It tells a story about the reincarnation of Aleister Crowley, rather than directly reflecting the album’s content.
The Analysis of ‘The Chemical Wedding’
Dickinson’s songwriting approach in ‘The Chemical Wedding’ is thematic, with each track exploring a distinct concept such as fear, tragedy, or union. For example, ‘The Trumpets of Jericho’ explores the theme of failure, drawing a parallel to the Biblical story where the walls of Jericho do not fall.
This theme also extends to the concept of alchemy, with songs reflecting the struggles inherent in the alchemist’s pursuit.
Musically, ‘The Chemical Wedding’ is characterized by a heavy metal sound that is darkened by the influence of Blake’s poetry and artwork. The guitars are tuned down, giving the album a modern, heavier feel. This approach enhances the album’s heaviness without sacrificing melody or guitar solos.
William Blake’s Importance For Dickinson
On August 12, 2018, Dickinson participated in the unveiling of a gravestone marking the exact resting place of Blake in Bunhill Fields, London. Blake, who passed away in 1827, had been buried in an unmarked common grave.
Dickinson also gave a speech during the unveiling. Reflecting on his deep connection with Blake’s work, the musician said he regards the artist as influential in shaping the English spirit and culture:
“[Blake is] one of the greatest living English poets, and artists. I said ‘living’ because if you’re into Blake, he never really dies. And I think he, in his way, should be as honored as Shakespeare for his contribution to the English spirit and I suppose a contrarian eccentric Englishness, which is still, thank God, alive and well.”
According to Dickinson, besides himself, Blake’s influence extends from Monthy Python to rock music and punk music.