JELUSICK – Follow The Blind Man (Album Review)

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When placed alongside the juggernauts of rock and metal, multi-instrumentalist singer Dino Jelusick remains the new kid on the block. While he may have yet to sell out stadiums, or play a million-and-one gigs like Billy Sheehan, or have his favorite outfit hanging on a mannequin inside everyone’s favorite fickle Cleveland hall of fame, his rise in these last few years has been nothing short of meteoric, and he seems to have the talent to back it up. When he hasn’t been working on projects with George Lynch, Derek Sherinian, Magnus Karlsson, Michael Romeo, or touring as a member of Whitesnake and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Dino is trying to build his own brand, whether with his own Animal Drive project, or now under his own name entirely.

Although he is a keyboard wizard and a respectable multi-instrumentalist, Dino Jelusick had the foresight to assemble a functioning studio and live band for his eponymous solo project. Guitars are handled by Ivan Keller, bass is covered by Luka Broderick, and Mario Lepoglavec is behind the drum kit. Although Dino is almost certainly a stakeholder in virtually every element of the composition and creative process of the band, his own personal musicianship is mostly limited to vocals and keys.

Here we find ourselves, with the fruit of this labor, with 2023’s release of Jelusick’s “Follow the Blind Man” album. The eleven tracks provide surprising variety, but let’s start at the beginning. The opener, “Reign of Vultures,” dives in with Dino’s preferred Jens-meets-Derek keyboard blend of howling arpeggios, before drums, bass, and guitar come crashing in to set the stage for the dominant guitar riff, aggressive and chugging away. The guitars are full of texture and pinch harmonics, and the drumming is tight, making great usage of the ride in true “J-Mac” style. Following a brief spoken drama sequence, the song shift gears into a somewhat slower, and only slightly lower-gain doom breakdown sort of section before rushing full-tilt back into the main riff, and allowing for some great solo tradeoffs between guitar and keyboard before allowing Dino’s vocals to hammer the final nail into the song’s coffin.

The big heaviness parade continues into the second track, “Died,” although the pace is mostly more relaxed with this one. This track is a good one for Dino to stretch out his deceptively big vocal cords, working all those timbres in that Dio/Russell Allen/Jorn Lande zone where he does his best work. The middle section (“I only know what I been told”) goes down a Myrathian detour in that Phrygian sort of mode that turns any guitarist into a Pharoah instantly, before the song returns to its original structure, except Dino really pushes the vocal parts for a big finish.

“Follow The Blind Man” Album Artwork

The third track, “Animal Inside,” (Animal Drive?) has a great clean guitar intro that walks in some uncanny valley between “Diary of a Madman” and “Tristram from Diablo.” The heavy riff and verse structure is pretty standard, but it seems like the chorus rises into a major key to give the song a bit more of an anthemic earworm quality. Speaking of earworms, It’s almost impossible to unhear the Sherinian influence in Dino’s keyboard parts. Make no mistake, there’s love for shred-heads too, because the lead guitar parts are pretty impressive, probably most similar to Jake E. Lee.

This brings us to the title track, “Follow the Blind Man.” The track actually opens with clean piano and Dino’s soft vocals, before medium-high gain lead guitar comes in with an intensity right around the first “November Rain” solo. The track never really rises above this sort of medium heavy that mostly hovers in that Cinderella “Don’t Know What You Got” balladic zone, which is welcome to keep the overall album from being an unrelenting cinderblock from beginning to end. However, with that said, it’s a good journey. You can really feel the Coverdale in the vocals, and yet, you can almost feel some Paul O’Neill in the overall composition, with its Savatage “Streets” sort of vibes. All in all, pretty cool.

Two of the tracks in the middle, “What I Want” and “Acid Rain” are both solid, and normally could just be discounted as well-rounded metal tracks to carry us along to “Healer,” a real highlight of the album, but it is worth noting that “Acid Rain” Is extra heavy, with a lot of technical tricks throughout, and Dino even gets to flex some serious growls and screams in the middle sections. Aside from some of the riffing borrowing a bit of essence from Dime and Scott Ian, the lead parts are blisteringly real and definitely worth mention. With that out of the way, “Healer” has been one of the tracks Dino has been pushing on social media, and with good reason. It’s like Lynch Mob and King’s X had a groovy little baby with the Euro prog metal scene. The riffs are tight and gnarly, but the chorus sections open up the dynamics enough to let this one breathe nicely once out of the bottle.

“The Great Divide” has been getting some good internet play in the first couple days, so let’s check it out. The track opens up with some shy, tentative little guitar notes emerging, like something from Vai’s “Alive in an Ultra World” album, before acoustic guitar strums along to some dialed back drumming and Dino delivering soulful vocals. Once the chorus comes to the fore, the track can only be compared to ballads from Whitesnake’s middle period, like “The Deeper The Love,” or perhaps a hint of “Sailing Ships,” which is just fine, because even modern AOR never quite captures those old vibes as well as this track does. Now, for a track which seems to be gaining even more traction online than this one, we have “Fly High Again,” which has no relation to Ozzy and Randy, aside from kicking ass. Detuned guitars, punchy bass guitar, vibrato harmonics, and low-down mean and nasty modern metal riffs and grooves all set the stage for this bruiser. There are a couple nice changes, and a well-executed no-frills guitar solo, but this track is very much WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get). It’s a straightforward rocker with zero guile. It gets the job done, and well.

This brings us to the grand finale, “Chaos Master” parts 1 and 2. Interestingly, they are not as complementary as one may think. It’s a bit like if “Learning to Live” came before “Waiting for Sleep” in the track-listing of “Images & Words”. “Chaos Master” is a metal track with a few facets including grooves, funky bass parts, and even a satisfying F-bomb. The second part, “Chaos Master Pt 2, The Bitter End,” is a tender piano solo piece to showcase another side to Dino’s vocal ability. We get to enjoy the whole palette, lower octaves, some higher parts, various textures, breath control and vibrato. Looking at the album cover, one wonders if we are following the blind man to the bitter end.

Stepping back and looking at this body of work, the ending might not be so bitter. Dino and the boys sharpened their pencils and turned in some quality work here. Now, keep in mind this does not do any sort of mind-melting prog metal action, nor is it dumbed down into a sort of heavy metal safety-soup accessible to the everyman. This is a thoughtful metal album which accomplishes a few things. It is largely heavy. It is occasionally not, in a few strategic places. It has some noteworthy grooves and riffs. It showcases musicianship from all involved, most especially Dino Jelusick himself. While it remains to be seen whether this is album of the year material for any specific area of interest, we can safely say that this is a solid and well-rounded metal record which does meet and exceed what it purports to do. Dino himself may be the last authentic rocker of this generation, like Stephen King’s titular gunslinger, walking the wasteland in a world which has “moved on.” We wish Dino the best in his quest for his tower.

Check out “Follow the Blind Man,” it is available in streaming services and on CD and limited-edition vinyl. Order your copy now and get a limited-edition bundle while supplies last.

Release Date: September 29th, 2023
Record Label: Deko Entertaiment
Genre: Prog Metal / Hard Rock / Heavy Metal

“Follow The Blind Man” track listing:

  1. Reign of Vultures
  2. Died
  3. Animal Inside
  4. Follow The Blind Man
  5. What I Want
  6. Acid Rain
  7. Healer
  8. The Great Divide
  9. Fly High Again
  10. Chaos Master
  11. The Bitter End (Chaos Master Pt.2) 
Jelusick – The Great Divide
Jelusick – Fly High Again
8.5 Excellent

Dino Jelusick and his band are blazing an impressive trail with this debut album. Dino has worked with the greats of rock and metal, and now he gets to put his world-class vocals and songwriting into action on his own terms. You don’t want to miss this one.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8.5

1 Comment

  1. tina M agostino on

    id give it more than an 8.5 for songwriting Dinos songwriting skills are supreme and definately more than an 8 for originality

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