If you grew up with metal music back in the mid-‘80s, you sure as heck know who Doro Pesch is. Around 1986, there were very few women who dared to crash the metal fraternity. Yeah, there were people like Lita Ford and the poodle-headed quartet Vixen, but extremely few ladies playing the really heavy stuff. Straight out of Germany, however, came Warlock, with the young, petite, blonde, leather-clad, leather-throated little number named Doro at the helm, and the jaws of 15-year-old metalheads everywhere dropped to the floor. There she was on the band’s album covers, looking like a Teutonic goddess you’d see airbrushed on a customized Econoline. And she could really sing, too; it was enough to send teenaged hearts reeling and mouths drooling. Warlock scored a couple of very minor hits in the form of “Fight for Rock” and “All We Are”, but soon dropped off the radar of most metal fans. Pesch tried to valiantly keep things going with a solo project late that decade, but after her abysmal cover of Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, off her solo debut Force Majeure, most kids in North America stopped caring altogether.
Until a couple of years ago, most of us who remember Warlock had no idea Doro was still plugging away in Europe with her own band. Her 2000 album Calling the Wild was a rather impressive comeback, her first American release in a decade (which featured a cool cover of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”), and with the release of her latest, entitled Fight, she now has a total of 12 studio albums under her belt (four with Warlock, eight solo releases) since 1983. Not bad at all, especially for someone who isn’t even forty yet. And she still looks, and more importantly, sounds great.
Like her good friend, Motorhead head honcho Lemmy Kilminster, Doro is content to continue churning out the same, aggressive, heavy, yet very melodic metal, and when you compare Fight to those early Warlock releases, there’s very little difference in their sounds. Like Motorhead, like Halford, and like Ronnie James Dio, Doro is always at her best when delivering those chuggin’, fist-pumping anthems, and as corny as they may seem today, especially among all the current nu-metal kids so full of self-loathing, these songs are a pleasure to hear. Pesch is in fine form on the album’s churning title track, showing she still has great range in her voice, from subtle crooning, to upper registers, to the guttural howl of the chorus. Faster numbers like “Always Live to Win”, “Chained”, and the propulsive “Sister Darkness” recycle those now-ancient metal formulae, from the staccato guitar picking, to the us-against-them lyrics, to the rave-up choruses, but their total lack of irony make them great fun. The Spanish-language “Salvaje” (“savage”) combines those elements the most perfectly, managing to still sound fresh and passionate.
The rest of Fight is up and down. The ludicrous “Rock before You Bleed” is all the aforementioned metal clichés at their most lazily executed, while the tuned-way-down heaviness of “Descent” is an intriguing duet between Doro and Type O Negative gothmeister Pete Steele, with Pesch’s powerful voice swirling around Steele’s mournful cries. “Legends Never Die” is a cover of a song by the late, one-of-a-kind Wendy O. Williams, and is produced by Gene Simmons of Kiss, who produced the original Williams version nearly two decades ago. And what old-school metal album would be complete without an epic, highly theatrical power ballad, and there are more than a few on the album. “Wild Heart” and “Undying” work well enough, but by the time you get to the anti-war dirge “Fight by Your Side” and the sung-in-German “Hoffnung” (“hope”), they begin to sound too maudlin, and you mind starts to wander.
The production on Fight is much more raw than Calling the Wild, and while the absence of overdubs and the live feel of the record works at times, the polish of Doro’s previous album is missed, especially on the ballads, which tend to sound too muddy on the new record. It has its share of good moments as well as forgettable ones, but Fight is worthy of a marginal recommendation. It’s great to see Doro still doing her thing after all these years and sounding terrific in the meantime. You keep fightin’ for rock, Doro.
// Notes from the Road
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