Bruce Dickinson

Skunkworks

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Displaying a sometimes Rush-like refined prog groove and plenty of his traditional science-and-literature lyrical themes, Bruce Dickinson deserves high marks for Skunkworks, the ex-Iron Maiden vocalist's fourth solo effort. This 1996 release signals Dickinson's tentative shift toward music generally in tune with (but still somewhat restrained when compared to) his seminal work with Maiden. The occasionally over-serious, high-concept imagery is about what fans would expect, but the open, less metallic accompaniment (that still rocks by any standard) has a non-chronological familiarity. Joining the singer on Skunkworks are musicians Alex Dickson (guitars), Alex Elena (drums), and Chris Dale (bass). Highlight tracks include "Solar Confinement," which while lyrically murky, has a great chorus, and the Soundgarden-esque "I Will Not Accept the Truth." "Headswitch" is also a treat, with its updated Deep Purple groove. This track also features some of Dickson's best work. A year after Skunkworks, Dickinson joined up with former Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith and made a more defined return to classic form. Most agree that the Smith period is the singer's finest, but Skunkworks has some merit of its own, foreshadowing what would become a highly approved stylistic shift.

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