Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
I am a huge fan of the first two Sunstorm albums. They were basically an AOR fan’s wet-dream featuring the stunning vocals of ex-Rainbow and Deep Purple singer Joe Lynn Turner and a set of truly immense AOR tracks.
By album number three, the quality control and production values had slipped a little and when it was announced that Joe Lynn Turner would no longer be singing for the project, I lost what little interest I still had in new Sunstorm music.
Oh, what a foolish mistake that was! Brothers in Arms is the latest Sunstorm offering and will be released on 12th August. Like its predecessor, 2021’s Afterlife, Brothers In Arms features Ronnie Romero (Michael Schenker, Lords of Black, Rainbow) on lead vocals and takes a more Hard Rock approach than the early Sunstorm albums.
Normally this kind of approach would have a dyed-in-the-wool AOR-ster like me slightly worried, but on the evidence of this true colossus of an album, nobody should have any concerns whatsoever!
On Brothers In Arms, Sunstorm deliver a set of epic hard-edged but hyper-melodic Hard Rock with plenty of AOR flourishes. There are perhaps some slight similarities to labelmates W.E.T. in the grooves of some of these tracks, plus touches or early Europe, but frankly I’m going to stop there with the comparisons because to continue to make them would be to do this album a disservice.
The sound on Brothers In Arms is a monster AOR/Hard Rock hybrid, with plenty of titanic AOR hooks welded to muscular 70s Hard Rock structures, all wrapped up in a mighty clear and powerful modern production. New guitarist Luca Princiotta (Doro) stamps his very considerable authority over the sound from the off with an absolutely enormous classic Hard Rock tone and style.
Equally comfortable melting the listener’s face with massive riffs, gargantuan powerchords or impressive solos, he makes a bold claim to be the star of the show here. It’s a bold claim indeed, as he’s up against the thermonuclear aural assault of Ronnie Romero’s stunning vocals.
Romero has the classic Hard Rock voice; oozing awe-inspiring power, pure emotion and incredible control, he takes every track by the scruff of the neck and wrings every last drop of emotion from it in quite staggering fashion.
With the dynamic duo of Princiotta and Romero taking centre-stage, one could easily be forgiven for missing the importance of ubiquitous Frontiers Music keyboard player Alessandro Del Vecchio in this project.
Flitting effortlessly between delicate synthesiser sounds and huge slabs of Deep Purple-esque Hammond organ, he is the perfect foil to Luca Princiotta’s guitar masterclass thoughout the album. The whole thing is ably held together by drummer Michele Sanna and bassist Nik Mazzucconi, whose contributions should not be overlooked either.
Highlights are many. In fact, there really is not a bad track on the entire album and any fan of the heavier side of AOR and of classic sounding Hard Rock will find themselves caught in a delicious hurricane of melodic hard rocking fury when opener and title track ‘Brothers In Arms’ roars from the speakers with an absolutely colossal guitar riff and the first of Romero’s awe-inspiring vocal performances.
It’s a proper ‘heads down, see you at the end’ rocker but with the kind of chorus that Journey (etc) would sell their own grandmas for!
‘Games We Play’ starts off all moody and quiet with delicate AOR synths and aching guitar before settling into a truly majestic piece of AOR with the kind of chorus that will melt ice-caps, level mountains and cause grown men to weep tears of blood. Phew! And this is only track two!
‘I’ll Keep Holding On’ keeps the AOR quotient high, although this time with Hammond replacing the synths and when that guitar scythes in for the pre-chorus you know that ‘hold on’ is exactly what you need to do as a truly epic tsunami of a chorus washes you away despite all your efforts to prevent it and when the inevitable guitar solo explodes from the mix, it’s game over. Absolutely stunning stuff!
After an opening triumvirate like that, one could be forgiven for wondering if Sunstorm might have blown their biggest shot a little early. But fear not, there is plenty more to come and ‘I Will Remember’ repeats the winning formula on another wonderful AOR/Hard Rock hybrid while ‘No Turning Back’ ups the tempo a smidgen and piles on the massive riffs on a superlative Hard Rock romp which boasts another truly majestic chorus hook.
‘Back My Dreams’ finally gives us a bit of breather by slowing things down. Acoustic guitars and delicate synths provide Ronnie Romero with the space to go all 70s David Coverdale on us, singing in a highly emotive and silky lower register croon over the verses before upping the ante on the choruses in quite spectacular style on this rather wonderful ballad.
The hard-edged AOR returns big-time on ‘Taste of Heaven’ which once again sees a wicked combination of John Lord-esque Hammond organ and hard-edged AOR guitar and melodic stylings before the huge riffs return on the frantic ‘Lost In The Shadows’ which sounds a little like a much heavier version of Europe circa Wings of Tomorrow and Final Countdown. Alessandro Del Vecchio provides a superb synth solo here before the obligatory guitar heroics lead us into the final choruses.
‘Hold The Night’ has an annoyingly familiar AOR guitar riff that I can’t quite place before a frankly ridiculous AOR chorus showers the listener with Euro-rock cheese and saccharine sweet sing-along melody all at the same time. In lesser hands this would be a bit of a cringe-fest, but with Sunstorm, it’s pretty much the perfect Hard Rock/AOR anthem. No mean feat, I can tell you!
It would be a complete miracle of the very worst kind if Sunstorm were to blow this now and with ‘Miracle’, you’ll be glad to hear that they simply continue where they left off with yet another absolutely huge piece of rocking AOR before closing this absolute monster album with the huge Hard Rocking chug-fest of ‘Living Out of Fear’ which ends the album on a massive high.
Well, I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting that! I never thought that the debut Sunstorm album would ever be upstaged in the history of the project, but by Jove they’ve only gone and done it in truly epic and spectacular fashion! It really is a bit of a golden year for this kind of music, with Treat and Crossing Rubicon producing absolutely top-class Melodic Hard Rock/AOR earlier in the year and now here we are with Sunstorm placing a very worthy claim for pole-position.
This is an absolutely brilliant album from start to finish and is an absolute must-have for any fans of classic Hard Rock, AOR (especially the heavier end of the genre) and Melodic Rock in general. Buy it or stream it but for goodness sake just make sure you get to hear it when it is released on 12th August! Totally brilliant!
Brothers In Arms” Tracklisting:
- Brothers In Arms
- Games We Play
- I’ll Keep Holding On
- I Will Remember
- No Turning Back
- Back My Dreams
- Taste Of Heaven
- Lost In The Shadows Of Love
- Hold The Night
- Living Out Of Fear
Ronnie Romero – Vocals
Luca Princiotta – Guitars
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards, backing vocals
Nik Mazzucconi – Bass
Michele Sanna – Drums
pre-order/save HERE: https://orcd.co/brothersinarms