Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Album Review: Sunstorm - Road To Hell

It hasn't been the best few years for Joe Lynn Turner. He wasn't called upon to front the resurrected Rainbow, and not long ago he suffered a heart attack that has put him on the sidelines. Before that happened, however, he recorded this new album with his Sunstorm project. What started out as AOR took on a decidedly heavier tone with their previous album, the very good "Edge Of Tomorrow". That album found Sunstorm coming out of the gates as a heavy melodic rock band, and gave Turner some of the most muscular music he's had to sing in many a year. I've revisited that album several times since it came out, so I was very much looking forward to hearing what they would do as a follow up.

While many of Turner's contemporaries have either retired, or now sound like shadows of themselves (*cough*Graham Bonnet*cough*), his voice (at the time of recording) was still as strong as ever. On this record, he doesn't sound anything approaching his age. The style of music might be tilted more towards his generation than the kind of melodic rock being made by the younger crowd, but he gives them a run for their money in terms of pure ability.

If you heard "Edge Of Tomorrow", you know what to expect from this album, as they fit together like facing pages in a book. If it isn't broke, don't fix it. Sunstorm was just hitting their stride, so there was no reason to mix things up just for the sake of doing something different. The whole appeal of AOR-style melodic rock is to get a dose of a certain strain of music. Sunstorm definitely delivers that here.

There's two kinds of melodic rock; the pop-influenced, and the more traditional form. Sunstorm is the latter. Turner is melodic throughout, as are the guitar harmonies, but there's nary a hint of pop to the choruses. They rely on Turner's smooth voice to gently push the melodies. What that means is the album is lovely to listen to, but requires repeated listens before you start really grabbing the hooks. This isn't an immediate album that will hit you over the head with the catchy bits, and hope you pick up on the rest of the details. What we get is more balanced, more nuanced, and frankly an album that needs you to invest some time in it.

That's the biggest difference between these two most recent Sunstorm albums. "Edge Of Tomorrow" had more of that immediate impact. There were a few more riffs and melodies that stuck on the first listen, and made it necessary to keep going back. "Road To Hell" is of the same quality, but has fewer bright colors waving at you in the breeze. What I think that does is establish the relationship as "Edge Of Tomorrow" being the big brother, and "Road To Hell" being the younger brother who won't be given the same amount of attention.

That's not a slight. "Edge Of Tomorrow" was a great record for its style. I get enough music thrown at me that it's hard for anything that wasn't immediately a favorite to endure after its cycle is over. That record did. It's only because of that I would say it's the better of the two. "Road To Hell" is nearly as good a record, and certainly delivers plenty of very good melodic rock of the classic kind. Turner sounds great, and the songs are good. What more can you ask?

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