A regular feature highlighting some of the best album releases each month. I don’t do album “reviews” – this is simply a personal recommendation to check out an album - just a few words about the albums that appeal to me and about the artists releasing them. These will also be albums from which I’ll have been playing tracks on the Friday NI Rocks Shows recently. This month there will be albums from the Kris Barras Band, New Horizon, Radioactive, Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate, FM, Steve Dalton, Ronnie Atkins, Moonlight Haze, SheWolf, Gauntlet Rule, Shining Black, Altzi, Circle of Friends and Bomber.


KRIS BARRAS BAND – “Death Valley Paradise” – Mascot Records – 4th March

“Death Valley Paradise” is the fifth album from the Kris Barras Band and it was released on 4th March by Mascot Records. I had my yellow and black splatter vinyl edition pre-ordered. That came with a four track acoustic EP on CD. The track “Dead Horses” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in September and again on 4th March. The tracks “My Parade” and “Who Needs Enemies” have also featured on the Show – in November and February respectively.


Kris Barras had a ten year career as a mixed martial arts and Muay Thai fighter before refocusing on his musical ambitions. A self titled album was released in 2015, followed by “Lucky 13” in 2016. The release of “The Divine And Dirty” in 2018 along with the wide airplay of tracks such as “Hail Mary” marked a big turning point with a range of festival appearances, tours and awards such as the Planet Rock ‘Best New Band’ award in 2019. The band signed to the Mascot Label Group for the release of “Light It Up” in September 2019.


In 2018 Kris Barras also joined the band Supersonic Blues Machine alongside Kenny Aronoff and Fabrizio Grossi. They then toured Europe with Billy F. Gibbons and released the “Road Chronicles LIVE” album.


The Kris Barras Band are Kris Barras on lead vocals and guitar, Josiah Manning on rhythm guitar and vocals, Kelpie MacKenzie on bass and Billy Hammett on drums.


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



NEW HORIZON – “Gate of the Gods” – Frontiers 11th March


New Horizon is a new power metal band that was founded by H.E.A.T. keyboard player Jona Tee and which features former H.E.A.T. singer Erik Grönwall on lead vocals. Their debut album “Gate of the Gods” was released on 11th March by Frontiers. The track “Stronger Than Steel” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in January.


Jona Tee formed the band and plays bass, keyboards and guitar on the album as well as providing backing vocals. He had originally intended to have a number of guest vocalists but after Erik Grönwall recorded the first couple of tracks it was agreed that he would perform them all. Grönwall had fronted H.E.A.T. from 2010 to 2020.


The album features guest appearances from Robban Bäck (Mustasch), Sam Totman (Dragonforce), Love Magnusson (Dynazty), Dave Dalone (H.E.A.T.), Niko Vuorela (Temple Balls) and Laucha Figueroa.


Website - https://newhorizon.se/




RADIOACTIVE – “XXX” – Frontiers 11th March

“XXX” is the fifth album from Radioactive, but their first since 2015, and it was released on 11th March by Frontiers Records. The band is a project of Swedish guitarist, songwriter and producer Tommy Denander and the album features a number of guest vocalists including Robin McAuley. The track “Move It”, featuring McAuley was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 25th February.


Tommy Denander has credits on over 3,000 albums as a songwriter, producer or musician over the past 40 years; working with artists such as Alice Cooper, Paul Stanley, Deep Purple, Hollywood Vampires, House of Lords etc. His name has made regular appearances in the “NI Rocks Recommends” features over the past ten years.


The first Raioactive album, “Ceremony of Innocence”, was released in 2001, although recording had commenced some time previously. That was followed by “Yeah” in 2003 and “Taken” in 2005. There was then a ten year gap until “F4ur” appeared in 2015. Those albums featured numerous guests including Steve Overland, Yngwie Malmsteen, Bruce Kulick, Neal Schon, James Christian, Robin Beck, Stev Lukather, Jimi Jamison, Dan Reed etc.


“XXX” features singers Jerome Mazza, Robin McAuley, Robbie LaBlanc, Christain Ingebrigsten, Daniel Byrne and Clif Magness. Two of the tracks were co-written by Mutt Lange. The drums were recorded by Neil Anami and Olle Romö and Tommy Denander plays all the guitars, bass and keyboards.


Robin McAuley was a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show in May 2021 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3813-ni-rocks-interview-with-robin-mcauley  


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


JIZZY PEARL’S LOVE/HATE – “Hell, CA” – Golden Robot 11th March

Not satisfied with just fronting Quiet Riot, singer Jizzy Pearl is back with a great new album from his own band Love/Hate. “Hell, CA” was released on 11th March by Golden Robot Records. The track “Soul Mama” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in April 2021, followed by “Wanna Be Somebody” in August and “Gonna Take You Higher” in November. The track “One Hot Minute” was featured on 25th March.


Jizzy has been a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show on three occasions, most recently in April 2018 - https://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3345-ni-rocks-interview-with-jizzy-pearl-april-2018


Love/Hate came to prominence with the release of “Blackout In The Red Room” in 1990 and “Wasted In America” in 1992. Another four studio albums were released during the 90’s and there were many Love/Hate tours over the next couple of decades. The EP “Crucified” was released in 2013 under the name Love/Hate but legal issues led to it being remarketed as a Jizzy Pearl release.


In addition to Love/Hate, Jizzy Pearl has fronted Ratt (2000-2006), Quiet Riot (2013-2016, 2019- ) and Adler’s Appetite (2003-2005). He has also released a number of solo albums.


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



FM – “Thirteen” – Frontiers 18th March

“Thirteen” is, not surprisingly perhaps, the thirteenth album from British melodic rock legends FM. It was released on 18th March through Frontiers Records. The track “Waiting on Love” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 4th February, followed by “Turn This Car Around” on 25th February and “Long Road Home” on 25th March.


Three members of the band have been guests on the Friday NI Rocks Show -  Singer Steve Overland away back in 2014, bass guitarist Merv Goldsworthy in 2020 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3760-ni-rocks-interview-with-merv-goldsworthy-from-fm - and most recently, guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick in 2021 -  http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3825-ni-rocks-interview-with-jim-kirkpatrick-from-fm


FM formed in 1984 and released five albums between 1986 and 1995 before splitting up. They then reformed in 2007 and since 2010 have released another eight albums.


Three of the band members who formed the band in 1984 remain – Steve Overland, Merv Goldsworthy and drummer Pete Jupp. Keyboard player Jem Davis joined in 1993 and Jim Kirkpatrick in 2008. That stability in line-up over the past fourteen years is one of the key factors in the success of the band.


Website -  http://www.fmofficial.com/fmofficial/index.html 




STEVE DALTON – “Primitive” - Pride & Joy Music 18th March

“Primitive” is the second album from English multi-instrumentalist Steve Dalton and it was released on 18th March by Pride & Joy Music. Dalton had previously released an album called “Steel City” in 2016 which featured Alessandro Del Vecchio on vocals. The track “Shapeshifter” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 11th March.


Steve Dalton now lives in Sweden and he wrote all nine tracks on “Primitive” as well as playing all the instruments on the album. It was produced by Brazilian vocalist Raphael Gazal who performs lead vocals on seven of the tracks. Ross Griggs sings on “Bloodstained Eyes” whilst “Rise Above / Victory” features vocals recorded by David Saylor before his death in 2017.


Website - https://stevedalton66.wixsite.com/stevedaltonmusic



 RONNIE ATKINS – “Make It Count” – Frontiers 18th March

Just one year after releasing his first solo album, Pretty Maids frontman Ronnie Atkins released his second. “Make It Count” was released on 18th March by Frontiers Music. The track “Unsung Heroes” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in December followed by “Make It Count” on 18th February and then “Rising Tide” on 25th March.


Ronnie Atkins was my guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show in June 2020 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3765-ni-rocks-interview-with-ronnie-atkins-from-pretty-maids


Atkins formed Pretty Maids back in 1981 and the band have released 16 studio albums and three live albums since. He raised his first solo album, “One Shot” in March 2021.


Ronnie Atkins provides all the lead vocals of course and most of the backing vocals. Some additional backing vocals are provided by Linnea Vikström Egg from Therion and QFT – she was my guest on the Show in 2018 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3355-interview-with-linnea-vikstrom


There are several guitarists on the album – Chris Laney, John Berg, Oliver Hartmann, Pontus Norgren and Anders Ringman. Alla Sørensen plays drums, Pontus Egberg plays bass and Morten Sangager plays keyboards alongside Chris Laney.


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



MOONLIGHT HAZE – “Animus” – Scarlet Records 18th March

Italian power metal band Moonlight Haze released their third album, “Animus”, through Scarlet Records on 18th March. The track “We’ll Be Free” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 25th March.


Moonlight Haze formed in 2018 and released their debut album “De Rerum Natura” on Scarlet Records in 2019. That was followed by “Lunaris” in 2020.


The band’s line-up has remained unchanged since 2018 with Chiara Tricarico on vocals, Alberto Melinato and Marci Falanga on Guitars, Giulio Capone on drums and Alessandro Jacobi on bass.


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


 SHEWOLF – “SheWolf” – Frontiers 18th March

“SheWolf” is the self-titled, debut album from a new band created around Greek singer Angel Wolf-Black. It was released on 18th March by Frontiers Music. The track “Home” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 4th March and “Lone Wolf” was on the Show on 25th March.


I first recollect hearing of Angel Wolf-Black when she took over as lead vocalist for Triaxis in 2017 before the band split in 2018. However, she had fronted with a few bands prior to that, including Bare Infinity and Seduce The Heaven. She has also continued to perform with the Vivaldi Metal Project since 2016.


Angel performs in SheWolf as “The Shaman”. The other band members aren’t identified in the press release, but we have “The Hunter” on guitars, “The Alpha” on drums and “The Predator” on bass.


Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Angel.W.Black



 GAUNTLET RULE – “The Plague Court” – From The Vaults 18th March

“The Plague Court” is the debut album from Swedish metal band Gauntlet Rule and it was released on 18th March on the From The Vaults label. The band was formed by some well established names from the metal world and the album also features a couple of guest vocalists. “Dying for My Dreams” featuring Blaze Bayley on vocals was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 25th March.


Gauntlet Rule was formed by guitarist Rogga Johansson from Paganizer and Massacre and bass player Peter Svensson from Assassin’s Blade and Void Moon. They brought in singer Teddy Möller from Loch Vostok and then drummer Lars Demoké from Furnace. There are guest vocalists Blaze Bayley and Lorraine Gill (from Taist of Iron) who sing on one track each. In addition there is some solo work from guest guitarist Kjetil Lynghaug from Paganizer.


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



 SHINING BLACK – “Postcards from the End of the World” – Frontiers 18th March

“Postcards From the Edge of the World” is the second album from Shining Black featuring Mark Boals and Ölaf Thorson. It was released on 18th March by Frontiers Music and follows the release of a self-titled album in 2020. The title track was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 25th March.


Shining Black is a collaboration between singer Mark Boals and guitarist Ölaf Thorson from Labyrinth and Vision Divine. Boals has performed with Yngwie Malmsteen, Ring of Fire, Royal Hunt, Foundry etc and appeared on numerous albums. He also performs in the Raiding The Rock Vault show in Las Vegas.


Boals and Thorson initially worked together in 2014 when the former almost joined the latter in Labyrinth. The two kept in touch and Frontiers brought them together in Shining Black a few years later.


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



ALTZI – “All Eyes on Me” – RA Music 25th March

I was familiar with the work of Swedish singer Rick Altzi on a few projects over the past few years. Now, performing under the name Altzi he has released his first solo album. “All Eyes On Me” was released on 25th March through RA Music. The track “Motherless Child” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in October 2021 and “Legacy” was included on 11th March.


Rick Altzi started as bass player before moving to be a lead vocalist around 2005 and since then he has appeared on numerous albums. This includes albums as the frontman for At Vance, Herman Frank and Masterplan. He has also guested with Boguslaw Balcerak’s Crylord, Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall, Hollow Haze etc.


The main musicians working on the album along with Altzi are guitarist Pete Alpenborg, bass player Nalle Pâhlsson and drummer Kevin Kott. There are additional guitars and backing vocals from Ulrick Lönnqvist and Victor Ohlsson and backing vocals from Teresia Svensson and Kimberly Kott. In addition there are guest solos from a number of guitarists including Joel Hoekstra, Oliver Hartmann, Magnus Karlsson and Andy LaRocque.


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



CIRCLE OF FRIENDS – “The Garden” – Escape Music 25th March

“The Garden” is an album that brings together a huge number of talented musicians under the banner of Circle of Friends. The artists and tracks have been brought together by Escape Music’s Khalil Turk along with Bruce Mee who is the owner and editor of Fireworks Magazine as well as being co-organiser of the Firefest festivals. The album was released on 25th March and features 9 original tracks alongside 4 cover versions.


The track “Take My Love To Heart” featuring Jaime Kyle on vocals was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 11th March and the track “Little Piece of Heaven” featuring Doro was on the Show on 25th March. The other original tracks feature vocals from Jeff Scott Soto, Karen Fell, Darby Mills, Cheri Lyn, Gabrielle De Val and Tanya Rizkala.


The four cover versions are “Never Gonna Make Me Cry” featuring James Christian, “Knowing Me, Knowing You” featuring Robin Beck, “11:59” featuring  Ellinor Asp and “Don’t Fear The Reaper” featuring Robin McAuley.


Drums on the album are provided by Josh Devine from One Direction and Levara; the bass player is Wayne Banks (from Saxon, Brazen Abbot etc) and the keyboard players include Mikael Rosengren from Heartwind. There are a number of guest guitarists including Joel Hoekstra, Steve Mann, Steve Morris and Tommy Denander.



BOMBER – “Nocturnal Creatures” – Napalm Records 25th March

“Nocturnal Creatures” is the debut album from Swedish band Bomber and it was released on 25th March by Napalm Records. The track “Zarathustra” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in January, followed by “A Walk of Titans (Hearts Will Break)” on 25th February and “Fever Eyes” on 1st April.


Bomber formed in Malmö in 2016 and released an EP called “Arrival” in 2017. The band features Anton Sköld on vocals and lead guitar, Love Andersson on bass, Rasmus Grahn on drums and Max Huddén on guitars.


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