Bruce Dickinson
Skunkworks


4.5
superb

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
October 1st, 2010 | 9 replies


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A truly unique prog rock project spearheaded by the man himself, Bruce Dickinson.

Drawing from the name of Lockheed Martin's Advanced Development division, Skunkworks is an album (and in truth, a band) devoted to the experimental side of Bruce Dickinson's musical career. Moving away from the heavy metal sound which gained Dickinson popularity in Iron Maiden and with earlier solo albums such as Balls to Picasso, Skunkworks creates much more of a progressive rock sound from the first chords of opener "Space Race."

How much does that really mean? Well, this is still Bruce Dickinson. His voice hasn't changed since any of the previous records, and that means there's still plenty of the driving, powerful vocals that earned the man the nickname "Air Raid Siren" ("Meltdown," "Octavia"). However, on this album, there is more restraint exercised with the use of his voice, expanding to some tracks that see very rhythmic, lower range parts ("Headswitch," "I Will Not Accept the Truth"). This helps to illustrate one of the key points of Skunkworks: this is an album that was crafted for a fully fleshed sound, not as a showcase for Bruce's voice. Really, Skunkworks is an album that defines itself through lyrical and musical intricacies not seen anywhere else in Bruce's career.

Perhaps it's the absence of common Dickinson collaborators Adrian Smith and Roy Z that makes this album a beast of its own. The guitar parts of chief collaborator Alex Dickson generally take on a more subdued and moody, almost watery tone throughout the album - a grand contrast to the driving leads of Adrian or Roy. His solos are brief and, generally, less technical than either of the aforementioned guitarists, but always poignant and conducive to the flow of songs such as "Inside the Machine." While sometimes seeming minimalistic, it is through this consistent style that the overall pace of the album is able to vary from the quick, bop-ish pace of songs like "Back from the Edge" to the slow waltz of "Strange Death in Paradise" with relative ease.

This is an album which truly attempted to put a new spin not only on Dickinson's career, but on progressive rock as a whole through the integration of hard rock elements and, of course, vocal melodies only Bruce Dickinson could exact. However, there are a few downfalls - namely several songs where Dickinson repeats the same line over and over ad nauseum ("Solar Confinement," "I Will Not Accept the Truth") and a lack of any spectacular rhythm section presence.

Of course, those few flaws are not to say that the original release of Skunkworks was not a brilliant and overlooked project by Dickinson and company. Now, however, that travesty is almost twofold given that the remastered edition includes more than an EPs worth of unreleased tracks which are mostly as spectacular as the tracks on the album itself ("I'm in a Band with an Italian Drummer" is a joke, and a lousy one at that). This may not be Bruce at his absolute peak, but this is Bruce doing something excellent that is very different from the rest of his catalog. It's definitely worth more than a few listens.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2010


2043 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hi Sputnik, it's been a while since I've written a review.

Also: I was looking for somewhere to say the lyrics are REALLY good and simply couldn't find it.

So: the lyrics are also REALLY good.

Digging: Damascus - When Last We Met

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2010


6345 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Although you say all that there is to be said about this great and underrated album, your review is somehow not so easy to read.

idk maybe it's just me.

That being said, your review is better than the already existing track-by-track review for this.

Kudos for reviewing this, it is such a refreshing record.

Digging: Aspherium - The Fall of Therenia

kangaroopoo
October 1st 2010


3175 Comments


Good review. I enjoyed this similar to The Chemical Wedding and Accident of Birth. His more conventional singing on these solo efforts is refreshing.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2010


2043 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Although you say all that there is to be said about this great and underrated album, your review is somehow not so easy to read.


Edited a bit, hope it helps and didn't make it worse.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
October 1st 2010


6345 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@ AtomicWaste

your review isn't bad by any means.

Maybe i'm not in the mood for reading right now.

scissorlocked
October 1st 2010


3511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

totally agree with voivod in terms of the album's quality: It's a refreshing work,and it seemed that was somehow redeeming for Î’ruce

Dickinson reviews always welcome!!!

Digging: Low Roar - Low Roar

maidenpmcc
October 1st 2010


1425 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review man and a brilliant album.

AquariuS
August 18th 2011


3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This CD is nice. Not good as the other of Bruce, but it still have nice things, such as the cover art (also I liked it?) and, of course, the musics. My favorites are Space Race, Back From The Edge and Innerspace =)

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
November 17th 2013


1923 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Can't understand why this has a lower rating than the previous solo Dickinson album, since both are just as good as each other in my opinion. That said, I personally think both albums are the weakest in the Dickinson solo career. They're pretty good albums on their own mind you, and "Skunkworks" is essentially an upbeat, if not entirely consistent work in its own right. There are plenty of upbeat, explosive songs here, but not quite enough to make this album match up to the likes of "Accident of Birth" or "Tyranny of souls". Qualitative comparisons aside, I really liked how the average song length on "Skunkworks" is shorter than on "Balls to Picasso" and makes for less of a filler-based structure. My personal highlights are 'Back from the edge' and 'Inside the machine'.

Digging: Execration (NOR) - Morbid Dimensions



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