“Jorn” Life on Death Road by Adam McCann
“Frontiers Records 2017”
Jorn deliver their best album in 9 years
Jørn Lande has it all, the long flowing blond hair set against that powerful Viking build and that voice, conjoined of a three way battle between one third hard rock, one third heavy metal and a final third of pure melody, when heard for the first time, it was like hearing the golden larynx of David Coverdale ooze against the raw melody of Ronnie James Dio. However, over the course of 25 years in the business, Lande has developed his own tonality that is distinctly Jørn Lande and it is no wonder that other than being a solo artist in his own right, Lande is one of the most sought after vocalists in metal being one half of Allen/Lande, until more recently the vocalist in Masterplan and multiple guest slots with Tobias Sammet’s metal opera; Avantasia. With a voice like Lande’s it is hardly surprising why Sammet rates him so highly.
It is difficult to see where Lande gets time to sleep, he seems to be one of the busiest men in the metal business, following the release of another Jorn cover album late last year; ‘Heavy Rock Radio’, 2017 has Jorn deliver their latest album; ‘Life on Death Road’. Jorn overturns members of the band that could rival that of Ritchie Blackmore or Yngwie Malmsteen with ‘Life on Death Road’ featuring no members from Jorn’s previous studio album; ‘Traveller’, released in 2013. ‘Life on Death Road’ features the line-up of hard rock band; Voodoo Circle with the vocalist replaced by Lande. This line-up is well bedded in with Mat Sinner, Francesco Jovino, Alex Beyrodt used to already playing together in Primal Fear whilst the sound of ‘Life on Death Road’ is augmented by keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio.
‘Life on Death Road’ doesn’t waste much time in getting started and kicks things off with the title track which sets the tone for the remainder of the album. ‘Life on Death Road’ is a beast of a track, clocking in at near seven and a half minutes, it features Lande spitting bile at the music industry, describing that being in band is the equivalent of walking on death road, being sucked in and eaten up by the machine and after 25 years in the music business, who can blame them? Lande appears jaded with the inability to escape the monotony of the road. However, ‘Life on Death Road’ suddenly changes pace halfway through with a bridge section that seems disjointed and out of place before crashing back in to the rather catchy chorus of the title track which at first doesn’t seem enjoyable, but it will suck you in and you’ll find yourself humming it. This sense of despair doesn’t stop with ‘Life on Death Road’, it continues throughout with the album and if you thought the title track contained bile, then the following track; ‘Hammered to the Cross (The Business)’ develops venom, teeth and claws as Lande speaks of being built up and knocked down by a business that thrives upon the fantasies of fame and youth, in possibly the most scathing record since ‘The Crimson Idol’ by W.A.S.P. back in 1992.
As an album, ‘Life on Death Road’ feels like a long listen, it checks in at over an hour with most songs being around 5 minutes long. But, let’s face it, Lande is not the greatest songwriter, his lyrics are mediocre at best and has spent 17 years of his solo career spreading himself far too thin, mixing solo albums, live albums and cover albums in amongst extra-curricular work with other bands. This unfortunately see’s Lande rehashing more than enough lyrical ideas, think wheels, fire, sun, blackbirds and rock music, you’ll find them all here. ‘I Walked Away’ even features a familiar hallelujah from Jorn’s earlier work with ‘Something Real’, whilst the chorus to ‘Dreamwalker’ pretty much allows you to sing ‘Hellraiser’ of Ozzy Osbourne/Motörhead fame alongside it. However, the accolade for the poorest song on the album goes to ‘Fire to the Sun’ which basically features poor rhyming couplets throughout the song that would make Marc Bolan blush.
Fortunately, ‘Life on Death Road’ is saved by some fantastic musicianship from the band and it is this that keeps the album alive with some utterly sublime playing during; ‘Man of the 80’s’, ‘Insoluble Maze (Dreams in the Blindness)’, ‘I Walked Away’ and ‘The Slippery Slope (Hangman’s Rope)’. ‘Insoluble Maze (Dreams in the Blindness) even sees Lande tear through the song as if possessed by the spirit of Ronnie James Dio with the entire of ‘Life on Death Road’ given the classic Jorn sounding production by Lande himself alongside Del Vecchio. Although, not all the credit can go to the band alone, ‘Love is the Remedy’ and ‘The Optimist’ feature guitar solos from Firewind leader Gus G with even ex-Dio guitarist; Craig Goldy adding a guitar solo during the title track.
Lande’s voice is as always, flawless throughout and once more shows that Lande has one of the best voices of the last 25 years. However, when you look at Lande’s work outside of his solo band, you know that Lande sounds nearly perfect when other people write for him – think Avantasia and that is what Jorn is missing, a lyricist and that would be the final piece of the jigsaw. But, ‘Life on Death Road’ is typical of Jorn, it is a mixed bag, there are some brilliant tracks here propped up by album filler, but as a Jorn album, ‘Life on Death Road’ is their best album since 2008’s ‘Lonely are the Brave’ and with a new line-up rejuvenating a band that was possibly stagnating, there is plenty of fuel in the tank for Jorn to continue on death road. 7/10
Adam McCann/ MHF Magazine