By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
The Doogie White-fronted version of Alcatrazz is in the middle of writing and recording material for a new album. Roppongi Rocks boss Stefan Nilsson has heard five of the tracks from the sessions.
Alcatrazz marches on. Since last year’s terrific “Born Innocent” album, the band has welcomed new vocalist Doogie White, announced new tour dates and revealed plans for a new album. Bassist Gary Shea and Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) played together in classic rock band New England and also in hard rock act Warrior (with future KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent) before they co-founded Alcatrazz in 1983. In recent years, Gary and Jimmy have also played together in the fabulous Rock Island Orchestra. The current line-up of Alcatrazz consists of Gary and Jimmy as well as Mark Benquechea on drums, Joe Stump on lead guitar and, the latest addition, vocalist Doogie White. I had the privilege of getting a virtual listening session with Alcatrazz which included five tracks from the band’s ongoing recording sessions for the next album which is tentatively out later this year. The result? Sensational! The new music being created by Alcatrazz is phenomenal. Having vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Praying Mantis, Tank) join the band was, to me at least, unexpected but, oh boy, how well that move turned out. Doogie, my favourite Scottish vocalist now that Nazareth’s Dan McCafferty has retired, is a world-class vocalist and entertainer. Hearing him sing with Alcatrazz is as good as I had hoped. Nah, it’s even better than I expected. While the tracks I have heard are not final mixes, the production sounds terrific with many interesting and subtle layers and twists and turns throughout the songs. The tracks I was invited to hear were “Guardian Angel” (with Nigel Glockler from Saxon guesting on drums), “Nightwatch”, “Sword of Deliverance”, “Turn of the Wheel” and “Target”. Throughout the band’s history, Alcatrazz never stood still and always kept evolving. Judging by the new music being created right now, the next album will be taking things further once again. Based on these five songs, the album will be killer. This is fresh-sounding guitar-driven hard rock with some NWOBHM parts as well as European-style power metal influences. There’s a strong foundation of proper hard rock and metal, fantastic melodies, but with a modern feel to it all. It’s contemporary, it’s relevant here and now. Alcatrazz is a band that has always had exquisite lead guitarists. The band’s current lead guitarist Joe Stump is phenomenal and, if we need to compare him to his predecessors, his style is neoclassical in line with the band’s original lead guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. I have seen Joe on stage during Alcatrazz’s 2019 Japan tour and heard him on last year’s “Born Innocent” album. But on these new songs he gets to shine more than ever. Just listen to his magic on songs like “Guardian Angel” and “Sword of Deliverance” (oh, well, you can’t just yet…). Joe is a vitamin injection and a great fit for the musical direction that Alcatrazz is taking. Both Joe and Doogie are essentially doing the same thing here – they shine like crazy but they never let their brilliance completely take over the songs. This combined with a rock-steady rhythm section and Jimmy’s keyboards weaving it all together creates splendid melodic, high-energy hard rock. I am looking forward to hearing the finalised album which will be released later this year. And, no doubt, this will be a great live experience.