Against expectations, Joe Lynn Turner has made an intense and thrilling heavy metal album

Produced by Peter Tägtgren, Joe Lynn Turner's Belly Of The Beast is compelling proof that he's anything but a journeyman

Joe Lynn Turner: Belly Of The Beast cover art
(Image: © Music Theories/Mascot)

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Veteran frontman Joe Lynn Turner has oft been called a journeyman – a description that, we’d argue, is completely misleading. Because out of the numerous bands and artists JLT has sung with – from Malmsteen to Mother Earth, from Rainbow to Rated X – Journey has never been one of them. …We must admit, we wrote that intro before actually listening to Belly Of The Beast, and must now apologise for its jokiness. Nay, facetiousness. Because this is a very serious album indeed, and not only on a musical and lyrical level. 

To coincide with its release Turner decided at long last to embrace the fact that he suffers from the hair-loss condition known as alopecia. He consigned his wigs to the waste-bin; his toupées to the trashcan. And, my God, doesn’t he look great in the new promo photos? A cross between Richard Fairbrass and Nosferatu, with a hint of Marc Almond thrown in for good measure. Well done, my son. 

As for Belly Of The Beast itself, well, it’s a far-distant galaxy away from past perceptions. Turner, the soft-hearted smoocher who warbled ‘Please be tender’ on Rainbow’s I Surrender, now occupies a completely different space-time continuum. It’s almost as if, to make an incongruous reference to Love/ Hate, the album has been recorded by Turner’s Evil Twin. 

Kudos must go to Swedish producer/ songwriter Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain, Lindemann) who likely formulated Turner’s transformation into a hellspawn vocal powerhouse with tonsils of glasspaper. (“I just kept it dirty, gritty and metal,” shrugs Joe in a press release.) Pain’s throbbing industrialism is a clear influence, Tägtgren creating a tidal wave of intensity only bettered by the ominous soundtrack of 60s sci-fi TV series Space Patrol.

Turner clearly relishes his newfound role as the harbinger of doom and destruction, the songwords out-Priesting Judas Priest in the department marked ‘apocalypse’. Try ‘Pentagrams of power, dark principalities/We have been devoured, by corruption and disease’ for size. Rob Halford must be quaking in his silver-studded wellies. Highlights are many. Black Sun is bleak, angry, Rammstein-y. Rise Up rages against the oppression of humanity by politicians, warlords and suchlike. 

And Tears Of Blood, about Christ’s crucifixion, showcases Turner at the top of his game, bellowing the words: ‘Give me a kiss like Judas’ and then repeating with a gravelly whisper: ‘Give me a kiss…’ Chilling, thrilling, outstanding. Next month: Joe Lynn Turner features on the cover of Classic Rock’s sister mag Metal Hammer. Wouldn’t that be something?

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.