Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Album Review: Jorn - Heavy Rock Radio
There are two things I consider the absolute truth about Jorn: 1) He is without question one of the greatest singers to ever grace hard rock and heavy metal. 2) He is almost always better when he is not involved in the creative process. Over the course of his career, Jorn has been a part of countless bands and projects, lending his massive voice to some great music, and some not so great music. Most of that latter category would encompass his solo career, which has been a steady stream of mediocre releases. Jorn has not been a gifted songwriter, and when given the chance to show that over the course on an album, it becomes very clear. But last year, something funny happened. He and his band's guitarist released the "Dracula: Swing Of Death" album, that was without a doubt the best album Jorn has ever had a creative stake in. It was so extraordinary, that I'm anxious to see if it was a fluke, or if Jorn has finally found his creative spark.
Until then, we get this album, a collection of covers that have been re-arranged to fit the Jorn mold. I'm not usually a fan of cover albums, but when the singer is as exceptional as Jorn, I'm certainly willing to give them some leeway.
The track selections for this album is mixed, with the expected Deep Purple and Ronnie James Dio songs anchoring the back half. We've heard Jorn cover Dio enough times before that there really isn't any novelty in it, but it's always nice to hear the one man in metal who can match Dio's delivery let loose. And the fact that he picks "Die Young" instead of "Heaven & Hell" from that album, is something I certainly appreciate. It's one of the forgotten gems off the greatest metal album ever made, and Jorn is one of very few people in the world who can do it justice.
What's much more interesting are the unexpected songs that Jorn picks. We get a couple of pop songs that are revved up with big guitar riffs in "I Know There's Something Going On" and "Running Up That Hill", which work beautifully as heavy yet catchy numbers that allow Jorn to show that he's more than menacing vocal power. I was pleasantly surprised to see "Live To Win" make the cut, a song from the forgotten second Paul Stanley solo album. That's one that I've always liked, and to not only see someone else who knows it exists, but give a heavier take to what is absolutely a pop song in disguise, was amazing.
There is one moment on this album that is weirder than any other. Jorn covers "Hotel California". Yes, you read that right.
The weirdest thing isn't even that he covers it, but that it works so well as a heavy rock song. Hearing it in a slightly different context allows it to be considered again on its own merits, without the decades of being played to death creeping in. That said, there's a reason songs like this one have become classics. It's a great song, and Jorn's take ups the ante on the sinister undercurrent that has always been present in the lyrics. If it really is a song about 'checking out', it sounds more appropriate coming from Jorn than it ever did coming from Don Henley.
Look, every covers album is a mixed bag, since there's always going to be songs you wish weren't on the record, and other you wish were instead. I would say that about this album as well. But, for being a covers album, which is something I naturally am loathe to embrace, "Heavy Rock Radio" is good. You get what you would expect; Jorn singing some songs and turning them into Jorn songs. It's hard to complain about getting to hear him do his thing. I'm not complaining about this one.