What’s the Deal With Hair Metal’s Comeback? Dokken Guitarist Explains

Jon Levin, the guitar player for Dokken, reflected on the recent rise in popularity of glam metal, also known as “hair” metal. The movement that started in the 1980s felt like it died out during the mid-1990s and the early 2000s due to the rise of different movements in rock and metal music. However, in more recent years, it feels like the bands that made it big in the 1980s are making a comeback and that even some of the newer bands are inspired by this glam metal.

Speaking to Ultimate Guitar, Jon Levin reflected on this by saying that “metal from the ’80s has experienced a resurgence over the past 20 years.” While some may assume it’s a throwback to the old days and somewhat of a temporary trend, the subgenre’s comeback seems to be growing.

DOKKEN - Fugitive (Official Video)

“For a while in the early 2000s, it was looking pretty bleak for ’80s bands,” Levin added. “I remember when I joined Dokken back in the early 2000s, things were pretty grim at the time.”

After grunge made huge changes in how listeners approach rock music, glam bands either lost traction, disbanded, or went into obscurity. Names like Winger, Warrant, Great White, L.A. Guns, W.A.S.P., and Cinderella, just to name a few, were no longer enjoying their old success. Of course, some names were too big to fail, like Bon Jovi, and, to some extent, Whitesnake, although they only came back in the early 2000s.

But Dokken kept on going, with some breaks in the 1990s. It was either Don Dokken’s solo work or a full-on band, but they were not entirely forgotten. Levin, who joined the band in 2003, claims that Dokken’s new success started in the latter part of the 2000s.

DOKKEN - Over The Mountain (Official Video)

“It wasn’t until we did the ‘Lightning Strikes Again’ record in 2008 that things started to change,” the guitarist explained. “I think that a new generation of fans started becoming exposed to Dokken, and we have managed to gain a new crop of fans.”

And according to Jon, it’s exactly the new generation who helped them get the name back on the map:

“I notice, when I look out into the crowd when we’re playing, I see young people that know the words to many of the songs. It really is great to see that because they are the ones that are going to keep the music alive!”

On October 27, Dokken released a new album titled “Heaven Comes Down.” Making it the 12th full-length studio record by the band, Jon shared a few details on how it came to be, offering:

“I think ‘Heaven Comes Down’ is the culmination of Don and I collaborating as writers over the course of 20-plus years. For me, it’s everything I would hope to have in a Dokken album. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of the other material we did, but I feel like this one, for some reason, was lightning in a bottle and just a bit more special.”

DOKKEN - Gypsy (Official Video)

Discussing the record further, Jon also added that this new release will sit well with the band’s old-school fans. He continued:

“I think the songs on this album could have been on the albums that were back in the ’80s – but they’re not rip-offs of any of those old songs. They’re unique among themselves. I guess, for whatever reason, the stars, sun, and moon all aligned for us, and we ended up with a great album.”

“A lot can go wrong during the recording process and just because you finish a record and think the tracks sound great doesn’t mean it will be great in the end. It still has to get through mixing and mastering, and if any of those steps don’t go well, the record can take a turn for the worse. I wasn’t really happy with how ‘Broken Bones’ [2012 album] ended up sonically speaking – although I really think it’s a great album.”

“But the mastering threw it into a category that made it sound unlike it did when Don and I were listening to the recorded tracks.”

Jon himself also adds that he’s been listening to it over and over again, trying to get its feel from the perspective of the listener.

“I’ve been playing the album in my car frequently, and the songs I seem to keep cycling through are ‘Fugitive,’ ‘Gypsy,’ ‘Never Give Up,’ ‘Over the Mountain,’ ‘Saving Grace,’ and ‘Lost in You.'”

Jon Levin of Dokken shredding.

“I really do like the whole record, but for some reason, those are the tracks that I keep playing over and over in my car, in my house. Lately, if I had to pick one that I seem to be playing the most for some reason at this moment in time, it’s ‘Saving Grace.’ I like the heaviness of the track. I really like the guitar tone in the verse riff. I think it’s one of the best-recorded guitar sounds I have ever gotten.”

“I also really like the interesting vocal melody note choices Don came up with in the verses and how he changes it up – which, to me, keep it very interesting.”

Photo: Matt Becker (Dokken)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.