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Articles Home » Music Reviews » Joel Hoekstra’s 13 'Running Games' Album Review By JD Rich
Joel Hoekstra’s 13 'Running Games' Album Review By JD Rich

Joel Hoekstra’s 13

Running Games

Frontiers Music s.r.l.

February 12, 2021

Album Review By JD Rich

Boston Rock Radio



“In like a lion, out like a lamb” is usually used to describe the month of March, but it’s also applicable to the latest studio solo release from guitarist extraordinaire Joel Hoekstra. Running Games takes off like a fighter jet with “Finish Line” and wraps up 12 cuts with the title track, probably the closest thing to a ballad on the EP.​

Aside from his own lengthy résumé (having performed with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Whitesnake, and Cher just to name a few), Hoekstra recruited other major talent to breathe life into Running Games. Fellow Trans-Siberian Orchestrans (Orchestranians? Orchestricans?) Chloe Lowery and Jeff Scott Soto pitched in on backing vocals. The influence of TSO is unmistakable, yet not overpowering to detract from the originality of this project.​

Percussion duties fall to ex-Black Sabbath/Dio drummer Vinny Appice and former touring Toto member Lenny Castro. Tony Franklin from Blue Murder and supergroup The Firm jumps in on bass, while Dream Theatre’s Derek Sherinian controls the keyboards. Front and center behind the mic is vocalist Russell Allen of Symphony X/Adrenaline Mob fame. Many other big names with equally impressive résumés can be found on Running Games, and I would love to go into the intricate musical web of how they are all connected, but I have an album review to do and I’d really like to wrap it up but the time the EP is released on February 12th.​

As previously mentioned, Running Games blasts off with high octane, dripping with testosterone-laden bravado. Oddly enough, for all the power riffs and driving tempos, the majority (not all) of the content revolves around heartbreak. However, there’s no room for mopey lamentations of lost love or betrayals. This is, after all, Hard Rock. The Hard Rock way is to aggressively call out the pain, shoot it in the head with a poison arrow, and move on. Joel Hoekstra’s 13 does so swiftly, with bared teeth and satisfying accuracy.​  It seems somewhere along the line, a woman (or women) did him wrong, and there must be a way to purge the ickiness of despair. We are taken on a personal journey of healing, but not the kind that's drenched in self-pity. This approach totally rocks, and is easy to keep up with.

We can all relate to the lingering mental static that rips us up from the inside, but the unapologetic confrontation found on Running Games gives us a break from drowning in it. A musical lifeline of sorts. The EP is a kind of catharsis with balls. This is the modern-day evolution of coming to terms with, and making peace with, various unpleasantness that life has a quirky way of throwing at us. Having the Hard Rock edge of Joel Hoekstra’s 13 as a soundtrack is an added bonus. For a more in-depth look at the album, and to get the lowdown on the album, be sure to read Nina’s interview with Joel right here on Boston Rock Radio:


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