Life on Death Road
Powerhouse from this iconic Norwegian traditionalist
Jorn Lande singing for Primal Fear? Well not really, but on paper it seems like it. Primal Fear's Mat Sinner (bass), Francesco Lovino (drums) and Alex Beyrodt (guitar) are the newest members to join the popular Norwegian's line-up. The group combine with newish keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (joined in 2016), who also produced the record. These changes still present the same Jorn issue we face seemingly every year--do we need yet another record from this guy? Since his 2000 solo debut he's released 13 albums. And that's just solo work! If you include the Allen-Lande projects, Masterplan and numerous guest appearances...we've become saturated with Jorn Lande so much that another album just one year after the last one seems overkill (in his defense the last record was all covers).
Lande professes this record's goal was not to create just another Jorn album, and after two years of working on it the effort has certainly paid off. While never excusing himself from the 80's hard rock formula (Hell, a track here is called "Man of the 80s"), the album is ultra-bright with those arena rock lights. It's a guitar and strings powerhouse, the core strength of Jorn's entire catalog. In that regard, nothing has really changed.
Opener "Life on Death Road" is a riveting opener with driving rhythm and Jorn's smooth vocal authority. New guitarist Beyrodt definitely makes his appearance known, soaring with tons of solos and fretwork for the second half of the seven-minute track. "Hammered to the Cross" is reminiscent of 'The Duke' in its overly heavy groove and mid-paced delivery. It's traditional Jorn but sounds a little more energetic thanks to the new strings and a little reverb on the vocals. "The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope)" is one of the more metallic entries, a faster Ozzy-type cut with a wallop back-end with the quick hands and bass. Lyrically, it's prophetic--life's a slippery slope just trying to stay ahead of the hangman's rope. The symphonic additions at the 3:20 mark makes some enhancements and backs a furious lead at the 3:40 tick. The same could be said for "Insoluble Maze (Dreams in the Blindness)" with its addictive hook and crescendo of leads. "The Optimist" slows it down for a minute with some recessed vocals over acoustic strings. It preaches the message of peace in much the same way "Out to Every Nation" did.
Throwaways? Not many--"Dreamwalker" and "Love is the Remedy" are too stereotypical and cheesy. Other than those, this is one of the better Jorn records of the 10's era (what do we call this decade?) and probably as good as 'The Duke' or 'Lonely are the Brave', two of my favorites of his discography.