LORDS OF BLACK – Alchemy Of Souls, Part II

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.

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VEGA – Anarchy And Unity

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.

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CRUZH – Tropical Thunder

Cruzh’s self titled debut album (released by Frontiers Records in 2016) included a few great choruses and a couple of impressive Def Leppard-isms, but there wasn’t always much about its blend of AOR and melodic rock that stood out in a good way. The song writing was fine without ever being outstanding, but an over reliant on shiny vocal filters and a over-compressed production job basically killed any spark the material could have had. Nevertheless, the album received really strong praise from some online sources – proof that some AOR/melodic rock blogs will heap praise on anything within their remit in a desperate attempt to keep the 80s dream alive – and that seemed to be enough for the record label to keep Cruzh on their books.

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NIGHT RANGER – ATBPO

Unlike a lot of “legacy acts”, Night Ranger are one of those bands that can normally be relied upon for a decent album. Granted, they’ve rarely hit the heights of ‘Dawn Patrol’ and ‘Midnight Madness’ – the one-two punch that kick started their career back in the 80s – but the majority of the band’s best records are driven by great playing and strong song writing. Even the supposedly “non canon” ‘Feeding Off The Mojo’ (lacking founder Jack Blades and featuring a hastily put together band featuring Gary Moon) was home to a few classic tunes, and ‘Somewhere In California’ (their Frontiers Records release from 2011) showcased a band with lots more to give. In fact, it’s only really 1998’s ‘Seven’ – a heavier, Blades dominated work – that missed the mark. As albums go, it was fine enough on it’s own merits, but the slightly more aggressive tones just didn’t always feel like Night Ranger.

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RESSURECTION KINGS – Skygazer

The Resurrection Kings debut (released in 2016) was one of those frustrating albums that showed great promise, but was ultimately flawed. Ex-Dio band members Craig Goldy (guitar) and Vinnie Appice (drums) played up a storm throughout, but their best efforts were often drowned out by vocalist Chas West, a man who insisted in bellowing his way through the bulk of the material at full volume, making it a hard listen. As proven by his own West Bound project, it’s not that Chas doesn’t have a voice; he just needs the music to be in tune with his sometimes overbearing tones.

The flaws of the Resurrection Kings debut are evident once again here. For some reason, Goldy’s best efforts don’t always seem to be on quite the same wavelength as West’s huge performances. Or maybe West’s all or nothing approach doesn’t quite fit with some of Goldy’s more varied ideas. Whatever it is, there’s still something that feels a little off-balance and requires a fair bit of tuning in and patience on behalf of the listener. However, if you can tune into everything, the album features a selection of solid, old style metal tunes that definitely seem to have a little more drive and focus compared to their previous work.

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