Thursday, 14 January 2021

Alex Beyrodt's Voodoo Circle - Locked & Loaded (2021)

Country: Germany
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 15 Jan 2021
Sites: Facebook | Official Website | Wikipedia

If you don't know the name, Alex Beyrodt is the current guitarist in German power metal band Primal Fear, as he's been since 2011, but he founded Voodoo Circle three years before that with Primal Fear's bass player, Mat Sinner, who's also still the main man in Sinner, a band that's now forty years young. I should emphasise that, if you're expecting a similar heavy sound to those two, you'll be disappointed, as this is their side band which allows them explore their hard rock influences.

This is their sixth album and it's a reunion of sorts, as it marks a return for David Readman, the band's original vocalist, who left in 2016 but came back to the fold this year, as did Markus Kullmann, after a six year gap as their drummer. All these folks are busy elsewhere, Readman best known for singing for Pink Cream 69 since 1994 and Kullmann the current drummer in Sinner. I'm starting to get the feeling that there's a massive house somewhere in Esslingen shared by twenty musicians who, between them, comprise about thirty different bands in many permutations.

I have to wonder what Voodoo Circle would sound like without Readman, because he puts on his very best David Coverdale impression throughout. Wikipedia tells me that Beyrodt's hard rock influences included Deep Purple, Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen, in addition to the one that simply cannot be avoided, which is Whitesnake. Almost everything here is Whitesnake, though it's a neat cross between the old bluesy Whitesnake and the later slick multi-platinum Whitesnake.

The guitars are metallic, far more like Adrian Vandenberg than Bernie Marsden, except on This Song is for You, which is the other way around (with some Carlos Santana for good measure). The vocals are bluesier, though, and the flow is melodic and commercial without feeling like it's always pandering to American radio. I like the balance, especially on songs like Magic Woman Chile, with an quiet and overtly bluesy section and the overlay of gospel-infused backing vocals that wrap it up. Only occasionally do the band ramp up a MTV video vibe and knock out songs like Straight for the Heart or Trouble in the Moonlight.

The band seem like they're having a lot of fun here and they'd be fantastic in a small venue, especially playing funky rockers like the title track that, at points, brings to mind both artists as diverse as Vow Wow and Lenny Kravitz. These are momentary, though, as there's only one song that doesn't end up a candidate for a Whitesnake album and that's Devil's Cross, which sounds like Coverdale guesting on a keyboards heavy nineties Black Sabbath track. Well OK, there's also a Purple-esque intro to Children of the Revolution, but then it goes back to Whitesnake.

There are no poor songs here, though a few of them do play far too happily in the hall of clichés. Eyes Full of Tears is full of clichés and Straight for the Heart is as unoriginal lyrically as the title suggests. It wasn't difficult to visualise Tawny Kitaen in the video for Trouble in the Moonlight when Readman sings, "Bad girls keeping out of trouble in the moonlight." Then again, it's hard to find a Whitesnake song that doesn't feel lyrically clichéd, so I should praise the songwriters for coming up with variants like Magic Woman Chile and Devil with an Angel Smile.

At the end of the day, this is what is. These musicians are consummate professionals and they do their job very well indeed but, if you're not looking for veteran European power metallers channelling the Whitesnake obsession of their youth into a side band, they're not going to convince you. If you're on board with the idea, this is pretty damn good.

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