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Friday, June 16, 2017

996. Jorn / Life on Death Road. 2017. 3.5/5

There’s little doubt that Jorn Lande is a marvellous singer. He has a voice that can croon just about anything, and he works it hard too, with barely a year passing without him having released an album on one of his projects, whether it be his own band as it is here or any of the many others he has participated in. It’s an interesting move for this album, as Jorn has teamed up with Mat Sinner, who apart from many other bands he is involved in is the founder and bass guitarist of Primal Fear, Alex Beyrodt, who is also the guitarist for Primal Fear, and drummer Francesco Jovino, who also played on Jorn’s last album and is now currently drumming for… you guessed it… Primal Fear! Given their track record (certainly in my opinion) you would have to think even before going in that it had the makings of a good album.

What we want from Jorn is songs like the opening title track “Life on Death Road”. This flows along beautifully, set up not only by Jorn’s amazing vocals but the twin guitar and double kick drumming. This is a brilliant heavy metal song, the kind I could settle for every single day from Jorn. It is followed by two other excellent tracks in “Hammered to the Cross (The Business)” and “Love is the Remedy” which both also showcase the excellent partnering these musicians have made.
“Dreamwalker” dials the tempo back to a dangerous moment. Jorn and the band still sounds great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the style of the song that holds me back. No, it isn’t that horrid power ballad kind of style. Not exactly anyway. It is a change in mood from the opening tracks though, and while Jorn does love to sing in this style in his many different projects I often wish he did less of it. Fortunately we immediately forge out of that valley with “Fire to the Sun” which settles into an atypical hard rock template with guitar solo spots put in at no extra cost.
Not to put too fine a point to it, but the middle of the album does tend to go in the same direction as most of Jorn’s catalogue. That isn’t to say it is terrible, but to be honest it just gets a little boring and/or repetitive. You’ve heard it all before, and I guess that is the danger if you are putting albums on a very regular basis, for your own band or any other projects you may be a part of. Jorn’s vocals are wonderful, he has an amazing voice, but it does have that tendency to become a little bit the same if it isn’t regulated. This is why when he has done stuff for Avantasia or for Allen/Lande it doesn’t always come across that way because someone else is writing the sings and looking for a certain vocal. In “Insoluable Maze (Dreams in the Blindness)” he seems to be channelling Ronnie James Dio while in “I Walked Away” he is reaching for his inner David Coverdale. “The Slippery Slope (Hangman’s Rope)” picks up the pace in a much more pleasing fashion, with Beyrodt’s guitaring once again a pleasing facet. “Devil You Can Drive”, “The Optimist”, “Man of the 80’s” all settle in the middle ground. “Blackbirds” completes the album, and is dominated by the firing guitar of Beyrodt which keeps the song going with interest with his fast paced and single shot solo pieces punctuating the song throughout.

What is for me the most interesting part of this album is the fact that my favourite parts are actually the fantastic musicianship of the band. When Alex Beyrodt lets fly on that guitar, as he does in competition with himself in the opening track and at other moments throughout, and combined with the great rhythm of the bass and drums, this album really cooks. And that none of that has anything to do with Jorn’s vocals is as positive a moment as I can garner from this album. It’s not all peaches and ice cream, but most people will find enough here to like, be it vocally or musically or a combination of the two.

Rating:  “And I remember the day that Elvis passed away”.  3.5/5

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