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.
Autograph will be well known to a lot of melodic rock and metal fans for their 80s albums ‘Sign In Please’ and ‘Loud & Clear’. Their single ‘Turn Up The Radio’ was a moderate hit in the US, appearing on MTV and hitting the Billboard Hot 100, which very much helped them have their fifteen minutes of hard rock fame on home turf. Despite not having the same levels of worldwide success as other big haired rockers, the Autograph name has always seemed to hold a fair amount clout, especially retrospectively.
In their own words, RivetSkull are a band committed to “bringing classic heavy metal into the future”, but their range of influences often sets them apart from being yet another leather trousered band of blokes recycling traditional sounds.
Their ‘Trail of Souls’ album was recorded in 2020 in less than ideal conditions, as a global pandemic took hold. The album’s production obviously showed these limitations, especially through a slightly muddy guitar tone and flat drum sound, but the best songs shone through the murk, often suggesting the work of a band who understood the importance of melody.
The debut release from Swedish melodic metal band Fans of The Dark was a genuine mixed bag. Conceptually, it tried to hard to link horror narratives with metal-based tunes, but some of the vocals were terrible, and the least said about the artwork, the better. Some of the material was distinctly average and yet, despite almost everything, it had something that showed promise. For those willing to persevere and make it past those heavily accented, really dated vocals, the seemingly ropey album actually hid three very strong tunes which combined chopping guitar lines, some muscular bass and a couple of big choruses. It suggested that – despite almost everything – Fans of The Dark might just be harbouring some talent. They just hid it very well.
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.