Review by Brian McGowan
Jeff Pilson exhorts us “not to think of this as Dokken without Don”.
There’s an unseen nod and a wink there, because the unassailable truth is this: Brand names sell products. And given the fact that this style of music has been unfashionable for 20 years, it needs all the marketing help it can get.
And so, George Lynch, Mick Brown and JP, with the help of a few high profile guests, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, Seb Bach, Robert Mason, Brian Tichy and Doug Pinnick have recorded and released ‘Slaves To The Empire’. Dokken without Don.
Unlike many rock dinosaurs, left stranded on the shore by the changing tides of rock music, these musicians have survived and endured. They rode the wave and sailed off into friendlier waters.
Pilson working with Dio and Foreigner, Brown with Ted Nugent and Lynch with Lynch Mob, Souls Of We and his instructional guitar website. But none of them in any way recapturing the success and the fame of eighties’ era Dokken. Thus T(ooth) & N(ail), and ‘Slaves To The Empire’.
The album comprises five re-recorded Dokken songs (with above mentioned guest vocalists) and seven new songs. By definition then, it’s something of a mixed bag, but there’s a handful of tracks at the album’s core that strongly suggest there’s life for a Don-free Dokken.
Pilson’s soulful vocal picks its way confidently through Lynch’s wiry guitar motifs on the towering ‘Rhythm Of The Soul’, giving the rest of the band room to manoeuvre between the dramatic peaks. Together they lock onto an immoveable groove. Unquestionably the album’s outstanding track.
‘When Eagles Die’ isn’t far behind, working up a hulking, hard rock bruiser from a jangling acoustic intro.
Lynch’s elegant and comparatively economic delivery ensures the song never tips over into meltdown, constantly pulling back to remind us just how good they were, and clearly still are.
While all the guests clearly give it their all, only Mason’s impeccably imperious vocal rises above Dokken’s past glories, also reminding us just how good were the underrated Lynch Mob, on the cover of ‘It’s Not Love’.
Elsewhere, the band perform with such vigour and intensity you can almost taste the testosterone. The macho thunder of popular contemporary metal has clearly had an influence on the trio.
It doesn’t really work on the remaining covers, but the messy, funky southern blues of new track, ‘Jesus Train’ is a welcome surprise, cleverly cutting against the grain of the measured music we’re used to.
As is the power hungry closer, ‘Access Denied’, where Lynch stretches a taut, steely riff under Pilson’s raucous vocal on a track that just crackles with electricity and energy.
Obviously the ‘Dokken without Don’ thought is impossible to extinguish when you’re listening to the music, and no way is this cutting edge. But it isn’t meant to be. It’s the sound of 3 musicians who still have something to say, and for most of ‘Slaves Of the Empire’, we it hear it loud and clear.
7 out of 10
Released on Edel/Ear Music
1 Slave to the Empire 3.50
2 Sweet Unknown 4.32
3 Tooth and Nail T&N 3:36
4 It’s Not Love 5:49
5 Rhythm of the Soul 5:36
6 When Eagles Die 4.21
7 Into the Fire 6:32
8 Alone Again 4:28
9 Mind Control 5:20
10 Kiss of Death 5:50
11 Jesus Train 5:50
12 Access Denied 4.32