“Broken Bones” is Dokken’s 11th album and it brings on some fully-charged hard rocking metal with enough power to jump-start your heart. The current incarnation of the band consist of Don Dokken on vocals (of course), long-time drummer “Wild” Mick Brown, and newer additions Jon Levin on guitar and Sean McNabb on bass. Together, they certainly sound a lot like 1980s-era Dokken. Jon Levin might not be as legendary as former guitarist George Lynch, but his riffs are sharp enough to shred most doubts. (Levin also co-wrote most of “Broken Bones” with Don Dokken.) And there is no doubt at all that Don Dokken’s voice is in amazing shape.
The only thing Don Dokken might have lost with age and reported vocal chord surgery, is his old rock’n’roll wail. His voice is a bit more restrained these days, and there are times on this album when I kind of wished he’d push it just a bit more. Still, his voice has that strong, pure tone that unfortunately almost seems to have gone out of fashion for rock singers.
If Don Dokken has lost some vocal range with age, he has gained some lyrical range that maybe wasn’t always evident before. DD himself hinted at this in an interview: “When I sing it sounds like Dokken but as time passes I see the world differently so obviously it affects my lyrics.” As it turns out, that’s a good thing.
“Broken Bones” hits the ground running with “Empire”, a track with frenzied speed, crazy-good riffs, bass and drums thundering behind it all, and that soaring voice above, surveying the destruction: “nothing left but ashes on the ground, what will you rule in the end, a burning empire”.
The alternating contrast and fusion between the bone-crushing weight and high-speed energy of the music, and that clear clean voice is a big part of what makes this track, as well as most of the album, work. I also love that the tracks are often like duets, with DD’s voice and the guitar as the two voices.
“Broken Bones”, the album’s title track, brings a great layered melody and emotional vocals from DD. Here, as throughout the album, there’s tenderness beneath the hard rock: “these broken bones within my soul remain”.
“Best of me” is one of my favorite tracks on the album: I love the intro and that guitar and bass just slay me. “Blind” is another great tune with a heavy, swinging pulse to it and a nice chorus as well.
The album sags a little in the mid-section, but not too badly, and by the end, it’s back in full force with “Fade away”, a track that is alive with heavy, writhing, snaky riffs. Closing track “Tonight” brings some real emotion and an almost desolate sadness to the vocals and lyrics, while also adding some scorching guitar work, making it my favorite track on “Broken Bones”.
To me, “Broken Bones” is an album that gets better with every listen. I especially love that underneath the well-crafted heavy metal there’s an introspective undertow to the lyrics, exploring themes like lost love, broken relationships, and mortality. A hard rocking album with a mournful soul: got to love that.
(This review was originally published at Hard Rock Nights.)