RONNIE ROMERO – Too Many Lies, Too Many Masters

Throughout 2022, Ronnie Romero continued his very prolific streak of releasing new material. The year brought four new albums: another studio recording with the brilliant Sunstorm, an album with The Ferrymen, a solo disc featuring some well chosen cover tunes and, not least of all, a titanic piece of metal reuniting the hard working singer with his band Lords of Black. With just two albums released in 2023, it was a quiet year by Romero’s usual standards, but you still have to ask: at what point does having a ridiculous work ethic start to look like a man on a musical treadmill at the behest of his record company?

Nevertheless, ‘Too Many Lies, Too Many Masters’ doesn’t suffer for Romero spreading himself thinly. Its ten tracks present a solid body of melodic metal tracks that, first and foremost, showcase a great voice. That alone will be enough to keep his fans interested. It potentially has the edge over his two previous solo discs, however, in that it’s the first release under his own name that features all-new, specifically penned material. Unfortunately, however, its production values aren’t great. Sonically, the bulk of the album sounds like a polished demo. This is most obvious with the echoing, thin sounding mix given to the drums, but there’s also a lack of separation between the instruments in the final mix that suggests this was an album made on the quick and the cheap.

Hopefully, that shouldn’t stop any enjoyment of the actual songs and, as you’d expect, the material has been arranged to show off the Chilean singer’s abilities with ease. Although his voice is the main feature, his louder tones are never presented at the expense of actual, enjoyable melodies. The lead single ‘Castaway On The Moon’ absolutely thunders, with Romero capturing a full vocal roar against a massive drum part, which wastes no time in announcing the musicians’ arrival. Across three minutes, the track never lets up – often sounding like a bombastic take on a couple of old Dio tunes crossed with Craig Goldy’s Dream Child – and even when the riffs descale from a shreddy power metal-ish stance into a heavy chug to underscore a great solo, there’s a real force at work. Several harmonies ensure a huge chorus comes with more melody, showing how Ron and his assembled friends really hope that their efforts will be accessible – and, obviously, from an arrangement perspective, they’re absolutely bang on. With a great vocal also joined by a strong lead guitar sound that peaks with a heavily wah-wahed solo, it’s a great tribute to classic metal’s past, and a brilliant opener for the album.

Slowing down a little, guitarist Javier Garcia shares a huge chugging riff during the intro of ‘Mountain of Light’, an obvious tribute to classic Dio/Black Sabbath circa ‘Heaven & Hell’, complete with Romero over-pronouncing words like “mountain”, making his influence as obvious as a sledgehammer. It’s a great homage, though, and his vocals are on point throughout, easily matching the riffs in terms of attention grabbing hugeness. The equally big ‘Not Just A Nightmare’ shares more classic 80s inspired melodic metal, driven by riffs on loan from Dio’s ‘Last In Line’ LP, with Romero clearly relishing another opportunity to rise from a roar during a moody verse into a power metal squeal on a chorus that sounds more like an old Helloween banger. In terms of old school riffs, this is one of the album’s highlights, so its a pity that the production values keep Andy C’s drums half buried in a fudgy final mix. Nevertheless, its hard not to be swept along by an enthusiastic chorus, and the arrival of some twin lead guitars leading into a very smart lead break shows off Javier’s musical chops rather nicely.

The title cut kicks off with another more melodic refrain where pointed lead guitar notes dance above a melodic metal chug. This immediately piques interest for a huge rocker where the riffs branch out into a Dio-esque chorus where Romero really reaches for some massive notes. Pulling between the opening riff and heavier chorus, the number really sells its two or three massive riffs, but the music isn’t a match for the record’s cover star, who’s clearly in his element. It’s less prog metal than Lords of Black, but much heavier than Sunstorm and, as such, Ron is musically most at ease, and by the time he breaks into a massive round of whoahs, it feels like an old metal tune you’ve known since 1990.

In a change of mood, ‘Crossroad’ introduces far more melody via a warmer guitar tone during an atmospheric intro, and then blossoms into a heavy-ish blues rocker that’s very much modelled upon many Whitesnake tunes pre-1983. As you might expect, given his past associations with Ritchie Blackmore and having tackled a few more melodic rock tunes on his ‘Raised On Radio’ album, Romero takes this sub-Coverdale approach in his stride. Throughout the track, he curls his voice around some of the album’s best melodies and eventually the perfect counterpart to Garcia’s dirty guitar solo. It might stick out half a mile among the metal-centric fare on‘…Too Many Masters’, but it’s the album’s best track by some distance.

‘A Distant Shore’, meanwhile, suggests something a little more modern when loading its intro with a gothic piano sound and mechanised beats, but that’s pretty much a red herring. By the time the first verse hits, Ron and chums find themselves waist deep in a melodic metal riff once again. To be fair, its another arrangement that’s a little more melodic than most and allows for another very bluesy guitar solo to take centre stage. That said, its still a number that has a strong link with a melodic metal past, and as such, Romero is in a comfort zone. At the tail end of the album, ‘Vengeance’ hits – full throttle – with another slab of power metal, and often sounds like Masterplan and their ilk in a slightly more palatable mood. It’s meat and potatoes stuff for Ronnie and he goes about his business in the enthusiastic way possible, throwing out massive vocal notes by the dozen. Those who love this sort of thing will consider this one of the album’s best cuts, but those keeping a closer ear will certainly find Garcia’s guitar playing the most interesting element of these four minutes. Not only does he occasionally lapse into a couple of brilliant Maiden-infused riffs, but his (likely accidental) recycling of Jan Cyrka’s ‘Western Eyes’ during the intro results in something absolutely terrific.

You won’t find any big musical surprises on this record. That, in itself, shouldn’t be a surprise. What you get, however, is a decent set of rock tunes where big choruses continue to show why Romero is one of rock’s biggest talents at the time of recording. He does his best to sell a massive set of vocal melodies throughout – drawing from the unquestionable talents of Ronnie James Dio and Matti Alfonzetti for inspiration – and for the unfamiliar, that leads to the kind of record that is very accessible, despite its very cheap production sound. With Romero’s obvious enthusiasm and some great songs, ‘Too Many Lies’ should have been a great record, but as it is, a wobbly audio experience relegates it to merely being a good one. For the fans, it’ll still be a welcome release, but there’ll always be a feeling that it could – and should – have been better. There are some great songs here; if only more time and money had been spent, just think what could’ve been.

September 2023