In the past I’ve posted individual recommendations for albums after they were released; focusing particularly on albums that I’ve been playing tracks from on the NI Rocks Shows on Rock Radio NI. For various reasons I’ve decided to move away from those individual posts and instead do a monthly post focusing on all the album releases that have caught my attention during that month. This is the first of those posts, looking at some of the great albums released during January 2021.

It includes Hearts & Hand Grenades, Voodoo Circle, Wig Wam, Kickin Valentina, W.E.T., Phantom Elite, Bite The Bullet and The Dead Daisies.



HEARTS & HAND GRENADES – “Turning To Ashes” – Eclipse Records  8th Jan

This is the first full length album from Buffalo based hard rock band Hearts & Hand Grenades. The band features Stephanie Wlosinski on lead vocals and bass, Mike Bress on guitar and keyboards, Kenny Blesy on lead guitar and Tom Lafferty on drums. Their first release was an EP called “Wait” in 2019.

The track “Nothing Left” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 20th November, followed by “Turning To Ashes” on 18th December.

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VOODOO CIRCLE – “Locked & Loaded” - AFM Records 15th Jan

This is the sixth album from the German hard rock band formed by guitarist Alex Beyrodt in 2008. His Primal Fear band mate, bass player Mat Sinner has played on all six albums, but “Locked & Loaded” sees the return of Pink Cream 69 vocalist David Readman (who sang on the first four albums) and drummer Markus Kullman (who played on the second and third album). There are guest appearances from Corvin Bahn on keyboards and Ad Infinitum’s Melissa Bonny on backing vocals.

The track “Locked & Loaded” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 8th January, followed by "Devil's Cross" on 29th January.


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Mat Sinner was a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in 2016 whilst Melissa Bonny was a recent guest in December 2020.




WIG WAM – “Never Say Die” – Frontiers Music 22nd Jan

Norwegian band Wig Wam reformed in 2019 and mark their return with a great album called “Never Say Die”. It was released on 22nd January 2021 by Frontiers Records who had also released their last album “Wall Street” in 2012.

Wig Wam originally formed in 2001 and released their debut album in 2004. The following year they represented Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest, finishing ninth! Further albums followed in 2006, 2010 and 2012 before the band announced that they were splitting in 2014. Five years later they reformed with ‘Glam’ (Âge Sten Nilsen) on vocals, ‘Teeny’ (Trond Holter) on guitars, ‘Flash’ (Bernt Jansen) on bass and ‘Sporty’ (Øystein Andersen) on drums. In the interim period Nilsen had fronted the band Ammunition, releasing a self-titled album in 2018, whilst Holter worked with on Jorn Lande “Dracula (Swing of Death”) in 2015 and released “Vlad The Impaler” in 2018.

The track “Kilimanjaro” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 4th December, followed by “Never Say Die” on 29th January.


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KICKIN VALENTINA -  “The Revenge of Rock” – Mighty Music 22nd Jan


American band Kickin Valentina released their third full length studio album, “The Revenge of Rock”, through Mighty Music on 22nd Jan. I’ve been a fan of the band since their self titled debut EP was released in 2013 and had pre-ordered this latest album on red vinyl – it actually arrived with me on Christmas Eve.

Kickin Valentina formed in 2013 and released their first EP later that year, followed by another called “Super Atomic” in 2015. They then signed with Mighty Music to release their first full length album, also called “Super Atomic”. That was followed by an album called “Imaginary Creatures” in 2017 and an EP called “Chaos in Copenhagen” in 2019.


Kickin Valentina are D.K Revelle on vocals, Heber Pampillon on guitar, Chris Taylor on bass and Jimmy Berdine on drums.

The band has featured regularly on the NI Rocks Shows over the years and three tracks from the new album have been played so far – “Somebody New” on the A-Z Show on 20th October followed by “End of the Road” (27th Nov) and “War” (1st Jan) on the Friday NI Rocks Show.

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W.E.T. – “Retransmission” – Frontiers Music 22nd Jan


“Retransmission” is the fourth studio album from W.E.T. – the band that was formed by guitarist Robert Säll from Work of Art, guitarist Erik Mårtensson from Eclipse and vocalist Jeff Scott Soto from Talisman in 2008. Their self-titled debut album in 2009 was followed by “Rise Up” in 2013 and “Earthrage” in 2018. There was also a live album released in 2014.

On the latest album the three core members are joined by Magnus Henriksson from Eclipse on guitar, Andreas Passmark from Royal Hunt on bass and Robban Bäck from Eclipse and Ammunition on drums.

Three tracks from the album have been featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show so far – “Big Boys Don’t Cry” on 20th November, “Got to be About Love” on 18th December and “The Call of the Wild” on 29th January.

Erik Mårtensson was my guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show last November -

Jeff Scott Soto was my guest on the Show in April 2019 -


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PHANTOM ELITE – “Titanium” – Frontiers Music 22nd Jan

Phantom Elite released their second album, “Titanium” on 22nd January through Frontiers Music. The band was originally created by former After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans to perform the tracks written for his HDK project. He now writes and produces for the band which is fronted by Marina La Torraca. She is part of Exit Eden and performed with Avantasia.

The band formed in 2016 and released their debut album “Wasteland” in December 2017. The latest album features La Torraca on vocals, Max van Esch on guitar and bass, Koen Stam on keyboards and Joeri Warmerdam on drums. There are guest vocal and backing vocal appearances by Amanda Somerville and guest vocals from Stef Rikken.

The track “Diamonds and Dark” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 11th December, followed by “Deliverance” on 8th January.

Amanda Somerville was my guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in 2015 -


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BITE THE BULLET – “Black & White” – Escape Music 22nd Jan


Definitely the most mellow / melodic / AOR-type release amongst the recommendations this month. Bite The Bullet were an English band that released a self titled album back in 1989 before effectively disappearing. They have now returned and signed with Escape Music for the release of their second album, “Black & White” on 22nd January.


Bite The Bullet was formed in 1986 by singer Mick Benton and drummer Graham Cowling after both had played in the band Mother’s Ruin. After releasing an album in 1989 the band faded away but Benton and Cowling continued to perform. Thirty years later the debut album was re-released on CD and the two decided to write and release some new songs. Benton plays guitar, bass and keyboards on the album as well as providing lead vocals.

The excellent opening track “Rocks To Stones” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 5th February.


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THE DEAD DAISIES – “Holy Ground” – SPV / Spitfire Records 22nd Jan


“Holy Ground” is the latest album from The Dead Daisies and the first with singer Glenn Hughes. It was released on 22nd January through Spitfire Records / SPV. I picked up a copy of the album on purple vinyl. This is the fifth studio album since 2013 and the band has also released a live album and a covers album.

Since forming in 2013 the band has gone through many line-up changes with the only constant being founder and guitarist David Lowy. The singer on the debut self-titled album was Jon Stevens, but John Corabi sang on the next three studio albums and then Glenn Hughes joined the band as vocalist and bass player (replacing Marco Mendoza who had played on all the Corabi albums). “Holy Ground” is the third album for guitarist Doug Aldrich and the second for drummer Deen Castronovo (who recently left and has been replaced by Tommy Clufetos).


The band have been promoting tracks from the album for the past year ahead of its release and these all featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show during 2020; starting with “Righteous Days” then “Unspoken”, “Bustle and Flow” and finally “Holy Ground (Shake The Memory)”. The cover of the Humble Pie track “30 Days in the Hole” was included on the Show on 5th February.


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There are a couple of other albums that I haven’t heard in full yet but which I’m keen to check out based on the tracks that I’ve been sent and have played on the Show so far. Those are “Too Mean To Die” by Accept and “Immortal” by The Michael Schenker Group. Both albums were released by Nuclear Blast on 29th January.

“Too Mean To Die” is the sixteenth studio album from Accept and features the new line-up of Mark Tomillo on vocals, Wolf Hoffman, Uwe Lulis and Philip Shouse on guitar, Martin Motnik on bass and Christopher Williams on drums. The tracks “The Undertaker”, “Too Mean To Die” and “Zombie Apocalypse” have been included on the Friday NI Rocks Show so far.

“Immortal” is the latest album from guitar maestro Michael Schenker and once again it features a number of lead vocalists, with Ronnie Romero on four and Ralf Scheepers, Michael Voss and Joe Lynn Turner all on two each. The final track “In Search of the Peace of Mind” sees Doogie White, Gary Barden and Robin McAuley join Romero on lead vocals. Also contributing are Barry Sparks on bass, Bobo Schopf, Brian Tichy and Simon Philips on drums and Derek Sherinian and Steve Mann on keyboards. The tracks “After The Rain” and “Sail the Darkness” have featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show and the latter was also on the A-Z Show on 2nd February.