Review Summary: It's 1985 and Hair metal rings supreme through out America. And at the forefront is Dokken.
In a scene full of teased and feathered hair, and poseresk bands, there is one out of the crowd that shines so bright its hard to ignore. Thus we have Dokken. Quite possibly the best band to come out of the early 80s L.A. hair metal scene. Although most of the bands out of the L.A. scene seemed to try and out do one another to look more and more like girls than the other, but on the other hand Dokken had a bit of that image, but kept it to a more street level than most of their counterparts. Primarily because they were all in their 30s when this was recorded. What also separated them from the pack besides their age was the fact that they had excellent musicianship with guitarist George Lynch, who by some is considered one of the best guitarists ever, and influenced a generation of guitar players of the 80s just as much as Eddie Van Halen.
While most L.A. glam and hair bands were making bubble gummy pop music, Dokken had a slue of hard rockin’ songs under their belts to also make them stand out from the crowd. With songs such as Lightning Strikes Again, The Hunter, Unchain the Night, and Till the Livin’ End, which all have a hard rock kick ass edge to them. Unlike other bands from the genre such as Poison, and Motley Crue who were making more and more poppy sounding songs as the 80s went on.
Dokken’s only draw back is in the vocalist Don Dokken, although he does the hair band high pitched vocals pretty well, he can’t really do anything else, he is a limited vocalist which can get annoying, and may be a turn off to some listeners. Although his vocals may not be as over the top high pitched as some of the other bands within the 80s hair band scene it still can become annoying after awhile. But he does have his moments of strength, such as at the end of the song Lightning Strikes Again, when he belts out the chorus as high and loud as he could possibly could.
Dokken is possibly most noted for their third album Back for the Attack which is the album that follows this one, but in my mind this is their strongest release because of the fact that this album has better song structures that aren’t all about the guitar playing, less over the top vocals, and less amounts of clunkers. While the songs Jaded Heart and Will the Sun Rise maybe the weakest of the album its still hard to not find something that is enjoyable about these songs. While the lyrics maybe a bit cheesy (which is a turn off for me) you can still enjoy the fantastic solos all over the album. While Back for the Attack has George Lynch soloing all over the record, this one has more laid back solos that fit the song more which to me is better then just showing off your skills and trying to show how much of a guitar god you are. Some of the best examples of great guitar playing are shown on the songs Unchain the Night, In My Dreams, and Lightning Strikes Again, it seems that Lynch tried extra hard on these songs and it really shines through.
While the bass and drums are barely notable and are buried behind Lynch’s fantastic guitar playing, and Don Dokken’s vocals it is still solid none the less. Jeff Pilson is solid bass player but he is not at all notable in the mix of any albums. If you think Metallica’s mix for …And Justice for All is an insult to a bass player this is even worse. There are no traces of bass at all, which comes to no surprise hence it was the 80s and it seems most hair bands tried as hard as they could to bury their bass players in the mix. While “Wild” Mick Brown is a solid drummer its not really shown on this album, as all he does is your standard high hat snare combo, but it fit’s the song well which is what he is good at, and I applaud him for. It’s very often you find an amazing drummer.
All in all Under Lock and Key is Dokken’s best release to date because of the fact that there is stellar guitar playing, decent vocals (for hair metal), and some classic hard rocking songs. This is a must own for all Dokken fans, because of classic numbers Unchain the Night, The Hunter, In My Dreams, Lightning Strikes Again, and Till The Livin’ End. This is also a must own for all the fans of George Lynch. And this would also be a good pick up for someone who is just into 80s music or just hard rock in general. And please do not let my name fool you, although I am a thrash head I do enjoy some hair metal from time to time this album would be a prime example of great hair metal that scrapes the surface of hard rock of the 80s.