By Sam Graham
“A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.” Robert Heinlein
It should have been Warlock’s fifth studio album, but due to some legal debacles and the fact that by that time she was the only original member, the German Valkyrie of metal, Doro Pesch decided to release it under the guise of a solo project, although many fans still consider it to be the next Warlock album.
Released at the end of metal’s glory years (1989), Doro Pesch’s debut Force Majeure is hard-hitting metal album that sounds almost effortless.
It seemed that during the 80’s there were two types of metal: technical and simple. While bands like Metallica and Annihilator were working to overcomplicate their music, the likes of Doro, W.A.S.P and Twisted Sister opted for a stripped down approach, without the complex interludes and bizarre time signatures that other bands were going for. This made them more palatable and radio-friendly, with the hope to find a larger audience.
Force Majeure opens with a cover of Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale. Strange to open with a cover, especially on such a pivotal album (solo project debuts almost always make or break), but Doro’s haunting voice holds your attention just long enough for the rest of the band to kick in. It’s everything you’d expect for a metal cover of the song, and the main hook that everyone knows, but doesn’t know what it is, is nothing short of brilliant.
After that it becomes a metal album.
Save My Soul kicks in after a few seconds with a riff that I dare you not to like, then after Doro sings about loneliness comes the first of many anthemic chorus’ that populate the album. Seriously, it will stick in your head for ages. Later, Guitarist Jon Levin helps himself to a big scoop of kick-ass with the solo. It’s fast, it’s flashy and it sounds like it deserves be played loud, how metal should be. A quick search for Levin shows he now plays in Dokken. Not surprising really as he sounds a bit like George Lynch, although a couple of solos on Force Majeure made me pull out the sleeve to see if Jim Steinman didn’t have a few credits.
Most of the songs on Force Majeure get off to a great start and carry that mirth on right up to the last note.World Gone Wild, Mission of Mercy, Angels with Dirty Faces, Hard Times and Under the Gun all follow this pattern and they all work as great rock songs. Then, out of nowhere comesBeyond the Trees. Honestly, when I first heard this album, I never saw it coming. It’s a sombre piano-led piece lamenting the end of ‘nature’s reign’ and how mankind is at fault. It’s a short, but very moving song that’s carried beautifully. If it was released nowadays, it would likely get called a My Immortal (Evanescence) clone, but Beyond theTrees is far superior in my book, because it’s simple, short but sweet and doesn’t lay it on too thick with the piano.
After Beyond the Trees, the album regains its hard-rockin’ posture with Hard Times, a song about not letting the daily tirade of crap drag you down. It’s everything that rock & roll was created for and again, Levin lets out some shredding to help accentuate Doro’s point.
If there’s one song on the album that has to be the pinnacle, it’s River of Tears, although it’s a close call with Cry Wolf. River of Tears has an almost Welcome Home (Sanitarium) guitar riff to the verses, but the chorus’ are by far some of the most epic on the album. Doro’s voice reaches into a steaming vat of power and emotion that’s both awe-inspiring and touching. Even the solos are more thought out and soulful than the usual shredding. This song, it seems, was designed to be the epic one of the album.
If there’s anything that draws the album back, it’s that while the songs may be catchy and simplistic, a lot of them follow the same formula. It doesn’t stagnate due to the sombre A Whiter Shade of Pale, Beyond the Trees and River of Tears being placed at the beginning, middle and end of the album, but they can make the songs in between seem a bit throw-away.
On the whole, Force Majeure is simple, but flashy music, kind of like W.A.S.P’s self-titled debut or Stay Hungry by Twisted Sister, but how does it fare up today, in 2012?
Well, ask yourself, if you weren’t reading this, would you ever have heard of this woman, or this album? I’m going to presume that the answer is: It wouldn’t be surprising if you hadn’t. I myself wouldn’t have either if I hadn’t seen this album in a second-hand music shop. What attracted me to it was the album cover (Doro being on the front probably helped. Schwing!) It looked so metal that I couldn’t not buy it, even if just to see what it sounded like. Perhaps it was because Force Majeure marked the end of Warlock, maybe it was because it was a female solo-artist album and at that time metal was still very much a ‘guy thing’, whatever the reason, it didn’t stop Doro from continually releasing albums all throughout the following two decades.
These days, Ms Pesch is still playing live, and although her last studio release was in 2009 (titled: Fear No Evil and sporting bitchin’ cover art), it seems that she remains on the esoteric side of metal, but has a die-hard following.
If you’re a fan of Dokken, Twisted Sister and W.A.S.P (and of course Warlock), I’d definitely recommend this album. You won’t regret it.
Devil-Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \n