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THE END MACHINE Phase2

By George Mihalovich, Pittsburgh Contributor
Friday, April 16, 2021 @ 12:46 AM


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THE END MACHINE
Phase2

Frontiers Music




There has been ongoing interest from DOKKEN fans for a new album with the classic lineup since the poorly-received Shadowlife (1997) release. To date, the only music that fits this criterion is the bonus studio track "It's Just Another Day” from the band’s reunion on Return To The East Live (2018). It was a solid effort and boded well that such an undertaking could be worthwhile if realized.

In this vacuum, the hope has been that either DOKKEN (with Don at the helm) or one of the various projects featuring guitarist George Lynch and bassist Jeff Pilson — of which LYNCH/PILSON and T&N are the most prominent examples — would produce a full-length with the “classic DOKKEN sound” as the next best thing. There has been some good music from both camps, but the closest was Erase the Slate (1999), composed of three-fourths of the original DOKKEN lineup with Reb Beach on guitar. Since then, it has been hit-or-miss; there were a few moments on T&N’s Slave To The Empire (the title track and possibly “Access Denied”) but the rest of the work in this vein has generally come from DOKKEN with Don, longtime guitarist Jon Levin, Mick Brown (most of the time) and a somewhat revolving door of bassists. Individual tracks from Hell to Pay ("The Last Goodbye", "Don't Bring Me Down" and "Escape"); Greatest Hits ("Almost Over" and "Magic Man"); and Broken Bones (“Empire”) are the most salient examples. Lightning Strikes is probably the closest to the mark in overall feel and production (particularly "Point of No Return"and “Sunset Superstar”), but wasn’t quite sustained throughout the disc.

The reason for this introductory analysis and minor history lesson is because it relates to how THE END MACHINE’s Phase2 has been framed in industry promo and interviews with Jeff and George. The album began as the aforementioned project with Don Dokken at the helm, but couldn’t happen due to his contractual obligations to complete a record with his version of DOKKEN. Therefore, Lynch and Pilson picked up where they started on The End Machine (2018) — with these comparisons at the forefront.

Phase2 opens with “The Rising” (a layered instrumental, slightly mellower than “Without Warning” from Tooth and Nail), followed directly with the killer uptempo track "Blood and Money" (video on KNAC.COM HERE) This was a wise choice for the first video, as it’s the most “Dokkenesque” of all the songs, offering the obligatory flat five chord progression, a strong melody and George’s sharpest lead. Other standouts are “We Walk Alone”, “Prison Or Paradise” and the second video, “Crack the Sky” (video on KNAC.COM HERE) The initiated may recognize the intro riff of this song as a revamped version of a piece from George’s 1990 REH instructional video with footage of him soloing over tracks (with producer Max Norman at the board) created for and during the Wicked Sensation album.

Speaking of Mr. Lynch, his rhythm and lead sounds are a slightly dialed back version of his high-gain 80s tone, but it’s appropriate within the context of the disc. George remains a bonafide guitar hero and has retained his chops, but his playing has definitely evolved over the years. He often employs a more improvisational approach as compared to his razor-sharp, melodic solos of the past (“Tooth and Nail”, “Unchain the Night” and “Dream Warriors”). However, there is plenty of flash and melody on display (“Shine Your Light”, “Dark Divide” and “Plastic Heroes”) that is reminiscent of the Wicked Sensation and Sacred Groove vibe.

As always, Robert Mason’s performance is flawless, powerful and bluesy; the record would simply not be as successful without his exceptional contributions. The retired Mick Brown declined to participate, so they got the next best thing — his brother Steve Brown — to take the drum throne. He does a fine job, and it was a great opportunity for him to participate at this level of visibility. Finally, Jeff Pilson provides his usual outstanding songwriting, bass, keyboards, background vocals and production chops. The sound is full and punchy, with all of the instruments sitting nicely in the mix.

It’s best to accept an artistic endeavor for what it is rather than what we would like it to be. THE END MACHINE’s Phase2 is definitely not the second-coming of DOKKEN; candidly, it is more of an updated take on the LYNCH MOB legacy — well-written and performed, bluesy, 80s-tinged hard rock that ups the energy of the debut.

4.1 Out Of 5.0


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