If you like you rock classic-y then you’ll likely be aware of Joel Hoekstra, being as he’s a guitarist with one of the biggest rock acts going- Whitesnake. “13” is a side project and Dying to Live itself was conceived before Joel joined Whitesnake. After releasing a handful of solo instrumental albums, Hoekstra wanted to flex his production and writing muscles as well as those used for playing. The result… rocking!
Opener “Say Goodbye To The Sun” is the latest of five singles to be released in the run-up to the album itself hitting the shelves and is probably the heaviest song on here, hitting pretty hard as it kicks in. For this one, it’s Russell Allen (Adrenaline Mob, Symphony X) on lead vocals with Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen) backing him up. These two guys swap vocal duties around a bit throughout the album.
The other “permanent” artists are Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio) on drums and Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder) on bass. Hoekstra himself covers all guitar duties and a bit of the backing vocals. A handful of guests put in an appearance here and there, too:
- Derek Sherinian (Dream Theatre, Black Country Communion) – Keyboards
- Chloe Lowery (Trans Siberian Orchestra) – Vocals
- Toby Hitchcock (Pride of Lions) – Backing vocals
- Charlie Zeleny (Joe Lynn Turner) – Percussion
- Dave Eggar (Amy Lee, Coldplay) – Cello
Together, this crew have produced a stunning album as demonstrated when the hard opener sweeps into the lighter, but foot-tappingly pleasant “Anymore”. With all the skills of a good DJ putting together a setlist which flows naturally, “Until I Left You” verges on power ballad territory and it probably the first real “sing along” song on here.
“Long For The Days” is slower and more emotional, bringing to mind some Whitesnake classics. The opening verse leads into a soaring chorus with multiple backing vocals which would do Coverdale himself proud.
Bringing the tempo back up again is “Scream” which – with a name like that – is hardly going to be easy listening. A nice chugging rhythm kicks in from the off and carries us through as the song builds towards a chorus which suits the song’s title.
Hoekstra gets to demonstrate his acoustic skills briefly in the introduction to “Never Say Never” before the rockier sections jumps quickly in. This track leads into the softer, bluesy “Changes”.
“The Only Way To Go” starts with a strange “sawtooth” edge to the guitars which actually feeds in well to the harsher vocals and a near-headbanging chorus. The title track leads us into the closing section of the album and again introduces a change in tempo, being slow but heavy with distorted vocals at the start, upping the tempo while carrying an angry vibe for the chorus.
The final two tracks, “Start Again” and “What We Believe” offer further variety but are both in the “feel good” category. The former quite lively, while the latter’s airier tone with Chloe Lowery’s vocals leads the album out on a balladic yet powerful note.
Hoekstra has put together a great group of musicians for this project. Their skills have helped take the source material and mould it into a collection of songs of the highest quality. The different styles of music make it very difficult to pick out highlight tracks simply as some of the songs will appear more to some people, others to others. To me, that’s one of the album’s greatest strengths – the fact that overall it can’t be pigeon-holed. Simply… it’s a quality rock album. Listen to it – over and over – to make your own mind up as to which songs are the best for you.
Dying To Live is released on October 16th through Frontiers Music SRL.