Sunday, June 4, 2017

Jorn - Life On Death Road (2017)

The band Jorn has been on sort of a mini hiatus these last couple of years, but that does not mean that the main man Jørn Lande has been sitting on his couch and chugging beer after beer. He has been releasing two albums during this time, one in a side project together with guitarist (and fellow Jorn member) Trond Holter called "Dracula - Swing of Death", and another one together with Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob singer Russell Allen, in their project Allen/Lande, called "The Great Divide". And besides some obvious touring, he has also lended his vocals to Avantasia, Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall, Oceans of Time, and the fictional League of Legends band Pentakill. Oh, and last year he did release a cover album called "Heavy Rock Radio", classic Jørn stuff really.

The Norwegian power house is now back though to present his 9th studio record (not counting cover albums and 3(!) compilation records), and it seems like his nostalgia nerves were not fully satisfied on "Heavy Rock Radio", because "Life On Death Road" feels more like classic 80's rock than Jorn has ever sounded before (even have a track that is named "Man of The 80's"). It is still Jorn to the core though, so fans will recognize everything in this record, but just by looking at his trusty crow mascot, who looks like a discount Tom Cruise in this cover art, you know that you are in for a trip down nostalgia lane.

As always, it is Jørn himself that lifts the music to a whole new level. His voice is one of the strongest in the business, capable of handling all of the various obstacles that a normal immortal vocal cords might not withstand. Just hearing that manly, raspy vocal take on those high notes brings a great chill down my spine, leaving me speechless. The other main guy Trond Holter gets some moments to shine as well, with really solid guitar playing all around, and some kick ass solos here and there. These two got a fantastic chemistry, and they can truly create some great stuff.

Here is the thing though, Jorn albums have a tendency to be right at the "good, but not great" level, having excellent musicians that makes music that seem to feel nice in the moment, but far from memorable after some time. Could be that the nostalgia does not bite too much on me for being born in the 90's, but I really do not care, when a song is good, it is good, no matter if it tries to emulate a time that is long lost or not. The point is, Jorn rarely makes music that can stand up against today's competition.

There is still some great songs to be found here though. The title track feels like it would fit in the movie "Top Gun" nicely, being sort of a little brother to the Kenny Loggins classic "Danger Zone", but the solo makes sure that it stands out on its own without Maverick looking over its shoulder. "Love Is The Remedy" is also a nice one, a good single with a strong chorus sung with an even stronger voice. We also got a nice ballad in "Dreamwalker", where Trond turns on the early Dream Theater filter on his guitar, and lets it fly towards the heavens. Together with other worth while songs such as "The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope)" and "Devil You Can Drive", there is surely enough goodness for all to go around. Still not sure if any of these songs will stay with me in the future, but they have a shot at least.

Personally, I could be without the ultra cheesy nostalgia known as "Man of The 80's", but other than that, I would say that "Life On Death Road" is a really solid effort from Jorn, an album that holds up from first second to last with its excellent quality and familiar sound. Sure, it is not any "top of the year" material or anything, but it has a mission, and completes it with great marks. Fans of Jorn will absolutely love this record, and so will those who wants their heavy metal to be simple and effective, with great musicianship behind it. So ride on Jorn, ride down that road made of rock, and do it with pride and joy for all the fans around the world.

Songs worthy of recognition: Life On Death Road, Dreamwalker, The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope)

Rating: 7,5/10 Blackbirds

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