Legendary American rockers DOKKEN will release their 13th studio album, “Heaven Comes Down”, on October 27 via Silver Lining Music. The follow-up to 2012’s “Broken Bones” was produced by Bill Palmer and Don Dokken and was mixed by Kevin Shirley (AEROSMITH, IRON MAIDEN).
The official music video for the LP’s second single, “Gypsy”, can be seen below.
“While writing the new record, we had written a lot of music, but I sometimes got stuck with the lyrics so I decided to go camping,” explains Don. “I came across a woman wearing a lot of necklaces and jewelry. She was driving an old wagon with one horse and she was stuck in a hole. I asked her if she needed help, but she said, ‘No. The sun will be up soon.’ She had a fire going and invited me to have some food that was cooking in an old pot, so I did and we began to talk. She spoke in broken English and looked Navaho. There is a reservation here in New Mexico. The first thing she said to me was, ‘You make music,’ and I was intrigued by that, so we sat there for several hours and talked. She looked very old yet wise. She told me about her life living on the reservation and I told her about my life. She told me I had lost my way, which I found funny since she seemed to be lost but wasn’t. It was pitch black. She looked up and said, ‘The stars guide me,’ and started speaking Navaho. I found the experience very surreal.”
Don concludes: “I got my jack out of my truck and lifted up her wagon. We both gathered a lot of rocks and filled the hole so she could get her wagon unstuck, and then she just walked away and started to drive off without saying a word, but then she shouted back to me and said, ‘The sun is coming up… you need to go, the coyotes and mount lions will be hunting soon’… Very wise advice.”
Last month, DOKKEN released the music video for the album’s first single, “Fugitive”. The clip was directed by Chris Eyre (“Dark Winds”, “Smoke Signals”) and was filmed at the popular immersive arts venture Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Don said about “Fugitive”: “The inspiration for the lyrics came from what seems to me to be an uncertain world these days. It’s an up-tempo Rokker as are many on the album. I don’t know what the future holds for our world, so I decided to take a step back and watch it all unfold… Yes, I guess I’ve become like many these days a fugitive from life. Hence the title!”
He continued: “The song rocks and the lyrics are self-explanatory. Like many songs I’ve written, it came to me late at night. Inspiration and pure stream of consciousness have always been the best formula for me when composing. It has that classic DOKKEN sound… A great song to blast when driving down the highway.”
Working with Palmer over the course of a year at his studio in Santa Fe, the DOKKEN flavors remain as potent as ever, yet they’re also sprinkled with some desert seasoning which gives “Heaven Comes Down” a richness hitherto unseen on a DOKKEN album.
You want to rock? Sink your teeth into “Fugitive”, which rides some shimmering guitar work courtesy of 20-plus-year member Jon Levin, and if you want ballads, head on over to “I’ll Never Give Up”, hanging on that Coliseum chorus, Levin laying down a landmark solo. The pattern of “Heaven Comes Down” never falters in delivering the goods on both sides of the fence. “Just Like A Rose” brings the Pacific Coast Highway to desert plains with its smooth, effortlessly-driven gears, and “Saving Grace” carries a mystical malevolence. But “Santa Fe” is perhaps the most revealing with Don Dokken opening up with what amounts to a “life-moment biography”: a spartan acoustic arrangement allowing the rich yet road-driven vocals to frame what might well prove to be the defining moment of DOKKEN‘s career.
Don Dokken makes one thing abundantly clear: he is excited about his new record and the future, and wholly uninterested in revisiting a DOKKEN past which has centered too much on the off-stage and out-of-studio swirl.
“I’m so tired of hearing about the fighting and the ‘this’ and ‘that’… this is about a new record,” he declares, “a new record with my new band. It’s been a long process, but at the end of the day, I think we have lightning in a bottle.”
“Heaven Comes Down” will be released on CD digipak, 12-inch vinyl album in black and color variants, digital formats and special D2C products and bundles.
03. Is It Me Or You?
04. Just Like A Rose
05. I’ll Never Give Up
06. Saving Grace
07. Over The Mountain
08. I Remember
09. Lost In You
10. Santa Fe
According to Don, 15 songs were recorded for “Heaven Comes Down”, with the original plan to include all of them on the LP.
“When I write records, I don’t just think, ‘Okay, we need 10 songs or 11.’ I always write 20 per album, and then you pick the best,” he explained to Tulsa Music Stream. “And sometimes you write a song, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, this is great.’ And it’s a good thing I owned a recording studio in L.A., so it didn’t cost me anything. And I’d write and write and write. And I’d get it done, and I’d go, ‘Eh… It’s okay.’ So you get an idea and you think it’s gonna go, and all of a sudden it just didn’t pay out.
“I’m very proud of the record, but then I gave it to the label… I had only written three songs in the past that never made it, and it was me playing guitar,” he said. “And I wanted those on the record, because now I’m crippled, I can’t play guitar anymore. I said, ‘At least put those on the album,’ my last hurrah. And they took ’em off. And I never heard… Most record companies, they want 15 songs or 16 songs, like METALLICA albums. And he goes, ‘We can only put 10.’ I go, ‘But that was the old days of vinyl.’ You could only put — I can’t remember; I think it’s 40 minutes a side or something like that. So I said, ‘But these are good songs. I want ’em on the record.’ Why would you wanna take off four good songs? And they said, ‘Well, maybe we’ll put like a bonus album out down the road and add ’em.’ … Anyway, he just said, ‘We want 10 songs on the record, 10 songs on the CD. We’re ditching four of ’em.’ And they happened to pick the ones that I was playing the guitar on and Jon [Levin, DOKKEN guitarist] was playing solos. And I think they didn’t like ’em… What did my record company president say? ‘They’re too grungy.’ And I went, ‘Grungy? Well, they’re old.’ But it wasn’t like they were grungy; they were just dark. I was probably going through a dark phase, and he didn’t want any dark songs on the record; he just wanted that classic DOKKEN [sound with] tons of harmonies, uptemp… yada yada yada.”
One of the songs on “Heaven Comes Down” is the aforementioned “Santa Fe”, which was written about Don‘s adopted hometown.
“People are always asking me how I ended up here,” Dokken said. “And I told the story to my engineer and producer Bill Palmer. So I literally wrote a song called ‘Santa Fe’, and it’s four minutes and 15 seconds, ‘From the day I was born in L.A., I never wanted to leave. I had a lot of jobs. I hung out on Sunset Boulevard. I traveled around the world, was always missing home.’ And I was telling him this, and he was recording it on a microphone. And I told him my story, and I went, ‘Huh. I can make a song out of this.’ So I did… And it’s a really cool bastard song. It’s not a rock song. It’s not country. I can’t put my finger on it.”
Regarding the experience of working with Shirley for the first time, Don said: “Kevin Shirley is an amazing engineer. When he first started mixing the record, I was really disappointed. He gave me the first song and I went, ‘This sounds like ’80s.’ And he goes, ‘Well, I thought that’s what you were going for.’ And I said, ‘That ship has sailed, man. I want a modern record — punchy, aggressive, in your face. I don’t want a bunch of reverb, I don’t want a bunch of echo. I don’t want a bunch of production — just harmonies I want still.’ So he goes, ‘Oh, okay, I get it.’ I said, ‘Look, I just heard the IRON MAIDEN album. That thing kicks ass. Just go that direction.’ So he did.”
The title of the new DOKKEN album is apparently not to be confused with the song “When Heaven Comes Down” which originally appeared on the band’s 1984 LP “Tooth And Nail”.
This past March, DOKKEN bassist Chris McCarvill confirmed to Sam Wall that the band’s long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s “Broken Bones” album was “totally finished.” Regarding what DOKKEN fans can expect from the new album, Chris said: “I have to tell you is Don sounds fantastic on it. He sounds great. I talked to him on the phone about this a bunch of times, and it was, like, he re-did his vocals three times. He didn’t just phone it in; he really worked hard on it. And I can honestly say that, as someone that — I liked DOKKEN growing up and stuff — I can’t imagine any DOKKEN fan being disappointed by it; I really can’t. Don really sounds good on it.”
In 2018, Don told “The Classic Metal Show” that his band’s next album would be “a classic-sounding DOKKEN record” with “straight-ahead, catchy choruses, cool guitar riffs, burning guitar solos” and “nice grooves.” He added: “The dilemma is to try to do that 30 years later without just ripping myself off and regurgitating old DOKKEN riffs.”
Regarding the musical direction of the new DOKKEN material, Don previously told The Metal Voice: “We’re kind of going retro. I mean, look, you write what you write as a musician — your life changes, the world changes, you write what you write. You’re influenced by new bands and other music. But I know where my bread is buttered as far as the classic DOKKEN sound, and Jon‘s really good at doing that. And so I said, ‘I think we should write a record between the lines of ‘Tooth And Nail’  and ‘Under Lock And Key’ .’ And that’s kind of the direction I’m writing in right now.”
DOKKEN released an album called “The Lost Songs: 1978-1981” in August 2020 via Silver Lining Music. Featuring sleeve art by renowned U.S. artist Tokyo Hiro (MOTÖRHEAD, MOTLEY CRÜE),the effort contains material written and recorded by a hungry young Don Dokken as he embarked upon a journey which started in Southern California and Northern Germany.
DOKKEN‘s classic lineup of Dokken, guitarist George Lynch, bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer “Wild” Mick Brown completed a short Japanese tour in October 2016, marking the first time in 21 years the four performed together.
A DOKKEN concert DVD focusing on the band’s reunion tour, “Return To The East Live (2016)”, was made available in 2018.
At some of the recent DOKKEN shows, Lynch has been rejoining the band on stage to perform three of the classic DOKKEN songs: “Kiss Of Death”, “When Heaven Comes Down” and “Tooth And Nail”.