One of the toughest things some bands have to do is replace an iconic vocalist. Alex Beyrodt's Voodoo Circle, the task of finding a replacement for the great David Readman (Pink Cream 69/Almanac) was a damn steep hill. However, one of the hottest commodities on the metal/hard rock scene has made himself available for a ton of bands recently - Herbie Langhans - who was handpicked by Tobias Sammet for Avantasia, part of the resurrection of Symphonity and has been a mainstay of Flo Laurin's Sinbreed. If not for his incredibly interesting take on Avantasia's "Draconian Love" (which came about as almost a joke rendition), I would have been a little more apprehensive about how Herbie would sound in Voodoo Circle.
While Langhans is a much, much different vocalist than Readman, he pulled off a pretty monumental feat for "Raised on Rock," which combined with more stellar songwriting by the great Alex Beyrodt (Primal Fear), presents as a very cool hard rock album. "Raised on Rock" is proof positive of the versatile range of Langhans, who adds a gristle undertone to his sultry hard rock delivery. As for Beyrodt, I've always felt that Voodoo Circle is his best band, easily more interesting than what Primal Fear has churned out in recent years. With Voodoo Circle, Beyrodt shows off his absolute strengths to go along with his incredible live performances - this guy is a true rock star and a shining light in the hard rock scene.
With all of that said, "Raised on Rock" does not quite match the superior "Whiskey Fingers" or "More Than One Way Home," but it closes the gap with a touch more heaviness and a bit more sleaziness - courtesy of Langhans. The first half of the album is littered with hard rock classics: "Higher Love" (though its sooo weird to hear Herbie whistling to some chick and telling her she "is sooooo hot"), "Walk on the Line" (the album's best), "Just Take My Heart" and "Ultimate Sin" all pack a hard rock punch. A little less Whitesnake-ish than the past, again much to do with Langhans.
The second half of the release is slower and more bluesy - and though this is all too much a trademark of Voodoo Circle, it does drag the album a bit - especially with "Chase Me Away" and the lengthy "Dreamchaser" (just before the incredible finisher "Love is an Ocean"). However, make no mistake about it, it wouldn't be a Voodoo Circle without the blues.
For 2018, Voodoo Circle sets the tone for the hard rock universe - despite having to deal with the departure of one of the best voices in music. Herbie Langhans surprises yet again - showing incredible versatility and proof that he can sing in so many different styles apart from having cut his teeth in mainly power metal. Alex Beyrodt continues to shine with hard rock, clearly his ultimate strength - proving that Voodoo Circle really should be his main act - his licks and style are right up there with Sykes and Vandenburg. "Raised on Rock" truly surprised me, but then again it didn't - Voodoo Circle always delivers the rock.