Dokken - Dysfunctional (1995)


Dokken is my favorite band, Dysfunctional is my favorite Dokken release, therefore, Dysfunctional is my favorite album across the board.


Dysfunctional was intended to be Don Dokken's second solo release, a follow-up to his successful Up From the Ashes.  The tracks were already written by Dokken and Pilson, Wild Mick would join in, and at that point, it made sense to complete the classic lineup with George.  Lynch would redo some guitar parts and solos before the album was released.


Dysfunctional was released at a time when classic metal acts were suffering from lack of recognition and sales.  The album still sold 400k copies, validating its


It was in the way Dokken wrote this album that makes it my favorite.  The band successfully merged the sounds of their classic four releases and a heavier, yet more structured sound.  Don has cited The Beatles as an influence in the writing of Dysfunctional.  I like to the think of the tracks as compositions, Inside Looking Out, Hole in My Head, and Long Way Home most notably having competing elements that work together.


If you missed this album back in the day, or you think Dokken is too soft, then listen to the two heaviest Dokken songs that just so happen to be on Dysfunctional, Shadows of Life and What Price.


Though there are still some ballads for the romantics, Nothing Left to Say and a cover of ELP's From the Beginning, the lyrics across the board are more involved than they had ever been in the Dokken discography.  Of course, Dokken had always written thoughtful songs, for example Kiss of Death about the AIDS epidemic at a touchy time, but Dysfunctional goes deeper, with themes like drug abuse (Too High to Fly), self-doubt (Inside Looking Out / Lesser of Two Evils), and the state of the world (Long Way Home).

In interview footage from their Japan '95 release, Don respectfully expressed that the lyrics of Dysfunctional had to be right.  They definitely were.


Some of my favorite lyrics:

"I can't be free, 'til I know what free is.  I can't be me, 'til I know who I am." (Inside Looking Out - Don Dokken, Jeff Pilson)

"It's hard to fly, when you just wanna die." (Lesser of Two Evils - Dokken, Pilson, Lynch)


I played Dysfunctional on my final AOM.


Queensryche - Hear in the Now Frontier (1997)


Let's stay in the 90s.  Of course, Queensryche was in a similar position to Dokken.  I use "similar" because since Queensryche was always labeled as a progressive metal band, one would think they'd have an easier time changing their sound in the 90s, and have fans embrace it.  That being said, it seems as if the population didn't receive Hear in the Now Frontier as well as I did when listening years after its release.


If you listen to something long enough, do you begin to like it regardless?  Let's just say, I've listened to this release many times, as all the tracks are burned to an mp3 disc that stays in my father's car.  So when I'm driving that one, I am always immersed in the tracks from Dio's Holy Diver,  Skid Row's Slave to the Grind, and the main topic, Hear in the Now Frontier.  To address the question I've proposed.... I played Skid Row's The Threat on my show once and my father was displeased, as he was bored with anything form Slave to the Grind from listening to it too much.  Do I follow the same standards?  Nah, I appreciate tracks from Slave to Grind anytime, those Dio ones of course, and finally, the songs of Hear in the Now Frontier.


We had the classic line up on this one, but they went with a more 90s approach, maybe alternative.  Most tracks were written by Chris DeGarmo, and he even performed the lead vocals on track 11, All I Want.  Though DeGarmo is one of my favorite players, this track is my least favorite, because to this day, I believe Geoff Tate is the voice of Queensryche.  The artist that is Tate is the primary reason I enjoy Queensryche releases post Empire.  The songs, always meaningful, and the band just had their own sound, like most of my favorites.


Some of my favorite tracks are Sign of the Times, Some People Fly, and sp00L.  Sign of the Times for its composition and subject matter (being safe in the world, especially in a school environment).  Some People Fly is an uplifting track that inspires me to succeed, and sp00L is most artistically diverse.  When I saw Geoff Tate's Operation: Mindcrime in 2016, he would mention that sp00L was a result of pot brownies in a cabin.  Listening to the tune, it makes sense.


Some of my favorite lyrics:

"... the comfort zone you've grown to love, there's more to life than that." (Some People Fly - DeGarmo, Tate)


Hear... ears.... get it?!

Metal Church - The Human Factor (1991)


Metal Church has recently been ending their set with the title track to The Human Factor.  What is The Human Factor?  It includes two steps: 1.) Make some money 2.) Overexpose.  In other words, Metal Church sang about the missing human element in musicians.  OR they sang about musicians having the human factor, if the human factor involves an innate tendency to steal and be assholes.


Because the human factor still exists today, now more than ever with these current "popular" musicians, The Human Factor is my favorite Howe era Metal Church release.  The lyrics are straight-forward, ANGRY, and are still relate-able.  Obviously, most songs continue to relate to listeners as the years pass.... but in this instance, the songs were not ballads, they were about social and political issues, bullshit we are still dealing with.  The lyrics, mostly crafted by Mike Howe and Kurdt Vanderhoof, get me every time.


Another stand out track, of course because of its feel, but also because of its relevance, is The Final Word.  I like to think of it nowadays, as an anthem to social justice warriors.  The song that intrigues me the most off this one is Betrayed.  Vanderhoof seemed to use an opening note scale similar to that of a country song.  I like to think of the track as country done right.  It has the feel musically, but taken to the next level, and it is about drinking (like all other country songs).  However, Howe sings about the addiction to alcohol.


Mike Howe left the band after their next release, Hanging in the Balance, due to the record label telling Metal Church how to write.  I admire Howe's decision in leaving, as it showed his passion for legitimate music.


Around 2012, I was looking for Metal Church shows, and hoping they would be hitting my area.  It seems that they would never get close if it weren't for the resurgence of the band, as a result of Mike Howe rejoining in 2015.  They have since released XI (2016), which has challenged my favorite Howe era release.


Some of my favorite lyrics:

"I'm so f*cking broke, I can't even afford to pay attention..." (Date with Poverty - Howe, Vanderhoof)

"..if you think you're better off in a different country, why don't you pack your bags right now, here's your ticket, its on me." (The Final Word - Howe, Vanderhoof)




Raven - ExtermiNation (2015)


I have more recently taken a loving to Raven.  Therefore, I have yet to grasp their full discography.  What I have listened to for now has not disappointed.  I began with their release Stay Hard (1985), and perceived Raven as upbeat, fun, and kick ass band.  Seeing them live in 2017, I still perceive them that way, but just like the album artwork has changed so has the sound.


ExtermiNation is HEAVY but still has a classic Raven sound.  When first getting into a veteran band, I often find myself listening to their earliest and latest material.  In the case of Overkill, Testament, Exodus, and Raven, I prefer their modern releases.  These are bands that just don't quit.


Battle March / Tank Treads (The Blood Runs Red) is one of my favorite tracks.  It starts with John Gallagher changing pitches with his bass, and breaks out my favorite guitar riff off the album done by brother Mark.  Golden Dawn and Silver Bullet are two tracks that work together.  As John said, the classically influenced "didly" Golden Dawn is something he likes to incorporate into Raven's albums.


Thunder Down Under is a song about ACDC and Bon Scott, because he was the thunder down under.  Raven will be releasing a new album in 2018.  When talking to John, he told me that there would be a song on this upcoming release in relation to Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott.  When writing the song, Gallagher thought the riff sounded like a Thin Lizzy one and the rest took off from there.


You probably wouldn't know Raven was only a 3-piece listening to ExtermiNation as a starting point, a completely full sound.  They captured this sound in their live performance.  According to John, a lot of good comes out of only having 3 members.  Each member is able to do their own thing and it limits conflict.  Just think, there are 3 guitar players in Iron Maiden alone, and Raven delivers harder.


I look forward to taking in the whole Raven discography and their release in 2018.


 Some of my favorite lyrics:

"You told the story and it all rang true, But every loose end pointed back to you." (Silver Bullet)




KXM - KXM (2014)


KXM is a super-group featuring dUg Pinnick (King's X) on bass and vocals, Ray Luzier (Korn) on drums, and George Lynch (Lynch Mob) on guitars.


Lynch is doing a lot of projects nowadays.  KXM was probably the first project of his I invested in.  I did so by per-ordering an autographed copy back in 2014.  Weeks later, I would meet Lynch at the Jersey Shore Guitar Show in Atlantic City, NJ.


To this day, KXM's debut remains one of my favorite albums.  I feel Lynch's work with KXM exemplifies the kind of player he is today.  Throughout the 80s, Lynch was undoubtedly a distinguishable player.  He still delivers a hard-driving, classic style in projects such as Sweet & Lynch, but it is with Lynch Mob, Shadow Train, Project NFidelikah, and KXM where he plays in a different style, groove, and feel.  There's just more to it than than the riff and solo.


The riff in Rescue Me is far from an ordinary riff, with a touch of the wah pedal.  The riff follows into an interesting patten of harmonics, and though the song started out groovy enough with Lynch's playing alone, the band starts in after the harmonics and Rescue gets into my favorite lyrics of the album.  It's a song about being lonely and judged.  It can relate to anyone not tending for the normies.


My favorite guitar solo is contained in the track I'll Be Ok.  It is probably the most extended solo on the album, and the best part is what I perceive to be Lynch tapping.


The album opens with Stars.  Ray Luzier starts on percussion, and this song alone has me citing Luzier as one of my favorite drummers.  I do not listen to Korn.  KXM is enough for me to realize that Luzier masterful percussionist, almost playing melodies on the drums.  As for Pinnick, I was missing out on his talents for years.  KXM turned me onto the soulful singer that is Pinnick of King's X.


KXM has recently released their sophomore album, Scatterbrain, and it's just as good.  Similar feeling, and a jam session that turned into something beautiful.


 Some of my favorite lyrics:

"You don't see the stars, 'til it's really dark" (Stars)

"I've been looking for somebody, not just anyone" (Rescue Me)