If you ask the fans of German hard rock act Voodoo Circle about the most impressive lineup in the band’s history, they will vote almost unanimously for the one that recorded the second album “Broken Heart Syndrome” (2011). At that time, band mastermind, guitarist and main songwriter Alex Beyrodt was supported by three excellent musicians, namely vocalist David Readman (Pink Cream 69), bassist Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Sinner) and drummer Markus Kullman (Glenn Hughes, among others). So it comes as no surprise that Beyrodt is proud and happy to be able to present the return of that outstanding team on Voodoo Circle’s latest release, “Locked & Loaded.” “This constellation presents Voodoo Circle at its strongest, especially since the new material is practically tailored to our classic line-up,” the exceptional guitarist explains. From the opener ‘Flesh & Bone’ and the two subsequent tracks, it’s apparent what Beyrodt is talking about: the band celebrates a powerful, deeply melodic hybrid of hard rock and melodic metal, featuring succinct quotations and bluesy elements, interspersed with intelligent references to their own icons. “The truth is that I had written a dozen songs fairly early, before Mat and I got together and decided that we wanted to embark on a slightly more retro and Led Zeppelin-oriented direction. Once the return of David and Markus was a fact, I sat down again and wrote some more numbers with that Led Zeppelin concept at the back of my mind. Because we absolutely wanted David’s charismatic voice and Markus’s brilliant drumming to play a prominent part in those new songs. In particular since Markus not only plays the drums like John Bonham but also looks almost like Bonzo reincarnated.” It turned out to be a wise decision to adapt the stylistic direction of ‘Locked & Loaded’ to the current personnel situation: Voodoo Circle have achieved a perfect mélange of different influences. There are at least three numbers (‘Wasting Time,’ ‘Magic Woman Chile’ and ‘Devil With An Angel Smile’) that bring to mind that famous airship, while the abovementioned ‘Flesh & Bone’ and ‘Eyes Full Of Tears’ are an unmistakable homage to Whitesnake and their more bluesy approach. “Here you can hear David highlight impressively how much depth his voice has,” enthuses Beyrodt, adding with a wink: “And the title ‘Straight For The Heart’ indicates where the journey is going.” Not to forget the title song, which sees Voodoo Circle effortlessly blend two musical eras, using sequencers and a Jimi Hendrix-inspired fuzz guitar solo: “I’d call that number vintage with a modern twist, and you can even dance along to it,” comments Beyrodt, who also penned the lyrics (as well as the words on ‘Devil With An Angel Smile’). “For me, that was a novel approach and I’m pretty proud of the result,” says the string virtuoso, who also drew from the wealth of his guitar collection this time around. “Thanks to my personal history, I’m very much your typical Strat guy,” he points out, “but in recent years I’ve learned that it can be very inspiring to give each song exactly the guitar it deserves. This way, I’ve discovered not only the Les Paul but also the Gretsch ‘White Falcon,’ which I play on ‘Devil With An Angel Smile,’ and ‘Magic Woman Chile’ even features a double-neck Gibson EDS-1275. That was a bit of a challenge for me, but at the end of the day it was well worth the effort.” Talking of well worth the effort: another investment in pure quality was the decision to enlist once more the support of Jacob Hansen, the Danish godfather of sound, to mix and master “Locked & Loaded.” “Jacob is a real sorcerer with magic hands,” says Beyrodt on the subject of Hansen, but in fact he could also pass that compliment on to himself and his firstrate line-up!
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