JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 – Running Games

JOEL HOEKSTRA'S 13 - Running Games
  • 8.8/10
    JOEL HOEKSTRA'S 13 - Running Games - 8.8/10


Frontiers Music
Release date: February 12, 2021

[spoiler title=’Metal Express Radio – Ratings Scale’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]

10.0:         Cannot be improved! Perfect, instant classic! Essential in any record collection.
9.5 – 9.9:  Fantastic, spectacular and outstanding!
9.0 – 9.4:  Amazing release! It just lacks that little extra spice to make it perfect.
8.5 – 8.9:  Exceptional release! Will likely rank among top ten albums of the year.
8.0 – 8.4:  Great release! It has many different qualities.
7.5 – 7.9:  Above average! It is an enjoyable release.
7.0 – 7.4:  It is not brilliant, but has many strong points.
6.0 – 6.9:  It has its moments, but is not that strong.
5.0 – 5.9:  Slightly above average, does not stand out. Good outweighs bad by just a little.
4.0 – 4.9:  Just below average, bad outweighs good by just a little.
3.0 – 3.9:  Mediocre. There might be a song or a performance that is enjoyable, but that is it.
2.0 – 2.9:  Very weak! There might be a light at the end of the tunnel, too many flaws.
1.0 – 1.9:  This release gives the word “terrible” new meaning.
0.1 – 0.9:  Awful! Avoid at all cost. There is nothing good to say about this release.


User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

The Backstory

Running Games is the second album by Joel Hoekstra’s 13. Even though the group bears the name of its lead songwriter and guitarist, “13” is a group effort. Returning alongside the Whitesnake axe slinger is Russell Allen (Symphony X), Vinny Appice (ex-Black Sabbath, Dio), Tony Franklin (Every Hard Rock band that had a record in the 80s), Derek Sherinian (Sons of Apollo), and Jeff Scott Soto (Sons of Apollo, W.E.T.). On Running Games Allen cements himself as the lead vocalist, whereas he split the duties with Soto on their first release Dying to Live.

[Listen to our interview with Joel Hoekstra HERE]

The Album

Vocalist Russell Allen is powerful and melodic on “Finish Line.” You can hear the distinct voice of Jeff Scott Soto backing him up on the choruses. Joel lays down the catchy riffs and blazing solos accordingly. The song eludes to trying to find a happy ending that never seems attainable. “Hard to Say Goodbye” combines the elements of Melodic Rock with the Metal riffage of Hoekstra. The multi-layered vocal harmonies match the harmonic run of Joel’s fingers during the breakdown. “How You Do” is a stellar power ballad lead by a mix of clean and distorted guitars. Allen and Soto play well off of each other again.

“Heart Attack” is about a powerful love that can also be destructive. Russell’s impassioned delivery makes you understand just how real the struggle is. “Lonely Days” is a mid-tempo rocker than explores what can happen when you are left alone with your self-destructive thoughts. “Reach the Sky” is one of those songs that kick you in the rear and motivate you. The switching tempos of “Cried Enough for You” match Allen’s headspace lyrically. “Running Games” is a soulful ballad about giving up on a relationship but not really wanting it to end. Vinny Appice’s drums and Hoekstra’s guitar tones are quite unique in comparison to the rest of the album.

The Verdict

Running Games is high on melodies and soul, with a blast of Hard Rock guitars and showmanship. One of the more refreshing aspects of Joel Hoekstra’s 13 is that they don’t sound like any of the other bands that the members are associated with. In fact, you will be hard pressed to make comparisons between Joel Hoekstra’s 13 and any other band. They truly have a Hard Rock sound of their own.



  1. Finish Line
  2. I’m Gonna Lose It
  3. Hard To Say Goodbye
  4. How Do You
  5. Heart Attack
  6. Fantasy
  7. Lonely Days
  8. Reach The Sky
  9. Cried Enough For You
  10. Take What’s Mine
  11. Running Games

Joel Hoekstra’s 13 is:

Joel Hoekstra – Guitars
Russell Allen – Vocals
Vinny Appice – Drums
Tony Franklin – Bass
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Jeff Scott Soto – Backing vocals


  • George Dionne

    George was a contributor here at Metal Express Radio, reviewing albums and conducting interviews, out of Massachusetts, USA. George has contributed to numerous music related websites and blogs, and even managed his own from 2004-2009. George's first assignment was covering a live show by the mighty GWAR. By contrast his later assignments featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Bon Jovi. George was also the front man for the South Eastern Massachusetts cover band Sound Tower from 2009-2015.  Sound Tower played 300+ shows across MA and had two original songs on the Cape Cod radio station PIXY 103. George enjoys a good whiskey, scotch, and/or bourbon and fights crime in his spare time.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.