John Diva is new on me, so I'm not sure quite what to think. On the face of it, this is a decent album, a trip back to the hair metal of the eighties and occasionally the glam rock of the seventies that laid its foundations. It's playful but varied and highly competent, well worth your hard earned cash. However, dig just a little into his background and you can't fail to see how tongue in cheek everything is. I have to say that I laughed aloud at the band history on his website, but it raises a serious question...
Are we supposed to take John Diva and the Rockets of Love seriously or treat them like another Steel Panther? For instance, is Soldier of Love neatly commercial single material or a jokey attempt to take the Desmond Child writing style and mimic a mid-eighties Bon Jovi song? Is Weekend for a Lifetime a modern day hair metal manifesto a little south of LA or a translation of Rebecca Black's Friday, as by a mid-eighties Alice Cooper?
That those songs work well as both their options explains to us how capable this band is, even if we're supposed to buy into drummer Lee Stingray being a former NASCAR driver or bassist Remmie Martin being a Frenchman preparing his own beauty line. The last time I heard a metal album full of so many overt takes on other artists, it was the Lordi album a year ago and that was actually structured like an imaginary collection of songs from different eras that was introduced by an imaginary DJ.
Maybe this isn't quite as overt as that one, but it's not far off. Voodoo, Sex and Vampires starts things off sleazy in Hanoi Rocks style, though there is a wild moment when it drops into bluegrass. After Bon Jovi and Alice Cooper, we find other major names like Mötley Crüe on Wasted (In Babylon), Poison on Drip Drip Baby and the Scorpions on This is Rock 'n' Roll. It's notable that Diva's vocals change just as often as the songs do, to the degree that he could be accused of doing impressions. He even puts on a German accent for the Scorpions song and an English one to become David Bowie on Movin' Back to Paradise.
That lessened the album for me. I'm not listening to find out how good Diva is at accents; I'm looking for quality music. Sometimes, though, the band escape the gimmickry and turn out something that's just good on its own. Here, that's the title track, which is slick and emphatically commercial hard rock with a catchy chorus and its own gimmick rather than someone else's. There are hints of violins, opera and harpsichord to play into that, not to forget a nod to Falco's Rock Me Amadeus. It really shouldn't work, but it does.
So, while this is very capably done, I'm going to drop my rating to a 6/10. If you're OK with the joking around, add a point back to that. I have no idea who the real musicians are behind these wacky names are—Snake Rocket, J. J. Love, Remmie Martin and Lee Stingray—let alone John Diva himself, but they are all very good indeed at this, even if the inevitable power ballad turns out to be soporific. At least it's at the end of the album, where we can skip it and start over again. OK, who's up for some more voodoo, sex and vampires?