Alcatrazz – V
Reviewed: October 2021
Released: 2021, Silver Lining Music
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve given any real thought about the current state of Alcatrazz, but I will say that I’ve always viewed the band synonymously with vocalist Graham Bonnet. Alcatrazz was Bonnet’s first real creative outlet after exiting Rainbow, and you could argue that it was because of his stint in Camp Blackmore that the band received any kind of attention at all back in the day. So the current he said/they said drama about Bonnet’s ouster had me scratching my head and questioning how I feel about the prospect of a Bonnet-less version of Alcatrazz.
But that was before hearing Alcatrazz’ first post-Bonnet release V, also the first to feature everyone’s favorite substitute vocalist Doogie White. Holy smokes, this is a real surprise of a record. Far removed from the 80’s synth pop of “Island in the Sun”, V is a straight up neoclassical power metal record – and a damn fine one at that.
Tracks like the opening “Guardian Angel” and “Nightwatch” lay it on thick and heavy early into the record, grabbing your attention with a formidable combination of NWOBHM riffs and modern metal shred that sound closer to Nocturnal Rites or Hammerfall than any of their classic material. “Blackheart” and “House of Lies” sound like they were plucked from the better selections of Deep Purple’s latter catalog, while “Maybe Tomorrow” opts for a more epic, anthemic approach with its sing-a-long chants and fist banging urgency. Front to back, V slaps you in the face with a level of heavy metal intensity that you’re not at all prepared to hear from an Alcatrazz record.
And can we take a moment to celebrate Doogie White? There’s clearly a reason why so many acts have tapped him to front their b(r)ands for so many years. Rainbow, Tank, Malmsteen, Schenker, now Alcatrazz; it’s not accidental. Dude still has a phenomenal set of pipes and can parachute into any dysfunctional band situation, make the songs uniquely his own and arm those bands with one more charge into battle. Alongside Jizzy Pearl, Ripper Owens, Joe Lynn Turner, and their ilk, Doogie White helps keep your favorite bands alive.
All that being said, it’s inevitable that Bonnet/Shea/Waldo reconcile at some point in the near future and either release one more record or announce a farewell tour that’ll close the book on Alcatrazz and leave V as a curious anomaly in their catalog. These blokes aren’t getting any younger and they know how guarantees work…But that’s all the more reason to celebrate just how mother grabbin’ good V is as a standalone record while it’s still fresh and relevant. Even if you’ve never listened to Alcatrazz a day in your life but enjoy some high quality heavy metal jams, you my friend are in for a treat.