Monday, December 17, 2012
Dokken's latest offering is a pop metal powerhouse... and a whole lot more
The opener for Broken Bones is "Empire”. Its intro is fast and full of some very heavy guitar work. It sounds like classic Dokken right from the start. Don's vocals are perfectly dramatic and not overstated. Jon Levin--who will unfortunately always be known as George Lynch's "replacement"--provides a great guitar solo to kick off the album.
Title track "Broken Bones" immediately follows "Empire”. It has a deep, bass-heavy intro riff, and the low vocals have an almost mysterious quality to them. As the guitar becomes more prominent, the heavy bass line still looms throughout the song. While the chorus is a catchy one, this track has an overall dark sound. That shouldn't alienate Dokken fans though, because the underlying riff is highly reminiscent of "Dream Warriors" from Nightmare on Elm Street 3. The guitar solo from "Broken Bones" is much brighter compared the rest of the track, but it manages to fit in well.
I absolutely love the track "Victim of the Crime”. It has a trippy Eastern vibe and really reminds me of the stuff from Def Leppard's 1996 album Slang. It even contains some Leppard-esque backing vocals. "Victim of the Crime" is quite different from most of the songs from Broken Bones, but it still contains those powerful guitar riffs that Dokken is known for.
"Today" is a slower song with acoustic flavors. It almost has a '70s folksy rock style with its lyrics, vocals, and great harmonies. This track is even more different and surprising than "Victim of the Crime”. It's totally unexpected from a hard rock band like Dokken, but I must say I really dig it. It was a very ballsy move to include this on a metal record!
The track "For the Last Time" begins as an acoustic ballad--or what you think is going to be one. As the electric guitar joins in, it quickly becomes a hard rock song in the vein of classic Dokken. Not only that, the chorus of "For the Last Time" contains some nice harmonies and backing vocals to enhance this classic feel.
"Tonight", the final track from Broken Bones, features some ferocious metal riffs in the intro and the verses. The forceful rhythm and the smooth, yet powerful vocals lend this song its classic metal essence. The chorus with the lyric, "Tonight when I close my eyes…” has more of a pop rock sound, but it definitely still has a punch to it.
Dokken's Broken Bones contains many hard and heavy tracks, along with some very unique and unexpected moments. This band has done a fantastic job of bringing together a variety of rock, metal, and catchy pop styles to create an unmistakable sound that has continued to evolve from the 1980s to now.
7 out of 10 stars
Frontiers Records/Riot! Entertainment
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Fozzy is still chasing rock and roll glory with 'Sin and Bones'
Fozzy really started to gain a lot of momentum with the release of 2010's Chasing the Grail. From day one, it has absolutely been one of my favourite albums, if not my all time favourite. The band's musical talent and song-writing abilities--especially those of guitarist Rich Ward--could definitely not be questioned. But I kept asking myself this: "How could this album that I've been holding in such a high regard for the last two and a half years be topped?" The answer: Sin and Bones.
From the very moment I pressed play on Sin and Bones I was fascinated. The album's nightmarish opener, "Spider in My Mouth", begins with some creepy white noise much like a radio tuning in. Then suddenly, a music box starts playing the nursery rhyme "Itsy Bitsy Spider". As if it couldn't get any eerier, a child's voice singing the line, "Itsy bitsy spider crawled in my mouth again" joins the creepiness. Then the guitar hits, but it seems far away. The music feels like it is moving closer as it reaches its full volume. From beginning to end, the lyrics are macabre and graphic, describing a scenario fit for a horror movie. Musically, "Spider in My Mouth" is really heavy, especially during the verses. The choruses are much more melodic and very memorable. Jericho's vocals are powerful, and the guitar riffs are intense--complete with that signature Rich Ward growl. Frank Fontsere's drumming is absolutely thunderous--especially toward the very end. I can't imagine a better way to start an album!
Sin and Bones' lead single "Sandpaper"--which features guest vocals from M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold--comes next. Jericho's and Shadows's voices mesh so well that it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. This track cuts to the chase and is immediately heavy. It opens with the in-your-face chant of "A cat scratch / a whiplash / a witch hunt in black / SANDPAPER!" and the raging guitars of Ward and newcomer Billy Grey start to wail. This track is awesome, but it gets even better during the second verse. Jericho's emphasis on certain words keeps things interesting, and the bass line--courtesy another Fozzy newcomer, Paul DiLeo--is phenomenal. It is deep, heavy, and prominent, and it reminds me of something you'd find on KISS's Lick It Up record. "Sandpaper" features yet another one of the melodic choruses that Fozzy is known for, but this time, the notes come together in such a way that it briefly gives the song a prog metal-ish Dream Theater feel.
My favourite track from Sin and Bones is "Inside My Head". It's definitely not the hardest or heaviest musically, but this song--with lyrics about being trapped by unwelcome thoughts from a dark past--is deep and emotionally heavy. Chris Jericho's use of his lower register and the addition of more grittiness to his vocal performance really helps to further this song's darkness. Despite this perceived darkness, however, the chorus has a catchy rhyme scheme, and the bridge contains some Def Leppard-esque backing vocals.
"Dark Passenger" is one of two tracks co-written by Terry Chism, the singer for Rich Ward's Christian band, Walking With Kings. This song is also one that tells a story--one about being possessed and becoming someone other than yourself whom you despise. "Dark Passenger" begins with a piano and a subtle string arrangement. The sound becomes more layered as the guitar is added in. The opening line "Jesus is my co-pilot, or that's just what they say / but it's not the savior who guides me every day" conjures up religious imagery and introduces the theme of the possessed soul. The lyrics that lead up to the chorus, "Tick tock / it's only a matter of time," and they way they are sung really remind me of the song "It's a Lie" from the band's album All That Remains.
Sin and Bones ends with the eleven and a half minute "Storm the Beaches", also co-written by Chism. This finale is epic, not unlike "Wormwood" from Chasing the Grail. This is certainly not your typical verse/chorus/verse song. Actually, it's like a whole bunch of songs rolled up into one, but it all comes together and makes sense. "Storm the Beaches," as the title suggests, tells the story of a young soldier storming the Beaches of Normandy during World War II. The story is told in five acts, and it plays out much like a dramatic movie.
Because "Storm the Beaches" tells a story in acts, many different things are happening musically. The song begins with Chris Jericho reading the soldier's diary entry over piano. Soon after, the guitars hit, and the song becomes very hard and rhythmic. The vocals are rapid and extremely rhythmic as well. In this aspect, the song is a lot like "Martyr No More" from Chasing the Grail. Like most of Fozzy's other songs, "Storm the Beaches" features a melodic chorus to accompany the heavy riffs. This song's chorus really stands out, as it features the death metal-ish grunt of "first to go / last to know" followed by a bright and bombastic Children of Bodom-like keyboard arrangement. Another stand-out segment of this song is the mixture of woodwinds and the snare drum to create the feel of marching. I definitely see a trend here with Fozzy ending both Chasing the Grail and Sin and Bones on such an epic note, and I really look forward to what masterpiece they'll come up with for their next album.
Up until now, I didn't think Chasing the Grail could be equalled, but it certainly has. Sin and Bones is the perfect balance of heaviness and melody and classic and contemporary. It has been so thrilling to hear Fozzy develop their own unique sound and become what is now one of the great modern metal bands.
9 out of 10 stars
Century Media Records
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