Sunday, June 7, 2009


JORN - Spirit Black Review
June 5 2009, Frontiers records

Spirit Black... says it all, doesn't it ? An 80' style title for an album genuine and classic down to its very roots and - I have to mention this - a big and bold year 2009 for Jorn. Let's briefly remind us that apart from the brand new solo release we should see a new Avantasia before the end of the year, together with Allen/Lande 3rd sequel, not counting the "hopefully big surprise;-)" thing yet... considered alone news of the year by many. How is this possible for Jorn to do it all ?!
Highly anticipated as something ground breaking, Jorn hasn't betrayed his own words when he had promised Spirit Black would hammer JORN legacy in stone. I should let you know at the beginning: be prepared, this one was meant for real!

Jorn has opened his well hidden treasure chest and brings out several precious gems that were lying sad abandoned but once polished they turn out to be very shiny! It's been always more about adding a new spice to the old recipe rather than to force a totally inovative thing. Spirit Black is a piece of art that closes the gap between the past and present - the thing Jorn obviously knows to do so well. It feeds on the past while sounding very modern crunchy metal... and yes, speaking the sound, the mix is first class. Tommy Hansen excels again!

Most songs don't only sound as 80' hard rock, they actually are 80' hard rock, taking us to the more distant part of Jorn's career than most of us have ever heard about, back to the era of ROAD. There were times when Jorn toured with the famous Norwegian outfit in his late teens and his musical future was yet about to be decided...

The new solo is being described as a mixture between The Duke (2006) and Lonely Are The Brave (2008). Am I the only one to feel the fresh breeze Starfire (2000) once had running deep in the blood of this handful of new/old songs ? Charming and vital as it stays well within the borders of classic hard rock genre - more than ever before, the influences are very apparent.
You're going to find a little piece of Whitesnake (Burn Your Flame), RJ Dio (Road of the Cross, Spirit Black), Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow (Below), Phil Lynott (World Gone Mad, Sun Goes Down), Pretty Maids (Rock'n'Roll Angel) and many others, while at the same time the record sounds typical JORN. In the overall album concept the Black Sabbat-y Dio era doomy atmosphere (being a very strong element of Lonely Are The Brave) is somewhat less apparent, instead it has some extra "snake bite" to it, inspired all the way through and spontaneous in its nature which is always a good mark when it comes to hard rock genre.

One thing is common about the album, it's catchy, at times even very catchy, with gorgeously built choruses and an outstanding sense of melody. You will also notice the return of keyboards. They're not over-used in any terms, Jorn just doesn't avoid them any more and they're allowed to appear to enhance the atmosphere now and then.

The line-up has changed again yet the music retains its top quality. On guitar, besides Jorn's old companion Tore Moren, we have Jimmy Iversen (Road) and also Jgor Gianola playing on some songs. Nic Angileri playing bass on one song, the rest being cared for by Espen Mjøen and another Jorn's long lime companion Sid Ringsby. The excellent drum work is courtesy of nobody else than Willy "Wild" Bendiksen.

Let's try to get some insight of songs on this brand new heavy stone........

We step into the new album with Spirit Black a not so typical opener, a slower paced epic stuff similar to what we are used to hearing on Jorn's latest releases, notably The Duke (2006) in this case. The first thing that will come to your mind is its strong Dio influence - as soon as Vinny Apice-like heavy drums start the song and set up to what there is to follow. This could hardly sound more classic than it already does, slowly rolling onward and very groovy, basically built on the same guitar riff for the whole song, powerful as ever vocals yet having no discernable chorus, which - kind of strangely - adds to the song's hammering might and heaviness.

Below is slightly more melodic, built mainly around the delightful vocal line. The focus is well on Jorn here. Playful guitars swirl around the main melody and glide on their own winding path throughout the song. The solo is gorgeous as is guitar work in general.

The album turns suddenly pitch dark with Road of the Cross.
This "black diamond" has exactly the kind of a majestic feel that perfectly matches Jorn's dramatic singing expression, a stunning rhythm section, an intro slowly developing into a purely gorgeous and bombastic hook where keyboards blow an icy breeze around edgy and oriental-savoured guitars. The gothic atmosphere fully unfolds as the heavy beat takes off.. rushing like a raven across blackened skies.
Jorn seems to sing for his life on this one, just as he - right here and now - had to face dark forces of the world, the transitory nature of light and life itself... the light that's fading away until there's but moist darkness and stubbing loneliness left... Once again, this is an incredible presentation of his sheer vocal power.
The track is kind of close to some early JORN compositions on Starfire, as were Gate of Tears and Abyss of Evil. If you are for a true gem, pick up this one!

The Last Revolution raises its heavy as hell wall of guitars and brings more agressive approach to the game. What may be interesting about this track are its mixed influences of both Dio and Coverdale, well-balanced, none is more and none is less in the foreview. All flows on groovy riffs and darkness embracing vocals invited to dominate over this 4-minute of a crusher. Splendidly constructed guitar solo is where the track reaches its peak.

City Inbetween Remember the slow and dramatic song starting with a bell play from Vagabond's "mood" album Huge fan of Life ? 14 years later, here goes its cover.
Vagabond were a somewhat varied affair (and also quite beyond any nameable genre… it was a bit from progressive to pompous rock to jazz... better name it yourself). What we get now is more of a rocker song, still the progressive side of things stays its main attraction and the initial mood remains unchanged. Ethereal, dreamy and atmospheric, with many little hidden melodies and sounds, pure and limpid as glarneys scattered over the playground in the morning sun.
For those new to the song, it will likely take you a few listens to fully appreciate the little intricate yet genius melody. The longer it will take you to get this one into your head, the longer it will stay there!

Rock and Roll Angel starts out as a bluesy and angelic ballad, acoustic guitar sharing the sadness of the velvety voice that seems to be choking in pain before crunchy riffs burst into the song and turn the verse into exactly as stunning chorus. As a pure and classic melodic hard rock with wonderful lyrics and a Pretty Maids feel, this is another instant highlight and perhaps one of the best songs Jorn has been involved in as a solo artist to date. The last chorus features some clean high-pitched add vocals by Jorn that I haven't heard him doing for ages, this is going to send shivers down your spine. Could well be a movie soundtrack. Divine!

Burn Your Flame A forgotten rocker from times of Whitesnake's heyday ? Almost. And exactly as restlessly vital and seducing. It's got all the serpentine charm brought to flawless perfection as only Jorn can. But why compare him with DC every time as through the years he's clearly outreached him and his vocals qualities and any similarity you may find in his voice is just his own. After all, this is exactly how The Snakes third album might have sounded if its band members hadn't parted their ways in 1998...

World Gone Mad Yet another 80' melodic hard rocker, so damn melodic it might lead you into thinking you've heard the song before. Out of this world vocals boast the undefinable Phil Lynott remembrance (listen to Jorn's vocal tone and phrasing!!)
This is an instant-love track, catchy and contagious from the first note all over while retaining the elegancy it finds in its underlying simplicity. Just doesn't try to play any tricks with us. One more highlight!

I Walk Alone We are used to the fact that Jorn covers rock classics but obviously this is the first time he's covering a recent song sung by a female vocalist. Sometimes I do wonder with which Jorn will come next time. You'll never learn where lies the limit of his singing capabilies and every time he proves he can push it somehow further - as it's the case with I Walk Alone originally sung by the former Nightwish frontwoman Tarja Turunen. Clearly, this is not a ballad, although it has a ballad quality to it. A deep and emotional side of things unfolded over the vast winter-storm skies and thrown into the face of everyone who thought he'd hear just a cliché rocker song. How has Jorn coped with operatic type of vocals ? He's done that before if you'll remind of Mundanus Imperium.
In one word: brilliant! Unless the two versions can be hardly compared, they're different like night and day. Inevitably, the urgency and violent emotion will remind you of Beyond Twilight's The Devil's Hall of Fame - meaning that as a positive note. With the extra heaviness the cover has gained, it stays graceful as well as dark and anthemic.

The limited edition of Spirit Black contains one more track, which is well worth getting the special first pressing digipack album version. I'm talking The Sun Goes Down, obviously a Thin Lizzy cover, a ballad from Thunder and Lightning (1983) album, sung by Jorn's smooth and velvety voice style that is so true to the original of Phil Lynott's... well, he pays another homage (let's remind us of LATB cover artwork!) to the legendary singer he apparently holds sacred.

Hopefully Jorn's spirit didn't get black really... :-) I just gotta say it's well alive and kicking! Balance of melody, powerful lyric- and song-writing with enough of song variety, top quality production and last but not least at all - vocals... well, no word is actually worthy describing the charismatic might and emotional impact of Jorn's voice. You may be thousand times prepared, but it will knock you down anyway! Yet count in all the musical influences rooted mosly in 80' classic hard rock... thus fans and addicts of Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Dio, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Journey, Pretty Maids, TNT, JL Turner (the list could go on and on) you're going to find tons of reasons why you should love Jorn's new solo stuff.

It might be a little exaggerated and influenced by my strong enthusiasm about this release to state right away this is Jorn's best solo album to date. Or maybe it's just too early to judge. Let's not forget, the past was filled with highlights as well. It may not be Jorn's best, but definitely is up there with his other masterpieces and already belongs to my favourites together with OTEN and The Duke.

ABSOLUTE HIGHLIGHTS: Road of the Cross, Rock and Roll Angel, World Gone Mad

by: Mistress of Sorrow
(Review courtesy of lucie at the czech fansite here:


Jorn confirms rumours about him re-joining Masterplan

In an interview for the latest issue of Sweden Rock Magazine, Jorn puts an end to long-lasting speculation regarding the new Masterplan vocalist and confirms his return to the band. More details will follow!

This is the news we been awaiting with baited breath people!!! I am sooo excited!

1 comment:

trekman said...

Thats a helluva review. And a great one. Man I cant wait for the CD to get here!

And I think that the new Masterplan is something Every JORN fan has waited a LONG time for! Its gonna sell BIG!!