GOTUS – Gotus

Gotus? In terms of band names, that’s pretty ugly. It certainly isn’t terrible – that would be reserved for the likes of Smoking Gives You Big Tits, Dohny Jepp, and Fuck Yeah Dinosaurs, all of which not only have the misfortune to exist, but also the distinction of somehow being better than anything else those bands could come up with – but it certainly doesn’t inspire. It was chosen with solid reasoning, however: it’s a portmanteau designed to advertise the fact that this European supergroup features members of Gotthard and Krokus. That should be enough alone to secure the melodic rockers a decent audience, but in many ways, the biggest draw here is their choice of vocalist.

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RONNIE ROMERO – Too Many Lies, Too Many Masters

Throughout 2022, Ronnie Romero continued his very prolific streak of releasing new material. The year brought four new albums: another studio recording with the brilliant Sunstorm, an album with The Ferrymen, a solo disc featuring some well chosen cover tunes and, not least of all, a titanic piece of metal reuniting the hard working singer with his band Lords of Black. With just two albums released in 2023, it was a quiet year by Romero’s usual standards, but you still have to ask: at what point does having a ridiculous work ethic start to look like a man on a musical treadmill at the behest of his record company?

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Steel Bars: A Rock Tribute To Michael Bolton

In the minds of a lot of people, Michael Bolton is a man charged with filling his career with easy listening pop, or crooning standards. He achieved massive success in the late 80s with his sixth album, ‘Soul Provider’, a record that showcased a man with a strong voice, but beyond the Desmond Child penned ‘How Can We Be Lovers’ had very little substance.

That track was actually a welcome throwback of sorts to Bolton’s musical past. Before he became chief executive of making a generation of housewives over excited, old Mickey Two-Haircuts had already had a full career by most people’s standards. His first two albums mixed west coast pop with AM radio friendly rock tunes and material that occasionally hinted at his future success as a best-selling crooner, but a run of work released between 1979-85 cast Michael in the role of a full blooded rocker. With his band Blackjack (featuring future Kiss axeman Bruce Kulick) and as a solo performer, ‘Blackjack’ (1979), ‘Worlds Apart’ (1980), ‘Michael Bolton’ (1983) and ‘Everybody’s Crazy’ (1985) captured a run of work that could easily stand up with the best of Foreigner, Survivor and their ilk. Given the ubiquitous presence of Michael’s later, softer works, these brilliant records have all but been forgotten – or more likely ignored – by the more casual record buyer.

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RONNIE ROMERO – Raised On Heavy Radio

For his first solo album, Chilean vocalist Ronnie Romero took the easy route and put together a covers album. To be fair, it’s not like he had anything to prove; in the year before its recording, he’d already recorded well-received albums with both Lords of Black and The Ferrymen. He wasn’t about to spend much time coasting along recycling other peoples’ classic rock works either, since he then released an album with his other band Sunstorm, which hit the shelves barely four months later.

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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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