There’s no debating the fact that the first two Giant albums are genre classics. 1989’s ‘Last of The Runaways’ set out the band’s stall with some massive choruses and equally massive guitar parts, and it’s lesser appreciated follow up – 1992’s ‘Time To Burn’ – showed how truly great melodic rock could stand firm against a shifting musical tide. Tracks like ‘Stay’ and ‘Save Me Tonight’ cemented Giant’s contribution to the AOR cause, and Dann Huff’s guitar work, as always, sounded terrific. An unexpected comeback in 2001 resulted in the ‘Giant III’ album, which was an enjoyable affair, but not on the same level as the band’s original work. In many ways, that’s where the Giant story should have ended. However, the name was revived in the late noughties, and an album release (‘Promised Land’, featuring Strangeways vocalist Terry Brock), appeared in 2010. On the surface, there were some enjoyable tunes, but in truth, it suggested that there’s no real Giant without Dann’s distinctive guitar tone and vocal presence taking the lead.
Swedish rock band The Murder of My Sweet have never thought small. Over the years, their sound has straddled symphonic rock, pomp, metal and AOR in a way that has often seemed very self indulgent. When the focus is on hooks and songs, this shows off a musical collective that has great promise. When they become obsessed with pure theatrics (as per their ‘Beth Out of Hell’ concept album from 2015), they can be really hard to take. This, of course, can lead to a frustrating and inconsistent listening experience, especially if strong melodies get swamped by too much unnecessary bombast.
FM frontman Steve Overland has always seemed to keep himself busy, but the release of the Overland album ‘Epic’ in 2014 kicked off an especially prolific period for the British rock vocalist. The new, eponymously named band didn’t necessarily offer anything radically different from his “day job”, but in guitarist Christian Wolff and drummer Jay Schellen, he found new collaborators that worked very well with his still great voice. Between making three excellent studio albums with FM between 2015 and 2018, Steve also found time to record a fifth album with Shadowman (his on/off project with Thunder members Chris Childs and Harry James), a second Overland album, and even join a new band, Groundbreaker.
The new band mined a further seam of classic AOR sounds, and their debut album – as with so many Overland related projects – was a great vehicle for his voice. In addition, it allowed Work of Art’s Robert Sall to work with some slightly tougher sounds on occasion, and it was clear from the start that this new musical union had a strong heart. Unafraid to recycle a lot of genre tropes and lyrical clichés in songs like ‘The Days of Our Life’, ‘Eighteen Till I Die’ (nowhere near as embarrassing as the Bryan Adams tune of the same name), and ‘Standing Up For Love’, the band’s moniker was certainly chosen for its tongue in cheek qualities, but the album gave genre fans a great deal to enjoy.
Jim Peterik gained an army of loyal fans through his work with Survivor in the 80s. As one of the biggest hit makers of the AOR/melodic rock scene, the already veteran performer struck song writing gold with Frankie Sullivan, and the pair knocked out hit after hit. Their original seven album run between 1979-88 is almost perfect. Outside of Survivor, Peterik also put his name to big selling singles by .38 Special, tunes recorded by Sammy Hagar and Cheap Trick, and also worked with Night Ranger’s Kelly Keagy. In AOR terms, the man is a bona fide legend. Unfortunately, in the 21st Century, he has become more obsessed with writing material that sounds like it belongs in a stage musical. Although this style has its fans, its overbearing and grandiose nature – as evidenced on his work with Pride of Lions with Toby Hitchcock and bits of Dennis DeYoung’s final work, ‘26 East, Vol 1 & Vol 2’ – really doesn’t suit everyone. There are lots of times when ploughing through these huge works, that an older Peterik fan might wish Jim would return to something less…bombastic.
Twelve years into their career, Vega continue to fly the flag for UK melodic rock. On their seventh album, ‘Anarchy and Unity’, long serving members Nick Workman (vocals), Tom Martin (bass), Marcus Thurston (guitar) and James Martin (keys) are joined by two new faces, but fans can be assured that the fairly dramatic shift in line-up really hasn’t caused too much of a shift in their overall sound. ‘Anarchy’ includes a couple of songs that are a little heavier than expected, but by and large, the bulk of the material builds upon the melodic rock/classic rock sound that Vega have forged since their early days, with the best tracks continuing to be a fine showcase for Workman’s voice, and the whole band’s abilities to hammer home a superb chorus or six.