A Rock/Metal opera that strips (most) everything pretentious, giving us nothing but net.
Having been a huge fan of Norwegian vocalist Jørn Lande for over two decades, I’ve been eagerly anticipating his new 2015 project, Jorn Lande & Trond Holter’s ‘Dracula: Swing of Death’. A Rock/Metal opera based around Bram Stoker’s immortal classic. Not exactly fresh ground, but a triumphant experiment blending horror themes, passionate vocals, and killer fret work in a cohesive band effort.
Lande throws his all in this performance as “Count Dracula”. Unlike many of his side projects, Jørn is front and center here. Commanding these nine melodic tracks (+1 instrumental) of Metallic Heavy Rock. His range may be diminishing(?) as the years wear on, but I still feel his voice is gaining strength and potency. A weathered soar perfectly suited to playing the part of a tormented undead master.
This project was born of collaboration between Lande and his solo band’s guitarist Trond Holter who performs all the guitars and piano. An equally impressive showcase for Holter who refrains from showboating, letting the rich melodies take hold. With fellow JORN member Bernt Jansen on Bass and Per Morten Bergseth stepping in on the Drums. Norwegian singer Lena Fløitmoen contributes support in the female roles, providing a nice counterpart to Lande’s swag.
Minimal use of atmospheric effects and spoken dialog, very little of the flamboyance and hokeyness that usually overwhelms Rock Opera. Ten well-defined Rock songs.
Opener “Hands of Your God” offers acoustic guitar and madmen lyrics/vocals as a grand introduction for this operatic
stage graveyard. More traditional compositions like “Walking on Water” and “River of Tears” remind of Yngwie Malmsteen/Alex Rudi Pell styled guitar Rock/Metal. While flourishes of experimentation and loads of variety ensures the album remains emotional, fresh, and playful.
I was never bored nor affected by song fatigue. A haughty Lande lords over the appropriately swing-y “Swing of Death”; acoustic Greek folk accents the rage fueled “Masquerade Ball”; Irish musical cabaret blends into a Fløitmoen/Lande duet on “Save Me”, piano Prog and deadly riffage slay in “Queen of the Dead”, an Alternative/Gothic vibe empowers the ear-wormy “Into the Dark”, a lone instrumental “True Love Through Blood” takes inspiration from 90s era neo-Classical Power, while the slow-build closer “Under the Gun” adds another impassioned vocal duel in a bitter, sorrowful lament.
Jørn Lande & Trond Holter have crafted engaging horror theater. Rock Opera without the garish pomp. A great start for 2015 and for any Lande fan ‘Dracula: Swing of Death’ is a must listen. Highly Recommended.
(This review originally appeared on www.chadrschulz.com)