Album Review — Joe Lynn Turner
Joe Lynn Turner — Belly of the Beast
Joe Lynn Turner is back with another solo record and a new look. We last heard Turner in Sunstorm where he was recently replaced by Ronnie Romero. Turner sung on a couple of MSG tracks but this is his first full length release since leaving Sunstorm. He also has a new look going without the wig that he’s worn for many years.
I will always think of JLT as the lead singer of Rainbow and then releasing his first solo record which was a personal favorite. He’s also sung for Fandango, Yngwie Malmsteen, Deep Purple and more than a few supergroups. He’s covered just about every genre in rock but this record is a little on the heavier side.
Since I’ve had COVID the last week I’m resorting to a first time listen review so here we go…
Belly of the Beast — The title track leads things off and it’s heavy. Turner’s voice still sounds strong but I’m not sure this is the best genre to feature it. It’s a very busy sounding track with double bass and lots of guitars and keys. There’s definitely an intention to sound heavy. It’s OK.
Black Sun — A little Deep Purple type keyboard sound starts things off. The vocal sounds much more like JLT. It kind of sounds like a Deep Purple track with the guitars heavily distorted. Unlike the opening track, this one actually sounds like JLT. Much better.
Tortured Soul — This one starts off slower with Turner’s vocals in a lower range. There’s a strange transition after the verse and an over-the-top group vocal in the chorus. Another track that sounds like it’s trying too hard to be “metal”. I’m not sure why this decision was made but Turner’s talent is being masked by it.
Rise Up — After a short intro this one kicks in with an almost Rob Zombie guitar sound. The chorus brightens up a little but I still get the sense of trying too hard to be metal. Turner’s vocal is intentionally more gruff and I don’t understand why.
Dark Night of the Soul — And there he is. Turner proves he still has the chops at the start of the track in the opening verse. I think they overdo the orchestration here but otherwise it’s much better. When you have one of the best vocalists in rock why not just feature the vocals? This one could be stripped back but at least it’s better.
Tears of Blood — More Zombie-like guitars to start this one off. I do like the melody in this one a little more but I still think there’s too much going on. It’s one of the better tracks so far but I’m not a fan of the direction of the album.
Desire — This one has a minute long intro of mostly just a guitar riff but then the rest of the band joins in. I don’t like the “gang vocal” that I’m hearing on the record. I think it’s unnecessary and only adds to the idea of trying to sound heavy. But I do like this track a little better. It’s a better fit for Turner’s vocals.
Don’t Fear The Dark — A frenetic keyboard sound it now added to the mix on this aggressive track. It’s more of the same over-the-top metal sound that just doesn’t really work with Turner’s voice. It’s not like it’s bad but it’s kind of like using a high end cut of meat in a chili. Why cover JLT’s voice with so much other stuff?
Fallen World — More of the same here with the Zombie-like guitar sound and Turner using his “metal” voice. Now I’m just mad. This is probably the worst song so far.
Living the Dream — The Zombie-guitars are turned down for this one and it’s much better. We get more JLT here and it works. Not trying to sound heavy, just his natural voice. There’s still too much going on in the chorus but this I can deal with. Much better but too little and too late.
Requiem — Lots of orchestration on this one as to be expected with the title. This one has that big sound to it with a choir-like sound in the chorus and that over-the-top feel almost like a musical number. As with most of the record, it’s too much.
Well, that was a disappointment. The one thing that sets Joe Lynn Turner apart from the pack are his incredible vocals and more often than not they are overpowered by a everything else going on. The few highs on the record are when we hear JLT front and center doing what he does best. But they are few and far between.
Maybe some folks will enjoy the heavier focus here but to me it sounds forced and unnatural. It’s very much a square peg in a round hole type of scenario for me.
Maybe Turner is trying to distance himself from the way Sunstorm ended or to go in a new direction with his new look. Whatever it is I hope it doesn’t last long and he goes back to doing what he does best.
80 out of 100
- Belly of the Beast
- Black Sun *
- Tortured Soul
- Rise Up
- Dark Night of the Soul
- Tears of Blood
- Don’t Fear the Dark
- Fallen World
- Living the Dream *