JORN – Life On Death Road

I’m a Jorn fan. And I’m not a Jorn fan. Have I gone schizophrenic maybe? Nope. See, I love Jorn Lande as a singer, his Ronnie James Dio meets David Coverdale type of voice and ridiculously broad range can send shivers down my spine and when he sings on projects such as Avantasia, Ayreon, Masterplan and Allen/Lande, the guy is brutally awesome! But when he decides to go solo with his own band, I’m not really there. I have gone through every single of his Jorn Band albums and every single one of them has left me underwhelmed. Why? Well, because he’s not just that a great song writer, I’m afraid. Sure, there are always a few really good songs on every album but not many enough to make a great record. There’s a reason why his best solo work is a covers album – last year’s Heavy Rock Radio. When Jorn and former Wig Wam guitarist / song writer Trond Holter put their heads together in 2015 and made the brilliant Swing Of Death album under the moniker Jorn Lande & Trond Holter Presents Dracula and he added Trond to his solo band, I had high hopes that the next Jorn album would be as great as the Dracula thing, but it wasn’t to be. Trond was out quicker than he came in and that was that.

Instead Jorn found his way with his new band members Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle, Sinner) on bass, Alex Beyrodt (Voodoo Circle, Primal Fear) on guitars, Francesco Jovino (Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle) on drums and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline, Revolution Saints, Voodoo Circle) on keyboards – which means, as you all can see, that Jorn’s new band is Voodoo Circle without singer Herbie Langhans. In my book, this does not bode well. I am not a big fan of Voodoo Circle, to me they’re really nothing more than a second-rate Whitesnake wannabe band and this is not what Jorn needs. Primal Fear are another connection here and even though I have never really gotten into them, I really like their latest album Rulebreaker (2016), but they play heavy metal that borders to power metal and even though Jorn did sing that kind of music with Masterplan, is that really the way to go for Jorn as a solo artist? That said, it was going to be interesting to find out which road Jorn would take on his new release.

The title track opens the album and this upbeat rocker that lies somewhere between the 70’s and the 80’s style wise actually bodes well. It’s a good clean rocker with a very memorable melody that grabs a hold by its first strike. “Hammered To The Cross” (The Business)” is a rough, yet melodic hard rocker with a big step into 80’s hard rock, both in melody and riffs. It catches on right on the spot and I’m starting to get a good feel about this record. “Love Is The Remedy” comes in a faster pace and this is hard rock with good dose of Dio era Black Sabbath albeit poppy at times. But the song passes by unnoticed and feels a bit forgettable which takes me back to so many of Jorn’s solo records. “Dreamwalker” is slow, heavy, dark but at the same time it stands on the border to a ballad. It also holds a very memorable chorus and main melody which makes the tune a winner. And now we’re back on track again.

“Fire To The Sun” is a steady rocker where the 70’s meets the mid 80’s – like Deep Purple collaborating with Europe, if you will. Big riffs, a fat Hammond, a killer chorus and a good distinct drive – yes, this is very good. “Insoluble Maze (Dreams In The Blindness)” opens with a big, fat Tony Iommi-like riff, very heavy but the song speeds up quite immediately. It reminds me somewhat of Dio (the band) after 1986 – which is when Dio started to slip. It’s an ok song but it could have been so much more. “I Walked Away” is a groovy blues oriented hard rocker done the 1980’s way. It comes with a strong melody and a memorable chorus and yes, I have heard this kind of song many times before but it’s a good one so it works anyway. “The Slippery Slope (Hangman’s Rope)” on the other hand is a standard 80’s heavy metal influenced hard rocker that just don’t go anywhere and it’s very forgettable. I can’t even remember how it sounded when I’m writing this. Taking notes is a good thing, apparently.

“Devil You Can Drive” continues to go down Dull Lane with riffs done a gazillion times, a melody so forgettable I’m starting to believe I have memory loss – watching paint dry is more fun than this song! But the heavy power ballad “The Optimist” that bears resemblance to the Tony Martin era Sabbath is the opposite to its predecessor – very powerful with killer arrangements. “Man Of The 80’s” was the first taster from this album and a song that was only ok when I first heard it but it has grown on me since then. It’s an upbeat, big grooved 80’s hard rocker with a bad-ass chorus and the whole thing is catchy as Hell – great. How that could escape me the first time I heard it, I don’t know. Closing track “Blackbirds” is an ok rocker but the riffs have been recycled too many times and that goes for the melody and arrangements as well. It’s not crap, it just doesn’t go anywhere.

As a whole, this album is better than I thought it would be but at the same time it contains too many fillers and for some reason some of the good songs are a bit too uninteresting – you know the kind of tunes that are good when you hear them but doesn’t spark the desire to go back and listen to them again. Also, the recycling of riffs, melodies and arrangements is taking the edge of things – and remember, this comes from a guy who doesn’t gives a rat about originality. A part of me thinks that this is the way that Voodoo Circle will sound if Jorn would join them. I’m not gonna slag off the band that that’s behind Jorn here because they’re all stellar musicians but maybe they’re not the musicians that Jorn needs to move forward. I still think that Lande would have benefited from a Trond Holter in his band. Too bad that didn’t happen. Well, it’s not a bad album per se, it’s just not good enough for my taste.

6/10

More Jorn reviews:

Heavy Rock Radio
Swing Of Death

Tracklist:

1. Life On Death Road
2. Hammered To The Cross (The Business)
3. Love Is The Remedy
4. Dreamwalker
5. Fire To The Sun
6. Insoluble Maze (Dreams In The Blindness)
7. I Walked Away
8. The Slippery Slope (Hangman’s Rope)
9. Devil You Can Drive
10. The Optimist
11. Man Of The ’80s
12. Blackbirds

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