Since the early 90s, vocalist Gary Hughes has been one of the most important figures on the British melodic rock scene. His second solo album helped launch the much missed Now & Then record label and his subsequent work as frontman with pomp rockers Ten has taken his big voice around the world.
Rock vocalist James Durbin first came to public attention when he participated in the tenth season of American Idol in 2011. A genuine wildcard amongst pop wannabes, his love of rock music eventually made him stand out, and although not a winner, he gained a respectful top five placing. That relative success later allowed him to perform alongside his heroes Judas Priest on the show. His career took a more credible path later when he became the lead singer for Quiet Riot in 2017, subsequently recording two albums with them for the Frontiers Records label. Despite leaving Quiet Riot after a relatively short time, his association with Frontiers continued and the label released his first solo record in 2021.
Back in 2015, Keith Emerson and Robert Berry hatched a plan to follow up their album ‘To The Power of Three’. That album (released in 1988 under the band name 3) became a cult classic, beloved by prog rock devotees and AOR fans alike, so the mere idea of a second record (no matter how belated) seemed to be cause for celebration. Various musical ideas were set in place for the new record over the next few months. Unfortunately, any future plans for the reborn 3 were put on hold in 2016 after Emerson’s untimely death.
Berry eventually paid tribute in the best way possible by ensuring all of Keith’s final musical ideas finally came to light. The resulting album ‘The Rules Have Changed’ (released under the 3.2 moniker) captured so much of the spirit of the original 3 with it’s melodic rock/prog crossover sound, but despite some great press, some of the fans seemed less enthusiastic. Those who viewed the album negatively insisted there couldn’t be a 3 album without Emerson, completely ignoring the fact that Berry had painstakingly structured a whole new work from Keith’s ideas. As always in prog circles, those who would never be pleased – no matter how good the outcome – made far too much noise and showed themselves to be wholly un-progressive in their attitudes. Those fans who seemed absolutely appalled by the idea of Berry releasing a second album based on Emerson’s ideas will surely explode with anger at the audacity of a third release, this time created solely from Berry’s own compositions.
Phantom Elite’s second album ‘Titanium’ – released via Frontiers Records in January 2021 – showed a huge leap in quality from their earlier ‘Wastleland’ release. In songs like ‘The Race’ they demonstrated a gift for a much bigger chorus hook and in terms of musicianship, some of the more complex elements seemed so much tighter than before. More importantly, an increased budget afforded the album a superior production job. Joeri Wamerdam’s drums finally came with a decent punch, and combined with a few heavy riffs, Phantom Elite finally sounded like a band with a lot of muscle.
Jason Bieler is a vocalist that’ll be best known to many rock fans for being the frontman with Saigon Kick back in the 90s. Never the most consistent of acts, Saigon Kick experimented with various different rock and metal styles over the course of three or four albums, but managed to attract a core of very vocal fans. That love of not being pigeonholed very much informs the material on Bieler’s ‘Songs for The Apocalypse’. In the lead up to release, he likened the record to “Neurosis meets Supertramp” and “Jellyfish playing Barry Manilow covers in the style of Meshuggah”. It sounds like none of those things, and the artist is very obviously trying too hard to be smart, but it’s an impressive work, nonetheless – a record that fuses dark psychedelia with classic hard rock, melodic metal and even a pinch of a nu metal groove. It should appeal to rock fans with broad tastes – and specifically lovers of King’s X, Devin Townsend and bands like Karnivool. What it isn’t is an album that panders to most of the stuck in a rut melodic rock die-hards, despite gaining a release on the Frontiers label.