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The gods of guitar oriented 80s metal have been smiling for the past 10 years, due in some measure to Dokken’s continued adherence to their rediscovered ballsy sound since “Erase The Slate”. Nothing satisfies a true fan of any band like a little old fashioned consistency, and “Lightning Strikes Again” holds true to the band’s rock and metal roots despite the continual shuffling of the band’s lineup since breaking with their brief excursion into alternative rock dribble in the mid-90s. In fact, with the exceptions of a somewhat modern sounding production and zero makeup and mascara, the band hasn’t really lost much of their punch since they hung it all up for a while in the late 80s.
Much like this album’s predecessor “Hell To Pay”, the services of ex-Doro guitarist Jon Levin (who put on a pretty solid performance on “Force Majeure”) are employed and a flair for excellence very similar to what George Lynch pulled off on “Back For The Attack” emerges on each guitar solo. Each elongated note is aching with whammy bar flutters and wild vibratos, each flurry of speed licks is well placed, and every melodic fill is memorable and consonant. There aren’t really any highlights in the lead department, although there are several great signature rhythmic riffs to be heard such as the driving and echoing lead off riff to “Standing On The Outside”, the heavy edged groove of “Heart Of Stone”, and the solid, Judas Priest inspired speed metal fest on “Point Of No Return”.
Naturally this is not a complete copy of the band’s classic era, be it in its delivery or in every single exclusive song. The band has maintained a slight interest in modern metal that be clearly heard on the thudding, down tuned intro to “Disease”, though it is much closer to the groove based experimentation heard on Malmsteen’s “Facing The Animal” and “Unleash The Fury” than the band’s mixed bag, 90s rock interlude otherwise known as “Dysfunctional”. There is also a pretty large collection of ballads on here, even in comparison to the somewhat easier going “Under Lock And Key”, of which “I Remember” proves to be the most memorable.
Don Dokken’s vocals are also a bit grittier and dirtier than they have been in the past, lacking the showcase high range that was on full display on “Back For The Attack”, and seems to be more of a product of his age than of an intentional shift in style. He is still able to sing clean and makes due with a smaller vocal range, producing some solid vocal harmonies on several choruses, but the vocal changeover is pretty noticeable. Likewise, the drier approach to drum production and heavier edged guitar production gives the album a very different dimension than what was heard from these guys during their glory days, though a less dry vocal production tweaked with reverb makes it 80s enough for me.
Although this is the weakest of the 4 albums that Dokken has put out since parting ways with George Lynch, it is definitely something that will sit well with fans of the band’s old days. There’s no attempt at pandering to the mainstream here, no begging for a bigger fan base, just good old fashioned guitar oriented metal with zero apologies. This band has long buried the hatchet with the capricious AOR crowd and along with it any thought of emulating their decrepit antiheroes. So let us all do the same with regard to the lameness of the 90s rock scene and enjoy some of the good stuff.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 17, 2009.