September In Metal, Part IV: Dokken and Pride Of Lions
I’m a total sucker for “80s bands” releasing new records, especially when it comes to the rock/metal side of things. It’s always interesting to see how a hair metal band back in the day transforms their sound to still be relevant (and fail to be so, for the most part). Enter Dokken into that picture. They were together from ’80 to ’88 then took a break before reforming in 1995 and making music since that point, albeit without George Lynch from ’99 forward.
Dokken was one of those groups that was a cut above the rest musically but for some reason could really never truly breakthrough. Don Dokken and George Lynch were one of the best one-two punches in rock back in 1985 but in fighting causes a shit-ton of animosity between the two of them and the partnership was off and on until the permanent separation in ’95. To make matters worse, Don Dokken’s 1990 solo record was laughable at best while the Lynch Mob made two pretty fantastic records. But with the group Dokken, you could tell these two belonged together but there always seemed to be just that little extra piece missing to make them a truly great group.
Broken Bones marks the band’s 11th album and the third with guitarist Jon Levin providing traditional metal licks. It’s easily the best of the trio of albums with Levin present but the thing you really notice right away about the band is that Don certainly doesn’t have the voice he once had. He no longer sings with power, rather choosing to take that more “adult” route. However, once you accept the fact that even rock stars age now and then, the album actually is quite decent. Levin’s riffs blend the modern with the vintage rock sound with ease, playing right in to Dokken’s vocal style. The first single, “Empire” shows that the band can certainly rock out but unfortunately there’s not a lot of that on the disc. It’s got more of a mid-tempo feel throughout and that makes it hard to bust out the air guitar which is really what you should be doing with a Dokken album. Although these are definitely complaints about the record as a whole, taken for what it is, it’s certainly decent and the best album the band has put out in a while.
So there are many ’80s rock bands that continue on with their typical sound and never modernize it making them seem almost like a mockery of themselves at some point. Then there are groups like Pride of Lions that form later with no intent of sounding like they belong in today’s scene at all.
The group was formed back in 2003 by the guitarist/keyboardist of Survivor, Jim Peterik. Peterik makes no bones about it, this is a group to recreate his favorite sounds of the ’80s with the production sounds of today. And why not really. I mean, as co-writer of “Eye of the Tiger” he can probably live off the residuals from that song, so creating new music that recreates that sound seems like a natural thing.
The only way to review this record is to come in with the mindset that I was going to hear an ’80s record. If I expected something new I would have been disappointed from the start. But I had to listen to it for what it is. Whether it be keyboards that sound like 1983 all over again, “Delusional” sounding like a Meat Loaf tune without the ten word parenthetical title or “Tie the Wind Down” like a Bryan Adams outtake, the band isn’t trying to make anything ground breaking and because of that, they succeed where other bands might fail.
Vocalist Toby Hitchcock unfortunately tends to over sing a lot of things and that’s prevalent through the first three songs on the disc and the horrible :45 intro to the fourth tune “Shine On.” But after that sappy intro, “Shine On” kicks into a mid-tempo rocker that allows Hitchcock to sing rather than scream. And that’s really when the album begins to get good. The following track “Everything That Money Can’t Buy” is without a doubt the best song the group has done over the course of five albums. String filled and totally epic, it’s a 1988 movie theme song just waiting to happen and although it will certainly never get played on the radio today, if it had come out in the late ’80s there’s no doubt they’d have a massive hit on their hands. That’s followed by rockers like “If It Doesn’t Kill Me” and “Coin of the Realm” (even though I have no idea what “Coin of the Realm” means at all) and interestingly enough a song called “Vital Signs” which happened to be the title of Survivor’s 5th record.
It’s all about expectations for this album. If you go in expecting to hear a vintage Survivor record then you’ll probably be quite pleased with the results. If not, well then Pride of Lions probably isn’t on your radar anyway.