Sunstorm – Brothers In Arms (Album Review)

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To AOR heaven, we shall ascend.

Sunstorm is a name that has come to embody consistency, which may seem counterintuitive when considering that the persons comprising said melodic metal/rock outfit has been about as ephemeral as a chameleon’s colors. Originally a mid-2000s answer to the renewed interest in AOR in Europe and also a vehicle for 80s vocal icon and former front man of such noted acts as Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and Deep Purple singer Joe Lynn Turner, the band has managed to maintain a consistent blend of qualitative and stylistic affinity with the aforementioned bands despite being subject to frequent lineup shifts. The exodus of the man originally standing at the helm following 2018’s “The Road To Hell” may have spelled the end of an integral part of the Frontiers Records family after a brilliant 5 LP run for some, but even with the two-year pandemic putting everything in a state of limbo, this modern AOR mainstay refused to die and came roaring back as strong as ever with 2021’s “Afterlife,” featuring current Rainbow and Lords Of Black vocalist Ronnie Romero standing in the place of Turner.

Roughly a year and a half to the day that this quintet and super-group earned themselves a new lease on life, lightning has indeed struck twice with the arrival of the even more potent and magical follow up that is “Brothers In Arms.” Coping with yet another shift in personnel due to the exit of virtuoso guitarist and Frontiers alumni Simone Mularoni after a stellar 3 album run, this veritable comeback kid institution has found a more than adequate replacement in Luca Princiotta, arguably best known for his work with Doro Pesch, though one would be remiss not to consider the stellar work he brought to the Iron Maiden tribute band turned power metal outfit Clairvoyants. Suffice it to say; he brings a solid blend of tastefully flashy leads and melodic goodness into the equation that bonds seamlessly with the sweet savor of early 80s Rainbow, mid-80s Deep Purple and Dio influences that has been the signature Sunstorm sound since its 2006 inception. In fact, apart from the gravely, Ronnie James Dio-like swagger that Romero brings to the table, Princiotta’s six-string work proves the most consequential element at play on these eleven arena-worthy anthems.

“Brothers In Arms” Album Artwork

In the same fashion as every preceding opus under this band’s belt, “Brothers In Arms” is an album that makes no apologies for where it takes its cues, and delivers all the expected mid-80s influenced AOR goods with that signature, loud and large production quality that Frontiers Records is known for dishing out. Following a dense and spacey keyboard intro courtesy of keyboard extraordinaire Alessandro Del Vecchio that sports a noodling synthesizer lead that Jens Johansson might have dreamed up, the banger of an opener and title track “Brothers In Arms” hits the pavement at full speed with a brilliant blend of up tempo Deep Purple trappings and a driving, Stratovarius-like edge, fueled heavily by the power drumming approach of Michele Sanna. It stands as one of the heavier numbers on a largely mid-paced rocking album, and also sees Vecchio’s brilliant blend of Johansson and Jon Lord influences trading blows quite effectively with Princiotta’s shred-happy leads, though one should not discount the equally fast and punchy metallic thunder of “Lost In The Shadows Of Love” and “No Turning Back”, or the Dokken-like power and heavy edge of closer “Living Out Of Fear”.

All of that being said, true to this band’s pre-existing modus operandi, the lion’s share of material rounding out this LP rests firmly in the mid-paced, hard rocking territory that one might expect from an album like “Bent Out Of Shape” or “Perfect Strangers.” Much of the down tempo material has a tendency to border on power balladry, with the dreamy atmospheric verse segments with a reserved rhythmic groove of “Games We Play” and the similarly keyboard-steeped and poignant “Taste Of Heaven” saving their harder apex points for the more infectious chorus segments, though these restrained moments also see Princiotta’s lead guitar work at its most expressive. That said, apart from the predominantly acoustic and lovelorn “Back My Dreams”, nothing found on here gets to the point of becoming overtly sappy, and punchy rock anthems like “Hold The Night” and “I Will Remember” capture that brilliant post-Dio era of Rainbow from ’79 to ’83 where the melodies may have garnered more mainstream attention, but the fire raged on in spite of it all, helped along further by a heavier guitar assault and a beefed up 2020s production quality.

Though a number of Joe Lynn Turner loyalists may cling to the notion that Sunstorm ended with his departure, this album tells a very different story, and while none of the original musicians that original comprised this fold are still in congress and Ronnie Romero’s approach has a highly different flavor to the original, those who want a high quality blend of metallic thunder and AOR melodic sensibilities should familiarize themselves with this 11-part saga immediately. It may not be the same band that it was prior to the Covid lockdowns, but one wouldn’t know it if going just by the level of musical quality exhibited here, and one might even make the argument that “Brothers In Arms” stands a rung above a couple of the pre-2020 albums in the Sunstorm ladder. It’s a formula that has been done before, and it no doubt will be done again either by this outfit or the many others out there paying tribute to the original greats, but it is a rarity for it to be done this well, let alone repeatedly so by an ever-shifting fold of musicians for the better part of 20 years.

Order the “Brothers In Arms” album HERE,

Released By: Frontiers Music SRL
Release Date: August 12th, 2022
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock

“Brothers In Arms” track listing:

1. Brothers In Arms
2. Games We Play
3. I’ll Keep Holding On
4. I Will Remember
5. No Turning Back
6. Back My Dreams
7. Taste Of Heaven
8. Lost In The Shadows Of Love
9. Hold The Night
10. Miracle
11. Living Out Of Fear

Musicians:

  • Ronnie Romero / Vocals
  • Luca Princiotta / Guitars
  • Alessandro Del Vecchio / Keyboards, backing vocals
  • Nik Mazzucconi / Bass
  • Michele Sanna / Drums
 
 
 
 
 

8.5 Excellent

Wasting no time after the success of their 2021 comeback and first LP without original front man and icon Joe Lynn Turner, international heavy metal/AOR powerhouse Sunstorm reprises the same winning mixture of soaring melodies and lofty anthems that has made them a staple of the Frontiers Records allegiance

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8.5
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