Album Review: Doro - Raise Your Fist
When you think of women in rock, the number of names that come to mind is small. When you think of women in metal, that number shrinks further. And when you think of women in metal who have been able to survive for twenty five years, one name comes to mind; Doro. For a quarter century, Doro has been defying stereotypes and putting out old-school metal that never fails to recall the days when the star of heavy metal burned brightest. Time may not have been the kindest to the style of music Doro has always stood for, but it has been kind to her. The accomplishment of staying relevant in the scene for so long is not something to be taken for granted, and it's something indeed to be proud of.
“Raise Your Fist” may be a new album, but it's spirit feels ripped from 1985. This is the kind of bare-bones heavy metal album that ruled the charts back in the day, and set the stage for the success of everyone who has come after. Doro isn't interested in hopping on the latest bandwagon, just continuing to put out solid records that don't peddle in the misery that has become cliché. The title track that pens the album may include some harsh background vocals, but that doesn't detract from it being as old-school a song as they come. Backed with a Dio-esque riff, Doro pleads for us to raise our fists in the air in the name of heavy metal, and while it isn't a bad call to arms, the whole thing as a package doesn't quite come together as well as it should. The riff is solid, and the solos are tastefully done, but the chanting chorus doesn't make the invocation sound massive enough, the one hallmark of a truly great song about heavy metal itself.
“Coldhearted Lover” takes a different turn, a darker song that rides on a detuned riff, that is once again a massive chorus away from being a killer. Doro's voice, with the slightest hint of a rasp, fits perfectly into the array of sounds the song pushes, but the material she is singing can't quite keep up. She gets stuck a bit too often in the 80's habit of using the song title repeatedly as a chorus, which doesn't allow the melody to advance, a shame considering the merit of the rest of the song. “Rock Till Death” doesn't change the formula, but layers enough voices in the chorus to make it larger than life, turning another similar song into the early highlight of the album. The little details like that can make or break a record.
Interesting is the duet between Doro and Lemmy, which defies all logic by starting out as a soft ballad, before unfolding as a slow-burning number. It is unlike anything expected of Lemmy, which is always fun to consider, but it does become a questionable decision. The song is good, but Lemmy's voice is not right for the emotion needed from the composition, once again holding back what could have been. Lemmy is a legend, and contrary to what many will say, his voice is effective when given the right material. Here, he is not, and it makes both he and the song look the weaker for it.
After the open salvo of songs that underachieve, the rest of the album follows suit in a trail of disappointment. All of the songs have aspects to them that are admirable, and should work, but for whatever reason simply don't. Doro's voice is in fine form, her vocals the perfect mix of beautiful tone and throaty power. What fails is the melody her lines lack, the inability to grab a hook and pound it into our ears. Maybe these songs would have been more effective early in her career, but with decades of music to build off and compare to, they just don't offer enough.
I want to say “Raise Your Fist” is a fine album of old-school heavy metal, but I'm not sure I can. Surely, there are plenty of great moments scattered throughout the record, but not enough great songs for me to call “Raise Your Fist” anything but a spotty record. The makings of something really good are there, but they're never allowed to get out of first gear.