RSS Feed

Broken Bones

Frontiers (2012)
Rating: 6.5/10

Rumour has it that this is to be Dokken’s final record. Broken Bones is the band’s 11th opus, and in my opinion if this is the album they are going to go out on then I’d be disappointed, because it’s not the blaze of glory I expected.

Fans are constantly comparing the guitar work of Jon Levin to ex-Dokken guitar wizard George Lynch, but Broken Bones should be judged on its own merits. Sadly, too much of the record, despite boasting a handful of solid tracks, does nothing to shake the foundations. Don Dokken’s vocals somehow seem removed from the actual recording of bass, drum and guitar, and the music seems to act only as a background to Don’s rather ineffective voice. The only exception being on album opener ‘Empire’, which is one of the most upbeat tracks on the record with Levin’s strong solos and riffs plastering the song as it gallops at pace.

There’s no denying the talent of Levin, and with Steve McNabb employed for bass duties, and Mick Brown’s impressive drum work, the opener suggests a band on fire. But by the time we’ve reached third track, ‘Best Of Me’, the band have taken their foot off the gas, and, again, the vocals are fragile and removed from the music. While the track boasts an infectious chorus and some impressive guitar work, particularly the killer riff, there’s something missing; a lack of attitude and vigour about the whole affair.

My favourite track is the fourth cut, ‘Blind’, with its dark, brooding chug and Don’s almost broken rasp. However, this isn’t the Dokken of old, but hey, Tooth And Nail (1984) et al are decades ago, so it’s only natural that Don’s voice is not as potent, and at times he struggles to hit the notes despite some sultry melodies.

‘Burning Tears’ sums up the album; a slow, pleasant-sounding rocker, and I guess the word “pleasant” is what best describes Broken Bones. Others would say that Broken Bones is more of a Don Dokken solo album rather than being a Dokken metal album, and the cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Today’ would suggest this; a wistful ballad that fails to make its mark. And the same could be said for tepid rocker ‘For The Last Time’, in which Don warbles, “You know I’ve walked that road before, don’t wanna walk it anymore”, and one senses from this album that it’s the sad truth.

Broken Bones never once raises its voice above a whimper, occasionally punctuated by Levin’s smooth, yet Lynch-esque riffs and solos, which reach a harder climax in the form of closing cut ‘Tonight’, which follows the same formulaic route. This is pretty middle of the road metal – at times bog standard – as once again Don rambles on about how he’s “walked this road before”.

This is really lukewarm metal most of the time, although I’m sure that many others will disagree. In fact, I’ve read numerous reviews stating this record boasts “metallic edge aggression”, but I’m just not hearing that here at all. Overall, this is an average record that is steeped in melody, delivering a number of catchy hooks. But if it’s ballsy rock you’re after then it’s time to look elsewhere, because the Dokken flame has finally burned out.

Neil Arnold