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It's pretty safe to say that Dokken may be the biggest bunch of wimps to ever be accepted in the Metal Archives. True, they never reached the abysmal level of lameness reserved for bands such as Winger, but they were never quite as commanding as their peers in Dio or the older Motley Crue. Thankfully, they managed to gain a degree of respect due to their solid songwriting skills and technical prowess.
While Dokken has always had a commercial edge in their music, this album showcases the band going for a more accessible style. Most of the album's songs seem to go between upbeat mid-tempo rockers and somewhat stereotypical power ballads with a few variations in between. Thankfully, most of them are still made entertaining thanks to the skillfully executed hooks and instantly catchy choruses. They also retained a bit of the previous album's edge with "Lightnin' Strikes Again" and "Til the Livin' End," the former being a personal favorite track and the latter sounding a lot like a rewrite of "Turn On the Action." Also worth noting is "The Hunter" with its solid grooves and catchy chorus.
Despite a lighter approach, the band still puts on a pretty solid performance. Guitarist George Lynch is the album's main highlight as he delivers plenty of solid riffs and solos and the rhythm section is fairly solid as well though with few stand-out moments. I do have somewhat mixed views on vocalist Don Dokken, who I've noticed sounds like a combination of Glenn Hughes, Paul Di'Anno, and Klaus Meine (probably why he was allegedly asked to sing on the demos for the Scorpions' "Blackout"). While he can certainly carry a tune, he doesn't quite have the range that he thought he had. Fortunately the only cringeworthy moments occur at the climax of "Lightnin' Strikes Again" when he attempts to hit some high notes and doesn't quite succeed...
Despite a lighter tone, this manages to come out as a solid Dokken album. Worth checking out for fans of the band and early classic/glam metal.
1) Solid guitar/rhythm section work
2) Accessible songwriting and enjoyable hooks
1) An inconsistent vocal performance at times
2) The lighter tone will turn off heavier music fans
3) A less memorable second side
My Current Favorites:
"Unchain the Night," "The Hunter," "In My Dreams," "Lightnin' Strikes Again," and "It's Not Love"
In 1985, Dokken decided to take the plunge into commercialism with "Under Lock and Key" so they could get some more ass. Well, there was probably more to it, but it is almost certain that was at least one of the reasons. The cover says it all with the big hair, gaudy outifits, and a title that could be taken as a sexual innuendo. However, as has been said before, the factor that separated Dokken from other bands was their musicianship and while there are some worthwhile songs found here, some of them are just downright terrible.
What is noticeably different is the guitar does not have that crunch or heaviness to it like "Tooth and Nail" or "Back for the Attack." It is just too clean sounding and detracts from the overall product. This is not to say that George Lynch delivers a lackluster performance on this release, because he is great yet again.
The first three tracks are all good, but as stated, the lack of a really heavy guitar sound makes them lose some potential energy that they could have. Dokken seems to be very good at picking their opening tracks because they are usually the best or one the best on each of their albums. In this case "Unchain the Night" is the opener and it has an epic acoustic intro and then erupts into a killer riff and drum beat with an astounding vocal deliver from Don. "The Hunter" has a very poppy vibe, but the guitar and chorus are extremely catchy and it also the only music video that made Don Dokken look tough. While the next tune has an unattractive vocal opening of just Don in a very high and layered voice singing "In my dreams..." Geoge Lynch comes in and saves it and turns out to be a must listen.
From there, the quality starts taking a turn for the worse. "Slippin' Away" is a terrible ballad and sounds just like any other one. They should be ashamed of this song because they are better than this garbage. "It's Not Love" is laughably bad because of the cheesy chorus and the gang shouts in the background saying "It's not love!" made me a little embarrassed that I was listening to it. One would think that "Slippin' Away" would be the only ballad on here, but Dokken decided to put another one here with "Jaded Heart." While not as bad as the other one, it is still not good, but it does have a pretty neat mid-section that leads into the solo. "Don't Lie to Me" sounds like a carbon of copy of "It's Not Love." C'mon Dokken, just because you want to go mainstream does not mean you have to lose some creativity.
There are a couple other gems found on here however. "Lightnin' Strikes Again" is pure speed and some wicked bass and guitar work by Jeff Pilson and George Lynch. A little bit of an odd number is "Will the Sun Rise?" which sounds like a power metal song. A strong chorus, epic vocals and guitar and is really well done and impressive considering that Dokken do not write songs like this.
"Under Lock and Key" is not the best Dokken by any means, but it is still an enjoyable listen. It is definitly more poppy and it seemed like it would only get worse, but the next album would be much of a surprise and blows this one away. The overall feel of the album will be sure to drive some people away, but it should be given a chance.
Dokken’s second album, Tooth and Nail, was an underachieving glam metal release that still managed to pull a few crunchy, guitar-heavy rockers out of its hypothetical hat. Dokken’s third album, Under Lock and Key, sounds like the fucking B-sides from that album: similarly well-produced but substituting balladry over originality. Even Dokken fans should be wary here, as this cuts no sharper than a spoon.
It’s only the third time out, but clearly Dokken have run out of ideas. Songs here are repetitive and uninspired and full of sing-along choruses that aren’t memorable enough to sing along to. George Lynch is still ripping off Eddie Van Halen (doubters can track down that Guitar World interview where he admits it [UPDATE: I believe it's the October '04 issue. The one with Trey Anastasio from Phish on the cover]) to little effect, Don Dokken is still the hero to other mediocre glam singers like Terry Glaze and Gary Cherone, and everyone else is predictably shitty. Worse yet is the dulling of the band’s already barely metal edge with numerous ballads. Heavier tunes like “Til the Livin’ End” and “Unchain the Night” are quickly outweighed by lame tracks like “Slippin’ Away” and “Jaded Heart.” Their lyrics, surprise surprise, have gotten cheesier as well.
In short, this album should have been kept under lock and key to spare us from it. Don Dokken and company were clearly the poster boys for mediocre-to-shitty glam metal in the mid 80’s. Avoid, avoid.
Under Lock and Key is generally seen as an ok Dokken album, but not one of their best pieces of work. I totally disagree with this. In fact I think the first three Dokken albums are the essential albums that have defined this band. If you were to pick up the best of Dokken album, you would find that most, if not all, of the songs on this album come from these three albums, but I digress... After an ok debut, Breaking the Chains, the amazing and stellar Tooth and Nail pops up. How can any album compete with Tooth and Nail?
Under Lock and Key is an essential buy because it has some of Dokken's greatest hits: The Hunter, In My Dreams, and It's Not Love. However, the rest of the album is not bad at all. The opening to the album, Unchain the Night, is moving and leads into a nice guitar riff/melody that defines the song. Another great song is Lightnin' Strikes Again. Combined with some cool lyrics and some of the best Lynch guitar riffs (save for Kiss of Death via Back From the Attack) this is the best "forgettable" Dokken song. After It's Not Love, the rest of the album is pretty much worthless. The songs are ok, still giving a nice blend of creative Lynch riffs, but they really don't stand out like the rest of the album.
The guitar riffs on this album are awesome. Lynch provides some of his best solos as well on this album, my favorite being In My Dreams. Don is on key hitting all those delicate high notes, like at the end of Lightnin' Strikes Again, but also delivers a serious soft tone like on the ballad Slippin' Away. If you are a Dokken fan, you probably own this album, but like I mentioned before, get the first three, or a best of and you really can not go wrong. Sure the album has fillers at the end, but this album is worth the first six songs!
Dokken is a band whose metal status has been highly criticized in many quarters due to the tendency towards fluffy lyrics and the heavily glam-like image of the band, particularly frontman Don Dokken. All one need do is take one glance at the album cover of this album to assume that this band is an earlier incarnation of more blues driven bands such as Poison and Cinderella. However, on that cover there is also a goofy looking guy in red who gives Dokken it’s metal edge, riff maestro and shredder George Lynch.
Once one gets past the image of this band, what we have here is a polished outfit with some highly memorable anthems, hard edged rockers, and high speed thrill rides. This album is actually my personal favorite due to the continuity between each song, the heavy emphasis on the guitar, and slightly less of the fluffy lyrics that has haunted Dokken’s last 2 releases. Even songs such as “It’s not love” and “Slipping Away”, which do have some heavily relationship driven lyrics, have a strong guitar element that was somewhat lacking on the more fluffy songs on previous efforts.
The highlights of this album fall into 2 categories, the first one being the anthem-like mid-tempo rockers that are driven by more melodic leads and powerful choruses. “In my Dreams” has an powerful acapella harmony at the beginning which is brought back in the many recaps of the chorus, not to mention a powerful set of riffs and a highly melodic and expressive solo. “Don’t lie to Me” features a similar harmonic device in the lead guitar, in addition to a similar to set of catchy and hard hitting rhythmic guitar lines. “Unchain the Night” is somewhat comparable to the opening 2 tracks of Tooth and Nail, although the song is considerably slower than track 2 to that album, and the two tracks are essentially built together into one cohesive song. A great set of varied guitar riffs interplay throughout, in addition to some nice banshee screams at key points by Don Dokken.
The second category of highlights are the up tempo cookers, which consist of the fifth and the final track on this release. “Till the Living End” has a main riff somewhat similar to the closing track of the previous release, but the drive of the song is similar to the power metal drive of the title track off that same album. However, the highlight of the whole album, is the riff driven thrill ride “Lightning Strikes Again”. The intro guitar part reminds me a bit of an Iron Savior track, and the interplay between the lead guitar tracks (though all done by Lynch), is reminiscent of Judas Priest. This song also highlights one of the greatest vocal jobs every pulled off by Don Dokken in his entire career, loaded with dirty and sleaze driven screams and a great chorus.
The rest of the tracks on here are solid slower rockers. Of these, “The Hunter” and “Jaded Heart” are my favorite picks. “The Hunter” has a highly catchy main guitar riff, while “Jaded Heart” has a nice quiet intro followed by a louder and dramatic chorus, in addition to the obligatory shred fests that George Lynch can easily fit into even the most down tempo of tracks without sounding like he’s overdoing it.
In conclusion, this is the highlight of Dokken’s career as a band. Although there are plenty of classic songs by them that appear on various other releases (including their most classic track ever “Dream Warriors”), this is the most solid of their musical structures. I recommend it highly to fans of guitar driven metal, and can even recommend it to some of my fellow Power Metal fanatics, although they may want to skip some of the ballads.
Alas poor Dokken, for they know not what they could have been. Dokken had most of the credentials to be a classic metal band. Riffs. Good singer. Very good guitarist. Memorable songs. One thing they lacked tho. Testicles. Laments and odes to women proved to be their undoing and relegated them to the LA chick band territory.
There's only 2 pure metal numbers here that are scorching and showed if they'd wanted to show they had guts, they could have shocked the world. The rest isn't exactly Tom Petty either tho and is ear candy for anyone who's a sucker for catchy 80's melodies and riffs, and let's face it who isn't? In this age of recording temper tantrums with downtune riffs played by lobotomised wiggers.
Although Dokken were an LA band by definition, they never had to resort to the stupid, crotch level themes of Poison and Warrant. Dokken's odes to love are easier to withstand or ignore for any metalhead and if you can, the prize is some good 80's riffs to enjoy which cover most of the songs here, along with some blazing guitarwork from George Lynch all wrapped up in a nice, slick production.
The 2 main highlights on here are vintage 80's METAL and show cues from a certain hell bent for leather band. "Lightning Strikes Again" has a total bulldozer of a riffset and great melody and shrieks from Don. "Till the Livin' end" is a speed metal trailblazer with a shredding solo from the Lynchmeister and again screams "bang em till they bleed". Maybe the reasons why they were on the famous "Turbo" tour with Priest.
"Slippin' Away" and "Jaded Heart" are the only tracks on here that need to be avoided like leprosy. Sickeningly soft whereas the other love themes here have riffs that are headbang worthy. Of the unmetal tracks "Unchain The Night" and "In My Dreams" are the most memorable.
When all is said and done it's a decent 80's album which makes you weep for the good ol' days.
With quality bands like Bon Jovi, Extreme and Vinnie Vincent Invasion not being metal enough to be featured on this site, I am forced to review far crappier bands like this.
This band is undeniably on the more metal side of glam - just listen to some of the riffs in "Unchain the Night", "Lightning Strikes Again" and "It's Not Love"; yup, it's heavy metal alright, even if some of the attitude and lyrics definitely hint at the 80's LA "hair" sound. However, it appears as though the band is trying to move away from that particular stereotype - not just in the riff-writing department, but also in that the whole thing is a lot more serious, atmospheric and melodic than others of the scene.
There isn't much of a "party" vibe here; instead, we get some sort of mix between the riffage and "straightforwardness" of the heavier LA scene (i.e. Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, WASP) and the atmosphere and "emotion" of, perhaps, the early prog metal scene, including bands like Queensrÿche and Fates Warning ('ryche being the closest of the two).
Sounds interesting, one may think, but no, this album pretty much falls completely flat in the end. It just doesn't WORK; not the atmosphere, not the melody and especially not the "serious" vibe of the whole thing. As if you thought that absence of a "party" vibe on here would make the band sound less cheesy than others; think about it. I mean, what's cheesier than the band Poison? Why, Poison trying to cover 'The Warning' of course! They TRY TOO HARD for their own good, that's one of the problems we have here. It's almost a bit like the song "Gods of War" by Def Leppard (on the album 'Hysteria', I should add); Def Leppard singing about the tragedies of war just doesn't sound as convincing as when Sodom does it (the lyrics are NOT the problem with 'Under Lock and Key', however).
OK, so it's a bit pretentious, that doesn't have to ruin everything completely, many great are albums are a bit pretentious too...but sorry, there's very little on here to make up for it. One very notable downside is the COMPLETE lack of passion in the band's playing, as the production comes with everything that is bad about "slick" production, most notably the fact that everything sounds so lifeless.
Lynch's guitar is all but full and meaty; the sound is ultra-sharp, but at the same time very thin and not very "hitting" at all, making any sort of headbang activity practically impossible. The sound was likely attained to achieve melody rather than heaviness, but to also be sacrificing LIVELINESS in order to attain it is just a NO for metal. The solos are of course flashy as fuck, but honestly, it does very little to actually impress in the way of construction and melody. Gimme Richie Sambora or Warren De Martini (or Nuno Bettencourt, but he deserves better than to be mentioned in a goddamn Dokken review!) any day, thank you very much.
The drumming is very, VERY stiff and constrained and could very well be done by a drumming machine - however the FUCK the dude got his nickname "Wild" Mick Brown is entirely beyond me; the only nickname I could think of that would suit him LESS is "Fill-happy" Mick Brown.
Another mystery: why in the fuck is this band named after the VOCALIST? He's just a perfect example of being fully technically capable but having a voice that is just plain ANNOYING. He's actually a bit comparable to Joacim Cans of Hammerfall, especially in general weakness, but also because his style is actually very power metal-ish, much like Geoff Tate, John Arch and maybe even Bruce Dickinson (except of course that he's far worse), which is why I often hear this BAND being described as "early power metal". I guess that IS sorta passable...but the LA hair sound is definitely still there, make no bones about it!
Perhaps because I don't play an instrument myself, it's not often I can comment on the BASS, but in this case I have to put in a good word for Jeff Pilson - I can actually tell that he's really does a great job complementing Lynch, even if he's not mixed very loud.
The REAL highlight of the album is the riffs, or just the overall guitar rhythms - George Lynch IS actually a very talented player, at least his rhythm - his guitar tone just happens to be kinda weak and flat. When the albums gets going, what we get is some pretty catchy shit - for example when "Unchain the Night" kicks in, there's a really nice groove, and I must say that the acoustic intro just before it really fits too. But even the highlights on here are inconsistent - for example, the chorus of this song simply does NOTHING and it sounds entirely out of place. What the fuck...? A nasty fucking opening riff pops up in the beginning of "The Hunter" - but again, the chorus is kinda bad; this one is just too melodic for it's own good ends up sounding too cheesy and try-too-hard. But overall, it's a really solid track and probably the best on here.
"Lightning Strikes Again" - it took me a while before I realized that this is actually the exact same riff as the acoustic intro to "Unchain the Night", but even though it does rip off ITS OWN FUCKING ALBUM, I'd say it's passable...I mean, it's obviously played in a much heavier style and thus completely changes the sound and mood of it. It's a pretty widely used riff, by the way; bands that have used it include Iron Maiden ("2 minutes to Midnight"), Accept ("Flash Rockin' Man"), Grave Digger ("Heavy Metal Breakdown", "The Dark of the Sun") and more. It's one of the very few upbeat rockers on here and this time the distortion pedal is pushed a bit more as well, so there is actually a decent amount of headbangage here, but in the end it IS kinda unspectacular...it's only given a full paragraph because it's a stand-out by this album's standards. Oh yeah, and that part towards the end of the song "LIGHTNIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!! Lightning Strikes Again!!" SHUT...THE...FUCK...UP!!!!!
Anyway, "Don't Lie to Me" isn't bad either, as it really has something going on in the verse and the pre-chorus is almost "Livin' On a Prayer" one year earlier! Any that that is in some way similar to a song like that can't be a complete loser of course...but the song as whole is more similar to "Rock You Like a Hurricane", especially that opening riff.
Beyond those four, highlights become much harder to point out. One of ballads, "Jaded Heart" has an absolutely excellent acoustic riff, but there is little else to keep one's interest (especially with that uninspired chorus) and the other one "Slippin' Away" is just complete throw-away material that is featured on the album for the sake of having more than just one ballad.
Actually, it can be argued that the album has more than two ballads, simply because of that terrible, much too soft production that definitely holds a few tunes back. One of the almost-ballads, "In My Dreams" has some decent riffs here and there and was the biggest hit from this album, I think, but GOOD GOD what's up with that chorus?! Tons and tons of layered vocals to add to the melody, I guess...say what you will, but to me that chorus sounds entirely out of tune! "Your love is STRONG, it STILL remains", those highlighted words sound VERY off. Guys, listen to Def Leppard, most rather "Photograph", and take notes. And again: 30% is about as much as you can expect this band as far as EFFORT in playing goes.
Another really popular tune out of this album is "It's Not Love"...well it IS kinda memorable I must say, especially that intro, but frankly the chorus just flat-out sucks. Dammit, I've never thought of this until I began to write this review, but this band just seems to have some of the worst choruses Los Angeles has to offer. Either they're just completely flat and do nothing or they just plain suck (like this one). Likely the worst "anthemic" chorus ever written - guys, listen to "Metal Health" and take notes. And that phone call sample somewhere in the middle - don't even make me go there. The cheesiest song on the album, but overall, still the most memorable, arguably.
Finally, we have "Til the Livin' End" which is...well, total fucking speed metal, yeah, but the songwriting is highly unimpressive and execution is entirely off, especially with this production.
I should add that neither the Poison nor the Queensrÿche comparisons are dead-on accurate at all (especially the Poison one, this band barely belongs in the same genre); Dokken really has a sound that is definitely their own, especially George Lynch's guitar. You really need to hear a few songs for yourself to get an accurate idea, but imagine a lighter and more melodic 'Shout at the Devil' on valium, with some early power metal thrown in as well - that's the closest I can get. It struggles with a lot of fundamental problems to begin with and the moments where it gets going are just too few.
Not recommended; the LA scene or just glam rock/metal scene overall (none of those bands I mentioned in the beginning are from LA!) has far better albums to offer. As for albums I am unable to review here, try 'Vinnie Vincent Invasion', 'Slippery When Wet', 'Pornograffitti', 'Out of This World', 'Sign in Please', 'Trash', 'Winger', 'Talisman', 'Night Songs', 'Firehouse', 'Open Up and Say...Ahh!' or 'Out of the Cellar'. If you're absolutely decided on getting on Dokken album anyway, try the follow-up, 'Back for the Attack' (or maybe the earlier albums, but I haven't heard those:().