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.
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.
1973 was a fantastic year for rock music. Pink Floyd released a world beater with ‘Dark Side of The Moon’; Led Zeppelin offered ‘Houses of The Holy’ – one of their most varied and adventurous works to date – and Queen introduced the world to their mix of pomp and pop with a confident, if flawed, first album. With other superb albums by Paul McCartney & Wings (‘Band On The Run’ and ‘Red Rose Speedway’), two great works from Elton (‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘Don’t Shoot Me’), two from future megastar Bruce Springsteen, the Stones’ branching out on ‘Goat’s Head Soup’, and Yes disappearing up their collective backsides on ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’, the year offered the discerning music fan something interesting at every turn.
Somewhere among the noise, US hard rockers Montrose made their breakthrough. Their self-titled debut album is as powerful as the Van Halen debut from ’77, with riff after riff on a filler free, half hour slab of plastic. As raucous as New York Dolls, and as groove laden as the best Johnny & Edgar Winter tomes, decades on, it remains a near perfect example of American hard rock. In the UK, neither Montrose or their debut album get talked about as often as they should be, but ‘I’ve Got The Fire’, a 6CD box set from Cherry Red certainly aims to change that by shining a massive light upon an all too short time at the top, bringing together pretty much everything the band recorded during a very prolific four years.
Canadian rockers Rebel Priest made their first breakthrough in 2015 with a self titled album that introduced listeners to their world of sleazy riffs, combining elements of old school metal, bluesy rock and no-nonsense grubbiness. The following years saw the band sharing stages with Lordi and Diamond Head, and their work likened to AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue, despite not always sounding too obviously like some of those legendary acts.
Their 2022 release ‘Lesson In Love’ continues their unashamed voyage through a world of dirty riffs, sleazy lyrics and – as you might suspect from a release with an arse on the cover, painted blue or otherwise – old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll attitudes. For those who loved them previously, the short four song assault will bring plenty to love; for those not enamoured with the retro rock sound and attitude, obviously, the chances of being won over are slim to none.
Latvian rockers Bloody Heels began carving themselves a niche within the hard rock scene in 2012, but it was only with the release of their third record ‘Ignite The Sky’ that they really attracted wider attention. That album, their first for Frontiers, potentially placed them in the hard rock ranks alongside Hell In The Club, and really upped the ante with regards to their chorus writing. It was all very old fashioned, but that, in many ways, was the whole point. Their celebration of all things big haired and carefree actually created a great tribute to the hard rock glory days of 1987-1991, and as such, attracted a keen audience who still wanted to hear old school rock churned out with a real enthusiasm.