(Album Review) ALCATRAZZ - V
Release date: October 15, 2021 (Silver Lining Music)
Written by: Jeff Tighe
In 2020 hard rock veterans Alcatrazz returned to studio work, releasing Born Innocent after a 34 year hiatus. In 2021 the band lost no time in releasing their fifth studio album, appropriately named V. However, in their haste to get another album out, founding members Gary Shea (bass) and Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) seem to have lost something: founding vocalist Graham Bonnet! Given Bonnet's history with Blackmore, Schenker and Malmsteen it seems only fitting that replacing him is former Blackmore, Schenker and Malmsteen vocalist Doogie White.
This fifth release is a 12 song, 62 minute effort that probably should have been a few songs shorter. The first half of the album are strong entries into the band's catalogue, but the back half takes a noticeable back-step in song writing quality (and the song placement is clearly not coincidental). Kicking the collection off is a speedy number, "Guardian Angel", which clearly features the high pitched guitar flourishes that former guitarist Yngwie J. Malmsteen made so integral to the Alcatrazz sound. The next couple of songs, speedster "Nightwatch" and "Sword of Deliverance" feature a great organ sound courtesy of Waldo, along with merciless pounding by drummer Mark Benquechea.
The fourth song, "Turn of the Wheel", is a riff based effort that would fit comfortably on the underrated Black Sabbath album Seventh Star. Next up is "Blackheart", a singalong type epic which sounds like it came off a Running Wild album during their seafaring phase, and allows White's vocal style to really shine. The first half is completed by another catchy number, "Grace of God", which will find its way back to the listener's mind repeatedly, hours after it is was last heard.
The weaker back half starts off with a slow dirge, "Return to Nevermore", which reminds this reviewer of "Double Monday" from mid-90s Dio. Like some of the remaining songs, it isn't bad, but it isn't as good as what came before. "House of Lies" is the best song of the second half, reminiscent of late 80s Deep Purple. Two or three of the later songs would have best served the album by being removed as they are badly written or just plain boring.