DOKKEN — Under Lock And Key (review)

DOKKEN — Under Lock And Key album cover Album · 1985 · Glam Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
While “Tooth And Nail” had gotten DOKKEN’s foot in the door with three strong videos and a minor European hit in “Just Got Lucky,” the band still hadn’t broken into the exploding glam metal scene in their native USA, however with their third album UNDER LOCK AND KEY that all changed as the album instantly shot up the charts into the top 40 and gracefully stuck around for over a year. Most of the band’s exposure came through a brutal and relentless touring schedule which found them opening for various bands such as Judas Priest, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Dio and Kiss. Critics and fans alike found UNDER LOCK AND KEY to be a more diverse album than the predecessor with not only catchy pop hook laden hard rockers such as “The Hunter” and “In My Dreams” but tender ballads (“Jaded Heart,” “Slippin’ Away”) and heavy metal fueled monsters (“Lightnin’ Strikes Again,” “Till The Livin’ End.”)

By 1985 the hairspray bands were in full action and DOKKEN joined the glam metal scene all dolled up with their glitzy kitsch rock image and hairspray to high heaven, however the band remained above the pack with their extra attention in crafting extremely catchy pop hooks laced with George Lynch’s exquisite guitar playing skills. By this time Lynch had become one of the guitar world’s favorite metal shredders who ranked in popularity only behind Eddie Van Halen and the recently deceased Randy Rhoads in his homeland of Los Angeles. UNDER LOCK AND KEY finds the band balancing Lynch’s catch pop infused guitar riffs once again with lead singer Don Dokken’s sing along schoolboy lyrical charm. A more diverse musical palette also allowed bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer Mick Brown to explore more diverse dynamics as well.

While “Tooth And Nail” remained surprisingly consistent for an album of ten tracks, UNDER LOCK AND KEY is more of a mix bag with several mid-tempo rockers stealing the show in terms of pop hook strength. The first tracks “Unchain The Night,” “The Hunter” and “In My Dreams” almost single-handedly steal the show as they are the most sophisticatedly composed of the lot with almost irresistible hooks that showcase all the strengths of the band including cleverly crafted pop sensibilities, guitar driven heft and relatable to the average person lyrical content. Also on board are a couple of less interesting ballads in the form of “Slippin’ Away” and “Jaded Heart” which suffer from an overly sappy presentation. Same goes for the rather insipid “Don’t Lie To Me” which displays in full effect the limitations of Don Dokken’s clean vocal style that kept DOKKEN from achieving greater musical than they could’ve otherwise but Don was a shrewd business man which proved good for the band’s fame and fortune.

Other strong tracks are “Lightnin’ Strikes Again,” “It’s Not Love” and “Till The Livin’ End” which showcases a more mature band that despite not exactly loving one another, could rise to the occasion of crafting commercially viable pop metal tracks to launch their career to greater heights. Overall UNDER LOCK AND KEY is a mixed bag. The stronger tracks are much better than anything off of “Tooth And Nail” but the weaker tracks are utterly forgettable at best and at worst nauseating. Like many albums of this era, the production is a bit tinny and ruins some of the impact but the DOKKEN machine found itself quite adept at continuing to crank out a steady stream of musical gems that conspired to burrow their way into the public’s consciousness. This album pretty much cemented the band’s success for the rest of the 80s and they would continue to tour with some of the most popular acts of the era without ever really finding enough success to headline for themselves.
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