Music, My Stories

The Record Vault: Dokken – Shadowlife

I was excited when I purchased this. A new Dokken album in 1997 with all the original members still on board. Who would have thought they survived the “Dysfunctional” album and tour?

“Dysfunctional” was an excellent return a few years before, and this album would put Dokken back onto the path of greatness. Just by looking at the song titles, my interest skyrocketed.

But.

I looked at the label logo and it wasn’t Columbia. John Kalodner had dropped the band. Instead, it was CMC.

CMC was a label that was signing hard rock and metal bands dropped from major labels. And they then tried to make these bands not sound like themselves by making em work with modern hip producers.

I pressed play.

I listened. I skipped tracks.

I got to the end.

I went and made a coffee.

I came back to the stereo.

I pressed play.

I listened more attentively.

I looked at the CD booklet, the lyrics, the production notes, the thank you.

I still skipped tracks.

I made another coffee.

I pressed play.

I tried to focus on what I would like. Like the guitar riffs.

“Puppet On A String”

The verse riff from Lynch is very Tool/Alice In Chains like with little hard rock fills here and there and I like it. But lyrically and vocally it’s uninspired.

“Cracks In The Ground”

It sounds like it could have come from the “Dysfunctional” album. It’s got that psychedelic Beatles like feel which they used in “The Maze”.

“Sky Beneath My Feet”

Listen to the Led Zep “Kashmir” influenced riffs in the verses. Or a song from The Cult’s “Sonic Temple” comes to mind. Regardless there are some cool musical moments here.

“Until I Know”

Feedback noise, a drum and bass groove and then lush acoustic strummed guitars come in.

Musically, the song is good, but like the previous songs, they all suffer from forgettable vocal melodies. Dio was also suffering the same pain with his “Angry Machines” album and many other acts during this time didn’t know what kind of melodies to write.

I always liked it when artists stuck to the hard rock vocal melodies and intertwine them with the more current sounding music.

Wild Mick doing his bit for the Cancer Council.

“Hello”

This one is a good example of sticking with hard rock vocal melodies and intertwining them with the industrial sounding music. But then, they put a loudspeaker effect on Don’s voice and it all goes to hell.

They should have kept him in clean tone.

“Convenience Store Messiah”

A forgettable acoustic track.

“I Feel”

It sounds like a D grade Collective Soul cut, musically.

“Here I Stand”

The intro riff is classic Dokken and lead vocals are performed by Jeff Pilson who was already involved on a confusing album with Dio on “Angry Machines”.

“Hard To Believe”

It’s a ballad and Lynch tries really hard to not play anything clichéd. His chord selections and voicings are so far removed from his well-known power chord to devils tritone.

It really is hard to believe that this is Dokken.

“Sweet Life”

It’s got a blues rock swinging groove.

Make sure you check out the riff after the Chorus.

Then the middle section feels like a Wild West stand-off is taking place musically before it moves back to the blues rock swinging groove.

And the song ends just after 4 minutes with no guitar solo.

From the double CD One Live Night and Shadowlife

“Bitter Regret”

The acoustic riff is worthy of attention.

“I Don’t Mind”

I still skip it.

Also from the double CD

“Until I Know (Slight Return)”

It’s an instrumental blues jam and I like it. But its short and maybe it should have stayed with the original track instead of separating the two parts.

Overall there wasn’t enough quality here, nor was there a killer song to sell it and as a fan of George Lynch, it’s a shame that this is his last full studio album with the band.

Throughout the album, I was saying, “are these the same members that delivered songs like “Kiss Of Death”, “Prisoner”, “Too High To Fly”, “In My Dreams”, “Lightning Strikes Again” and etc.

It is Dokken’s worst album by far, but then again, experimental albums rarely set the world on fire. Queen seemed to have a knack at being successful with it, because they always had a song on the album which was catchy and would become a hit or a fan favourite.

And some quotes from the members.

“Well, the change in sound was due to the fact that the world had changed so much and it was us trying to adapt.

We had been listening to a lot of TOOL records at that point. Plus the producer, Kelly Gray, was very much from the whole Seattle world — not into the melodic rock world, really.

So how I look back on that record is that there were some nice moments, but overall, just not an inspired piece of work.”
Jeff Pilson

“I was very disappointed with “Shadowlife”. When we went into “Shadowlife”, George was into Monster Magnet, Tool and stuff like that. I listened to the songs he had written and I’m like, “George, we’re not Tool! We’re not detuned! We’re not Monster Magnet, I just don’t get it!”

I hated that album so much that I didn’t allow them to put my Dokken logo on that record. That’s the only Dokken record where there’s not a Dokken logo on it. It’s just has a typical font.

To put it into perspective, ‘Dysfunctional’ sold 450,000 copies after it’s cycle, when we released ‘Shadowlife’ it sold 50,000 copies.”
Don Dokken

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12 thoughts on “The Record Vault: Dokken – Shadowlife

  1. Holen says:

    Total shit show produced by former Queensrÿche stringsmith Oven Mitts, on an album Lynch allegedly said he tried to sabotage on purpose. What could go wrong?

  2. Reading the Dokken book on this album and it was a total mess. This was not the best effort put out by the band at all. And I think Holen is right about Lynch. He was not in to this album at all.

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