For a two person project that does things in an independent fashion, JOHNNY LOKKE doesn’t fit the sound template of the picture painted. This is no basement project between a couple kids, nor is it an unprofessional endeavor into some obscure, pseudo original style. This is good old fashioned Heavy Metal with a slick, solid, professional production and a sound firmly entrenched in the AOR and NWOBHM orthodoxies that feed into the style, along with perhaps a slight helping of early Grunge. Familiar European outfits such as POWERWORLD, MASTERPLAN and DREAM EVIL are among those that can be linked with this sound, along with a few familiar 80s bands such as KROKUS and BON JOVI. But despite the many known bands seemingly feeding into this opus titled “Promises And Lies,” there is a level of originality on display here.
The principle draw of this album is the vocal work of the man whom the project is named for, as he displays a strong level of versatility. When singing plainly there are a number of 80s icons that come to mind, but his high end falsetto singing is the real attraction, offering up a rather intricate blend of Rob Halford and King Diamond. It doesn’t have the same piercing intensity as the former, and doesn’t mix in ghostly sounding overdubbed harmonies as the latter often does, but each manifestation on here offers up an interesting twist on an otherwise tried and true formula. There are also some occasional references to what sounds like John Bush during latter day ARMORED SAINT, particularly on the somewhat early 90s tinged “Black Sunday.”
This is not an exercise in ambitious progressive composing, though there is a level of ambitiousness here; this is pure songwriting that gets into the head and refuses to leave. The lyrical content gets a bit deep considering the format, but when looking at the upbeat anthem “Accident Of One” and the low end grooving “Starchasers,” the format is a little closer to that of late 80s mainstream Metal/Rock than anything else. Even when things venture into a crushing, speed riff filled fit of aggression as is the case in “Obsession,” or the JUDAS PRIEST infused sledgehammer “Heal Me” (where Johnny Lokke literally sounds like a middle ground between King Diamond and Tim Owens), the format is very simple, the guitar drives things with a pounding, heavy sound comparable to current Gus G conventions, and things retain a strong level of predictability in spite of the uniqueness of the execution.
Pretty much anyone who likes their 80s sounding Heavy Metal with an updated production and a fair helping of versatility should be able to appreciate this. Probably the most interesting aspect of this is the lack of limitation with regards to lyrical subjects, being able to bridge the divide between the introspective and societal commentary of Progressive Metal with the catchy themes more often associated with bands the sing about getting high or getting laid. There’s nothing quite along the lines of a sheer metallic revolution to report here, but definitely something with an identity of its own, and a good solid slab of fun.
(Online April 3, 2011)