December 22, 2015 Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Dying to Live (Album Review)
New York-based Renaissance Man Joel Hoekstra has had a career that has covered everything from being in bands like Trans-Siberian Orchestra to Night Ranger, films like The Last Winter (2006) and Resurrection Mary (2007), TV like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The 2009 Tony Awards, endorsements for all brands of guitars as well as accessories, and even theatre in shows like Rock of Ages and Love Janis, both off-Broadway. Now, he is currently doing double duty as Whitesnake’s newest addition as well as releasing a new album with his band, Joel Hoekstra’s 13 (Jeff Scott Soto of Journey/Yngwie Malmsteen on lead and backing vocals, Russell Allen of Adrenaline Mob/Symphony X on lead and backing vocals, Joel Hoekstra on guitars and backing vocals, Tony Franklin of The Firm/Blue Murder on bass, and Vinny Appice of Black Sabbath/Dio on drums), titled Dying to Live. The album was produced by Hoekstra himself for Frontier Music and released October 16th.
Dying to Live is eleven tracks of life in all its intricacies with guest spots by Chloe Lowery of Trans-Siberian Orchestra on vocals, Toby Hitchcock of Pride of Lions on additional backing vocals, Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater/Black Country Communion on keyboards, Dave Eggar of Coldplay, who has worked with Evanescence’s Amy Lee, on cello, and Charlie Zeleny of Joe Lynn Turner on percussion, starting with the track, “Saying Goodbye to the Sun.” This song has an ’80s Horror movie beginning with the moaning chants that carry throughout the piece. The instruments are used sparingly, like accompaniment to the vocals with choppy notes, then, there is a wailing guitar solo about midway that is short and sweet, but shreds as the guys sing of paranoia.
Next, “Anymore” has a driving Black Sabbath-esque intro with choppy guitar play that turns anthemic as the melody gets going and intricate while the guys sing of not letting life’s pitfalls drag them down anymore. The mid-tempo “Until I Left You” has an anthemic vibe as well with its choppy notes that break in a power ballad-esque melody. This track seems to be about letting an addiction go. “Long for the Days” is a slower piece with a thick dramatic melody with measured drums. The guitars soar with emotion, as do the vocals of wanting to turn back the hands of time of being grounded. Returning to a harder beat is “Scream” with the intro riff and the following choppy play. There is malevolence to the vocal delivery throughout, staying low; conspiratorial. Then, the guitar wails in from nowhere to accentuate the feeling.
“Never Say Never” comes in strong and heavy with a heavy hook and drums to lead the march in this tune of pushing past life’s crap that gets thrown at one, so when the end comes, that person find happiness. “Changes” has a heavy Blues vibe mixed with twangy guitars, but with a darkness musically and vocally as the band sings about giving into temptation. “The Only Way to Go” comes in on a Funk riff with subsequent riffs answering the lyrics before settling into a more traditional melody with vocals. Again, there is a darkness that pervades the song as the band sings about demons dictating someone’s worth. The title track, “Dying to Live,” follows with a voice-over beginning that turns straight Metal with deep, heavy drums and grinding guitars to accompany the hardcore lyrics. Despite the hardness of the music and lyrics, the message is to rise above. “Start Again” is an uplifting piece with chipper guitar riff and light drums with everybody harmonizing while they sing of demons being vanquished, and it is time for a new beginning. Closing Dying to Live is “What We Believe.” This sweeping tune is a duet between Chloe Lowery and Jeff Scott Soto with all the richness of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music composition and vocalization. Coupled with the aforementioned and the message of overcoming through faith, this track alone is pure brilliance.
Being a part of Trans-Siberian Orchestra alone could make Hoekstra’s career, but he has done more than most bands do in multiple revolutions throughout their lives. He can add Dying to Live to his illustrious discography and resume, no doubt he has more to offer. CrypticRock gives Dying to Live 5 out of 5 stars.