Samson – Shock Tactics (1981)

Samson_ShockTactics3.5 out of 5 Stars!

Samson was a decent, albeit inconsistent, band that enjoyed only a modicum of success (mostly in England) during the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” era of the late ’70s/early ’80s.

In truth, I didn’t much care for Survivors, the band’s debut album, but for the following two collections, including Shock Tactics (the band’s third release), Samson featured the powerful and recognizable Bruce Dickinson (aka Bruce Bruce) on lead vocals before Iron Maiden snatched him away, and both albums were certainly a giant improvement in quality over the debut.

Although there is nothing on Shock Tactics to set the world on fire, nothing “shocking” despite the album’s title, Samson did nevertheless produce some enjoyable Heavy Metal during this period in its existence.

The blazing opener “Riding With the Angels” or the galloping “Earth Mother” wouldn’t seem at all out of place on any of Dickinson’s early solo albums, while the slow-grinding “Once Bitten” and the driving “Bright Lights” wouldn’t sound too far afield beside any of Iron Maiden’s initial efforts with the singer. And other tunes such as “Nice Girl,” “Go To Hell,” and “Grime Crime,” easily rival other bands of the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” era, such as Tygers of Pan Tang, Saxon, or Raven. Throughout the album, Paul Samson displays fairly impressive guitar prowess, giving most of the tunes a bright and powerful spark, with even a hint of Blues in several of his riffs and solos.

Only the final track—a fierce power ballad named “Communion”—offers something a bit different from the rest of the album, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Dickinson’s stunning performance on this tune is what cinched the deal when it came to his being hired for Iron Maiden.

So, with “Bruce Bruce” behind the microphone, Shock Tactics is certainly better than average, with the musicianship and songwriting more than acceptable, and is worthy of investigation, especially for Dickinson devotees.

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Bruce Dickinson – The Chemical Wedding (1998)

BruceDickinson_ChemicalWedding4.5 out of 5 Stars!

The Chemical Wedding is easily my favorite solo album by Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden/Samson), probably because it’s his heaviest, most consistent release. From opener “King in Crimson” to the final track “The Alchemist,” the album offers up a ton of thundering Metal, yet with some lighter moments of pure class, all expertly produced and performed, with Bruce belting out his heart along the way and proving why he’s considered rock ‘n’ roll royalty (at least in my eyes).

And with guitarist Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) as well as guitarist Roy Z, bassist Eddie Casillas, and drummer David Ingraham (all from the band Tribe of Gypsies) bringing down the house on the previously mentioned tracks as well as on “Trumpets of Jericho,” “Gates of Urizen,” “Killing Floor,” “Jerusalem,” “Book of Thel,” and the title tune among others, The Chemical Wedding is a barrel of musical dynamite, pure Heavy Metal Gold, and (for me) easily matches the driving power of many Iron Maiden classics.

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