A strange one, this. Like the old toothless dog of adage that’s all bark and no bite, Sunbomb (the now two-album old pairing of LA Guns axeman Tracii Guns and Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet) promises a lot without ever really coming close to delivering. The premise, of course, is sound enough – throw together two of metal and hard rock’s most dependable journeymen together and see what happens – but at times (a lot of the time, actually) it’s a real strain to keep with what’s going on to find the point of it all.

The crux of the matter is, almost certainly, the voice of Michael Sweet. It’s a great voice – you’ll find no dissent from this quarter on this point – but it’s something of an immovable object in the context of an alum that looks to remove it’s main progenitors out of their respective comfort zones in search of something fresh and new. The Sweet voice is what it is, and it’s owner is either unwilling or unable to use it in any other way than for which it was designed, viz, the delivery of screaming heavy metal.

Hence an interesting song like Steel Hearts, which takes as it’s cue the sleazy, blues-informed metal of Judas Priest circa Killing Machine, is turned into a clodhopping metal assault when it could have been so much more. Halford was always able to alter his vocal approach to suit a song’s mood, but Sweet, left to his own devices here (he recorded the vocals himself), just belts away without any regard for the needs of the song. I never thought I’d ever hear myself saying this, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

The most interesting song here, a psych rock/metal hybrid with grandiose ambition, Light Up The Skies, is an absolute ripper and shows just what this songwriting team could come up with if only they’d let their more experimental tendencies lead the way. A thunderous piece of theatrical rock, driven in part by some splendid, ear-catching waltz time drumming from Adam Hamilton, it’s everything you’d expect from these two names – blistering, but well thought-out riffage, screaming lead work topped by one of the most out-and-out mayhemic vocal performances that Sweet has ever committed to tape. It’s spellbinding, utterly spellbinding, and possibly worth the price of admission on it’s own. But that does mean you’ll have to sit through a lot of well-meaning sturm und drang to reap it’s undoubted rewards.

I dunno, maybe in time the whole thing will grow on me; The balladic Where We Belong is another highlight – Michael has always handled a ballad well – but two corkers out of eleven (three if you count the headbanging treat Scream Out Loud, which basically just sounds like prime time Stryper) isn’t really a strike rate to set the pulse racing. I’m off to listen to Light Up The Skies on repeat for a while…

Light Up The Sky releases on June 28th.