Voodoo Circle has come full circle and returned to their classic lineup for their latest release. Back together, they have unleashed an album of riff-based, big sounding melodic metal. The album is an amalgamation of the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Saxon and Whitesnake with blues elements, a touch of prog, and good-time hard rock and roll. It’s right up my alley.
This Band is Tight
Alex Beyrodt and bass player Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner) are clearly the heart of this band. Early in the writing sessions for Locked & Loaded they made the call to bring David Readman (Pink Cream 69) and Markus Kullman (Glenn Hughes) onboard. That was a great call and the results speak for themselves.
Beyrodt‘s guitar work is phenomenal as he handles a wide variety of styles. He ranges from shredding guitar solos like on “Wasting Time” to a perfect blues sound on “This Song is for You“. Somebody at this web site claims that they don’t like ballads. I think he might like this one.
The vocals are smooth and powerful, the kind that can grab a listener from the back of the biggest arena. David Readman cannot avoid the comparisons to David Coverdale, but there are far worse voices to be compared to. While similar, it isn’t a carbon copy and he has his own unique approach. This is how a singer sounds when he appears to be completely comfortable with his range and control. He really is a remarkable singer.
Kullman stands out as well, especially on tracks like “Wasting Time” and “Locked & Loaded“. Together with Mat Sinner on bass, they form a beyond competent low end. Listen to how well they manage a song like “Devil with an Angel Smile“, which has a deep, groovy sound. And the way Kullman complements Beyrodt‘s soloing on this one is tremendous.
The First 6 Songs
As much as I love this album as a whole, if I was playing the record I’d probably be playing the first side at about twice the rate. The first six songs on this album are a kick in the ass.
“Flesh & Bone” kicks off the album with an energetic rocker. My first and most immediate impression was that this song was as if Saxon and Whitesnake came together. Beyrodt smokes and gives you a preview of the level of guitar playing that you’re in for.
“Wasting Time” just might be my favourite song on the album. The killer intro has this epic feel to it, with bells and keys and clanging… almost proggy. The drums kick in followed by Readman‘s powerful vocals. You know that big 80s inspired hooks are coming. The chorus is great and I can’t stop singing it. All signs that point to a good song. Throw in a ridiculous guitar solo with some thunderous drumming and you can’t go wrong.
With a title like “Magic Woman Chile” I was expecting something older sounding, more Hendrix. Granted it’s the closest to a Led Zeppelin vibe on the album, but this song does not sound old. It’s probably because the trippy Zeppelin beginning gives way to another melodic rocker with an awesome chorus, great riffs and solo, and—once again—killer drumming.
“Locked & Loaded” is the second single off the album and it’s a funky, up-tempo, and danceable song. Danceable is not what I’m usually looking for in a metal song, but after seeing the video I wasn’t the only one with this impression. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? Eventually, you have to replace “Pour Some Sugar on Me” at the strip clubs with something newer. Might I suggest “Locked & Loaded“?
Songs five and six, “Devil With an Angel Smile” and “Straight For The Heart” keep the heart rate pumping. “Devil With an Angel Smile” is the first single. I especially enjoy Sinner‘s deep bass tones on this one. “Straight For The Heart” is aptly named as that’s exactly what the opening riff does. This one feels like a heavier Whitesnake song.
I assume the rest of the tracks are side two at least, I’m all digital these days. The blues permeates much of the second half of songs, either as an element of the song or the entire piece. That influence makes all of the songs worth your while.
“Devil’s Cross” seriously sounds like they brought in the great John Carpenter to guest on the synths, giving the song an appropriately creepy vibe. It’s the longest song on the album, which provides Beyrodt plenty of room to work.
Voodoo Circle takes on a straight-up blues song with “This Song Is For You“. The result is a tight sounding number that slows things down, but not in your more typical ballad fashion. This is how I like my slower tempo songs—dripping with the blues. Beyrodt shows he can do far more than the shredding he demonstrated in other songs with an epic and highly emotional blues solo. Readman gives an earnest, emotional performance—just listen to him at about 3:45! And the steady keyboards throughout this song add another level.
Is this a really good retro, throwback album or is it just a really good hard rock album? I have to go with the latter. I can see myself rocking out to this months from now. And the influences are so varied that I can’t consider it looking back. It feels more of a result of the trajectory of rock music. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to “Trouble In The Moonlight” which I didn’t even discuss earlier and it’s got everything you’d want in a hard rock song.
To me, this album has all of the elements I’m looking for in an album to play over and over again, loudly. Elements like guitar virtuosity, memorable choruses, powerful and layered vocals, and thunderous drumming. Add in big hooks, blues influences, and well-placed keyboards and I am sold.
Also, find more of my CGCM reviews here: Dave Wilks