Review: KENS DOJO – The Future Looks Bright
Self release (June 14th 2021)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
KENS DOJO is a solo project from Norwegian guitar player, songwriter, and producer Ken Ingwersen. It features a total of ten tracks, eight with various singers and two instrumentals. Since I am not familiar with Ken’s previous material or most of the singers on the album, I did not have any expectations regarding this release. Well……I did have one. It seems I have reviewed a bunch of releases like this lately, the “guitarist breaks out on his own” solo album. This has been purely by coincidence. While it’s great that artists can branch out and try different things, the results for me have always been a mixed bag of decent, great, and not so great tunes. This release continues that trend.
The album opens with one of only two singers I was previously familiar with and is one of my favorites. ‘I Wait For Nothing’ showcases Åge Sten Nilsen (of Wig Wam fame) so I was excited to check this out and it does not disappoint. This was a good tune just by itself, but Åge has a way of elevating a song, in particular the chorus, and that makes it my favorite track. A great way to open the album.
Another favorite track is ‘I’ll Never Forget’ featuring the other singer I’m familiar with, the versatile Andrew Freeman (from Last In Line, Lynch Mob, and Devil’s Hand). Some dark, foreboding lyrics performed in a Kip Winger-type vocalization, making this a track reminiscent of a latter day Winger tune.
There does seem to be one commonality throughout the album. Good singers who sound similar to other, more famous, singers. Along with the Winger comparison, ’The Future Looks Bright’ has singer Ray Van D doing an impressive Joey Tempest ‘Sun Goes Down’ is sung by Scott Foster Harris, pulling off a pretty decent Jack Blades. Both of those tracks are the stronger parts of this album.
Then there’s tracks like ‘Gone’, with Chesney Hawkes doing her best……Sade? While it’s certainly different, the moodiness just did not do it for me and that leads me to my biggest problem with this recording. My three least favorite tracks are all lumped together at the beginning of the album and should have been spread out more. ‘Raining Down’, ’Touch The Sky’, and ‘Gone’ are not the best that the album has to offer and should not have been sequentially lumped together. While ‘Raining Down’ is a more uptempo track, it has an unappealing chorus. This is then followed by two moody, atmospheric, plodding tracks that bring the momentum started by the opening song to a halt.
Regarding the instrumentals, I found ‘Longhaired Blues’ to be the better of the two. A low-key emotional instrumental, which is refreshing in its restraint. Guitarists performing shredfests are a dime a dozen, but this song packs a whole lot of emotion, so much so I wish Ken would have added vocals to it. Very well done.
To be fair, albums like this are, by design, supposed to be experimental. It’s a chance for an artist to spread their wings in a way that a band collaboration could not allow. Just like my previous reviews from guitarists that go solo, I would suggest interested listeners check out the songs on a streaming platform first if you are looking to decide whether or not to buy this album. I suspect many will pick individual tracks over an entire album purchase.