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Saturday, June 20, 2009

CD Review: Doro - Fear No Evil

Doro - Fear No Evil
2009 AFM Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Since her last full-length studio album Warrior Soul from 2006, Doro Pesch has released a flood of EPs, DVDs and live documents while roaddogging worldwide including a rare jaunt through the U.S., a region which hosts the lady herself as a full-fledged citizen. It also notoriously fails to support her tireless efforts to bring a little happiness and scene unity via her idealistic rock 'n metal show where the crowd gets nearly as much mike time as Doro herself.

As with many esteemed heavy metal personalities who have long paid their dues, Doro Pesch can headline 100,000-plus Euro and South American festivals or at least get planted towards the top of the bill. Yet the Teutonic immigrant who cherishes her Americanization as much as her German heritage simply can't get a break in her new home.

Give the gal serious credit; this sad reality has never quashed Doro's desire to stay relevant to the metal scene. As she ushers her latest in-the-name-of-metal banner-waving entreaty Fear No Evil to the heavy listening community, there exists a confusing duality which is going to be both Doro's saving grace as well as her Achilles' Heel.

Fear No Evil is absolutely Doro's heaviest output in years, Fight and Calling the Wild notwithstanding. The album has a lot of heart and a solid backing band ready to cast amplified beams to fluff out the feathery blond mane of their leather-clad leader. Of course there's the unyielding charisma of Doro, in particular her quixotic and romantic devotion to both her music and her fans.

The disappointing flipside, however, is (and it absolutely pains this writer to throw the penalty flag against one of the undeniably kindest people in the business) the sound mix of Fear No Evil is so pale and transparent most of the songs come off like barely adequate quality demos instead of a skullcrushing finished product.

There's no doubt songs such as "Caught in a Battle," "Herzblut," "It Kills Me," "25 Years" and to lesser extent, "I Lay My Head Down Upon My Sword" were intended to be delivered with felicitous bombast. However, the recorded parts are so singularly minimized Doro sounds like she's singing atop a mountain with her band wailing up at her from the canyons below. Johnny Dee (who is a damned fine drummer) particularly suffers in translation as his parts frequently come off tinny and transparent, as if captured on four track, hustled into Pro Tools and quickly thrown into the grinder without raising up his tracks into harmonious balance.

Poor Doro, she's sounds completely aloft on "It Kills Me" as her powerful delivery is stacked atop the scrubbed music parts. Thankfully "Long Lost For Love" and "On the Run" rescue Fear No Evil from being total audile sabotage with far more wholesome mixes.

Also saved from delineation is Doro's impressive duet with Tarja vocalist Tarja Turunen, "Walking With the Angels." Both ladies turn in sparkling performances in each other's company while the mix here is just about spot-on. No complaints either to Doro's obligatory scene anthem "Celebrate," which lassos an entire posse of singers including Girlschool, Saxon's Biff Byford, Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow, Holy Moses' Sabina Claussen, Liv Kristine Espanaes Krull from Leaves Eyes, Benedictium's Veronica Freeman, Ji-In Cho of Krypteria and others. Had the producers slagged this track, they'd have to be drummed out of the business without mercy.

Still, why Fear No Evil was allowed to be released in a less than professional fashion is unfathomable. The band, who obviously poured their guts into these songs, have a right to gripe as their parts have been utterly robbed of their impact. Doro Pesch, who could use the career injection of a kickass album had it been mixed properly, is likewise victimized as she summons literal whirlwinds on "Caught in a Battle" as much as she projects the German-sung power ballad "Herzblut" in otherwise triumphant candor. In other words, Fear No Evil is precisely the album Doro needs at this point in her career. That being said, it would serve her interests well to demand a remaster.

God save the Queen of Metal, only next time around may the resonance do her justice. As hard as Doro has worked in her 20-plus years, would someone please give this lady a break, already?

Rating: ***1/2

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