Ok, so; When is a double album not a double album? When it’s actually two albums except that they are not sold separately. Yeah, ok..so that implies that there is a difference between them somehow, but they are supposed to go together yeah? I guess. Oh I have no idea about the logic at work here but it’s Doro and it’s her twentieth studio album and something like her 35th anniversary of live performances so I suppose Nuclear Blast just said “Whatever! Go for it!” Plus she hasn’t put out a studio album since the mighty career best of 2012’s Raise Your Fist (jeez, so long?! Well I’ve had it on rotation since it was released) so maybe she had a lot of stuff written. Dunno. But here we are.

Being contrary let’s take Forever United first.

Despite the rousing, steel spined opener ‘Resistance’ this is really the softer or at least quieter side of Doro. No it’s not a ballad album despite the predominant lyrical concerns here being love; more a smoother, commercial side. Yes it has gentle ballads like ‘It Cuts So Deep’ and the almost Vixen like ‘Heartbroken’ that has one of those 80s sure fire hit sounds to it. But the ridiculously commercial smooth ‘Love Is A Sin’ is for all its silky sound a little more power than simple ballad. Clean, slick but still very very classy and Doro’s unique vocals raising it to another level. ‘Fight Through The Fire’ sticks out a little as it’s a chugging little snarl of necessary roughness towards the end (even with the string sounds) and is probably the standout track for me, a shaking off the dreamlike quality of most of the songs.

Her old and much missed friend Lemmy crops up here twice, once in a brief spoken word sample with the tribute song ‘Living Life To The Fullest’ and finally as she covers (of all things) Motorhead’s ‘Lost In The Ozone ‘ from Bastards which, if nothing else is a perfect choice to give you the overall feel of Forever United.

I’m some respects this album really mostly works because it showcases her voice from the rabble rousing to the so soft and beautiful it’s like she’s breathing in your ear. As ever the band is superb too; tight and playing with a passion I guess you can only get with long term collaborators (heck her rhythm section have been with her since the nineties). But it is Doro’s show.

If this was the only album I’d be happy but not buzzing. It’s good (like Motorhead were, Doro is in a place where she doesn’t really do bad albums any more, just some better than others.) This is a ‘Warrior Soul’ rather than a ‘Fear No Evil’ or a ‘Raise Your Fist’. 7.5/10

Forever Warriors is the loud one. The full on metal one. It absolutely hammers on the door with the anthemic ‘All For Metal’, an obvious live sing along but still great pounding stuff with umpteen guests on it – a real tribute. However for me the next track ‘Bastardos’ roars past it in a fast, shark-like snap and tear. Doro rips it up over a wonderful galloping riff. One of her best.

First solo guest appearance I notice crops up on ‘If I Can’t Have You – No One Will’ with Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg returning the favour of their previous duet on Jomsviking. It’s a little lumpy for me, maybe not entirely suited to Mr Hegg but still OK. Just not as good as ‘A Dream That Cannot Be’.

‘Soldier Of Metal’ is a slow ballad, ok as far as it goes but utterly eclipsed by the head rattling ‘Turn It Up’ and the heads down utter headbanging joy of ‘Blood, Sweat and Rock ‘n’ Roll’ which should be just awesome live. Ah, yeah I’m fine by this point I think. Just hearing those surging guitars and Doro’ voice charging over the top is a joy amidst all the shit of the world. That’s what it does for me.

A surprise next. A cover. Of ‘Don’t Break My Heart Again’. Really. I’m sure fans of Mr Coverdale will not like the concept but for someone who was a young lad when the original came out and was part of my metal introduction this not just sounds great, but still brings back memories of the time which is highly unusual for a cover. It doesn’t really deviate from the original, that keyboard sound and throbbing bass all intact but the vocals do change it and, yeah it works. Good stuff.

‘Love’s Gone To Hell’ is not bad at all either for a power ballad. It has a nice catchy hookline to it, and a little more grit in the wheels than some. ‘Freunde Fur Leben’ is better though. I love hearing Doro sing slower songs in her native language I have to admit. Even if I need Google translate, hearing her pour everything into German transcends language like all great music. It’s plaintive, heartfelt and with a real heartswell in the refrain. Just beautiful.

They close with ‘Backstage To Heaven’, which brought to mind some impolite thoughts I have to admit…ahem. It’s a good midpaced song, a nice closer too for both albums. 8.5/10

There’s 19 tracks here and I think another four or five ‘bonus track’s that didn’t come with the press copy so that’s a lot of metal to get your teeth into. Add in another of those superbly painted ‘fantasy Doro’ covers and several different editions and there’s lots here for the dedicated fan. If you’re a fan this is a fine package. If you’re new, I’d get Raise Your Fist and go from there.

But yeah, brilliant to have Doro back and in such energetic form. Still the Queen.

(So an 8/10 for the entire package Gizmo)