There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Luckily for Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, the same is true of album sleeves, and there’s many a good tune hidden behind an ugly piece of art. Fortunately, this also sort of applies to Sweden’s Fans of The Dark. They’ve saddled themselves with a bad band name, cheap looking logo, and sleeve art depicting a Gollum-tortoise hybrid with car headlights for eyes, but despite that, their debut LP is home to a trilogy of fairly decent melodic rock/melodic metal tunes. These are tunes that would definitely go unheard if we were going solely upon appearances. The album also includes a couple of genuine clunkers, so you could definitely call it a mixed bag, if you were feeling polite.
The End Machine’s 2019 debut for Frontiers Records presented almost an hour’s worth of classic sounding hard rock. Its sound was exactly as you’d expect from a couple of musicians associated with Dokken and the ex-vocalist from Lynch Mob. It’s higher octane tracks gave George Lynch every opportunity to hammer his fretboard, while the darker and slower workouts put bassist Jeff Pilson squarely in the spotlight. Most importantly, a lot of the numbers wielded huge choruses to great effect, often giving vocalist Robert Mason (ex-Cry of Love/Warrant) plenty to work with. In terms of melodic metal, it was a great disc – certainly much better than Dokken had managed in a few years.
A new band for 2021, One Last Day features vocalist Alex Willox (ex-Bad Solution) and guitarist John Harmsworth. Launching a new project in the middle of a global pandemic isn’t the easiest thing to do, but their debut recording captures various solid riffs that should appeal to fans of bands like Shinedown and Seether.
A new band for 2020, Sinner’s Blood have similarities to Russell Allen’s Level 10 and Jeff Scott Soto’s SOTO project in that their material has a genuine heaviness, but the majority of songs on their debut release ‘The Mirror Star’ also have unashamedly huge choruses. At their best, those choruses will invite you to sing along, but with frontman James Robledo often sounding like South America’s answer to Jorn Lande or Russell Allen, there’s every chance that singing at those volumes will cause untold damage – if not to yourself, at least to your immediate neighbours.
A prolific musician, Magnus Karlsson has worked with many legends from the hard rock and melodic metal scene. You’ll find his name attached to works by Magnum’s Bob Catley, TNT’s Tony Harnell, Russell Allen, Bobby Kimball and Phenomena. He’s also been a member of Euro metallers Primal Fear. Perhaps most importantly, the Swedish multi-instrumentalist has received great press for his own project Free Fall, designed to showcase his melodic metal prowess behind an impressive roll call of guest vocalists. An enjoyable self-titled release set a high musical benchmark in 2013 with a collection of very European sounding bangers. A follow up, 2015’s ‘Kingdom of Rock‘ (not to be confused with an identically titled project from the legendary Michael Schenker), sometimes showed a lighter side with contributions from Joe Lynn Turner and Harem Scarem man Harry Hess and although a more hit and miss disc, it still provided a decent collection filler for anyone enamoured with the style.