RAINTIMES is a new melodic rock band which is the brainchild of Italian musicians Pierpaolo ‘Zorro’ Monti (Charming Grace, Shining Line) and Davide Barbieri (Wheels of Fire, Charming Grace), with singer Michael Shotton, Sven Larsson and Ivan Gonzalez on guitars and Andrea Gipponi on bass. Raintimes, not to be confused with the (also Italian) death metal band called Raintime, released their self-titled debut album December 2017, and describe it as an album borne from a love and admiration for 90s band The Storm, a Journey breakaway combo from San Francisco.
The album launches straight into the Europe-style 'Forever Gone' with melodies, hooks, smooth vocals, a fabulously retro synth, and a catchy chorus. This first track is high-end AOR stuff; solid vocals and some really impressive guitar and fretwork. It's family-friendly, arena-ready, truly indulgent singalong rock music. The kind to embarrass your kids by singing and dancing to it unashamedly. 'Make My Day' and 'Don't Ever Give Up' continue in the same style, an unfaltering rock groove with graceful, harmonic riffs, power chords and some seriously good licks which would rival the best players out there - where did I put my air guitar... This is a totally enjoyable trip to my favourite era of rock music.
'Swan' is a mellow ballad and, again, the guitars are outstanding. It's quite a long track but is nicely structured with a good hook, soulful backing vocals, and a soaring guitar solo at around the 4-minute mark. This is a classy track but it feels a little safe to me and doesn’t stand out, neither does 'I Need Tonight', which brings back the heavier hook-filled classic rock sound but still feels a tad generic. Just after the halfway point, there is a 2-minute instrumental track, 'Raintimes', which has the effect of an amuse-bouche on me, cleansing my palate ready for the next section of the album. This is a surprising yet astute addition to the album, just the right length and played entirely on the keys. I feel refreshed and ready for the next track - bring it on.
'Just A Little Bit More' is upbeat and would bring a smile to the face of the most cynical listener. It's irrepressibly happy-go-lucky - I'd certainly give him "one more chance". I think the album would benefit from a couple more of these up tempo beauties (I'm back to singing into my hairbrush). 'Empty Days' is a beautifully-performed ballad which demonstrates why there is still a place for singers like Shotton. For me, this is a world away from the previous ballad on the album; it's impassioned and I believe every word. Shotton's voice is hypnotic and wonderfully accompanied by those epic guitars. This track made me quite emotional. I cry a lot at films (a LOT) but it's rare a piece of music can have that affect on me, despite my constantly chasing it. I had my headphones on and was completely and utterly lost in the song. This is how it's done guys! A wonderful track and my favourite on the album.
'Together As Friends' and 'Missing Piece' are two more 90s-inspired timeless melodic rock tracks. Relentlessly rhythmic and endlessly playable, with top-drawer hooks and flawless guitar solos. Closing the album is another ballad, 'I See The Light'. The bass really stands out in this track, it's warm and earthy, and, alongside the dulcet vocals and ever-captivating guitar, the overall effect is almost spellbinding.
To sum up, this is a well-written debut which demonstrates the general framework of melodic rock and AOR – great harmonies, catchy hooks, guitar-driven, and a good ballad or two thrown in. It's nothing that hasn’t been done before, sure, but it contains great-sounding ageless vocals, a solid rhythm section and true craftsmanship from Larsson and Gonzalez on guitar. I urge you to give it a listen, and to look past the nostalgia to the skilful performance and dedication to their craft obviously shared by these musicians. I make no apology that I am now looking up their complete back catalogues…
I experienced this album as two distinct halves, split by the instrumental interlude, the latter half of which I thought was the stronger of the two. This is a great debut which promises to build a fan base for the band to build on and the potential for an even better next album. If you are a fan of Bon Jovi, Tyketto, or Journey, Raintimes is a band you should add to your playlist. Give it a try; give it your undivided attention and stick with it the whole way through. Enjoy.
Personally I would give this album 9/10 but I realise this genre is not everyone's bag and that it isn't especially original so therefore I arrived at 7/10 for those reasons. Well done guys.
Make My Day
Don't Ever Give Up
I Need Tonight
Just A Little Bit More
Together As Friends
I See The Light
Michael Shotton - Vocals
Iván González - Guitars
Sven Larsson - Guitars
Davide "Dave Rox" Barbieri - Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Andrea Gipponi - Bass
Pierpaolo "Zorro" Monti - Drums & Percussion