Longing for a full-time Dokken reunion, are we? Well, as long as you’re not a Japanese resident, then I wouldn’t hold my breath for it. It sure looks like the reunion gigs in Japan were one-offs and even though they did release a new song and video for the live album recorded at those gigs – Return To The East: Live (2016), a full-time reunion isn’t all that likely. Don Dokken is planning a new record with his version of Dokken and the other three guys, well they have formed this band – The End Machine. Together with singer Robert Mason (Warrant, ex- Lynch Mob, Cry Of Love, Big Cock), guitarist George Lynch (Lynch Mob, Sweet & Lynch, KXM, Souls Of We), bassist Jeff Pilson (Foreigner, War & Peace, Dio) and drummer Mick Brown (Ted Nugent, Lynch Mob) decided to go their own way and form a new project. As this is is 3/4 of the original band, this is the closest you’ll ever get to Dokken unless they have a big change of heart.
Now, I want to be excited as hell about this project but history shows that many of especially Lynch’s projects has been very up and down. Lynch Mob’s two first albums were both very good but the rest of them has been somewhere between useless to decent, his Lynch/Pilson and T&N (Tooth & Nail), also with Pilson, was ok but not more, KXM didn’t exactly rock my world which leaves Sweet & Lynch’s two records, both of them I found brilliant. Mason, on the other hand, is a great singer but the Warrant albums on which he sings aren’t exactly mind-blowing and neither Cry Of Love nor Big Cock were that much to write home about, in my book, so with this album, I had absolutely no clue what think of. What’s clear is that I had no expectations at all before throwing myself into this album. That said, I really liked the new Dokken song “It’s Just Another Day”, so maybe the ex- Dokkens might be on to something here.
The latest single “Leap Of Faith” opens the album with a somewhat alternative and grungy groove in mid tempo. It also hold a resemblance to both the second, Mason-fronted self-titled Lynch Mob album and also a slight nod towards the groove of “She’s Evil But She’s Mine”. The tune has a darker edge and isn’t exactly obvious single-material but it’s a damn good track that really bodes well for the rest of the album. “Hold Me Down” strikes with a classic Dokken-riff and holds a straight-forward rhythm. The tune lands somewhere between classic Hard Rock and Melodic Rock albeit with a good punch and a memorable refrain, all in the style of Lynch Mob meets Dokken. Good one. “No Game” is a full-on rocker with a dirty feel and a good, meaty AC/DC influenced riff but with all of George Lynch’s trademarks present. The verses are a bit more laid-back, still with a groove but the chorus is the winner here. This one wouldn’t have been out of place on Lynch Mob’s debut album – very good.
“Bulletproof” is a slow, dark and heavy tune that dances on the border of balladry but with a bluesy edge. It’s by no means sugary but more so powerful on a rough rhythm signed Brown and Pilson. A melodic and memorable refrain is the icing on the cake here – good one. “Ride It” goes back to the sound of Dokken’s Back For The Attack (1987) for starters but moves on into a chugging, faster Metal-influenced hard rocker with lots of punch and balls – a kick-ass rocker. It holds a stripped, acoustic guitar laden middle break before the tune kicks into action again. The song doesn’t floor me but it would work splendidly as a live opener. Second single “Burn The Truth” is a slow, ballad type of Rock song based on acoustic, swampy guitars and holds a blues-influenced outlook with a groove reminiscent of “All I Want” from Lynch Mob’s debut album Wicked Sensation (1991), but the dark, chunky sound is sniffing in the corner of Dokken’s underrated 1994 Dysfunctional album. Killer tune.
“Hard Road” is a beefy and big-grooved hard-rocker, very distinct and in-your-face on a steady rhythm. A slightly funked-up bass-line and a catchy enough refrain makes the tune interesting however it never passes “only good” quality wise. Leading single “Alive Today” is a rhythmic and direct rocker that sounds like it’s been lifted from Lynch Mob’s vaults. The somewhat industrial synthesizer brings on a different dynamic but the song’s chorus is the what brings the song home – very good. “Line Of Division” is a fat, punchy yet melodic hard rocker that could easily pass as a Dokken track had Don Dokken sung on it. This is a total late 80’s/early 90’s Arena Rock tune complete with a groove of that time, a striking and catchy refrain that sticks from go. A funky middle-break gives the tune a more varied outlook which also makes the tune more dynamic. I’d release this as a single if I were them. This is awesome!
It’s ballad-time when “Sleeping Voices” shows up for a visit. It’s dreamlike with an almost trippy flow but clocking in at seven minutes, the song has more to offer. There’s also a heavier edge to it, especially in the very memorable chorus making the softer verses a good contrast which makes this the most dynamic tune on the record. The tune goes from being somewhat stripped to an enormous, epic track, one of the finest moments on this record. This one really knocked me for six – brilliant! As a closer we get “Life Is Love Is Music”, a pop-laden rocker with a big 80’s Melodic Rock touch but with Lynch’s personal style shining through – Lynch Mob goes pop-rock, if you will. With a damn groovy rhythm and Hard Rock as its base, it also holds a hot-damned catchy refrain that stands with one foot in AOR. If this isn’t a single in the future, they’re not hearing what I hear. A brilliant ending.
So is this just Dokken without Don or what? Well, both yes and no. What you won’t find here is a “It’s Not Love”, “Alone Again” or “In My Dreams” and The End Machine are its own master that basically sounds like The End Machine. But there’s no denying that both Dokken and Lynch Mob shows up ever so often – but it would be weird if they didn’t. Much of that has to do with Lynch’s sound and style – whenever he plays, his past will always come to mind but that doesn’t mean that The End Machine is trying to be a new Dokken. As for Mason, this is without a doubt the best project he has lent his voice to which makes me hope that TEM will be the priority for these gentlemen from now on. The record sure is a grower that didn’t stick with me the first few listens and there might be a filler or two here so don’t give up after only on spin or two. Well done.
1. Leap Of Faith
2. Hold Me Down
3. No Game
5. Ride It
6. Burn The Truth
7. Hard Road
8. Alive Today
9. Line Of Division
10. Sleeping Voices
11. Life Is Love Is Music