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Adrian Vandenberg has had nothing short of a distinguished career and is one of the Netherlands’ finer guitar exports next to Eddie Van Halen. His most prolific accomplishments have unquestionably been with Whitesnake, starting with their breakthrough eponymous album in 1987 and going all the way up to Restless Heart 10 years later. Before his recruitment into Whitesnake, however, Adrian fronted the band, Vandenberg, running off of the strength of their ballad “Burning Heart” until shifting industry tastes made it impossible for them to continue.
Now, after 35 years and two records in the last decade with Vandenberg’s Moonkings, a new Vandenberg record has come about, simply titled 2020. The record is nothing short of a well-refined bundle of classic rock influences; the first track “Shadows Of The Night” screaming Deep Purple a la “Burn”. “Freight Train” traffics in 80s arena flavor, strongly reminiscent of Scorpions circa Blackout! and Love At First Sting. “Hell And High Water” moves further up the Coverdale timeline, echoing back to Whitesnake’s Saints An’ Sinners album that, had Adrian not been preoccupied with Vandenberg in the early 1980s may very well have played on himself.
“Let It Rain” preserves much of the Purple/Snake inclinations and updates them into a more modernized vein similar to recent records by Firewind and Tygers Of Pan Tang. “Ride Like The Wind” continues this dynamic, breathing life back into Adrian’s riffing just as it started to get tiresome. The fist-pumping “Shout” unapologetically dives right into a full-blown Whitesnake pastiche, with vocalist Ronnie Romero doing his best Coverdale next to Adrian’s tasteful soloing. “Shitstorm” is not far behind in this respect; the track could have easily been used as a bonus to Slide It In.
“Light Up The Sky” is where Adrian’s credentials are clearly reiterated, a sonic split between “Bad Boys” and “Children Of The Night” from the ’87 album with dashes of Slip Of The Tongue thrown in. From there, it’s back to Vandenberg itself: After being out of the saddle for so long, the inclusion of a 2020 version of “Burning Heart” is a smart and pleasant-on-the-ears maneuver for the album, just in case anyone forgot about what the band did back in the day. “Skyfall” rounds things out, starting out slow, blowing up into one last blast of melodic, guitar-drenched metal that captures the essence of Vandenberg and perfectly fits as an ending number.
2020, the work of Adrian, Romero, and fellow ex-Whitesnakers Rudy Sarzo and Brian Tichy more than suffices as a fresh serving of old school goodness. Despite the occasional creative lull, the album channels Vandenberg and co.’s influences and history without sounding completely out of date, giving hope for the popular continuation of rock and metal at the core level. Whether Whitesnake, in full with its previous members from its peak will ever be a thing again is to be seen. In the meantime, Vandenberg is back and fills the void with little difficulty.
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