Voodoo Circle – Locked & Loaded (Album Review)

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Perhaps you have been fortunate enough to see a tribute band live to see them do a better service to their subject matter than the original band does in the present moment. There are honest-to-God tribute bands of Yes who can play “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” like it’s still 1974. In a “roundabout” way, (pun strongly intended) Voodoo Circle is like some sort of alternate dimension “greatest hits” version of Whitesnake, writing songs you’ve never heard before, and the singer can still sing. Quite well, in fact.

Formed by Alex Beyrodt (Silent Force, Primal Fear) in 2008 as a personal outlet for exorcising a decades-long itch for the family tree made up of Sabbath-Purple-Dio-Rainbow-Whitesnake folks like Blackmore, Powell, Sykes, Coverdale, and Dio himself, Voodoo Circle remains one of the best blues-metal acts still active on the scene today. A couple years back, Herbie Langhans was brought into the group for vocals, but had to depart for his recent gig with Firewind. Voodoo Circle is more or less back to its original lineup with David Readman on vocals and Primal Fear alumnus Mat Sinner on bass. Markus Kullman also returns from the band’s golden age to provide drums. Occasional keys are provided by Corvin Bahn, although no full-time keyboardist is named at this time, and the outstanding Melissa Bonny graces us with some backing vocals.

What’s interesting about your standard Circle album is that it seems to draw upon all of the eras of Whitesnake sound, with somewhat less “Slip of the Tongue,” and perhaps more of a fusion of the Cozy Powell / John Sykes days with the newer Aldrich-Beach-Hoekstra material. Of course there is some later Purple and Rainbow feel as well, and a hint of Malmsteen, but let’s be real. Yngwie considers himself the best member of the Purple-Rainbow family who was never actually in it. Readman’s vocals are in that same timbre that Coverdale had in the 1987 to 1990 era, which is more than ideal. A case could always be made to have two guitarists in Voodoo Circle, but Alex probably enjoys having a band where he’s the only one playing steel strings in the treble clef. Let’s face it, Whitesnake 1987 really only had John Sykes, and it was one of the best albums ever made.

“Locked & Loaded” Album Artwork

The album does contain a few noteworthy highlights. The opener, “Flesh and Bone,” could be ripped directly from the last two Snake albums, “Forevermore” or “Flesh and Blood?” (a little too on-the-nose?), although the guitar solo gets dangerously close to Sykes on “Crying in the Rain.” The second track, “Wasting Time,” puts synth keys to good use, and gives us a song framework which incorporates a heavy amount of later-era Zeppelin with the other usual Brit-rock roots. And why not, with the way Markus beats the living hell out of his kit in true Bonzo fashion. The third track “Magic Woman Chile,” may be invoking some of the band’s titular Hendrix voodoo,  and injecting a little more mighty Zep than we were expecting, but the overall verse structure is unmistakably Voodoo Circle. The title track makes some of the best use of keyboards on the album, making it a definite high point for the overall listening experience. The keys don’t take over the track, but they give it tons of personality, like Night Ranger in the Fitz era. “Straight for the Heart,” is almost directly a track from Whitesnake 1987, right down to the name, and the Sykes riff structure. The remainder of the album is standard-issue Circle, although special mention should be made for “This Song is for You,” a stunning blues track from the very oldest school. If we wanted to invoke Zeppelin again, this song is “Since I’ve Been Lovin You,” but being realistic, Zeppelin hardly invented the blues.

Is the new Voodoo Circle record derivative as hell? You bet your life. While an argument can be made that most everything in rock-and-roll stands upon the shoulders of greater giants, Voodoo Circle is about as original as “Cobra Kai.” But hey, millions of people watch that, right? At the end of the day, it comes down to this. We cannot bitch about mainstream pop swill while simultaneously knocking new music based upon the great music of yesteryear as unoriginal. Do we prefer good and original? Of course. But when it comes down to it, a tribute to the past is still better than most contemporary drivel lacking in talent and heart. “Locked and Loaded,” the new record from Voodoo Circle hits the streets on January 15th. Check out the videos and sound clips, and let us know what you think.

Released By: AFM Records
Release Date: January 15th, 2021
Genre: Hard Rock

Musicians:

  • Alex Beyrodt / Guitars
  • David Readman / Vocals
  • Mat Sinner / Bass
  • Markus Kullman / Drummer

“Locked & Loaded” Track-Listing:

  1. Flesh & Bone
  2. Wasting Time
  3. Magic Women Chile
  4. Locked & Loaded
  5. Devil With An Angel Smile
  6. Straight For The Heart
  7. Eyes Full Of Tears
  8. Devil’s Cross
  9. Trouble In The Moonlight
  10. This Song Is For You
  11. Children Of The Revolution

7.8 Very Good

Voodoo Circle has returned to its prime-time lineup and the results are evident in this record, paying homage to the greatest eras and acts in blues rock and metal. The songs have variety, the production is solid, the keys add some unexpected coolness, and there’s even Melissa Bonny. What’s not to love?

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 6.5
  • Production 8
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