SUNSTORM – Brothers In Arms

When the legendary vocalist Joe Lynn Turner stepped away from Sunstorm in 2020, it could have been the end of the line for the much loved melodic rock band. After all, his departure not only left them without their distinctive voice, it also led to a band with no original members. In addition, Joe was the reason why most people loved Sunstorm in the first place. For these reasons, for Sunstorm to continue seemed like a strange decision. However, they battled on, thinking that Sunstorm name would be enough alone to shift a few units.

After securing the talented but busy Ronnie Romero in 2021, the band secured not only another top drawer singer – capable of tackling a broad range of styles – but also someone who’d technically filled Joe’s shoes when Ritchie Blackmore decided to revive the Rainbow moniker. On paper, Ron was perfect for the Sunstorm job. Since they were attempting to replace the irreplaceable, the reality could have been different, but between some well written songs and Romero in great form, the new-look Sunstorm’s ‘Afterlife’ was a solid affair, regardless of whatever band name happened to be on the box. It was certainly good enough to suggest that Sunstorm had a future without Turner.

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Guitarist Tony Hernando will be familiar to some melodic rock fans through his associations with powerhouse vocalist Ronnie Romero, and their work together as members of Spanish metal band Lords of Black. Although that band’s huge riffs helped to put Hernando in the spotlight across Europe, its with his side project, Restless Spirits, the musician really shines. When working under that moniker, Hernando’s work takes a far more tuneful approach as he tackles a broad variety of melodic rock styles. In addition, the band’s role call of guest vocalists on their debut from 2019 – including Hardline men Deen Castronovo and Johnny Gioeli, and the brilliant Dino Jelusic – helped to bring Tony’s work to an even broader audience.

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STRANGEWAYS – Complete Recordings Volume 1: 1985-1994

When thinking about 80s AOR, there are a few bands that immediately spring to mind: Journey, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, and Survivor. Legends all, but rock’s most radio-friendly subgenre spawned a truckload of other great bands, and during the 80s, this most American sound even influenced a few British musicians. FM remain one of the best known and most successful exponents of the UK contingent; much has been said about Magnum’s most commercial period from 1986-90, and at the end of the decade, Little Angels scored chart success by taking an AOR core and injecting it with a couple of rockier influences. For all the hitmakers, there are several great bands that aren’t mentioned anywhere near as much. And the greatest of those? That, without doubt, would be Scotland’s Strangeways.

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Graham Bonnet has always been prolific. Since the release of his self-titled album in 1977, he has barely stopped recording and touring, but the few years in the run up to this third release from Graham Bonnet Band has seen Skegness’s most famous export take on a phenomenal amount of work for a man in his 70s.

Beginning with 2016’s double set ‘The Book’, the veteran vocalist began a late career gold run, with that album presenting some massive new tunes alongside some tight re-workings from his past, creating a great release suitable for both the big fan and the more curious listener. He then played a one off show with a reformed Alcatrazz in Japan, and recorded with both Michael Schenker and Ezoo, before 2018’s ‘Meanwhile…Back In The Garage’ saw Graham and his band sometimes rocking out in a more casual way, but still delivering the goods in terms of riffs and hooks. At a point where most performers might consider stepping back to admire their handiwork, Bonnet then revived Alcatrazz again, toured, and eventually released the critically acclaimed ‘Born Innocent’ – the first new studio work from the band in almost thirty five years.

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THE BIG DEAL – First Bite

The promotional cycle for melodic rockers The Big Deal was a slow and carefully planned affair. The Serbian band pitched themselves to Frontiers Records with a selection of demo recordings which got the green light for an album, but they didn’t begin work on that immediately. Instead, they took to social media throughout 2021 and shared a set of videos that introduced them to the world via a selection of well known cover tunes. Classic tracks by Europe and Aerosmith very much set out the band’s melodic rock stall in an obvious but very engaging way, but it was their take on the ABBA classic ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ that really stood out. The track’s strong melodies provided vocalist Ana Nikolic with a great platform, but it was guitarist Srdjan Brankovic driving everything forward. The original cut’s distinctive keyboard hook transposed excellently to guitar, and he lent The Big Deal’s recording a truly excellent feature with his massive harmonic sounds.

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