Dokken - Hell To Pay
Melodic Hard Rock
12 songs (48'17)
Release year: 2004
Dokken, Sanctuary
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
After the world tour last year with Whitesnake and Scorpions in which Dokken played only their classic 80's material, Don Dokken stated that the band was really interested and fired up at the prospect of going into the studio to create more of a "classic" Dokken album as opposed to the ones that were released following the band's last big seller, 1988's Back For The Attack. Albums from the 90's such as Dysfunctional and Shadowlife all featured the classic line-up of Don Dokken, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown but strayed a little too much into more of a modern sound and too distant from what they'd done before. The albums were still solid but the spark and melodic hooks were replaced with a slower, heavier and more melancholic sound. After the second departure of George Lynch in the late 90's, Dokken continued with Erase the Slate and Long Way Home; both being attempts to get back to the classic Dokken sound. Both efforts had their moments but the magic still wasn't quite there. With the promise of this new album, Hell To Pay being a more deliberate attempt at getting back to the classic Dokken sound, I was eager to hear this one.

The album opens with a slower and heavy track entitled The Last Goodbye which also features some Eastern flavorings via sitar guitar effects. The melodic chorus is pure Dokken in every sense and the droning octave chord voicings gives the track a Queensryche edge. It’s a solid mix of older Dokken with a slight modern edge. Don't Bring Me Down takes the listener back to the Tooth And Nail era with it's blistering pace and speed. The verses and choruses are great as are the flashy ripping lead guitar by Jon Levin. Haunted and Better Off Before, with their groovy heavy riffing and solid melodic choruses are also solid tracks. The classic Dokken sound is heard again with the track Can You See. With it's mid tempo style and heavy yet melodic edge, it is another example of the style that made this band stand out above others in the 80's. Escape and I Surrender offer a melodic mix of quieter and heavy sections whereas Still I'm Sad has a more atmospheric Queensryche style and a bluesy/grungy edge to it. Prozac Nation sees the band straying a bit with a song that uses a cool guitar riff over very ethereal and weird sounding vocals. This one deals with substance abuse that exists in modern day society and deals with everything from alcohol, prescription drugs and recreational drug use. A strange sort of track that stands out amongst the others. Don Dokken once again shows his flair for ballad writing with the track Care For You. A lighter acoustic number, it's very much in the vein of other classic ballads from the 80's and is done very well. This track is also featured in an unplugged mix as a bonus track. Don's love of the Beatles shows through with Letter To Home. The intro and melody for the verses is very much like the Beatles Across The Universe but with a heavier edge to the chorus section.

There really aren't any bad songs on this album however a couple of tracks are a little inferior in quality to the rest. Don Dokken's voice sounds as solid as it did in their heyday and should put to rest any who doubted his vocal capabilities in this day and age. Although an overall lighter edge to it's sound, this album really points out Don Dokken's strengths both as a singer and songwriter. The strength really is in the melodic hooks and melodic choruses that grace many tracks on this album. It's not really a return to the classic Dokken sound but rather a return to the quality songwriting that was such a staple of their 80's material. George Lynch and Jeff Pilson released Wicked Underground last year that also included some great material and a sense of the classic Dokken sound. It seems that the only way a true return to from could really occur is if an attempt was made with George Lynch and Jeff Pilson back in the band. In light of the fact that George and Don can get along in the same band anymore, that's not likely to happen and in the meantime, the Dokken of the 80's is just a memory that will live on through albums like Tooth And Nail, Breaking The Chains, Under Lock And Key and Back For The Attack. The Dokken of today really is more like a Don Dokken solo project and although shows glimpses of past glories once in a while, it will always be in the shadow of the of the classic 80's era.

Killing Songs :
The Last Goodbye, Don't Bring Me Down, Haunted and Can You See
Marty quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Dokken that we have reviewed:
Dokken - Lightning Strikes Again reviewed by Jeff and quoted 84 / 100
Dokken - Unchain The Night (DVD) reviewed by Jeff and quoted No Quote
Dokken - From Conception: Live 1981 reviewed by Jeff and quoted No Quote
Dokken - LIVE reviewed by Chris and quoted no quote
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