Voodoo Circle make Steel and I yearn for the olde days, when we would sit on the veranda in our trailer park, drinking hobo wine out of pickle jars, listening to mixtapes of Blue Murder, Whitesnake, Great White, and the Scorpions. It was a simpler time back in the 80s: hairspray-soaked blues metal dominated the scene, and there were four main lyrical topics: love, bad love, dirty love, and sex. Most albums consisted of a couple of ragers, a handful of mid-paced anthems, and a power ballad or two, complete with the requisite video featuring a scantily clad model tempting the bare-chested singer. You can’t get away with that in today’s climate, but that won’t stop Voodoo Circle from trying, or Yours Truly from listening.
These German rockers hail from several different bands: founder/guitarist Alex Beyrodt plays with Primal Fear, Silent Force, and most recently the almighty Jorn. Bassist Mat Sinner and drummer Francesco Jovino also come from the Primal Fear/Jorn tree, while new singer Herbie Langhans honed his vocal chops with Sinbreed. That is a lot of power metal, but fear not: Voodoo Circle do not adhere to these Teutonic influences. As the glorious Madam X noted in her review of their 2013 album, these guys all have an unabashed love of 80s-styled blues-metal in the vein of Whitesnake and Rainbow. And unlike a lot of other bands trying to pull off the retro thing, these guys know their shit. In fact, I’d put them in the same league as Spiritual Beggars.
The biggest difference between Voodoo Circle’s first four albums and Raised on Rock is the vocals. David Readman’s clean, classic voice is replaced with Langhans’ more throaty, gravelly, boozy sound. It’s much more powerful, and the songs here reflect that, oozing that ballsy 80s blues metal certain older folks here get a kick out of. For instance, “Dreamchaser” is pure Rainbow (as is “Unknown Stranger”), with a perfect Ritchie Blackmore intro and the constant hum of a Hammond droning in the background, while “Walk on the Line” takes its propulsive drive from Whitesnake’s “Crying in the Rain,” which before it was reworked was a killer tune. Sinner and Jovino were born to be the rhythm section for this kind of material, and Langhan sings the hell out of it.
Make no mistake, despite all the great vocal and instrumental work, this is Beyrodt’s band (in fact, the official name of the band is Alex Beyrodt’s Voodoo Circle), and he has his stamp on all songs, being the main songwriter. His guitarwork is stellar – excellent acoustic and electric tones, fantastic solos, and of course the talk box work on lead single “Higher Love,” a track heavily indebted to the Scorpions’ “The Zoo.” Beyrodt shreds his way through every song, be it the palm-muted, John Sykes-inspired rhythm playing he demonstrates on “Running Away from Love” and “Ultimate Sin,” the fretboard-searing solos in “Unknown Stranger” and “You Promised Me Heaven,” or the emotive leads in “Chase Me Away,” a power ballad worthy of Tawny Kitaen. The man is worthy of having his name on the marquee.
We always say why listen to some new band delve into the retro scene when you can just dig up the real thing? Well, sometimes the retro bands can bring it just like the old albums, and that’s certainly the case with Voodoo Circle. Raised on Rock can stand up next to Blue Murder and Saints and Sinners any day. With spot-on songwriting and performances, a great mix, and nary a misstep along the way, this is traditional metal done right, and much like Night Flight Orchestra, we don’t want to like it but we are compelled instinctively to do so. Steel and Huck can enjoy their hobo wine in peace with Raised on Rock blaring.