SUNSTORM – Brothers In Arms

When the legendary vocalist Joe Lynn Turner stepped away from Sunstorm in 2020, it could have been the end of the line for the much loved melodic rock band. After all, his departure not only left them without their distinctive voice, it also led to a band with no original members. In addition, Joe was the reason why most people loved Sunstorm in the first place. For these reasons, for Sunstorm to continue seemed like a strange decision. However, they battled on, thinking that Sunstorm name would be enough alone to shift a few units.

After securing the talented but busy Ronnie Romero in 2021, the band secured not only another top drawer singer – capable of tackling a broad range of styles – but also someone who’d technically filled Joe’s shoes when Ritchie Blackmore decided to revive the Rainbow moniker. On paper, Ron was perfect for the Sunstorm job. Since they were attempting to replace the irreplaceable, the reality could have been different, but between some well written songs and Romero in great form, the new-look Sunstorm’s ‘Afterlife’ was a solid affair, regardless of whatever band name happened to be on the box. It was certainly good enough to suggest that Sunstorm had a future without Turner.

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RESTLESS SPIRITS – Second To None

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.

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CLEANBREAK – Coming Home

American singer James Durbin isn’t a household name in the UK, but for those Stateside, his work comes with a certain amount of expectation. After a stint fronting veteran metal band Quiet Riot, he eventually launched a solo career that aimed to take his huge voice and a love of classic metal in an even more traditional direction. The resultant album, ‘The Beast Awakens’ (released under the name Durbin in 2021) was well received in some corners of the rock press, but despite a few great tracks, the bulk of the material valued volume and bombast over almost everything else. In addition, clichéd material like ‘By The Horns’ and ‘The Prince of Metal’ honestly didn’t do Durbin any favours. Although it was all well intentioned, the worst aspects of the album played too much like a broad parody of old school metal, leading to the kind of thing that a more discerning listener might spin twice and then move on.

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ARDOURS – Anatomy Of A Moment

In 2019, Ardours’ debut album ‘Last Place On Earth’ mixed heavy edges with darkwave synths to create a relatively contemporary sound. In taking the gothic and using that to underscore a modern take on melodic rock and applying a touch of electronica very naturally, the band’s sound was rather big and broad, but for lovers of classic Lacuna Coil – and, to a lesser degree, Evanescence and their ilk – the album certainly had…something. The heavier moments provided former Tristania vocalist Mariangela Durmatas a much denser canvas to work with than before, as evidenced during the title track, but she was more than up to the task in numbers like ‘Truths’ and ‘Last Moment’, the band showed an affinity for applying a classic sounding melodic hook to something a little more alternative – at least in a retro sense – and with ease. It’s fair to say the album didn’t suit everyone’s tastes – it certainly wasn’t aimed at those who felt that, as a label, Frontiers Records should only be releasing music that sounded like Survivor and Night Ranger throwbacks – but it showed a lot of promise.

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VYPERA – Eat Your Heart Out

Vypera, a melodic metal band from Sweden, began life in 2016 as Madhouse, a covers band working the local circuit. On the basis of their debut release under the new name – their first to feature all new, self penned material – you might find yourself wondering if they were better when hammering through other peoples’ hits, since the bulk of ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ is…fairly bad, to put it mildly.

Sweden have a great track record for rock and metal exports, and the Scandinavians have more than shown an easy knack for great riffs and choruses over the years, very much providing a strong backbone for the melodic rock and metal scene. On on the basis of this debut, though, as much as some people would like to purport such a notion that the Swedes are infallible, such talents aren’t guaranteed. Although the bulk of this debut rehashes some old style riffs fairly solidly, Vypera’s song writing isn’t amazing; the record’s production values are decidedly average, and vocally, seventy five percent of the time, an ugly voice derails most of the good elements there might have been. Faced with something that sounds like polished demo with half of the guitars sounding really trebly, as if they’re bleeding in from another room, it’s immediately hard on the ears.

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