REVIEW: Dokken – Shadowlife (1997 Japanese import)

Yesterday we talked about an album that Kelly Gray (Tateryche) wrecked produced.  Today, we’re looking at another.  Batten down the hatches.


DOKKEN – Shadowlife (1997 Victor Japanese import)

I got this Japanese import CD from one of our franchisees.  Even though we technically were not “allowed” to buy CDs from one of our franchises, we all did it, even the head office people who enforced the rules.  In this case the franchisee himself was glad to have a guaranteed sale, rather than sit on an expensive Dokken flop for several months in inventory.  It even came with the original obi strip, stickers, and everything else was mint.  The scarcity of the complete package was reason alone to buy it.

The infamous Shadowlife will probably go down in history as the worst Dokken album. It’s certainly the most dysfunctional (even though that was the title of the previous, much better album). The dysfunction largely came down guitarist George Lynch, who according to sources at the time, purposely sabotaged the album.  He did this to put an end to Dokken, go the claims. Don himself was very unhappy with it, as quotes from the era will reveal (look them up). He also referred to a lead vocal shot (“Here I Stand”) by bassist Jeff Pilson as too “bar band-y”, meaning the lead singer of a pro band is the lead singer, and the bassist is the bassist. Clearly, ego was an issue as well.

Kelly Gray

Kelly Gray

Not to escape without blame is producer Kelly Gray, who had just ruined the career of Sven Gali a couple years prior.  Gray produces, engineers, mixes, and even co-wrote a couple tracks.  According to Don, Mr. Gray would not let the band sing their trademark harmonies, opting for grittier more modern sounds.  Gray’s trademark distortion on the lead vocals is omnipresent.

There are very few standout tracks here, although many have good parts and interesting bits. It is difficult to remember any songs distinctly even after a few listens. The grungy “Puppet On A String” is OK, due to a blazing George Lynch guitar solo (although buried in the mix).  It has a heavy groove, but the distorted lead vocal wrecks it for me.  “Cracks in the Ground” is better, containing a shadow of the Dokken harmonies, but mired in boring melodies and production.  “I Feel” sounds like Dokken, at least.  Not really great Dokken, but Dokken nevertheless.

The Japanese, always so lucky, got two bonus tracks:  “How Many Lives” and “Deep Waters”.  Neither stand out any more than the album tracks.  Not really a bonus this time, sorry Japan.  If anything, these songs detract from the album, by making it a longer, more agonizing experience.

In general the album is too slow, too tunelessly dull, too dreary.  It’s disjointed and it’s uninspired.  Too rainy, like a dark Seattle mist.  Mick Brown does rock, at least.  There are a few heavy songs, such as “Hello”, but I think my favourite song would be the moody acoustic ballad “Convenience Store Messiah”.  It’s the only song that sounds like a fully composed, complete arrangement.


1/5 stars

Afterword:  I played around the idea of just writing a two word review a-la Spinal Tap (“Shit Sandwich”).  I was going to call it “Shadow Turd”.  In the end, my OCD level attention to detail refused to allow it, and the wordy essay on the art of turd-making you just read was posted instead.  I’m sorry.  (Blame Kelly Gray for that, too.)



  1. This one I bought and forget real fast. I know I slam Sixx all the time for being a trend follower but man look at how Dokkens dressed here ,all of them …geez us that Seatle sound sure made fools of many who were no where near Seatle!
    And Im a sucker as well for buying this esp after the hope of the Dysfunctional record a few yrs before.
    Don and the boys fooled me here….kinda lost my steam on them after this….


        1. I’m really wanting to do some Killer Dwarfs reviews now!

          But don’t worry about this streak of stinkers. I’ll send us into the weekend in style. I promise tomorrow will NOT be a stinker in any way.


  2. I remember the stream of releases on CMC International from 80s hard rock/heavy metal/hair bands that came out around the time of “Shadowlife”. Warrant, Slaughter, Dokken, Skynyrd, BOC. CMC International was the label for the label-less, a home for the rockin’ cast-offs and exiles of The Grunge Revolution (TM). I bought several of these releases, including “Shadowlife”, just to see how these acts would wrestle with their commercial mortality. Some I got some enjoyment from. Some, like “Shadowlife”, were predictably bad. These all remain in my collection today, and a CD booklet featuring a pic of “Wild” Mick Brown puffing a cigarette is worth saving. Not exactly sure if Don Dokken’s hair is real or a muskrat pelt these days, but it couldn’t look any worse than the serious/introspective/literate rocker short cut seen above.


  3. Kelly Gray… He’s back in Tateryche now, right. That guy is such a twat. Still I can’t help but to wonder how come no one in the band just kicked him the f**k out. I heard the Lynch rumors too. Don Dokken called him the worst band wagon jumper ever and I kinda can relate to that. He did release a nu-metal influenced crap album with Lynch Mob when nu-metal was hip. Today, Lynch has grown his hair out and plays melodic hard rock again…
    I agree that Dysfunctional was a killer. In my oinion, one of Dokken’s best albums. This album, however sux big time.


    1. Jon I have to confess I was looking forward to your comments on this one :)

      It does suck big time. And how they went from Dysfunction to THIS in such a short time, it blows my mind. Maybe Dysfunctional was more of a “Don” album; my understanding is that the album was basically done when George came on board.

      I’m sure Lynch has done great stuff since…I bought one of his albums from the 2000’s and it sucked…I can’t even remember the title. I hope I sold it.


  4. In a world of awesome rawk records, some of them gotta be turds. This is one, apparently! Amnd poor Mr. Gray. He gets blamed for everything. Even your OCD-like tendencies. He just can’t win. ;)


  5. Warrant is another band that jumped on the grunge band wagon. But they actually managed to get something worth while out of it. Their album Ultraphobic has to be one of their finest efforts. It was obviuously influenced by Alice In Chains but at the same time, Jani Lane kept the Warrant sounding melodies. That can’t be said of the follow up Belly To Belly. What a load of crap – a full blown grunge album, not that much different to the album reviewed here. Gotta check if Kelly Gray produced that one as well…


    1. Just be glad they never made Belly To Belly Vol 2.

      The Wikipedia tells us that this was self produced by the band. This is where they could have used a producer like Beau Hill again. Beau produced Ultraphobic which helps explain why it turned out OK.


      1. Correct. That’s what my CD says as well. And the front cover also says Warrant 96… Duh! I bought this because I loved Ultraphobic and I thought BTB would as great. It wasn’t even close.


        1. Warrant ’96. I hate when bands did stuff like that. Didn’t they realize how stupid it would look years from now? Not that it matters since nobody bought BTB.


    1. P.S. If you didn’t know, Kelly Gray’s nickname among the Queensrÿche faithful is “Oven Mitts”, because it apparently sounds like he’s playing guitar whilst wearing oven mitts.

      All jokes aside, I really dig Q2K.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I paused it to read the quote then when I got to the part where you were shitting on Kelly Gray I knew it was you. Plus your writing style waa familiar.

        Liked by 1 person

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