A Dokken reunion has probably not been closer than it is today as all members seem to be on speaking terms. In fact, they did a reunion and recorded a new song and video back in 2018 called ”Just Another Day” after playing a few gigs in Japan back in 2016. But as for now Don Dokken is still busy with his own version of the band, a version guitarist George Lynch guested on stage recently. While the original Dokken still isn’t a thing, the rest of the band – Lynch, bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer Mick Brown – started a new band with singer Robert Mason (ex- Lynch Mob, Warrant, Cry Of Love) called The End Machine who released a good enough debut album back in 2019, an album that did sport a sound of their own also filled with references to both Dokken and Lynch Mob.
For the second effort there has been a change in the line-up, one that will make a Dokken reunion very difficult, come to think of it. Drummer Mick Brown has decided to retire which led to George, Jeff and Robert recruiting Mick’s brother Steve, who by the way is not the guitar playing Steve Brown of Trixter and Tokyo Motor Fist fame. Personally, I didn’t even know that Mick had a drumming brother which means that I’m clueless of his whereabouts prior to joining The End Machine. I also don’t know how he sounds, but I guess the guys wouldn’t pick a drummer that strays too far from from their original drummer. I guess I’m about to find that out.
The album opens with the intro ”The Rising”, an intro that really doesn’t say much more than that Lynch still can blast his axe like time had stood still and it paves way to lead us into the first real song and the album’s leading single ”Blood And Money”. George Lynch’s personal and distinct riffage kicks the track off and this crunchy, straight forward rocker takes us down a path that screams of both classic Dokken and Lynch Mob, upbeat on a rhythmic stomp. It’s a really strong opener with a direct and in-your-face main melody and while the chorus isn’t exactly hit laden, it still does its job as something that grabs a hold by first listen. I dig this.
”We Walk Alone” is a mid-paced Hard Rock groover with a dirty riff and a rowdy bluesy feel courtesy of Lynch’s muscular guitar-chugging and a thunderous rhythm section. I get a 90’s Dokken vibe from it but I also hear some modern day Whitesnake. The slower, somewhat held-back verses makes for a dynamic contrast to the fatter and edgy chorus, a chorus that’s again not that hit-friendly but still is memorable. Very good. Latest single ”Dark Divide” is a slightly pop-laden yet straight forward Hard Rock belter with hooks enough to sell and a refrain that etches its way to the brain without ever going mawkish on us with a whole bunch of striking harmonies. Good one.
The second single ”Crack The Sky” is a bit darker and carried by a pumping, pulsating rhythm and some raw and gritty guitar parts from Lynch that sends a nod towards later day Lynch Mob but also brings a song like ”Tooth And Nail” to mind, creating a big, raunchy live-feel throughout the song. It’s punchy, upbeat and direct with an effective chorus that will have crowds chanting the title whenever Covid-19 lets us. I dig. ”Prison Or Paradise” kicks off with groovy bass-line, classic Dokken style, a groove that becomes even more distinct when the tune gets going for real. Some smoother vocal-harmonies contrasts fine to fat, beefy rhythms but never takes the edge away and another strong refrain lifts the song just another notch. Another good rocker indeed.
”Plastic Heroes” is a beefy riff-monster that on one hand strikes hard with classic Dokken riffage that takes us back to the days of Back For The Attack (1987) but on the other hand throws in the darker grit of their very underrated 1995 reunion album Dysfunctional. It’s heavy yet melodically pop-oriented, edgy and raw yet smooth and brings on another really contagious refrain, classic Dokken style. A solid track and a clear winner. ”Scars” is a bluesy slow-burner with a chunky rhythm that borders to balladry albeit in a crunchy way. Combined with some slightly Hendrix influenced guitar parts, the somewhat dreamy vibe creates a down-to-earth touch and the infectious groove contrasts nicely with the memorable melodies and chorus. Very good.
Way more hard-rocking and kicking is the uptempo Hard Rock stomper ”Shine Your Light” with its galloping rhythms, chugging and gritty guitars and beefy, staccato grooves. It’s a heavy tune that throws nods towards 80’s Metal – Judas Priest in particular – where heads are banging, fists are being thrown to the sky and heaviness is shoulder to shoulder with striking melodies which in turn brings on some catchiness to the table as well. Good. With a bit of 70’s sleaze combined with early 90’s Lynch Mob touches, ”Devil’s Playground” is not a far cry from the sounds of the Lynch/Pilson album Wicked Underground (2003). It’s rough and earthy with a bit of a bluesy feel and even though the melodies holds some memorability, the chorus never really lifts the song. It’s ok, though.
With a title that screams Metal, ”Born Of Fire” is actually more of a European sounding Melodic Rock number with some menacing Lynch-riffing on a solid, stone-hard rhythm that holds a flowing beat and a big, fat monster chorus that could have been an outtake from Lynch Mob’s 1990 Wicked Sensation album. It’s a good song that is saved by the refrain as the verses are a bit forgettable. Closing track ”Destiny” is an uptempo melodic Hard Rock tune that holds as much classic Dokken as late 80’s Sunset Strip pop-metal. The funky opening gives the track some more character and the stompy rhythms sets groove to the tune. The distinct chorus is up there with both Dokken and Lynch Mob’s best. Great track.
First of all, if I didn’t know this was Mick Brown’s brother playing I would have thought this was actually Mick playing so no real changes in that department. Style-wise this is a natural follow-up to the debut and even though it’s easy to spot references to the guys’ old bands, I feel that this album doesn’t rest as much on the guys’ past and sports more of what The End Machine is. Quality wise, this is definitely a step up from the debut, not that the debut was bad. I know I’ve been going on about a Dokken reunion but in all honesty, the way Don Dokken sounds on recent live-clips, maybe it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie and live on good memories because Mason is superior to Don vocally today. If I were Lynch and Pilson, I’d stick to making The End Machine their main focus.