Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing the Classics (Album Review)

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His voice is one that conjures up visions of soaring majesty and indomitable strength, iconic in its all-encompassing presence throughout rock and metal over the last three decades. His list of vocal credits reads as a succinct overview of some of the most impressive metal operas to have ever been released. And of course, his primary project is one that is titled simply by his name, unmistakable as any other in his unending acclaim: Jorn.

There’s no question that Jorn Lande has shaped the vocal landscape in rock and metal alike, his range and versatility entirely unmatched among even his most talented peers. The space that Jorn takes in any album is irreplaceable, even in those of arguably equal caliber. An inspirational quality enriches each of the melodies that his soul embodies, making for some of the stunningly evocative tracks from his long-lasting project with Russel Allen. There are a number of rock opera projects on which Jorn Lande has played a starring role, including throughout the behemoth legacies of Ayreon and Avantasia.

With the long history of unmistakable songs and artists using his voice as their crowning jewel, there is no denying that Jorn Lande has served as a source of reverence and inspiration to aspiring artists and vocalists across all genres of music. Fluidly shifting from metal to rock and back again, Jorn has prepared yet another taste of what has inspired him in his long and fabled journey as an artist in his upcoming album “Heavy Rock Radio II Executing the Classics.” In eleven different cover songs, Jorn provides his interpretation of truly classic rock hits, striving to both stay true to the original version while adding his own unique flair.

This is not the first time that Jorn has tried his hand at re-imagining rock classics, marrying his iconic voice with timeless melodies on 2016’s “Heavy Rock Radio,” which included covers of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Hotel California,” and “Rainbow in the Dark.” Just as in his first foray into cover albums in 2016, Jorn once more proves himself incredibly adept at breathing new life into immortal classics without destroying the essence they were meant to deliver. The amount of respect given to the original songs is apparent in their polished execution, never straying too far from the atmosphere and memories conjured by their primary forms. Liberties taken are typically those in the ebb and flow of instrumental execution, rather than the vocal drive that Jorn provides. It is his voice which gives the song a new heartbeat, dancing flawlessly between jukebox hits and soulful forays into tracks brimming with emotional depth, a diverse choice of song selection and vocal abilities.

“Heavy Rock Radio II – Executing The Classics” Album Artwork

Falling into the former category is a cover of Manfred Mann’s “Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo),” a song revamped with a more aggressive modern bite echoing with decades of hard rock influence. The smooth, soothing tone that occupied the original is discarded in favor of Jorn’s harsh, punching chorus. Each word strikes with a heavy weight that seems distant from the crooning of the 1960s, mixed in equal strength against a leading guitar that effortlessly carries the melody. This track is also the perfect opportunity to showcase Jorn’s stellar choice in musicians, with guitarists Tore Moren and Jgor Gianola afforded lengthy guitar solos that dazzle with their high pitch and seemingly inhuman speed. “Mighty Quinn” gives a similar opportunity to the multi-talented keyboard wizard Alessandro Del Vecchio, who is also highlighted with a solo of his own in this latest take on an old classic.

There’s no doubt that Jorn is an incredibly serious musician, but “Heavy Rock Radio II” is a brilliant example that taking music seriously does not exclude the opportunity of creating a finished product that is incredibly fun. While “Mighty Quinn” is a demonstration of a wholehearted embrace of the brightness that seems exclusive to an electric guitar placed in expert hands, Jorn gives similar new life to “Needles and Pins,” originally released by The Searchers in 1964. Thematic elements from the 60s are preserved in both tracks, but they are infused with Jorn’s swelling voice, technically adept electric guitars, and flitting keyboards to tie classic elements with modern ones. In a mix that favors the guitars and Jorn’s vocals, “Heavy Rock Radio II” makes it easy to get lost in a colorful storm of music that is brimming with excitement in its tribute to the classics.

The album’s closing track is a brilliant interpretation of Peter Gabriel’s “Rhythm of the Heat,” and may be one of the more ambitious tracks offered. Were it anyone but Jorn attempting to cover such an impassioned work of art and inject it with the sharp edge of metal, they may have been in too far over their heads. But Jorn adopts this leading role gracefully, pushing the occasional tender original track into a much brighter, electrified rendition, one where his vocals are fuel to the fire of passion. His voice is grittier than Gabriel’s, but the crisp polish of electric guitars against vibrant drums perfectly captures the essence of balance in the world of music. A driving drumbeat that acts like the pulse of a song that is as imploring as it is celebratory, driving home a chorus that will echo to time immemorial: “the rhythm has my soul.” It is the perfect closer for an album that takes listeners from the early 60s to the present, tying in elements of nostalgia, old-school rock ‘n’ roll, and the technical dexterity of modern metal.

Rhythm of the Heat” is also a pristine example of Jorn’s care to preserve the elements that truly embody the most memorable moments of any given track. A deep drumbeat that drives what it truly means to have music in ones soul is present even as the electric guitars galvanize a dream created almost forty years ago. In his second Dio cover, this time of “Mystery,” Jorn goes through great lengths to ensure that the pacing of the track matches the same pacing of the original, an essential element of the emotional journey Dio created in 1984 across a bright, hopeful chorus. “Mystery” is one of the tracks that Jorn takes the least liberty with, a clear attempt at a genuine tribute, rather than some impossible recreation of a revered masterpiece.

It may have been difficult for any of the original creators of any of these songs to imagine what Jorn Lande was going to do to them, but it would be easy to gamble that they would take no offense from “Heavy Rock Radio II.” The changes made in the spirit of hard rock fight to capture the spirit of the original song and cast them in a new light, a touch faster, a little sharper on their edge. An incredibly talented cast of musicians are an essential component to the life that Jorn carries in his untouchable vocal grace. Each of these songs adopted a part of his decades of expertise, and each interpretation carries with it the wisdom he gained across numerous projects in rock and metal. The results are absolutely tantalizing, and make for an album that is not just exciting at first listen, but brings new dimensions to a long history with each repeated listen. Were anyone able to doubt Jorn’s ability in vision and production previously, this album vanquishes any potential lack of conviction. As in all of his work, Jorn has borne his soul for the world to see, and channeled it into making an impenetrable tribute to rock both old and new.

Released By: Frontiers Music SLR
Release Date: January 24th, 2020
Genre: Melodic Classic Rock / Hard Rock

Musicians:

  • Jorn Lande / Vocals
  • Alessandro Del Vecchio / Keyboards
  • Sid Ringsby / Bass
  • Tore Moren / Guitar
  • Jgor Gianola / Guitar
  • Francesco Jovino / Drums

“Heavy Rock Radio II Executing the Classics” Track-listing

  1. Lonely Nights
  2. Winning
  3. New York Minute
  4. Needles and Pins
  5. Love
  6. I Do Believe in You
  7. Nightlife
  8. Bad Attitude
  9. Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn)
  10. Mystery
  11. The Rhythm of the Heat

8.8 Excellent

Preserving the soul of classic hits while infusing them with a heavy dose of rock is no simple feat, but it is one that Jorn has accomplished with apparent ease. Traversing decades and styles with the grace of a virtuoso, Jorn has breathed new life into an album brimming with nostalgia without compromising their original vision. Accompanied with talented musicians that make the journey a pleasant one, “Hard Rock Radio II Executing the Classics” is a satisfying follow-up to the first album of the same concept.

  • Musicianship 10
  • Originality 8
  • Songwriting 9
  • Production 8
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