Early signs aren’t good; The name Steel Rhino just doesn’t inspire any confidence in 2021, I’m afraid, and the opening brace of tracks on the band’s debut album, Rhino Attack and Arrival, workaday eighties-informed hard rock chuggers both, don’t do a whole lot to encourage further investigation.

But then third track, the House Of Lords-styled pop rocker Lovin Easy, erupts from the speakers and the game changes, the scales fall from the eyes… Steel Rhino are very good indeed.

Essentially a one man band, that man being Swedish journeyman rocker Mikael Rosengren, Steel Rhino travel metal and hard rock’s highways and byways, covering all points between such seemingly incongruous bedfellows as Manowar and the afore-mentioned HoL. And the glue that sticks all this together, apart from the slick songwriting smarts of Mr. Rosengren? That would be the remarkable vocal performance of Herbie Langhans.

Long respected by those in the know, it nevertheless remains a fact of life that Langhans is a bit of a bench player, a reliable sub for more well regarded senior pros. Sentinel Daily editor Scott Adams once, harshly I feel, referred to him as ‘a poor man’s Jørn Lande‘ and it’s true there is a bit of a resemblance, especially on the superb stadium metal of Bells of Midnight, but over and again throughout this record Langhans delivers performances that mark him out very much as a versatile, top drawer metal/hard rock vocalist in his own right.

Basically, Herbie can sing it all; the perky modern metal of Fire and Ice, which could easily have sat comfortably on the last Dynazty album, is a particular highlight, as is the fabulous melodic rocker Boom Boom; Rosengren proves he has a knack for a hard-to-dislodge chorus on both of these tracks, and his guitar playing throughout complements Langhan’s bravura performance, particularly the fine solo he pulls out of the bag on Boom Boom.

Against all the odds, then, a bit of a corker, and certainly a worthy addition to your collection if melodic metal happens to be your thing.

Steel Rhino releases on September 10th.