Curl, James -Into The Fire (Book Review)

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Reviewed:  August, 2020
Published:  2020, Indie
Rating:  4/5
Reviewer: JP

It’s about time someone wrote a book about Dokken!  James Curl steps up to the plate again following his excellent and well-received Dio biography.   I reviewed that one here in August of 2018 as well in case you are interested.

INTO THE FIRE is a nice looking paperback, running 236 pages. Many black and white photos in the middle bolster the book.   More importantly is that Curl interviewed virtually everyone in the band giving this a real sense of legitimacy and authority. There is a solid discography with chart positions and a foreword by Wendell Neely, the host of an America radio show called That Classic Metal Show. The book looks good!

As one might expect we start at the beginning and this is where I found an enormous amount of value.  Many fans know that Don Dokken is an elder-statesman around Los Angeles pre-dating the whole (so-called)’ Hair Metal’ phenomena by many years. The early stories of his first bands in the 70’s and regular trips to Germany were fascinating.   It showed his dedication having played in many bands and many bars with no money and no support for almost 10 years before Dokken issued their debut.

The golden age 1983-1990 is well represented and we are treated to lots of neat stories about the Dream Warriors video shoot, the Monsters Of Rock tour and much more.  Of course there has been a much-reported under-current of animosity and dysfunction in the band with various members coming and going and alliances shifting between Don and George depending on who was being a jerk at the time.  Curl makes time for the other shredders as well, Beach and Norum getting ample time and coverage. I really enjoyed INTO THE FIRE and any Dokken fan will enjoy it as well.

Curl seems to have made the same little mistake as he did in the Dio book.  If he didn’t like the album, it got less attention.  That is only natural for people to think that way, but a truly great writer will not let his or her bias taint a biography.  An album the author may not personally like, might be someone else’s all time favourite album, so if you are going to write a book about a band everything should get equal treatment and coverage.  Admittedly for many, Dokken’s hey-day was the 80’s. While Curl does cover all the albums, several of them, especially the last few, get very little coverage in terms of technical detail.    ERASE THE SLATE gets three pages of coverage and HELL TO Pay gets one-half of a page!    We learn virtually nothing about that album.  Another minor issue is that Curl wanders off message once in a while.  We get an extended discussion of Winger and the whole Beavis and Butt-head thing, which really has nothing to do with Dokken.  However, the full sub-title is ” …And Other Embers of 80’s Metal History” so I guess we can let it slide.  Aside from those minor flaws, the book is very well done.

Noise coming out of the Dokken camp is not super positive.  The band sort has two incarnations, the classic line-up group that flits off to Europe and Japan for rare, one-off, huge money shows and the county fair Dokken who does the regional US circuit with whoever is playing guitar with them this month.  The most concerning news is that Don himself, after years of surgery and suffering has basically lost the ability to write, feel or and consequently play guitar. Never say never, but Don has strongly hinted that the band is over.  We haven’t heard a new studio album in eight years, the longest stretch ever without a Dokken album since 1983.   Assuming for a moment that the band is done, INTO THE FIRE is a really nice exclamation point to the bands long and illustrious career.