DOKKEN – Tooth And Nail

DOKKEN - Tooth And Nail


Label: Elektra
Released: September 14, 1984

Guitars & Bass: A
Percussion: B-
Vocals: B
Lyrics: B+
Recording Quality: C-
Originality: A-
Overall Rating: A-

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Dokken’s Tooth and Nail album represents the band’s follow-up effort to their 1983 Breaking the Chains release. Tooth and Nail came out during a fairly unique time in Heavy Metal history – the record industry had grown to love Heavy Metal, however, the industry was really beginning to gain special interest in the “hair band” Heavy Metal concept. To top this off, a new technology was brewing…more specifically, digital technology and the genesis of Compact Discs.

Tooth and Nail, much like the record industry, exemplifies transition…and confusion to a degree. Let’s first take the cover of the album: a “demonic” webbed hand or paw with claws (a la Creature from the Black Lagoon) is shown breaking through a metallic body of water, penetrating through a roaring fire from below, and poised to grab the airborne Dokken insignia. The front side is definitely a cover looking to convey this Tooth and Nail album is hardcore Heavy Metal. O.k., now open the jacket to find the band picture “touched” up (almost manikin-like) and the members displaying quasi-hair band doo’s, looking well-tanned, and wearing bright colors along with mascara and face makeup. The picture almost comes right out and says, “Hey girls, we’re a Heavy Metal band, but don’t be afraid of us, we’re here for you too!”

Remarkably, the music contained within Tooth and Nail displays both “sides” of Dokken as well, but commits totally to neither musical style. Musically, all songs on this album are well crafted, and skillfully written and played. When listening to this album, you can’t help but to think that eventually a real sucky song has got to be coming up next – but it never does…Dokken successfully lays out song after song after quality song. Each is unique in beat and rhythm and each has impeccable guitar work performed by George Lynch. Lynch’s solos all have purpose and creativity and intermix true speed with innovativeness that intertwines perfectly with the tempo and theme of each song, showing quickly that this band had indeed something truly special to offer the Heavy Metal genre. Lyrically, the band shows more substance too than your run-of-the-mill hair band. Songs like Alone Again and Into the Fire demonstrate almost “chick flick” emotion without the band completely “checking-in” their testicles at the front door, as was prevalent in numerous hair band songs and ballads. However, much like the hair band style, the lyrics are generally light in content and theme and revolve around catchy choruses and patterns that make the songs easy to sing along with, and definitely radio play worthy. The musical creative edge to each song and Lynch allow the listener to forgive this minor imperfection.

Other shortcomings within Tooth and Nail include understated bass…both guitar and percussion, and general poor production. I suppose Jeff Pilson was there at one time in the studio to play bass during the recording sessions, but I’ll be damned if I can consistently hear his instrument! Mick Brown’s bass drum recognition is sporadic at best too. When the bass drum is audible, it comes through hollow and underemphasized. Both phenomena are unfortunate, because the solid infrastructure of each track deserves better than the sub par production job offered by Tom Werman. Unfair though it may be, I suppose Dokken hadn’t proven themselves yet as a Heavy Metal heavyweight to land top-notch production resources from the Elektra label – a shame in retrospect. Basically, this album was recorded with the intent to be distributed on vinyl, thus masking many of the otherwise obvious production “imperfections”. However, digitally, just like the disclaimer states, “Because of its high resolution, the CD can reveal limitations of the source tape.” As a result, it’s a bit hard to listen to this CD really loud because the treble takes on shrill characteristics and the bass still remains distant and way understated. Unfortunate, but looking on the bright side, even poor production is not enough to spoil this musical ride!

Don Dokken’s vocals are solid throughout the effort. He shows the ability to do justice to the catchy lyrics and successfully rips out the high notes both at appropriate and, uh hum, inappropriate times…there are several instances where Dokken’s high octave approach hits the listener unexpectedly, but overall his style is well presented and skillfully performed. Dokken’s previous effort, Breaking the Chains, contained a vocal sound that was distant and noticeably separate from the rest of the band. There’s still a little bit of distance between Dokken’s vocal sound and the rest of the band in Tooth and Nail, but substantial improvement was made this time around. In future efforts, the band was successful in fully melding the vocals into the music…hey, I guess 3 times ‘a charm, right? Or just maybe the band nestled themselves into “heavyweight” status after this effort and benefited from better production!

Going through the songs, the CD starts out with a “musical” track called “Without Warning” (should’ve been called Without Purpose). The acoustic guitar sounds nice, but the song really does little for any aspect of the band and album…luckily, the song is short and you quickly forget this pointless beginning when the album kicks into the title track, “Tooth and Nail.” Here the band shifts into high gear from the first note and shows what they are capable of cranking out. The 3 minute 40 second song is highlighted by a 1 minute 8 second solo (good ratio in my book) where Lynch simply pulls out all of the stops and delivers one of the best solos in Heavy Metal history. When I listened to the solo again today, I had to remind myself to breathe about 30 seconds into it! After “Tooth and Nail,” one would think Lynch shot his wad and every other solo within the album will be second rate…but NOOOOOOO! Lynch does it again and again and again with precision, creativity, and inspiration.

The third track, “Just Got Lucky,” moves a few notches away from the balls out approach of the title track, and shows Dokken is completely capable of creating a Top 40 Heavy Metal hit without fully selling out to the hair band ideals. The song flat out works. Next is “Heartless Heart”…the only song on the album that I personally don’t like…mainly because they repeat the words “Heartless Heart” way too many times, making me feel like they were a bit unsure about what this song was really supposed to accomplish, causing the overall rating of this album to drop from a solid “A” to an “A-“. But hey, there are 9 full-length songs on this album…8 gems out of 9 is again a good ratio in my book.

Dokken returns to their impeccable form with “Don’t Close Your Eyes” (a slight psycho twist theme), “When Heaven Comes Down,” and, my favorite track, “Into the Fire,” which has a daze-producing drum rhythm and punchy riff that sounds incredibly fresh even 19 years later. “Bullets to Spare” follows and teeters on conforming to the hair band model, but Lynch’s solo and guitar work saves the day, making this track another enjoyable experience.

“Alone Again” is next and starts out down tempo with a unique acoustic guitar riff. Dokken’s lyrics writing and vocal capabilities shine brightly during this song. Dokken does a commendable job expressing somber emotion amid ever-building tempo and musical aggressiveness, thus conveying initial sadness and disappointment, only to be followed by a measure of controlled anger and hostility (much like what happens in real life, eh?). The band ends the album similar to how it began with Turn on the Action – fast paced and with the clear message that they came to rock, party, and let it all hang out. Of course, the song closes with another impressive Lynch solo…certainly as it should be.

Overall, this album is certainly one of the best Heavy Metal albums of all time…my only wish is that it had been better produced to do justice to the masterful song-writing and musicianship contained within. An interesting “fact” that I was unaware of prior to assembling this review is that Don Dokken only participated in writing 4 of the 10 tracks on Tooth and Nail. Of these 4, Dokken only wrote lyrics for 3. This fact shows the well-rounded capabilities of all the band members, and that Dokken’s ego (at least at the time) was not so big as to stymie the band’s collective creative juices from flowing. All in all, the band came together well to show the world they truly had something to offer, and scored huge with this album. With that said, if you love great guitar work and catchy lyrics, Tooth and Nail is an absolute must for your collection!


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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