Sunstorm - The Road to Hell
Frontiers Records
Melodic AOR
11 songs (45' 28")
Release year: 2018
Frontiers Records
Reviewed by Andy

Picking up Sunstorm's latest, The Road to Hell, I grabbed it just because of the name and because I felt like some potentially cheesy AOR from Frontiers Records, without realizing this is a Joe Lynn Turner project. Following in the footsteps of the mighty Dio in Rainbow, Turner's work has been underrated not only in that band, but in just about every project he's ever done. The man's a consummate professional and has a voice that apparently stopped aging in 1985. His songwriting did the same thing, which perhaps is why a guy old enough to qualify for Social Security can get away with singing things like "...with help from God above / We will be free to love" with minimal cringes on the part of his audience.

It's also the main reason to still listen to AOR in general, which comes by its cheesiness honestly. It inherited directly from slickly-produced late-70s arena mom-rock to add guitar zooms and extra reverb in the 80s, and Turner's tastes curate that sound as carefully as his voice. Not only is Turner's songwriting and singing able to put soul into something that is almost by definition soulless, its perfect preservation of everything in 80s rock, right down to the sappy ballad on track 7, makes this almost a museum piece than something that can be judged by modern-day standards anymore. What would we rate it against, anyway? It's a lot softer and more upbeat than the Barren Altar album that Alex reviewed a few weeks ago, which I listened to on a six-hour redeye flight while reading Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism (an excellent recipe for a night of despair, in case you need one). But it's still much heavier than rock of the same pop/upbeat class that can be found today.

The Road to Hell does not have to be listened to as a full album. You could take Still Fighting, in which Turner sings over the top of guitarist Simone Mularoni's channeling of his inner Van Halen, add it to your playlist with the band's mid-tempo guitar chopping in My Eyes on You, and stick it on your "1987 senior prom" playlist. You'd be just fine -- no one would even catch you cheating by adding songs from 2018 on it. But there's some pleasure to be had in going through the whole thing. You catch little musical flourishes that Sunstorm put in the mostly steady mid-tempo tunes, including a guitar-keyboard duel on Resurrection that sounds great, although the slick mixing job they used blots out some of its impact. Fans of Bonfire (he co-wrote one of the songs on Fireworks, which when you hear The Road to Hell ought to come as no surprise) will probably like this.

Killing Songs :
Still Fighting, Resurrection
Andy quoted 79 / 100
Other albums by Sunstorm that we have reviewed:
Sunstorm - Sunstorm reviewed by Ben and quoted 83 / 100
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