Album review: SUNSTORM – Afterlife

Frontiers Records [Release date 12.03.21]

Gone are the days of the Joe Lynn Turner fronted Sunstorm. Gone are the days when the band’s songs were written by Diane Warren, Desmond Child, Bob Halligan jnr, The Martin (Vega) Brothers and other members of the songwriting glitteratti.

On this new album, the cunningly titled Afterlife, Ronnie (Lords Of Black/Rainbow) Romero is now fronting the band, and Frontier’s inhouse producer/writer, Alessandro DelVecchio, has written the material. And, in fairness, the opportunity has allowed him to pay homage to the glory days of the original band, married up to a fast developing maturity in rock composition and production.

This is no poundshop Sunstorm. Together, Romero, DelVecchio and lead guitarist, Simone Mularoni have crafted a surprisingly attractive, Rainbow flavoured approximation. It doesn’t always work, but it’s this notion that pulses loud and proud at the heart of these new songs.

The shifting currents and moods of ‘One Step Closer’ and ‘Stronger’ give these two standouts a melodic heft that separate them from the others. It’s immediately noticeable that Romero has made some modification to his vocals, finding a slighty earthier, soulful pitch than we might expect.

‘Swan Song’ and ‘Far From Over’ have a dark, derivative, Dio-esque Britrock swagger, grounded in solid, bass heavy rhythms. Both spin on Muloroni’s sparkling, sometimes razoring guitar figures, underpinning seriously sinuous melodies.

In fairness, it’s often DelVecchio’s arrangements and production, rather than the writing and performances, that carry the album home. He has developed his original, one-size-fits-all production style into something more adaptive, more sensitive to the needs of the music. But even with this flair and expertise at work, some tracks don’t stick on landing. It’s most obvious on the album’s big ballad, ‘Lost Forever’, where the dynamics of rock vocals are sacrificed by pushing that bit too hard.

That said, Muloroni, DelVecchio and Romero have stepped up with Afterlife. The album unarguably has a solid sonic core, and there’s always something interesting going on at the edges. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

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