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.

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PERFECT PLAN – Brace For Impact

In the year or so leading up to this third release from Perfect Plan, vocalist Kent Hilli kept himself more than busy. Considered by some to be the great white hope of melodic rock in the twenty first century, between 2021 and 2022, he not only issued two solo releases – an album of original material and an EP of covers – but also became the new frontman for AOR legends Giant, appearing on their very enjoyable ‘Shifting Time’ album, and even found time to contribute vocals to the second Restless Spirits album.

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INDUSTRIAL PUKE – Where Life Crisis Starts EP

When members of Rentokiller and Burst joined forces for a side project purely aiming to make some noise, it was pretty much a guarantee that the results would be uncompromising, but this debut from Industrial Puke is more impressive than first impressions would suggest. Their choice of name and logo appear rooted in the extreme – suggesting a blend of death metal, grindcore and gore-themed noise – but the reality is far preferable. Their music adopts more of a hardcore persuasion and the EP’s four hefty workouts bring early 90s hardcore and crust punk influences into the twenty first century with an almighty wallop.

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VYPERA – Eat Your Heart Out

Vypera, a melodic metal band from Sweden, began life in 2016 as Madhouse, a covers band working the local circuit. On the basis of their debut release under the new name – their first to feature all new, self penned material – you might find yourself wondering if they were better when hammering through other peoples’ hits, since the bulk of ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ is…fairly bad, to put it mildly.

Sweden have a great track record for rock and metal exports, and the Scandinavians have more than shown an easy knack for great riffs and choruses over the years, very much providing a strong backbone for the melodic rock and metal scene. On on the basis of this debut, though, as much as some people would like to purport such a notion that the Swedes are infallible, such talents aren’t guaranteed. Although the bulk of this debut rehashes some old style riffs fairly solidly, Vypera’s song writing isn’t amazing; the record’s production values are decidedly average, and vocally, seventy five percent of the time, an ugly voice derails most of the good elements there might have been. Faced with something that sounds like polished demo with half of the guitars sounding really trebly, as if they’re bleeding in from another room, it’s immediately hard on the ears.

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