Released: 2012, Frontiers Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Random fact of the day – Don Dokken produced Saint Vitus’ 1992 doom opus C.O.D.
For those who didn’t grow up in the 80’s, it’s hard to conceptualize that there was actually a time when Dokken was a viable musical outlet for metal fans. Before the intrapersonal drama between band members, before the antivirus commercials, Dokken was a seriously kick ass band. Check out the title track of ‘84’s TOOTH AND NAIL if you don’t believe me. Hell, they even did a video with Freddy Krueger (suck it Vinnie Vincent Invasion). Yes, they certainly had their fair share of 80’s cheekiness in those early tunes, but there was a musical competency shared between the four original members that somehow validated what they were doing over their peers in the scene at the time. But that whole grunge thing happened, the band split, the band reformed, lots of finger pointing and embarrassing albums throughout the 90’s and 2000’s, it’s an unfortunately familiar story.
Despite a string of mediocre releases, 2008’s LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN showed signs of life within the current lineup’s ranks. While far from a perfect album, it harkened back to some of the classic moods and tones that’s always been attractive to Dokken fans. Disregarding a completely unnecessary album of re-recorded classics, BROKEN BONES is that album’s proper successor, and according to Mr. Dokken himself, the final studio album to bear the Dokken moniker. Much like LIGHTNING, BROKEN BONES has a lot of great moments on it that recall what made the band so great back in the day. And much like LIGHTNING, BROKEN BONES has a lot of moments on it that recall why the band is nothing like the band they were back in the day.
Let’s start with the good, eh? His name is Jon Levin, and he’s been Don’s hired six-string gun for a while now. The guy is uber talented, and lays down some amazing licks that really give the disc some validation and credibility. He’s got Lynch’s panache for shred, but knows how to rein things into the context of the songs he’s playing. Secondly, there are some really good, classic Dokken tunes across BROKEN BONES. Album opener “Empire” is a heart pumper that sounds like it could’ve had a home on any of the first three albums, while the title track has that classic mid-tempo swagger a la “Unchain the Night”. There’s even some welcomed experimentation on “Victim of the Crime”, which rocks a sort of East-Indian, dark psychedelia aura, but in a surprisingly convincingly manner.
But for all the good that BROKEN BONES offers up, there's just as much bad. Well, not really “bad”, really more just uninteresting. Which in some ways can be worse that being just plain bad. Additionally, there’s that constantly looming shadow of the band’s past that’s always present. There’s way too many mid-tempo snoozers that wear the guise of heavy rockers, particularly the trifecta at the front of the album with “Best of Me”, “Blind”, and “Waterfall”. The latter half of the album is peppered with ballads, power ballads, and emotive rockers that sound like power ballads. Welcome to Snoresville.
The biggest obstacle that BROKEN BONES faces is Don Dokken himself. Aside from looking like he ate the equivalent of George Lynch, despite the fact that he looks like a stereotypical middle aged lesbian, his voice just ain’t what it used to be. Characteristically he still sounds like old Don, but he’s stuck in a lower register that doesn’t offer much in the way of contrast or color, relying on layers of harmony tracks to try and make up for the deficit. It’s a side effect of getting old, I know this from personal experience, but it doesn’t help an album that’s supposed to be your band’s swan song.
Which I don’t buy for a second, by the way. While I’m curious to hear whatever he’s got percolating with Michael Schenker, I don’t believe for a second that this’ll be the last album to bear the Dokken logo. The brand still has some muscle in the Rocklahoma market, and it’s a comfortable safety net. But for right now it’s “the last one.” That’s too bad, because BROKEN BONES is kind of a limp exit for a legacy that deserves much better.