Voodoo X - The Awakening Vol 1
After a successful solo career through the mid 80’s, Multi instrumentalist and ex Plasmatics member Jean Beauvoir is energized once again by the prospect of a band environment. The year is 1989. The band, Voodoo X. Accompanied by a larger than life image and an even larger sound, Voodoo X released their debut album that would present them as a musical powerhouse.
Featuring long time friend and collaborator Tommy Lafferty on Lead guitar, Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen on Keys, Ivan Wong on Bass, and Luecke Lake on Drums, the album titled “The Awakening Vol 1” is coming of age. An album that bridges the gap between darkness and light, and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to infectious melodies and an attitude to burn.
From the opening riff of “I’m on Fire” to the acoustics of “Air That I Breathe”, the album titled “The Awakening Vol 1” leaves the listener in a complete melodic rock trance. Co-produced by Jean and the legendary Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne/Megadeth), the result is an album that is complete from start to finish, showcasing a mouthful of melodic rock bliss, and an all-round album that has gone on to be a classic in the eyes of the hard rock community.
“I’m on Fire” is furious in its approach, never allowing the listener to rest on their musical laurels. Once the keyboard layers come over the top of that sweltering opening guitar riff, and we hear the brilliant angst of Beauvoir’s vocals for the first time, it’s obvious that this song will be a full on assault to the eardrums for the entire three and a half minutes. This song has attitude. It grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go. It’s head banging. Its fist pumping, and even though the chorus is simplistic in nature, the layered vocal gives it strength and a depth that generates the light it deserves. The lead guitar work of Tommy Lafferty ruptures from the inside out, exploding through the speaker cones, unleashing a beast within. This song will kick your ass; it’s unrelenting in its punishment. It’s a tirade of madness that no asylum can hold. And it’s one of those openers that will leave you salivating at the thought of what’s to follow.
“Voodoo Queen” opens with a ceremonial intro, and a keyboard backing that gives you the feeling that there’s something uninhabited about this song. What is probably one of Beauvoir’s finest accomplishments in song writing, “Voodoo Queen” leaves no stone unturned in its quest to amplify the voodoo spirit. The opening guitar riff is simple but delivered with a true melodic prowess that gives it volume. When we hear the band hit their mark accompanied by a Jean Beauvoir “Yeah”, its then that the lead guitar work makes this intro so memorable. Slaying into the opening verse, the music cuts back slightly, to allow Jean to tell his story. The words are haunting in their imagery, and as the song builds in momentum with the band running alongside, the pinnacle is finally upon us. Jean bursts out “She’s my Voodoo Queen” through the speakers with a melody that ignites the senses and sends shivers down the spine. The chorus is God like, delivered from heaven in a wall of angelic vocals, enchanting keyboards, and a blend of harmony rarely heard. Once the lead guitar comes through those melodic walls, the journey doesn’t end there. The melody has you rocking from side to side; in complete sync with the backing track. This is pure class from Jean, taking the lead break this time, and possibly delivering one of his best solos. After a stellar solo, there comes that chorus again, going round and round in your head, stitching itself to every living brain cell, pulsating with every chord, and leaving you in a permanent state of euphoria. The song goes out with those famous ad-libs from Jean, bringing to an end a classic anthem in the making.
“A Lover like You” is a mid tempo track telling the story of an emotional breakdown. With just enough guitar to highlight the longing, and brought forward by the pain in the vocal delivery, this song truly represents the feeling of loss and absence of hope. Co-written by KISS’ Paul Stanley, “A Lover like You” is sculptured with a guitar that’s subtle in its tone, and a vocal that’s both sincere, yet agonizing at the same time. The chorus is layered beautifully, in both music and lyrical content. Uncompromising, it leaves you conscious to the grief. Tommy delivers a memorable guitar solo, playing that fret board with ease, and letting every note shine. The outgoing chorus is stuck in a quicksand of emotions, choreographed in a stream of endless sing-a-long. Once again Jean lets those ad-libs take the song out to perfection.
“Don’t Bother Me” unleashes some lead guitar theatrics before generating into a monstrous guitar riff that both absorbs and devours everything in its wake. Once the thundering bass line comes in, we are met with a heavier side to the band, devoid of any keyboard. The guitar aerobatics continue into the verses with a battering ram vocal style by Jean. The chorus is a simple one, but the angst in the vocal gives you the feeling of a sinister undertow. Tommy’s guitar solo is mesmerizing in its heaviness, vomiting an aggression not seen within the rest of the album. This song is heavy. It takes no prisoners. It unleashes chains that wrap around you and squeeze you like an anaconda. The venom in Beauvoir’s vocals leaves you paralysed, yet wanting more of the taste.
“Into The Night” takes you back to the lighter side of the band. Beginning with a really cool keyboard intro; Jean’s clean vocals begin to tell the story of someone laying in his bed tonight. Once the music starts it upward tilt from verse to bridge, it gives you a true indication that this might be one of those choruses that is going to reach majestic heights. And it doesn’t disappoint. The chorus reaches the heavenly skies and punches through, touching the hand of God in the process. The lead out has more of those infectious ad-libs by Jean, leaving an undying satisfaction that this song is the band at their melodic best.
“What Can I Do” is a heartfelt ballad that’s drenched in true emotion, emitting a painful guilt, that’s left puppeteering those tethered heartstrings. Vocally, Jean is pouring all emotions into the hole of a bleeding heart. Musically, there’s nothing new here, but thoroughly engrossing as a soundtrack to the lyrical realization that’s delicate in its fury. A nice little solo from Jean, takes us back into the chorus, along with more lyrical sorrow. “What Can I Do” leaves the listener traumatized in the fragility of life’s torment.
“The Awakening” is most likely Jean Beauvoir’s most telling accomplishment in song structure. The intro is a haunting masterpiece that ever so softly strips back the soul. Bared by the acoustics, and the haunting caress of Beauvoir’s vocals, we are slowly drawn into a dream world where conscious has no barrier. Just as you relax in a state of musical content, the heavy guitar riff heightens the senses in a supernatural form, and before you know it, the band is kicking into high gear once again. It’s an animal untamed, now uncaged and bearing its teeth. With a thumping bass line, the song takes a turn for the harder, faster side of the band. Then slowly, once again, the song takes a step back into a dreamscape, lost in an illusion of reality and makebelieve. When that unforgettable riff comes back through the speakers with a maddening desire, it’s now Tommy’s turn to rip through the barrier of subconsciousness with an injection of melodic rock poison. “The Awakening” has it all within its 6 minutes of melodic brilliance.
“One Riff (with lot of attitude)” kicks off with a soulful acoustic guitar that gives you a sense that a feel good rocker is upon us. The vocals are straight forward but rewarding, enough to give you the meaning that hope is never too far away. This is Jean’s war cry, bringing faith to the forefront, and pushing doubt beyond reach. Beauvoir brings hope in every word he sings, drawing you in with a voice of self belief. Lyrically, you never lose sight of the message being portrayed. The song will lift you from any darkness and give you light. It will bear the weight on your shoulders and carry your load. “One Riff” is infectious, contagious, and will be sure to keep you humming that chorus right to the finish line.
“Have You Had Enough” is an open wound in desperate need of healing. Beauvoir is at his best here, draining the emotion this song richly deserves. The torture is apparent in his lyrics, suffocating in the madness that erupts from every word he sings. You can feel the deep transgression of fighting demons, spiralling into darkness devoid of any light. The music is never hollow in its beauty, exhaling a formula where all instrumentation gives its own values to the song. Containing well structured lead guitar breaks, “Have You Had Enough” is a showstopper in every way, never giving in to the illusion that pain is temporary.
“Like a Knife” is pure Tommy Lafferty. This is HIS song, shining throughout the track with some killer guitar work that brings the heavens to its knees. Beginning with a cool guitar intro, the main riff then proceeds to tear the skin off your face with no remorse. Once the vocals of Jean kicks along with the band, the song proceeds to kick like a mule, violent in its driving madness and giving it an almost punkish element. Although psychotic in attitude, the melodies are all over this song like a rash, itching to get under your skin. It’s head banging, fist pumping adrenaline junkie, wanting to take another hit. Yes, the structure of the track is simple enough, based around the outstanding riff, but its Tommy’s guitar work in general, and the feeding frenzy of the song, which gives it two thumbs up.
“Happy Birthday” is an acoustic ballad, with a beautiful tone and sentiment. There are just enough keyboards to give it depth, so not taking anything away from the brilliant guitar work. Once the whole band kicks in, its then that the song takes on a labour of love. There is loneliness in Jean’s lyrics, and his vocal represents this beautifully, making this song a nice conclusion to the regular album release.
On certain releases around the world, “The Awakening Vol 1” contains two bonus tracks. The first, “Voodoo Queen” (the ritual mix), is much the same as the regular version, but has an extended guitar part mid song. As it is such a fantastic track, this is certainly a worthy addition to the regular album.
“Air That I Breathe”, is the 2nd bonus track, and another ballad. Though nothing new to what we have already heard on the album so far, the song certainly gives it all in melody and stylistic approach. It’s content in its sanctuary, structured in the perfect way of strong balladry. Jean puts in a fine vocal performance once again, with huge kudos to some great falsetto work towards the end of the song. Although “Air That I Breathe” is not the strongest ballad here, it is a good inclusion, and finishes off a very well rounded release.It’s not often a band comes along and their debut album makes you sit up and take notice. For Voodoo X, this is the case. The Awakening Vol 1 is a melodic journey, powered by some blistering guitar work, stellar vocals, and great song writing. The album showers the listener in a downpour of melodies, and an attitude to die for. Every song has its rightful place on this album, and it should be in the collection of every hard rock fan.