A regular feature highlighting some of the best album releases each month. I don’t do album “reviews” – this is simply a few words about the artists and the albums that appeal to me. It is just a personal recommendation to check out an album. These will also be albums from which I’ll have been playing tracks on the Friday NI Rocks Shows recently.

This month there are albums from Saxon, Girish And The Chronicles, Slash, Ten, Epic, Spirits of Fire, Absolva, Manic Sinners, Goodbye June and Hammerfall.




SAXON – “Carpe Diem” – Silver Lining Music 4th Feb

Rock legends Saxon released their latest album “Carpe Diem” through Silver Lining Music on 4th February. This is the 24th studio album from the band over the past 45 years. There was a special promo feature with singer Biff Byford talking about the album on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 4th February along with the tracks “The Pilgrimage” and “Remember The Fallen”. The latter track was also featured on the Show on 14th January and the title track on the Show on 12th November.


It’d be impossible to cover the history of Saxon in detail over a few paragraphs, but it’d be fair to say that the band are the very heart of the NWOBHM scene and hugely influential. The band’s first, self-titled album was released in 1979 and the following three albums in particular are synonymous with the NWOBHM era – “Wheels of Steel” and “Strong Arm of the Law” from 1980 and “Denim and Leather” from 1981. Unlike many other bands from that era, Saxon never stopped recording and performing and released albums on a regular basis throughout their 45 year history.


The Saxon line-up has been remarkable stable throughout with singer Biff Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn being present from the beginning. Guitarist Doug Scarratt has been there since 1996 and is effectively the newest member of the band. Bass player Nibbs Carter joined in 1988. Drummer Nigel Glockler has been with the band since 1981 with the exception of short periods in 1987-88 and 1999-2005.

Website - https://www.saxon747.com/



GIRISH AND THE CHRONICLES – “Hail to the Heroes” – Frontiers 11th Feb


“Hail To The Heroes” is the third album from Indian band Girish and the Chronicles, but their first with Frontiers who released it on 11th February. The band has had some success in India and have been expanding their international following since the release of their second album on 2020. The track “Lovers’ Train” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in November followed by “Primeval Desire” in December and “Hail to the Heroes” on 21st January.


Girish and the Chronicles formed in 2009 and released their debut album “Back on Earth” in 2014 through Universal Music Group in India. It wasn’t until 2020, after signing with Lion’s Pride in Denmark, that a second album, “Rock The Highway”, was released. The following year they signed to Frontiers Records.


The band features Girish Pradhan on vocals and guitar, Suraz Sun on lead guitar, Yogesh Pradhan on bass and keyboards and Nagen Mongranti on drums.

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/girishandthechronicles





“4” is (not surprisingly) the fourth album to be released by Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. It is the first ever release on the Gibson Records label – in partnership with BMG. The first single from the album, “The River Is Rising” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in October, followed by “Call Off The Dogs” on 21st January. The Show on 11th February – the date the album was released – included both those tracks, along with “Spirit Love” and a special promo feature with Slash and Myles Kennedy.


Alter Bridge vocalist Myles Kennedy appeared on Slash’s first solo, self-titled album in 2010 and fronted the band on the subsequent tour. Kennedy, along with bass player Todd Kearns and drummer Brent Fitz from that touring band worked with Slash on the next album “Apocalyptic World”. This was the first Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators release in 2012. It was followed by “World on Fire” in 2014 and “Living The Dream” in 2018. On that third album they are joined officially by guitarist Frank Sidoris who had been touring with the band since 2012. That line-up remains unchanged for “4”.


Website - https://www.slashonline.com/



TEN – “Here Be Monsters” – Frontiers 18th Feb


“Here Be Monsters” is the latest album from Ten, the British band featuring the amazing vocals of Gary Hughes. It was released on 18th February by Frontiers Music and is the fifteenth album from the band since the debut release in 1996. The track “Fearless” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in December, followed by “Hurricane” in January and “Follow Me Into The Fire” on 25th February. “Fearless” was also featured on the NI Rocks A-Z Show on 28th December.


Gary Hughes was my guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show in March 2021 when he was releasing a new solo album. http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3805-ni-rocks-interview-with-gary-hughes.html


Hughes formed Ten in 1994 and guitarist John Halliwell joined in 1996 for the release of the debut album “X”. Those two have been performed on all the albums. The other two guitarists – Dann Rosingana and Steve Grocott – joined for the release of “Albion” in 2014. Keyboard player Darell Treece-Birch and bass player Steve McKenna joined the band for the release of “Heresy and Creed” in 2012. On “Here Be Monsters” they are joined by new drummer Markus Kullman.


Website - https://www.tenofficial.com/




EPIC – “Starlight” – Escape Music 18th Feb

“Starlight” is the excellent second album from multi-national band Epic and it was released by Escape Music on 18th February. The band’s original core members are joined by bass player Chris Childs from Thunder for this album. The Track “I Want” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 11th February.


Epic released their first album called “Like A Phoenix” through Escape Music in 2016. The original band members came from Canada, the United States and Lebanon. They were Tanya RIzhala on vocals, Mario Agostine on guitar, Souheil ‘Sous’ Moukaddem on drums and Mike Ganime on bass. On the new album the latter has been replaced by Chris Childs from Thunder, Tyketto and Lonerider.


Facebook -  https://www.facebook.com/epicmusicband



SPIRITS OF FIRE – “Embrace The Unknown” – Frontiers 18th Feb

Spirits of Fire released their second album, “Embrace The Unknown”, through Frontiers Records on 18th February. The band’s first album in 2019 featured vocalist Tim ‘Ripper’ Owen, but the latest release features Fabio Lione on vocals.


The band was originally formed in 2017 and featured guitarist Chris Caffery (Savatage, Trans-siberian Orchestra), bass player Steve Di Giorgio (Testament) and drummer Mark Zonder (ex fates Warning) alongside Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. Their first, self-titled album was released in February 2019.


New vocalist Fabio Lione was revealed he 2021. He had previously fronted Rhapsody of Fire for over 20 years, before starting the Turilli/Lione Rhapsody spin-off and also fronting Angra.


Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/SpiritsOfFireBand



ABSOLVA – “Fire in the Sky” – Rocksector Records 18th Feb

“Fire in the Sky” is the sixth studio album from English band Absolva and it was released on 18th February through Rocksector Records. The band has been featured regularly on the Shows and the album recommendations section over the past ten years. The title track from the latest album was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 18th February.


Frontman and guitarist Chris Appleton has been a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show twice – most recently in March 2020 when the band release their last album. http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3739-ni-rocks-interview-with-chris-appleton-from-absolva


Absolva released their debut album “Flames of Justice” in 2012 and further studio albums followed in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2020. They also released the “Live in Europe” album in 2020. The band had evolved from Fury UK which Chris Appleton, guitarist Luke Appleton and drummer Martin McNee had all been part of, with Luke departing to join Iced Earth. Bass player Karl Schramm joined the band in 2014. Luke only officially joined his brother in Absolva in 2015 but had played with the band on stage for several years while not performing with Iced Earth (he subsequently left that band in 2021).


Website -  https://www.absolva.com/



MANIC SINNERS – “King of the Badlands” – Frontiers 18th Feb

“King of the Badlands” is the debut album from Romanian band Manic Sinners and it was released on 18th February through Frontiers Records. They were the first Romanian band to be signed to that label. The track “Drifters Union” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in December followed by “Down in Flames” on 7th January.


Manic Sinners are singer Ovidiu Anton, guitarist Toni Dijmarescu, drummer and keyboard player Adrian Igrisan. The latter is also the singer and guitarist for Romanian band Cargo.


Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/manicsinners



GOODBYE JUNE – “See Where The Night Goes” – Earache Records 18th Feb

“See Where The Night Goes” is the latest album from Nashville southern rock band Goodbye June and it was released on 18th February by Earache Records. The band was formed by three cousins and has toured across the USA and Europe over the last few years. The Friday NI Rocks Show on 25th February featured a promo feature on the new album as well as the tracks “Step Aside” and “See Where The Night Goes”.


Goodbye June is Landom Milbourn on lead vocals, Brandon Qualkenbush on rhythm guitar and bass and Tyler Baker on lead guitar. The band broke through with the release of the single “Oh No” in 2016 and followed that with the album “Magic Valley” in 2017. Their next album “Community Inn” was released in 2019 through Earache Records.


Interestingly, most of the press releases and other sources refer to three albums with “Magic Valley” being the debut release, but there also seems to be a 2012 album called “Nor The Wild Music Flow” which is rarely referenced.


Website - https://www.goodbyejune.com/



HAMMERFALL – “Hammer Of Dawn” – Napalm 25th Feb

Swedish band HammerFall released their twelfth studio album, “Hammer of Dawn”, via Napalm Records on 25th February. This is their third studio album with Napalm since 2016, with the previous albums from 1997 onward being released by Nuclear Blast. The album’s title track was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in January, followed by “Venerate Me” on 4th February and “Brotherhood” on 25th February.


HammerFall was formed by guitarist Oscar Dronjak in 1993 and he remains as the only founding member of the band almost thirty years on. However, vocalist Joacim Cans joined in 1996 and features on all the bands albums. Bass player Fredrik Larsson rejoined the band in 2007 after an earlier stint between 1994 and 1997, whilst guitarist Pontus Norgren joined in 2008 and drummer David Wallin is the “new” boy having joined in 2014.  


HammerFall released their debut album “Glory to the Brave” back in 1997 and to-date have released 12 studio albums, 3 live albums (the latest being “Live! Against The World” in 2020) and 3 compilation albums.


Website - https://www.hammerfall.net/