“Sin. Just a tiny, three-letter word but one with a very comprehensive meaning: everything in between a little white lie and a murder. So, it deserves a powerful, heavy, epic song to do it justice,” shares Dutch guitar legend Adrian Vandenberg about the title track of the new album, “Sin,” to be released by his prestigious hard-rock powerhouse, VANDENBERG, on August 25 th, 2023, via Mascot Records. Having emerged out of The Netherlands and onto the global music scene back in 1982, Vandenberg has become a phenomenon of sorts over the years, with a track record few can beat. Perhaps his most famous contribution to the world of music is the guitar solo in one of the most iconic hard-rock bangers ever released – “Here I Go Again” by WHITESNAKE (the 1987 version, that is). More recently, he has released acclaimed albums under the VANDERBERG’S MOONKINGS banner, and, in 2020, VANDENBERG as a band roared back to life in order to spread the gospel of quality hard rock once again. At first glance, the new album seems to nod rather deeply toward the vintage hard-rock aesthetics but, while there may be little evolutionary advantage in reinventing the wheel, I’m not complaining; you can never really have too many class-A hard-rock albums in your collection, so I welcome this musical journey down the memory lane with open arms – it is crafted with tender love and care.
Opening the album, “Thunder and Lightning” immediately takes me back some 40 years, resonating with the air of the early-1980s heavyweights, such as RAINBOW and DIO. They say that the great musicians in the Orient have become saints through the power of music and I’m pretty confident that the same holds true for those early heavy-metal legends; it must be the only reasonable explanation for why it always brings a smile to your face when someone pays this sort of homage to their sublime art. Then again, the Sufi view is that music in itself is the divine art, that the sound of instruments, or of the human voice, is the universal sound of the spheres. I have to agree – with the addition that the vintage heavy-metal sound must be even more so.
Next, “House On Fire” is a nice cross between the glam sound of Los Angeles circa 1985 and the more rowdy conduct of AC/DC from the same era. Yeah, you’d think that these two might not really mix very well – but they do! Top that impression off with the vocal delivery of Mats Levén whose signature sound resonates with the authentic rasp of those pioneering hard-rock crooners from Glenn Hughes to Ronnie James Dio to Brian Johnson and you couldn’t really ask for more! If the best hard-rock moments of the 1980s could be condensed into one song, here’s a mighty good contender.
Then, the title track zooms the lens even further back in time, on LED ZEPPELIN, more precisely. The staccato strings, quite obviously, resonate with the air of “Kashmir,” while the guitar parts pay homage to Jimmy Page‘s other timeless riffs with the same high regard. Yes, the song is every bit as heavy, powerful, and epic as the maestro himself claimed.
Vandenberg could be treading in sensitive waters here, of course – sonic tributes of this sort do not always go down particularly well in the demographic of heavy-metal puritans. Vandenberg seasons his songs with enough personal touch to steer clear of being a mere copycat artist. To paraphrase a nugget of ancient street wisdom: when you steal from only one source, it is plagiarism, but when you steal from multiple sources, it is about being influenced by them. Besides, this dude is one of the original heavy-metal rogues, so I would be cautious with using words such as “stealing.”
Of course, there are ample WHITESNAKE vibes on the outing as well. After all, Vandenberg made his international break alongside David Coverdale on two of the most seminal WHITESNAKE albums perhaps ever (at least to my generation who were teenagers at the time). Not only did he play on the eponymous 1987 album that boasts only gargantuan hits but also on the follow-up, “Slip of the Tongue” (1989), which he actually co-wrote in its entirety. Most prominently this shines through on the ballad, “Baby You’ve Changed,” which could have fitted seamlessly on either of those vintage WHITESNAKE efforts. On a more uptempo footing, “Walking on Water” resonates with a similar, mid-1980s WHITESNAKE air. Vocalist Levén drops a pretty convincing Coverdale impersonation in the latter song.
That pretty much sums it up; the remaining songs roll out with no dramatic surprises. If you grew up in the 1980s listening to either the sleazy-rolling Los Angeles sound or the more fantasy-laden heavy-metal acts, or why not both, VANDENBERG‘s new album is sure to win you over. Yeah, it is endearingly old-fashioned in every respect but, maybe because of that, the songwriting and delivery are top-notch all the way. Yeah, this album could just as well have been released in, say, 1987 but, then again, it was a good year, just check it out!
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Thunder and Lightning
- House On Fire
- Light It Up
- Walking On Water
- Burning Skies
- Hit the Ground Running
- Baby, You’ve Changed
- Out of the Shadows
Adrian Vandenberg – guitars
Mats Levén – vocals
Koen Herfst – drums
Randy van der Elsen – bass