Album Review: Sunstorm – ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

Joe Lynn Turner is probably not someone that needs an introduction…but damn it if I’m not going to try!

Joe Lynn Turner is a vocalist who has sung with Deep Purple (although it wasn’t on one of their most beloved records: it was 1990’s Slaves and Masters), Rainbow (incidentally, going by album releases, he and Ronnie James Dio are actually tied for how many albums they appeared on by Rainbow at three each: Turner sang on 1981’s Difficult to Cure, 1982’s Straight Between The Eyes and 1983’s Bent Out of Shape while Dio sung on Rainbow’s first three records), Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force (mainly on 1988’s Odyssey, although he was one of the three vocalists who appeared on 1996’s cover album Inspiration), supergroup Mother’s Army (which released three records in the 90’s), Hughes Turner Project (a project with Glenn Hughes that lasted from 2001 to 2004) AND has an active solo career, so it’s fair to say that the guy is very busy. Yet, surprisingly, he’s not a name that is familiar to people in the mainstream music scene: while a highly regarded figure among the hard rock scene, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who recognises his name who isn’t a huge rock fan to start with.

I would love to talk about the other guys involved, but, let’s be honest, most of you reading this probably are more interested in Joe Lynn Turner than the other guys. This isn’t to say there isn’t some talent to the other guys, though: keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio is an ex-member of the band Eden’s Curse and has worked with Jorn Lande on his (at the time of writing) upcoming 11th solo album, Heavy Rock Radio, and power metallers Silent Force on their 2013 record Rising from Ashes, guitarist Simone Mularoni has been part of the Italian progressive/power metal band DGM since 2006 and has been involved in the production side of records since 2008 (including bands like Elvenking, Ancient Bards, Hell in the Club and Trick or Treat), drummer Francesco Jovino played with U.D.O. from 2005 until 2014 and rejoined Primal Fear in time to appear on this year’s Rulebreaker and bassist Nik Mazzucconi…well, OK, Mazzucconi probably won’t ring any bells to most people, but he has worked with Jovino and Del Vecchio in the band Edge of Forever, so he’s not entirely unknown, just not someone who has been attached to any real high profile bands.

So, with all of that talent involved, you’d expect Edge of Tomorrow to be a good album, right? Well…there’s a lot about the record which I like, but I’d be lying if I said I was won over by it. It feels like the kind of record that is good enough to remind you that Joe Lynn Turner is still around (and, it must be said, still singing very well for a guy who turns 65 this year), but not good enough to change your opinion on the guy if you hadn’t been impressed with him to start with.

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Before I start with the review properly, I’d like to comment on the artwork. I don’t usually do this, but something about the artwork here seems off to me. It’s mostly fine, but the female figure on the artwork looks like she’s been added at a later date to the rest of the artwork and she hasn’t been properly integrated into it, as some things just seem off about her when you consider how the light should be shining on her. Maybe I’m being unfair, but something about her on the artwork just feels like a bad Photoshop job to add something else to the artwork at the last minute to me.

Anyway, the record, for the most part, falls into the melodic hard rock spectrum side of things. This might seem like odd on paper to those not already familiar with Turner’s era of Deep Purple and Rainbow, but it actually makes more sense than you’d expect: Turner’s records with them were more poppy than their most well known material would have you believe, so this isn’t a complete change of pace for him. Some of the songs do have heavier moments (‘Heart of the Storm’ has some heavy guitar riffing that leans closer to heavy metal than melodic rock), but the vast majority of the record, if Joe Lynn Turner’s voice was mixed out, could be mistaken for an 80s rock record, albeit one with more than a few hints of 70s hard rock cropping up as well. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t exactly anything original, which is, unfortunately, one of the things I regard as important to look for, so the absence of that is a sticking point for me.

That said, I can’t fault the songwriting itself, as it is fairly good overall. You can definitely tell that the songwriters involved in this record know how to construct a song, as, on a structure level, there’s nothing wrong with them at all. They do all fall into established songwriting structures, but, to be fair, those structures are used because they work well: they aren’t necessarily the most creative approaches, but there’s nothing wrong with them. The choruses are definitely appealing to the ear (I’m not convinced they completely succeed at being catchy, but they definitely try to be, which I guess is the thought that counts) and the songs give the musicians space to show off their skills, which is pretty much all I could ask from the record on the specifics level. I honestly can’t say any of the songs are bad on an overall level, but there’s none that I really fell in love with and felt were worth making a big fuss about. It’s possible I came into this record with the wrong mindset (I was expecting something like Treat or Drive, She Said, which, with the benefit of hindsight, was definitely not the right approach), but I still feel that the record just didn’t grab me when it really should have done.

On the instrumental performance front…well, the musicians definitely know how to play their instruments and they get a good opportunity to prove it without it crossing over into the realm of being a collection of instrument exercises disguised as a song (looking at you, Dream Theater!), which is already a good sign in my book! I honestly don’t think there’s a lot I need to say here, though not because of a lack of talent on anyone’s part: they all do good jobs and nobody really feels like a weak link on the record at all.

Turner’s vocals…I said at the start that Turner still sounds great for a guy coming up to 65 years old and I mean it. The guy still has a powerful voice, an acceptable vocal range (nothing too impressive overall, but better than you might be expecting) and a great vocal tone. I can’t think of a lot of vocalists who are Turner’s age who I can honestly say sound as good as he does, which is truly commendable when you consider the guy’s career has been quite a long one (he’s been a professional vocalist for around 40 years now) and he’s been singing styles of music which are not known for being kind on the vocal cords due to how loud you have to sing to do them well. While there are vocalists who can sing better than Turner can sing now, there’s not a lot I can think of who have as much experience as he does AND can sing as well as he does now, which really shows how good a vocalist he is at the end of the day.

The production of the record…well, my usual bugbears crop up again (the bass feels like it needed more presence in the record and the mastering is a bit louder than it needs to be), but, beyond that, I can’t say there’s anything really wrong with the production: it’s modern, but it doesn’t succumb to the trappings of a lot of modern records either. The main mixing is very good and the instruments sound like they’ve been recorded by an engineer who knows how to get the best possible sound out of them. Really, there’s not a lot to say here beyond commending those involved in the production side of the record for a good job.

Ultimately, Edge of Tomorrow is a record which I get the feeling that I should like more than I actually do. There’s nothing wrong with it on the songwriting front, the performances are fine and the production is fairly good. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it grabbed me properly, as I felt a bit disappointed with it. I can see it being liked by melodic hard rock fans and, to be fair, I can’t say I disliked this record, but I’m not convinced this is going to be a year defining record for anyone. Decent enough, but not an essential purchase if you’re not already a fan of this sort of thing.

Edge of Tomorrow will be released on the 13th of May by Frontier Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.