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Joel Hoekstra’s 13 - Dying To Live Award winner

Joel Hoekstra's 13
Dying To Live
by MarcusTheRocker at 01 November 2015, 12:31 PM

What do the bands NIGHT RANGER and WHITESNAKE have in common? Could it be they’ve both been around for a few decades? Could it be the rotating line-ups? Or could it be the success both bands have had? The comparisons could be endless but the main one I speak of is they have both had guitarist Joel Hoekstra in their bands. Having originally joined the former before recently joining the latter, it’s safe to say that he has had plenty of experience playing with not one but two big names in the business and he just so happens to be the subject of this review so let’s get on with it. Aside from the two bands I’ve mentioned above, Joel has also played with the likes of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, JOE LYNN TURNER, TED NUGENT, JIMI JAMISON, KIP WINGER, and FOREIGNER to name but one of many impressive additions to his musical resume. As well as those bands/projects, Joel also has his own little mini solo career having released three instrumental albums, “Undefined”, “The Moon Is Falling” and “13 Acoustic Songs” but the time has now come for him to make an album in the Melodic Hard Rock genre featuring vocal performances.

The resulting project, entitled JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13, features Joel on all guitars with some of his musician friends helping him along the way including vocalists Russell Allen (SYMPHONY X) and Jeff Scott Soto (TALISMAN, W.E.T., TSO), Derek Sherinian (DREAM THEATER) on keyboards, Vinny Appice (BLACK SABBATH, DIO) on drums and Tony Franklin (BLUE MURDER) on bass along with a few other special guests including Chloe Lowery (TSO), Toby Hitchcock (Pride of Lions), Charlie Zeleny (Joe Lynn Turner) and Dave Eggar (Amy Lee, Coldplay). The resulting album from this project is called “Dying To Live” which will be released on October 16th, 2015 on Frontiers Records and this is my review of the resulting work of all these musicians who have come together to help Joel make a great Melodic Hard Rock record and when I say great, I mean great.

Clocking in at around 51 minutes across 11 songs, the album is full of great enjoyable songs that range from heavy Hard Rock/Heavy Metal songs to cheerful Melodic Rock numbers and beautiful rock ballads. The vocal duties are split up between two vocal powerhouses in the Rock & Metal scene and they are Russell Allen and Jeff Scott Soto who each sing lead vocals on half of the albums songs while contributing backing vocals for the other tunes. The album opens up with two songs sung by Russell in the form of “Say Goodbye To The Sun” and “Anymore” and both of these songs are heavy Hard Rock songs with heavy guitar driven melodies combined with a punchy and powerful vocal performance.

The next song “Until I Left You” is a catchy upbeat Melodic Rock number sung by Jeff and having listened to a large number of his works as a singer, I knew what to expect from this great vocalist and I was not let down as his vocals combined with the catchy melodies of this great track are a real treat for the ears.

The next track “Long for the Days” is a nice relaxing rock ballad sung by Russell and the beautiful melodies combined with the powerful vocal performance make this a great track to listen to. Next up we have “Scream”, a heavy hard hitting Rock/Metal style track featuring JSS showcasing the heavier side of his vocals but then having started out in the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal genre, he has a lot of experience singing in this style and this pays off as there is plenty of punch and power in the vocal department which when combined with the heavy melodies of this song, make for a great track you can bang your head to.

Next up is the albums halfway point track “Never Say Never” and this one is sung byRussell and this one is a catchy and upbeat Melodic Rock style number featuring some cheerful melodies and a powerful punchy vocal delivery that does not disappoint. The next track “Changes” is another Russell track and this is one of the more slower tempo songs on this album but there is still plenty of powerful melodies and a passionate heartfelt vocal performance to wow and amaze you.

The vocals are handed back to JSS for the next track “The Only Way to Go” and the melodies and vocal performance on this remind me a little bit of some of the songs on his S.O.T.O. album. It’s hard to say why I think this but if you give both this song and the aforementioned album a listen you’ll see why as both feature some extremely powerful melodies, lyrics and vocal performances and that of course is a good thing as both are very enjoyable to listen to. “Dying To Live” is the title track and the last lead vocal performance from Russell on this album and this song is filled with punchy and powerful metal style melodies which sound heavy hitting, hard as hell and also quite epic too. The second to last song “Start Again” is yet another cheerful peppy upbeat Melodic Rock track featuring JSS showing off the more Melodic side of his powerful vocal range and the cheerful melodies combined with Jeff’s vocals make for a very enjoyable track that will always put a smile on your face.

“What We Believe” is the album's closing number and it does it with style as this is a powerful and epic duet between JSS and Chloe Lowery who is a regular touring member of the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA band and together these two amazing vocalists deliver one last hoo-rah to an already amazing album. It’s hard really to describe this song but if you say took a Rock opera and put these two voices together as characters singing on a song or two together, I think you get what I mean but it’s probably better just to listen to this song. You won’t regret doing just that as this song not only has beautiful melodies but also two amazing vocal performances too which altogether make for a fantastic closing number. If you want more from this album then there are two available bonus tracks to get which are “Kill Or Be Killed” on the digital version featuring Russell Allen and the other is “Never Want” featuring JSS on the Japanese version. I don’t have these two tracks in this promo so I can’t say what they sound like but I can probably imagine that they would sound as amazing as the 11 songs on the standard version of this incredible album.

So what makes this album so amazing? Lots of reasons as there is a large amount of musical passion in this album from Joel who makes the most of his experience as both a guitarist and a musician. This combined with the performances from Russell Allen, Jeff Scott Soto, Tony Franklin, Derek Sherinian and Vinny Appice make for a very enjoyable and fantastic album filled with a good mixture of different musical styles including Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and Melodic Rock. The lyrics are also very powerful too as each have their own meaning with a couple of them relating to Joel’s life experiences as a musician and those words really do get you thinking about the powerful meanings they hold within the music as you listen to them.

Bottom line, “Dying To Live” is a fantastic album from JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 filled with 11 enjoyable tracks that each feature fantastic melodies, powerful vocals, amazing guitar work, a tight rhythm section, beautiful keyboard melodies and some fantastic production/mixing which all come together to make an album that will not disappoint every time you replay it which you’ll probably do a lot as this album is flawless.

5 Star Rating

1. Say Goodbye To The Sun
2. Anymore
3. Until I Left You
4. Long For The Days
5. Scream
6. Never Say Never
7. Changes
8. The Only Way To Go
9. Dying To Live
10. Start Again
11. What We Believe
12. Never Want (Japan Edition Bonus Track)
13. Kill Or Be Killed (Digital Version Bonus Track)
Joel Hoekstra - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Russell Allen - Lead & Backing Vocals
Jeff Scott Soto - Lead & Backing Vocals
Tony Franklin - Bass
Derek Sherinian - Keys
Vinny Appice - Drums
Chloe Lowery - Guest Lead Vocals on “What We Believe”
Toby Hitchcock - Additional Backing Vocals
Charlie Zeleny - Percussion
Dave Eggar – Cello
Record Label: Frontiers Records


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Edited 06 December 2022

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