|Dokken Hell To Pay||Sanctuary Records|
Much like the Scorpions with their excellent Unbreakable album, Dokken have given careful thought as to what fans want and expect.|
Don Dokken and his cohorts have seemingly taken the advice given – that fans want a more traditional Dokken album - and added their own stamp of individuality to it, in an album that mixes classic Dokken with the more toned town stylings of recent efforts.
What we are left with is an album that remains dark and mainly mid-tempo, but returns to the sound the hard edged guitar playing that George Lynch so eloquently delivered.
New lad Jon Levin – who has long been part of Don Dokken's inner circle - is no stranger to Dokken or Lynch's style. His part in this album is not to be undervalued in any way – he rules this record.
Don Dokken's vocals are perfectly suited to the material on offer. In fact, I would suggest the material was written around Don's vocals and his current choice to sing at a lower octave than he did in his heyday. He no longer appears as powerful a singer, but still commands respect in the way he works within his abilities.
He sings somewhat within himself, but as I said, the writing style of the album allows this to still be appealing.
His delivery hasn't changed much from the band's last album Long Way Home, which caused much debate among some fans who found it too laid back.
So if Don hasn't changed – why is this album so much better and why will fans be very happy with the result? The answer is Jon Levin. While the material remains in the same vein of Long Way Home, the tone of the album and the guitar playing does not.
While it isn't Tooth And Nail or Under Lock And Key, this is a much heavier guitar driven record, filled with plenty of riffs and memorable solos.
Track By Track:
The Last Goodbye sets the album's tone. Mid-tempo, dark and as heavy as anything off Long Way Home. It's not the best track on the album, which is refreshing, but it's a solid start.
Don't Bring Me Down sees the band jump into double time for the first time in a while. This is a classic style Dokken rocker, with a great Lynch style guitar riff and classy soloing throughout.
Escape starts out slowly, but kicks into gear with a solid guitar riff. A melodic vocal flows over a slow slightly modern rock base, with a good chorus helping the song stand out.
Haunted brings the tempo back up a little and features some more fine guitar work. This is a good mid-tempo rocker, one that features a big fat rhythm section.
Prozac Nation is another album highlight. This is a crunchy hard rocker that reminds me of Sunless Days from the last album. I'm particularly impressed with the guitar riff and the mid-song solo.
Care for You is a great ballad which sees some varied use of electric/acoustic guitars in tandem with a piano and a very romantic orchestral feel.
Better Off Before gets things rocking again. Once again it's only mid-tempo, but Levin's guitar work is authorative and this slightly modern sounding rock track works well thanks to some catchy hooks.
Still I'm Sad is a slow to mid-tempo track – neither a ballad, nor a rocker. It's a dark, moody track that fits the tone of the record, but lifts thanks to a good chorus hook.
I Surrender is another dark and moody track and offers something different again. Another good chorus helps the track stand out and its overall dark vibe makes it a favourite with me.
Letter To Home sees Don dabble with his fascination for Beatlesque melodies. The verse is very Brit-pop, while the chorus is heavier. The song features a nice guitar solo.
Can You See closes the album in a more traditional Dokken vein, albeit, in the same laid back manner as the rest of the album. A solid mid-tempo rocker.
The bonus track on offer is a more stripped back version of Care for You, which essentially is the same track as earlier in the album, just with the lead guitar and rhythm sections removed. The strings and piano play the dominant role in this version.
Possibly the best album the band could have made under all current circumstances. Best played at loud volume to best appreciate the guitar work and the solid production value.
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