To me, the collaboration between Norwegian musicians, guitarist Trond Holter (ex- Wig Wam, Dream Police) and Jorn Lande (Jorn, Masterplan, Millenium) was a marriage made in heaven. Holter has always been a damn good song writer and guitarist and Jorn is a brilliant singer with a solo career that lacks great songs and when Holter joined Jorn’s band I thought that the song writing department would no longer be an issue. But it was short-lived and all we got from them was a rock opera under the moniker Jorn Lande & Trond Holter presents Dracula with the title Swing Of Death. The fact that the Dracula album was nothing short of brilliant made it feel even worse that the couple couldn’t continue their collaboration. But the album was a success and Holter decided to take it on tour so he hired Pagan’s Mind’s vocalist Nils K Rue and went to work. After that, a new album wasn’t far off – this time under the Holter moniker – and the couple decided a sequel was in order.
Opener “The World’s On Fire” is one heavy piece – punchy and hard with some sinister Metal riffing that says this album might be a heavier release than the last. It’s dark and menacing but still with a magnificent main melody and an in-your-face refrain that hits like a ton of bricks. Great! “Awakened” is upbeat and faster in pace with the Metal vibes intact. It’s rough and robust with melodies that holds Holter’s personal ways. It’s catchy as hell but no cheese or any slick arrangements – very good. “Drums Of Doom” (sounds like a Manowar title, doesn’t it?) is a big, fat and crunchy Metal influenced blaster with kicking drums (of doom) and some wicked guitar riffing. The refrain comes on with a bigger Melodic Rock vibe that’s reminiscent of the last album and the catchy melodies and the heavy music marries just fine. Another brilliant track!
Latest single “The Last Generation” is next. It features female singer Eva Iselin Erichsen, a singer that impresses the living daylight out of me – what a voice. The tune is in mid pace with a darker atmosphere and even a bit laid-back in the verses. When the chorus comes along it reminds me of a heavier Wig Wam with a female singer – and it works splendidly. It’s catchy as hell and you don’t have to be rocket scientist to figure out why it was chosen as a single. The guitar solo bit sends a nod towards Celtic music and Thin Lizzy, another break that brings on more variation – brilliant. Leading single “I’ll Die For You” sounds pretty much like a heavier version of the last album. Heavy, dark and cinematic, the tune bursts out with some very memorable melodies all over and the chorus is just spot on. It features a duet between Rue and Erichsen, a couple that’s clearly have got loads of chemistry between them. A killer tune and a pretty obvious single choice.
“Shadows Of Love” is the album’s first ballad. But we’re not talking power ballad cheese here. This one is dark and sinister sounding with a horror-movie vibe all over it. It’s slow and deep but also bombastic and even a bit symphonic. It do get a bit heavier after a while but it never transfers into an upbeat rocker. Erichsen sings this one as well and again, she does an amazing job. Her voice really fits this kind of tune. Awesome. “Without You” really rips and this heavy, dark and aggressive rocker kicks in a faster pace but also changes into mid-pace here and there. The baroque arrangements that shows up brings on a cinematic touch in all its heaviness. It’s a memorable tune but not as strong as the rest. The heavy and punchy “Under My Skin” mixes Led Zeppelin influenced riffing with 80’s Melodic Rock and holds a bouncy groove and an insanely catchy refrain that sticks right away. Next single?
The title-track is a monster (sic!) – rhythmic with a fierce groove, orchestrated, bombastic and horror-cinematic but also very heavy and in-your-face with rock-hard Metal riffing. There’s also some more Thin Lizzy influenced guitar parts that brings more diversity to the song. It’s an instrumental but it really doesn’t matter as the tune catches on fast. A very good song. As a closer we get “Save Me (Part 2)”, a continuation of the song with the same name from the debut. The first part was a duet and so is this but this one is heavier and darker and brings on a ballsy groove with a big chorus. Towards the end the tune slows down and adds a big choir only to speed up again and a Ritchie Blackmore/Rainbow influenced passage kicks in. The tune ends on a slower note where my mind wanders to the early days of Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. A brilliant closer that leaves me wanting more.
Compared to the debut this album is heavier, more aggressive and darker with clearer Metal influences but it never loses the big melodies and hooks. Holter’s song writing shines through everywhere which automatically makes the tunes catchy and Nils K Rue does a solid job behind the mike. Without throwing any shadows over Rue, I must say I prefer Lande’s voice – his voice was perfect for a project like this. Quality wise, this album isn’t as great as Swing Of Death but it’s still a killer rock album. The whole Dracula theme might be a bit cheesy and I have a feeling a Dracula rock-opera might be a hard sell, but when the music, production and the musical performances are this good, I really don’t give a rat. If Holter will make yet another sequel remains to be seen but personally I hope he will form a new “real” band – maybe with the guys – and girl – involved here. The guy’s a too good musician and songwriter not to.
More Holter reviews:
1. The World’s On Fire
3. Drums Of Doom
4. The Last Generation
5. I’ll Die For You
6. Shadows Of Love
7. Without You
8. Under My Skin
9. Vlad The Impaler
10. Save Me (Part 2)