Overlooked debut shows great promise

Music reviews

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Breaking the Chains, Dokken, Carrere 1981, Elektra 1983.

If you look at Dokken’s 1980s output objectively Tooth & Nail (1984) is known as the band’s heaviest, Under Lock And Key (1985) the most melodic, Back For The Attack (1987) is perhaps the band’s finest moment and Beast From The East (1988) is an excellent live effort to this day.

Where does that leave the band’s debut Breaking The Chains (1983) and where does it stand? The answer is there are usually two types of debut album. The first type sees a band in a raw, unpolished form pawing at future greatness with a sound that is not quite defined or polished. In this instance it is used as a stepping stone.

Then there’s bands whose first album is their best release. They are already at the peak of their powers and have a very defined sound from the get-go. Van Halen’s self-titled  album comes to mind as does Ratt’s Out of the Cellar.

For Dokken, it’s the former. Their debut album serves as a stepping stone, a blueprint of what the band was to become with hints of the goods already present. Breaking the Chains has it’s own charm; it’s more elementary and without much of the polish that would make up future releases.

Breaking The Chains was not my first Dokken album but the title track was the song that got me into the band with it’s melodic style of metal, crunchy guitars and instantly memorable guitar courtesy of George Lynch. Still a favourite to this day.

When I was younger I always thought it was odd that “Paris ls Burning” was a live song on a studio album and not some sort of outtake or extra but a genuine album track. Now I think it’s way cool that they put this. It starts off with a blistering George Lynch solo, an introduction that is very much the Lynch equivalent of “Eruption”. Worth seeking out is the studio version from 1981.

“In The Middle” is slower paced but terrific with it’s short breakdown, it makes for a great piece of rock candy.

“Felony” was never one of my favourites here or one l’d be tempted to go back to but I have to say it grows on me with every listen.

“I Can’t See You” has a bit of a 70’s feel to it, catchy and a more pop number.

“Live To Rock (Rock To Live)” is my least favourite song on the album, it’s just subpar compared to the rest of Breaking The Chains.

“Nightrider” was a favourite live among fans in the early days and it’s easy to see why. Soft during verses then goes in strong during the chorus with an overall dark feel, it’s one of the highlights.

“Young Girls” is catchy but it’s harder to listen to this today, especially picturing the guys getting up there in age.

“Seven Thunders” is another high point. A catchy rocker, underrated song.

“Stick To Your Guns” (no relation to the Motley Crue song of the same name) is not filler but not terribly memorable either. It fails to succeed because of the chorus.

The lineup of Dokken at this point had gone from being a trio when they released their  Back ln The Streets EP in 1979 to a four member outlet with Lynch on lead guitar (Don handled guitar duties until then). The lineup was more or less solidified by this point with Dokken and Lynch, “Wild” Mick Brown on drums and on bass Juan Croucier of Ratt fame.

It wasn’t the classic lineup but soon after the album Croucier left to be a permanent member of Ratt (he only played on 3 songs here) and Jeff Pilson took over for him. Don’s voice, Lynch’s guitar work and solos, Brown’s powerful drums, it was certainly all coming together with some very catchy songs. Those catchy, melodic and heavy elements would only be further enhanced with succeeding albums to even better effect.

Truth said, Breaking The Chains tends to be out-shined by the string of excellent releases that followed but it’s not a bad album by any means. It’s rougher around the edges but very enjoyable and one that fans should definitely be looking into. It’s a promising debut that would be improved upon, but also one that has it’s share of good and underrated songs. 3/5 stars.

 

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