The debut release from Swedish melodic metal band Fans of The Dark was a genuine mixed bag. Conceptually, it tried to hard to link horror narratives with metal-based tunes, but some of the vocals were terrible, and the least said about the artwork, the better. Some of the material was distinctly average and yet, despite almost everything, it had something that showed promise. For those willing to persevere and make it past those heavily accented, really dated vocals, the seemingly ropey album actually hid three very strong tunes which combined chopping guitar lines, some muscular bass and a couple of big choruses. It suggested that – despite almost everything – Fans of The Dark might just be harbouring some talent. They just hid it very well.
For many, House of Lords will always be best known for their self titled debut from 1988. A massive piece of melodic rock, the recording introduced the world to the strong vocals of James Christian which, paired with a larger than life keyboard sound from ex-Angel man Greg Giuffria, resulted in the kind of huge sounding AOR that proved that a combination of poodle perms and big chorus hooks needn’t be wimpy. A cover of Blind Faith’s ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ found the band courting the MTV crowd in 1990 and the future looked bright. Unfortunately, changing musical fashions led to the band splitting after a third album a couple years later, but their work was far from done.
A reformed band – minus Giuffria – released ‘The Power and The Myth’ in 2004, to the delight of fans, but to the indifference of the rock world at large. However, despite a lack of obvious commercial success, it was enough for House of Lords to plough onward, releasing new works every two or three years thereafter.
When it comes to hard rock, the Scandinavians have always had a really good ear for a melody and chorus. Throughout the 90s when melodic rock and AOR was hugely unfashionable, the Swedes’ knack for delivering classic, big haired sounds continued unabated, and in metal terms, twenty first century heavy hitters like In Flames and Opeth have more than shown how once extreme subgenres can often benefit from a finely tuned melodic streak. What’s more, they’ve achieved this with so much more style than their US counterparts.
The same can be said for Danish band Taboo. A new arrival on the rock scene for 2022, but featuring a couple of old faces, the musical project teams H.E.R.O vocalist Christoffer Stjerne and Pretty Maids guitarist Ken Hammer, with the intent to do something a little different from their day jobs. Their debut album proudly boasts the kind of huge chorus hooks you’ve come to know from Pretty Maids, but trades in some of their big haired, 80s cheese and bombast for something not only with a bigger crunch in places, but also a slight electronica twist.
When the legendary vocalist Joe Lynn Turner stepped away from Sunstorm in 2020, it could have been the end of the line for the much loved melodic rock band. After all, his departure not only left them without their distinctive voice, it also led to a band with no original members. In addition, Joe was the reason why most people loved Sunstorm in the first place. For these reasons, for Sunstorm to continue seemed like a strange decision. However, they battled on, thinking that Sunstorm name would be enough alone to shift a few units.
After securing the talented but busy Ronnie Romero in 2021, the band secured not only another top drawer singer – capable of tackling a broad range of styles – but also someone who’d technically filled Joe’s shoes when Ritchie Blackmore decided to revive the Rainbow moniker. On paper, Ron was perfect for the Sunstorm job. Since they were attempting to replace the irreplaceable, the reality could have been different, but between some well written songs and Romero in great form, the new-look Sunstorm’s ‘Afterlife’ was a solid affair, regardless of whatever band name happened to be on the box. It was certainly good enough to suggest that Sunstorm had a future without Turner.
Guitarist Tony Hernando will be familiar to some melodic rock fans through his associations with powerhouse vocalist Ronnie Romero, and their work together as members of Spanish metal band Lords of Black. Although that band’s huge riffs helped to put Hernando in the spotlight across Europe, its with his side project, Restless Spirits, the musician really shines. When working under that moniker, Hernando’s work takes a far more tuneful approach as he tackles a broad variety of melodic rock styles. In addition, the band’s role call of guest vocalists on their debut from 2019 – including Hardline men Deen Castronovo and Johnny Gioeli, and the brilliant Dino Jelusic – helped to bring Tony’s work to an even broader audience.