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.
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.
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.