Sunbomb — Light Up The Sky (Frontiers)

When Rushonrock caught Michael Sweet cutting through the noise on the Sunset Strip in the autumn of 2022 one thing was immediately clear.

Stryper’s frontman hadn’t yet befallen the same fate as so many of his high octane 80s peers.

Far from it.

That trademark hard rock voice was still powerful, piercing and perfectly capable of holding a room for an hour and a half.

No problem hitting those high notes (and there were plenty of them).

And no hint of a tape anywhere to be seen — the next night the power failed but Sweet stepped up to helm an unplugged set that laid bare his enduring talent.

The Whisky A Go Go was bouncing as the hometown heroes played two career-spanning sets paying due homage to a classic back catalogue.

And the band’s iconic frontman sounded Sweeter than ever.

Talking of Iconic, earlier that year the face of Stryper had hooked up with Joel Hoekstra, Marco Mendoza, Tommy Aldridge and Nathan James to launch a multi-talented supergroup of the same name.

It was a predictably resounding success.

But what about Sunbomb?

In 2021 Sweet’s project with LA Guns’ axe slinger Tracii Guns emerged from the shadows with Evil And Divine.

A record in thrall to the trad metal of the 80s may well have been a passion project for two dedicated students of the genre.

But it proved to be a gloriously bombastic throwback to an era of wizards, dragons, magic and doom as Sweet and Guns strapped in and rocked out.

Follow-up Light Up The Sky’s been a long time coming but could Sunbomb possibly eclipse their debut? Here goes…

Guns for hire on Sweet metal throwback

Tracii Guns might have enjoyed a colourful career as one of West Hollywood’s most flamboyant hair metal heroes back in the day.

And despite famously parting ways with the bloke who’d go on to be rock and roll’s biggest banking star at the start of the early 90s, he’s amassed an impressive body of work.

LA Guns’ Black Diamonds, released last year, was an absolute belter.

But here’s the thing: we’d wager Guns would happily give up the day job (again) to make more trad metal albums in the vein of Light Up The Sky.

In truth he’s never sounded so fired-up, free and totally fixated on crafting a six-string masterclass for the ages.

Around three minutes into Winds Of Fire it all kicks off: grab hold of your denim and leather, turn the speakers up to 11 and lose yourself in an extended solo that perfectly captures the kick-ass mood of this retro-fitted, record of the year contender.

Channelling his inner Iommi, Goldy and Downing, the gloves are off for Guns.

And it’s not just the solos that spark memories of vintage Dio, Priest and post-Ozzy Sabbath.

Those riffs?

There’s a thunderous, doom-laden energy driving Light Up The Sky’s most trad metal moments as Sweet’s trademark timbre takes the lead from his buddy’s blazing fretwork.

Where We Belong might be a touch too much for fans of the heavier stuff but again it’s worth staying the course for Guns’ nuanced guitars.

As producer of Light Up The Sky, he ensures nothing’s left to chance on a track that challenges Sweet to up the vocal ante again.

Evil And Divine was a debut screaming potential. 

But Sunbomb just exploded on this fiery follow-up. Eighties metal never sounded so good.