Saturday, September 21, 2013

Album Review: T&N, Slave to the Empire

The lineup of Dokken has switched back and forth several times since the original lineup's last album together, Back For the Attack. Bassist, Jeff Pilson and drummer, Mick Brown have gone with Don Dokken, then switched around and both joined Lynch Mob with former Dokken guitarist, George Lynch. Then, at least once, the band got back together again for a reunion tour. It was in 1993, I believe. And, I know they did it because I saw them in concert at Jani Lane's Sunset Strip, a large nightclub in Downtown Orlando, FL.

Jeff Pilson
So, rather than put out another Lynch Mob album, Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown have joined up with George Lynch this time around, and formed T&N. The album is called Slave to the Empire, released on Rat Pak Records. Pilson does the majority of the lead vocals, and his voice sounds strikingly similar to Don Dokken's voice. In the title track of the album, you'd swear it was Don. He also does the vocals on the other new songs, Sweet Unknown, Rhythm of the Soul, Mind Control, Jesus Train, and Access Denied, along with the classic, Into the Fire. 

Now comes the tricky part. Mick Brown doesn't play drums on even half of the songs. He only plays on classics, Its Not Love, Kiss of Death, Alone Again, Into the Fire, and Its Not Love. Drummer, Brian Tichy plays on all the rest. I don't know if health issues kept Brown out of the studio or a prior commitment, or why exactly. But, the drums are great no matter who is playing them. When I first heard Slave to the Empire, in the opening seconds of the song, I had to look to make sure I wasn't listening to this song.

                    Mick Brown
George Lynch
Slave to the Empire starts with a fast and powerful drum opening that goes into a choppy guitar groove that leads into a big chorus reminiscent of something off the classic album, Back for the Attack. Its a defiant and in your face 'give a bird to the establishment' type of political song, but its done well. You aren't listening to political talk radio with a heavy metal background. This also has the trademarked backup vocal harmonies that we expect from this group of musicians. In fact all the songs do. Sweet Unknown is a fast/slow blend of classic styles and modern grooves. It would be redundant to say that George Lynch is awesome on this. He is awesome on everything he ever did. The solo in this song is something special. Rhythm of the Soul isn't referring to soul music, that's for sure. Its a dirty and gritty song in the opening that slows down to a solid scale jumping guitar riff. Not soul music, but it has a really cool groove. I guess if my soul had a rhythm, it would be really cool if it sounded like this.When Eagles Die starts with a strummed acoustic riff with Pilson singing. That doesn't last long because the song blasts into a hard and heavy jam that punches you. Then, it mellows out. This song is 3 speeds of cool. Its patriotic lyrics are touching, and carry the theme of bringing the troops home. Mind Control is classic 80's metal, but it seems like Pilson has tapped his inner Lemmy Kilmister the way he Jesus Train, which is a heavy blues parade. that attacks religious over zealots. Access Denied could fit right beside Mr Scary on Back for the Attack. In fact, when I first listened to it, I thought it was going to be an instrumental. The solo in this song is mind blowing, and it has machine gun style rhythm guitar to accompany it. Lynch at his best. As for the new songs, there isn't a bad song on the album. In fact, it sounds as if it could have easily been the next Dokken album after Back for the Attack.

We're the Dream Warriors!!

Now, we'll move onto the classics. All of the songs have been tweaked, and why wouldn't you do that? These guys are much more evolved and seasoned than they were in the 80s. These versions are better than the originals. We'll start with Into the Fire with Pilson singing, then move on to the others with guests. If I didn't know better, I'd swear that I was listening to Don Dokken on vocals, and I would argue with you if you told me I was wrong. There is alot changed in this one, On top of a crispier guitar sound, and a couple fills that bring you into the choruses. There is a break in the song where they add another verse in a ballad form, that brings you into the last chorus of the song. Very cool!

Alone Again is done with Sebastian Bach on vocals. There are guitar fills over the intro to the song, and incredible vocal harmonies over the chorus that weren't there before. Bach's aggressive rasp in his voice makes an appearance and it fits. We also get a Bach scream leading into the solo. The vocal harmonies they added are reminiscent of Skid Row's Quicksand Jesus. This version is amazing. Its Not Love is sung by Robert Mason, who replaced Jani Lane in Warrant, and also sang with Lynch Mob. He does a very good job. You can kind of hear why he was selected to sing for Warrant. Not much was done differently in this song, other than the dialogue between Don Dokken and the girl he is talking to in the original recording is replaced with a loud scream that leads into a crunching lead section. MAJOR upgrade there. My favorite track on the album is Tooth and Nail. Its done with the one and only dUg Pinnick of Kings X. This version is amazing. When I first saw that he was singing this song, I admit, I was scratching my head...Or maybe it was a little Over My Head. But, I was pleasantly surprised...Actually, blown away is more like it. The guitar is modern sounding, and the solo sounds like it wants to rip its way out of your speakers and kick your ass. Pinnick is unmistakable, and if you had never heard Dokken before, you'd think to yourself "Damn, I don't remember Kings X doing anything THIS heavy!" And if you were familiar with both bands like me, you're wondering why Kings X never did any heavier songs. He sure can do it well. They also added a little blues section after the solo for Pinnick to freestyle over before going into the last verse. Spectacular! Kiss of Death features Tim 'Ripper' Owens, formerly of Judas Priest. In typical Ripper fashion, he nails it brilliantly. This is nothing you wouldn't expect to hear from him. His powerful voice, and sky high screams. There are some changes to the guitar, but not very much until the end of the song, where George Lynch goes crazy. But, he's George Lynch. He can do whatever he wants, and it will kick ass. I hereby dub George Lynch: The Chuck Norris of Heavy Metal.

Ok, I know I am a little late reviewing this album, but I wasn't blogging when it came out, and I never got around to reviewing it until now. Better late than never right? This album is great. Buy it! You will not be disappointed. I'll be buying the next one they put out on the day it comes out, and doing a timely review, and I will be seeing them in concert when they come my way. It has been announced that Michael Sweet of Stryper will be doing a song. I wonder if it will be When Heaven Comes Down. I'm also predicting that Jeff Pilson will be singing Just Got Lucky. 

With arms like that, are YOU going to tell him what he can and can't do?
Didn't think so! George Lynch is the Chuck Norris of Metal.

So, once again...BUY IT!

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