Nov. 2, 1987, Dokken released their best-selling album, “Back For the Attack.” The album peaked at No. 13. The recording would remain on the charts for 33 weeks. “Back For the Attack” contained several seminal tracks. The band’s trademarks of Don Dokken’s stratospheric vocals, George Lynch’s aggressive and nuanced guitar playing and Mick Brown’s thundering drums helped propel the album into popularity. A mix of famous releases and album tracks make the album interesting even 31 years later.
The sound of the 1980s and Dokken
Dokken grew out of the Sunset Strip scene that is credited with both creating glam metal and launching it into the world circa 1981. The look and sound of the Sunset Strip soon became a nationwide phenomenon once bands from the Sunset Strip received record deals and started having videos shown on MTV. Bands like Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Ratt, Dokken and others were among the first that showed US audiences outside of Los Angeles what glam metal looked and sounded like.
The sound was a departure from hard rock and blues-based heavy metal from the 1970s, while keeping some of the elements. The look involved long layered hair, tight clothes, and occasional makeup for men. The sound is often the source of controversy, but at the time it was guitars, drums, high singing voices and lyrics about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Songs comprised of a pattern of verse and chorus, with a guitar solo in the middle.
“Back For the Attack” (1987) by Dokken
By the time the album was released in 1987, glam metal had ruled the style and sound of the 1980s for several years. Dokken’s sound was arguably more aggressive than some glam metal bands. This aggression can be heard on “Back For the Attack.” The at turns crunchy, searing or guttural guitar work of Lynch serves the album well, as does the surprising agile vocal stylings of Dokken.
The song’s content ranges from nightlife, to unrequited love, and saving oneself from a homicidal character from a slasher movie franchise. In short, it was the perfect late 1980s album. The biggest flaw of the album was probably that it came late in the glam metal era.
Some of the most interesting works from “Back For the Attack” were never or rarely played on the radio depending on the market. Songs like “Night By Night” and “Prisoner” show the nuanced and heavy work that Dokken was capable of.
“Night By Night” by Dokken
The song opens with a growling swirl of guitar. The song extols the virtue of coming out at night. Its lyrics at times sound like a collection of anthems. “It’s now or never/get out of the way…” is repeated at various times. What keeps the song going is the guitar and drum work that pushes the song forward like an engine. In the midst of the exchange of lead and backing vocals, the song lightens a touch with a melodic line from the guitar being added in to the arpeggio that wraps itself around the song’s end.
“Prisoner” by Dokken
A song about love gone wrong opens with an impressive, sharp-edged cry of guitar notes. The vocals are lowered pitched – – this is true for both the lead and backing vocals. The guitar motif that opens the song appears in other parts of it. The guitar solo is effective and divides the song nicely. The drums thunder in tandem with the protesting guitar work. There is energy, movement and declarations about self-determination that is characteristic of glam metal.
While glam metal might not be the taste of every music fan, there is no mistaking its popularity in the 1980s, and not all the fans were children. The 1980s were a time of risk-taking in terms of popular music styles, and with pop, soul, and alternative music all evolving at the same time, in hindsight it is no small feat that a glam metal band found its way to the Top 20. “Back For the Attack” by Dokken is worth listening to, even three decades later. For some fans it will be a reminder of what Dokken had to offer listeners, and for other listeners it will be a glimpse of what was missed when glam metal’s reign ended.