For a lot of melodic rock fans, Robin McAuley is a man who’ll need no introduction. He first came to fame as a member of Grand Prix during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the early 80s, before scoring a sizeable UK and US chart hit as a member of Far Corporation. In more recent years, he’s recorded solo works and emerged as frontman with Black Swan, a supergroup featuring ex-Whitesnake/Winger guitarist Reb Beach and Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson. Most people, of course, will know Robin through his long association with Michael Schenker. The German guitarist was so taken with the vocalist’s abilities, the Michael Schenker Group was rebranded the McAuley-Schenker Group for two excellent albums in the late 80s/early 90s, and when Schenker needed a roll-call of famous friends for his Michael Schenker Fest in the twenty first century, Robin was there, front and centre.
Vocalist Herbie Langhans is one of those people who keeps himself more than busy. He spent most of the 90s and 00’s as frontman with power metal band Seventh Avenue, but after that band’s split, he found work as vocalist with a succession of other acts, eventually landing the job as frontman with melodic metallers Firewind. His performances on their self-titled 2020 release more than showed him to be a good fit for the band. With Sonic Haven – his new project for 2021 – he approaches a selection of power metal tunes, a whole world of trad 80s metal and, in one case, something that sounds like an overspill from his melodic rock band Radiant, to create the kind of debut that often feels like a culmination of all of the music he’s helped create so far. In trad metal terms, the best tunes certainly wouldn’t feel too out of place on one of Saxon’s later albums, but with a much bigger sound and a strong power metal undercurrent, ‘Vagabond’ isn’t just an easy trad metal rehash – there are times it feels larger than life.
A new arrival at the Frontiers Records label for 2021, Italy’s False Memories were promoted in their pre-release materials as leaning towards “a gothic, doom metal vibe”. Although the band’s darker tones are something of an interesting move for a label that predominantly deals with melodic metal and a wealth of old school AOR, massive hair and the occasionally misjudged leather trouser, it soon becomes clear that nobody at the label has a clear idea of what “doom metal” actually entails. You won’t find any eight minute epics on this band’s third release ‘The Last Night of Fall’, nor will you find anything dominated by deep, booming voices, or any riffs that could be considered oppressively slow. Occasionally, the band unleash something of an unexpected heaviness – as is the case with album highlight ‘Deep Breath’ – but, in the main, False Memories have a strong relationship with a melody and something of a “safe” feel. In short, for all of the hard sell with a focus on darkness and heaviness, the label have signed their own Nightwish. False Memories can be a little more intense and often more interesting, but they definitely sit more within that musical sphere. For the more adventurous melodic rock fan, such a familiar Euro-goth sound should be enough to warrant a purchase, but this in no way should be considered “doom metal”. Luckily, despite an over familiar sound and the possibility of finding themselves in something of an over saturated market in terms of style, False Memories come armed with some decent songs, and in Rossella Moscalletto they have a very self-assured vocalist.
The End Machine’s 2019 debut for Frontiers Records presented almost an hour’s worth of classic sounding hard rock. Its sound was exactly as you’d expect from a couple of musicians associated with Dokken and the ex-vocalist from Lynch Mob. It’s higher octane tracks gave George Lynch every opportunity to hammer his fretboard, while the darker and slower workouts put bassist Jeff Pilson squarely in the spotlight. Most importantly, a lot of the numbers wielded huge choruses to great effect, often giving vocalist Robert Mason (ex-Cry of Love/Warrant) plenty to work with. In terms of melodic metal, it was a great disc – certainly much better than Dokken had managed in a few years.
After a fairly devastating year, 2021 got off to an equally wobbly start due to a global pandemic still dragging its heels and refusing to leave. With no sign of big UK gigs returning any time soon and a lot of smaller, DIY bands really missing being on stage, everyone turned to Bandcamp and other similar websites for continued entertainment.
On the plus side, this has kept Real Gone busier than ever. The first quarter of 2021 has been our busiest to date, with bands and labels approaching us by the hundred, looking for good quality coverage.