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SUNSTORM Afterlife

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Monday, April 12, 2021 @ 12:12 AM


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SUNSTORM
Afterlife

Frontiers Music Srl - 2021




On the back of the new SUNSTORM album Afterlife, there is the following description: A PROJECT BY SERAFINO PERUGINO. And that sums up the power behind the throne when it comes to the creation and creative direction of this album. The head of the label made a change ahead of the recording of this album. After four SUNSTORM albums fronted by Joe Lynn Turner, this album features the vocals of Ronnie Romero (LORDS OF BLACK, RAINBOW, THE FERRYMEN).

This change seemed to cause considerable consternation among fans of the band and given what Frontiers had to say in the press about the change of singers, led to a caustic response from Joe Lynn Turner himself.

But all of this backstory is for naught in my book. I've only heard the first SUNSTORM album so I'm not tied all that much to who's fronting this collection of songs. On top of which, I like Ronnie Romero so it isn't like Perugino just hired some Joe Palooka to sing the album.

For the uninitiated, SUNSTORM is more of a project than an official band. The majority of the album features the songwriting of Frontiers house / go-to guy Alessandro Del Vecchio. He co-wrote the songs (mostly with guitarist Simone Mularoni), played keyboards and sang backing vocals. If that wasn't enough work, he also produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the CD as well.

The album opens up with a quartet of songs that feature an aggressively paced sound that has plenty of melodic hooks as well. The title song is up first and it has a particularly vibrant soundtrack to the song. There's a killer guitar solo on the track as well.

The song "One Step Closer" has a catchy chorus with lyrics that seem to be more than a bit aspirational in nature. The song works so well that it ended up being one of my personal favorites. "Swan Song" is a solidly rocking track too. But I really loved the frenetically flying pace of "Born Again". The song just really has something special going for it.

Oddly enough, the song "Stronger" was the first track on Afterlife that left me thinking it was weaker than other cuts on the disc. It's pacing rose and fell over the song's run time and I never quite got all that into it. But the power ballad "Lost Forever" was the real downer for me. Without being too much of a jerk about it, I think the song should've taken a cue from its title and stayed in the vault and never saw the light of day.

But enough about that which didn't eventually bring me joy. Instead, let's focus on the good like the song "I Found A Way". The writing credits list "Aldrich" as one of the writers. But there's no first name listed anywhere in the liner notes. So I can't say for sure if that means that it is Doug Aldrich (THE DEAD DAISIES) or not. What I can say is that song is pretty darn fantastic. There's a slightly grittier tone to the guitar work on the track that kind of upped the song in my estimation too.

"Far From Over" features a double guitar solo that gave the song that little bit extra. I mean the song was already great but that solo was fantastic.

By now, I realize that I haven't mentioned much about Ronnie Romero. But what is there really to say? He's a fantastic singer. That's something that has been well-established by now. On Afterlife, the music and lyrics may not have his writing hand in them but he makes the songs his own with his performances on each track. Whether he's got to spitfire the lyrics on the faster paced tracks or pull back and fill the vocals with more heartfelt emotion, he's more than up to the task. I found that his vocal run through on the album closing "A Story You Can Tell" was particularly effective. The music is amazing but when you combine it with how his vocals turned out, you get magic!

There's a crackling electricity in the fiery guitar riff opening of "Here For You Tonight". The song then slows down a bit in the main lyrical verses before the chorus sees the band get faster and more intense. This song features a line that I enjoyed a whole lot: "Will you hide forever / like a whisper in the wind". The song "Darkest Night" features that same kind of back and forth in terms of tempo switches. It's a decent enough song but I will say that it is the chorus that really makes the song for me.

In all honesty, I have to admit that it took me a couple of spins of the disc to really appreciate everything Afterlife had to offer. The first time through featured a few standout tracks to be sure but I think other tracks grow on you with that repeated listening. A friend of mine said that they liked this album more than the two most recent SUNSTORM albums. Since I haven't listened to those releases though, I can only judge this album according to its own merits. And I can't help but think that the addition of Ronnie Romero on vocals and a batch of songs that are both fast paced and melodically driven has helped to pump a new energy into the project. Afterlife shows that there is still plenty of life in SUNSTORM!

4.5 Out Of 5.0


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