Heaven Comes Down

Silver Lining
rating icon 7 / 10

Track listing:

01. Fugitive
02. Gypsy
03. Is it Me Or You?
04. Just Like A Rose
05. I'll Never Give Up
06. Saving Grace
07. Over The Mountain
08. I Remember
09. Lost In You
10. Santa Fe

DOKKEN have a new album and it's a pretty good one. Although the prevailing narrative will probably continue to focus on Don Dokken's fractious relationships with former members, none of that is relevant here.

Arriving 11 years after the good-but-not-great "Broken Bones", "Heaven Comes Down" reveals a rejuvenated and endearingly laidback Don Dokken, supported by a strong cast of virtuosos, and focused entirely on carving a new path. DOKKEN have veered off-piste before, of course: 1997's "Shadowlife" edged towards alternative rock, with questionable results; 2002's "Long Way Home" paired the singer with EUROPE's John Norum, who inevitably took the project in a bluesier, more contemplative direction.

Nonetheless, what most fans want from DOKKEN is big, braggadocious hard rock anthems, and there are certainly a few of those on here. "Fugitive" kicks things off with a flourish: a classic slab of drive-time metal, it ticks all the desired DOKKEN-trope boxes, while also introducing the slightly hazier, less rigid musical approach that defines this record. "Gypsy" is a dead ringer for "Tooth and Nail"-era DOKKEN, but with less frantic energy and a more nuanced arrangement; "Is It Me Or You?" is a classic, strutting rocker with a bluesy undertow; "Saving Grace" is all huge, post-"Kashmir" riffs and bittersweet vocal harmonies.

But despite those heavier moments, "Heaven Comes Down" generally feels more relaxed about itself than any DOKKEN album since the '80s. Dokken's voice is clearly not what it once was, and yet here he plays to his strengths, delivering elegant, soulful vocals that sound both world-weary and full of warmth. The days of wailing over priapic, speedy riffing are long gone, but what remains is a singer working in service to the song, and while there is arguably nothing here that rivals the best songs on "Tooth and Nail" or "Back for the Attack", this new incarnation of DOKKEN is audibly content to offer something subtly different. Songs like "Over The Mountain" and "Lost In You" exhibit plenty of classic metal DNA, but with emotional maturity replacing the two-dimensional preening of youth. Even better, the closing "Santa Fe" strips everything down to strummed acoustic guitars, minimal percussion and a genuinely lovely and wistful Don Dokken vocal. A passing resemblance to Billy Idol's "Sweet Sixteen" aside, it's a fine song and a very pleasant surprise.

Forever frozen in time as one of the definitive, commercial metal bands of the '80s, DOKKEN have already claimed a place in history. "Heaven Comes Down" is no classic, but it is the most enjoyable album the band have made in a long time. Still rokken.

Author: Dom Lawson
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