The debut album from Circus of Rock gave hard rock fans plenty to enjoy. The side project from King Company’s Mika Rantanen saw the Finnish musician collaborating with a whole host of familiar faces, including Tyketto’s Danny Vaughn, Axel Rudi Pell, Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli, and ex-Nightwish man Marco Hietala. This second outing for the Circus (released in May 2023) isn’t quite as impressive in terms of roll call, but any album that features vocal contributions from Uriah Heep’s Bernie Shaw and the legendary Jeff Scott Soto is definitely worth hearing.
Tag Archives: melodic metal
SKINHER – Heartstruck
As the name suggests, Skinher is a project helmed by bassist Kyle Skinher, also of prog metal band Hail Spirit Noir. In the main, this band couldn’t be further removed from his “day job”, since it abandons most proggy aspects and the heavier end of the metal spectrum in favour of some massive haired, retro hard rock thrills. Kyle claims the influences come from the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen and everyone’s favourite Ghost, but the truth is that the best parts of ‘Heartstruck’ are even more retro – and sometimes more melodic than both. This is a record that really taps into the melodic rock and metal sounds of yesteryear, to the point where you’d expect to find it propping up the release schedule on a label like Frontiers Records.
ROBIN McAULEY – Alive
Robin McAuley’s 2021 album ‘Standing On The Edge’ was unexpectedly good. With that release, the veteran rock singer not only managed to turn in one of the year’s best melodic rock albums, but one of the year’s best albums – period. Although McAuley has only ever taken a sporadic approach to recording as a solo artist, the record’s huge choruses and swathes of late 80s inspired melodies showed his talent hadn’t waned since his heyday, and if anything, it suggested his voice was stronger than ever. The following year found Robin moonlighting with hard rock supergroup Black Swan (also featuring ex-Dokken man Jeff Pilson and guitarist Reb Beach), which allowed him to apply his voice to a few chunkier arrangements on occasion. It wasn’t the kind of album that achieved massive worldwide success, but was well loved by the dyed in the wool rock fans who actually heard it, continuing something of a winning streak.
ARCTIC RAIN – Unity
On their debut album (2020’s ‘The One’), Arctic Rain largely specialised in classic sounding melodic rock, but weren’t afraid to temper a big chorus with a slightly harder edge on occasion. That record presented a selection of very 80s sounding songs in tandem with some great guitar work, and as such, provided a huge amount of entertainment for lovers of bands like Alien, Last Autumn’s Dream and Miss Behaviour.
Their second LP, ‘Unity’, is a worthy follow up to a great debut, even though it sometimes takes a very different approach. Despite a heavier sound in places, the big choruses retain the same melodic charm as before, and on at least half of the songs, there are still some very broad melodies shining through. This is a record that fans will still enjoy, but it is also the kind of record that shows the band pushing forward.
SABU – Banshee
Paul Sabu has somewhat of a chequered past when it comes to melodic rock. For everything essential (Kidd Glove, ‘Heartbreak’), there are a couple of genuinely average albums, and more than occasionally, he’s been guilty of sullying his releases with some truly awful songs. Surely no-one ever heard his mid 90s track ‘The.. Babysitters’ and genuinely liked it? For some rock fans, the mental scars left by that song are deep. The thought of it can still trigger PTSD.