After his associations with Ritchie Blackmore came to an end, vocalist Ronnie Romero didn’t take any time out to reflect on the loss of his highest profile job to date. Instead, he threw himself further into his work. In 2020 he reconvened with his old band, Lords of Black, and released the heavy, semi-theatrical ‘Alchemy of Souls, Part 1’; gained a job as frontman with the new-look Vandenberg; forged associations with Michael Schenker’s revolving cast of stars, and became a member of Milan Vrabevski’s Intelligent Music Project. For most people, this would already represent too much of a heavy workload, but on top of that, Romero also took on the job of being Joe Lynn Turner’s replacement in the much-loved Sunstorm. Their sixth album ‘Afterlife’ (released in the first half of 2021) was much better than it had any right to be, and cemented Ron’s reputation as a reliable and committed performer. One thing was for certain: he didn’t need Blackmore.
When Ritchie Blackmore announced his intentions to return to rock music with a reformed Rainbow in 2015, understandably, the press and the fans got excited. At that time, it had been a couple of decades since the legendary guitarist had recorded anything resembling the hard rock music that had given him worldwide fame. Since calling time on a new version of Rainbow in the mid 90s, he’d been more interested in medieval and folk styles – something which brought him cult success with his partner Candace Night, resulting in eight albums under the Blackmore’s Night banner. Some fans enjoyed this new phase in his career; others hoped he’d return to his roots. With each passing year, that seemed unlikely, so it’s no wonder the decision to resurrect Rainbow got almost everyone all agog.
The first three Sunstorm albums are classic melodic rock discs. Between a set of great songs and the strong vocal presence of the legendary Joe Lynn Turner, ‘Sunstorm’, ‘House of Dreams’ and ‘Emotional Fire’ (issued between 2006 and 2012) gave AOR fans a trilogy of unmissable releases, each one providing a great showcase for Turner, a man whose voice sounded pretty much as good as it did back in 1981. While the next two releases took on a slightly heavier direction – moving away somewhat from Sunstorm’s original remit – some well written songs and strong vocal performances ensured they were still enjoyable listens.
At the end of 2020, it was announced that Turner had parted ways with the band. This would be a massive blow for his many fans who’d primarily stuck with Sunstorm due to his involvement. More importantly, his absence means that 2021’s ‘Afterlife’ showcases a Sunstorm with absolutely no original members. The core of the band have only been in place since 2018’s ‘Road To Hell’, and the only link with anything further back comes via keyboard player Alessandro Del Vecchio – and he doesn’t really count, as he’s the record label’s hired hand who’ll basically play on absolutely anything for a few quid. With ‘Afterlife’ being Sunstotm in name only, maybe it was time to throw in the towel?