Dokken: Hell To Pay (Sanctuary, 2004) Reviewed by: Vinaya
1. The Last Goodbye 2. Don't Bring Me Down 3. Escape 4. Haunted 5. Prozac Nation 6. Care For You 7. Better Off Before 8. Still I'm Sad 9. I Surrender 10. Letter To Home 11. Can You See 12. Care For You (unplugged)
I was one of the younger fans of what’s now called “hair-band” music during its 1980’s heyday. Whitesnake, Motley Crue, White Lion and Warrant were by far the most interesting thing on American Top 40 way back when I used to listen to it circa third grade. Therefore, I was happy to partake in the revival bands like this began to experience in the late nineties, having endured all the watered-down, angst-by-numbers Nirvana rip-offs I could stand and then some.
Among the bands that benefited from this resurgence of interest in ‘80’s-derived rock was Dokken, who released what I consider one of the best, if not the best album of their career (contrary to popular opinion) in 1999’s Erase The Slate. With former Winger axeman Reb Beach replacing George Lynch, the band seemed to reach a level of creativity that they hadn’t quite attained even during their glory days.
I wish I could say I felt that the quality level has been maintained since then. Long Way From Home, with Swedish guitar hero John Norum on its roster, was a decent offering, but the luster of the band’s comeback was starting to show signs of waning. Unfortunately, Hell To Pay fails to reverse this trend, with few of its twelve cuts (one being an acoustic version of the already-heard “Care For You”) making much of an impression. I don’t know what the problem is, but for some reason, much of the album seems to wander on somewhat aimlessly, with a perplexing lack of spark and vigor, even on stronger numbers like the lumbering opening cut “The Last Goodbye” and the evocative, Beatles-esque “Letter To Home.”
Further underscoring the lack of excitement are at least two tracks of pure filler in “Better Off Before” and “I Surrender.” And new guitarist Jon Levin does little to liven up the proceedings, his soloing style scoring medium to high points for technique, but displaying little in the way of feel or personality.
On the upside, however, “Prozac Nation” is a catchy, clever, and even somewhat amusing mid-tempo rocker, and “Don’t Bring Me Down” kicks hard and fast in the tradition of Dokken classics like “Tooth And Nail” and “Paris Is Burning.” Hell To Pay is obviously the product of the mature, introspective Dokken of the last two studio albums, which I like, but it’s simply not up to the same quality standards. I’ve played this album numerous times; more than some recent releases I like better, in fact, but outside of the aforementioned standout tracks, I still find myself surprisingly unmoved by what I hear. Being among the last children of the eighties, I really wish I could rate it higher, but I cannot find sufficient justification to do so. This is a truly unfortunate development for a band that, until recently, seemed to be building up an impressive comeback.
About this Writer: Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.
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