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.
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.
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.)