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Jorn Lande & Trond Holter Present Dracula - "Swing Of Death" (CD)

Jorn Lande & Trond Holter Present Dracula - "Swing Of Death" CD cover image

"Swing Of Death" track listing:

1. Hands of Your God
2. Walking On Water
3. Swing of Death
4. Masquerade Ball
5. Save Me
6. River Of Tears
7. Queen of the Dead
8. Into the Dark
9. True Love Through Blood (Instrumental)
10. Under The Gun

Reviewed by on January 7, 2015

"Trond Holter deserves so much credit for composing songs that dare to be different, while still retaining the traditional sound of heavy rock and never straying from his own strength in guitar solos."

Name any supergroup created in the last couple of years and I’ll show you another major disappointment. Frontiers Records alone accounts for almost 50% of these acts, with the latest “Stratodisaster” from a former power metal innovator who I shall only refer to as “he who should not be famed.” Combine that with the prospects of yet another stagnant Jorn effort (his last two solo releases muster no more than a handful of really good tracks) and the Dracula project of Lande and Wig Wam/Jorn guitarist/composer Trond Holter is doomed from the start, right? Perhaps now is a good time to remind fans about actually listening to an album before damning it. “Dracula - The Swing of Death” is not only the best Jorn effort since “Lonely Are the Brave,” but it’s ironically his most brave too.

I wonder how many people might misconstrue the double entendre “Swing of Death.” Sure, the first thing that pops in the head of a metal fan is a swing of an axe, swing of a fist....but there is another meaning. When you hear the title track it all comes to light, as Holter defiantly combines melodic metal with the unlikely match of the swing genre. In a stroke of sheer brilliance, one that might fall on deaf ears at the mere thought, Holter merges the two as if it was meant to be...more proof that metal can be combined with pretty much anything. Unlike Diablo Swing Orchestra, which has much more of an avant garde chaotic blend of swing, alternative, and metal, Holter takes a more traditional and classical approach of blending neoclassical metal with 70's shock rock a la Alice Cooper and swing with a twist of musicals in the vein of “Grease” (check out “Swing of Death” and “Save Me”). On “Masquerade Ball,” there is even a foray into some Spanish influenced guitar work.

At the core of this long awaited project (Holter’s had this in the works for well over a decade) is a the story of Dracula (played by Lande) and his inner battle between love and a thirst for blood. The story may not be new, but combined with a plethora of styles, stellar songwriting and “edge of your seat” solos, “Swing of Death” is refreshing, exciting, and never dull. Take the track “True Love Through Blood” - one of the most entertaining instrumentals NOT on a Stephen Forte album! Holter’s solos are simply mesmerizing.

With tracks like “Walking On Water” (a grinding rocker) and “River of Tears” there is plenty of metallic influence to please any fan of power hard rock/traditional metal to offset any initial revulsion to those tracks that lean to closely into that “musical territory.” One of the most impressive tracks is “Queen of the Dead,” especially its final two minutes which is the Halloween answer to T.S.O.’s Christmas (and dear LORD...that solo). When Jorn first screams out “Queen of the Dead” in that trademark style, it literally makes your hair stand on end.

As for Jorn...well if you give the Norwegian legend a great piece of music, he will shine like Ronnie James Dio. His performance lifts any lows on the album, in as much as the great songwriting makes him beam. It’s a super group that finally lives up to the moniker. Add to this the incredible performance by Lena Fløitmoen, who plays Mina and Lucy from the Bram Stoker book, and the album is a must buy for more than just the Jornites. Fløitmoen is at her best on “Into the Dark” and “Under the Gun” (two of the album’s best) matching Jorn’s style and representing one of the strongest female/male duets in heavy music.

Before casting this off as another supergroup not worthy of attention, try listening to this with an ear towards focusing on songwriting, musicianship, and execution. The songs play into Jorn’s strengths overcoming the mediocrity of his last couple of solo efforts. Trond Holter deserves so much credit for composing songs that dare to be different, while still retaining the traditional sound of heavy rock and never straying from his own strength in guitar solos. Stick with it and perhaps “Dracula - Swing of Death” might just hook you with a fang and draw you into Jorn the Impaler’s vocal genius.

Highs: Songwriting with a variety of styles that hook you in with solos that dazzle.

Lows: This is sure to be an acquired taste.

Bottom line: Jorn the Impaler impresses with a little ballroom swing....of death!

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)