If you are familiar with German blues rockers Voodoo Circle, then you know what to expect when you listen to an album. A heaping helping of guitarist/band leader Alex Beyrodt’s meaty Whitesnake/Deep Purple/Rainbow/Zeppelin inspired riffs, along with catchy hard rock choruses and soaring vocals. But what happens when one of the key ingredients is removed from the equation? In this case, the trademark vocals of now former lead singer David Readman, who left the band after its last album, 2015’s Whiskey Fingers. The band has dealt with adversity before, having to replace drummers and keyboard players, but Readman was such a huge part of their signature sound, he seemed irreplaceable. Enter in Readman’s replacement, Herbie Langhans (Beyond the Bridge, Sinbreed) to handle the lead vocals on the bands forthcoming new album, the appropriately titled, Raised On Rock. The album was mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen, whose track record speaks for itself.
So the big question is, how does the addition of Langhans vocals add to the overall Voodoo Circle sound? The answer is, very well indeed. The main piece of advice that I have for fans of Voodoo Circle when listening to Raised On Rock would be to go in with an open mind. Langhans voice is completely different from David Readman, and that is a good thing because he’s not trying to imitate what has come before him. Langhans simply adds a different flavor to the bluesy Voodoo Circle sound. The opening track is the anthemic Running Away From Love, with its Bad Boys/Whitesnake opening riff, driving hard rock beat and bottom end (courtesy of drummer Francesco Covino and bassist Mat Sinner) to its soaring and uplifting chorus. Beyrodt’s brilliant guitar work is on full display and the centerpiece of an album filled with blistering riffs and bluesy solos.
Higher Love is a fun midtempo bluesy rocker with Langhans charismatic vocals giving the song its personality. The song also features Beyrodt gets to use a voice box technique throughout the song and solo section. There are some killer vocal harmonies during the chorus that are infectious. Walk On The Line has a Crying In The Rain, heavy, bluesy vibe with a memorable chorus. You Promised Me has some great guitar work from Beyrodt in the intro and a pounding drumbeat. The chorus is another winner with some stellar vocal harmonies and melody lines.
Langhan has a talent for changing up his vocal style to fit the song, such as on the rocking Just Take My Heart, where he uses his lower and upper register to great effect. The band slows things down on the Is This Love inspired Where Is The World We Love, complete with AOR keyboard accents and clean guitar leads.
Ultimate Sin is a raging hard rocker with thunderous drums, a massively heavy guitar riff and pinch harmonics, melodic keys, and an aggressive vocal style from Langhans and a memorable sing-a-long chorus. Unknown Stranger is a rollicking hard rock stomper with great energy and powerful vocals, while Chase Me Away goes in a total traditional blues direction, which gives Beyrodt a spotlight to show off his considerable bluesy playing style and Langhans turns in a great emotive vocal performance.
The song Dreamchaser, which clocks in at over six minutes in length was originally slated to appear on the bands debut album in 2008, but was ultimately reworked and rearranged over the years until its final incarnation here. The song has many musical callbacks to Beyrodt’s guitar idol Ritchie Blackmore from his Rainbow days.
The final track, Love Is An Ocean has a Led Zeppelin meets Whitesnake vibe with its use of acoustic guitar, Langhans bluesy delivery, a fantastic old-school Hammond organ section, and a thunderous drum and guitar attack when things get heavy mid-way through song. The chorus is another winner with a catchy melodic refrain.
After several listens to Raised On Rock, I found myself forgetting that Langhans was “the new guy” and just enjoyed the album for what it is, a fun, throwback bluesy hard rock record in the tradition of Beyrodt’s heroes John Sykes, the aforementioned Blackmore, and Jimmy Page. If you’re a fan of previous Voodoo Circle albums, don’t let Readman’s departure prevent you from picking this one up; you’ll be glad you did.