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 it will include albums from Shinedown, Cleanbreak, Battering Ram, Orianthi, Highway Sentinels, Scar For Life and Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts.


SHINEDOWN – “Planet Zero” – Atlantic Records 1st July

Shinedown released their seventh studio album “Planet Zero” through Atlantic Records on 1st July. One of the most successful rock bands around over the past twenty years, Shinedown hardly need an introduction or an album recommendation from me! But here it is anyway!


The first two singles from the new album have both had several plays on the Friday NI Rocks Show – “Planet Zero” in January and on 10th June and “The Saints of Violence and Innuendo” in May. Both also featured alongside a promotional interview with singer Brent Smith on 1st July.


The track list for “Planet Zero” features 20 tracks, but 7 of these are short intros/outros of less than 60 seconds.


Shinedown formed in 2001with Brent Smith on vocals and Barry Kerch on drums alongside guitarist Jasin Todd and bass player Brad Stewart. That line-up released “Leave A Whisper” in 2003 and “Us And Them” in 2005. The following album, “The Sound of Madness” in 2008 featured a number of guest musicians following the departure of Todd and Stewart. The current line-up featuring bass player Eric Bass and guitarist Zach Myers dates from later in 2008. Since then the band has released “Amaryllis” in 2012, “Threat To Survival” in 2015 and “Attention Attention” in 2018.


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


CLEANBREAK – “Coming Home” – Frontiers 8th July

Cleanbreak is another of those excellent Frontiers Music projects that brings together some great musical talents. This one features James Durbin on vocals alongside guitarist Mike Flyntz from Riot V and drummer Robert Sweet and bass player Perry Richardson, both of whom are from Stryper. “Coming Home” was released by Frontiers on 8th July. The title track was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in April followed by “Dream Forever” on 29th July.


Singer James Durbin rose to fame on American Idol and went on to release a few solo albums before joining Quiet Riot for a couple of years. In 2021 he released a solo album through Frontiers called “The Beast Awakens”. James has been a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show twice – the first time in 2017 just after he joined Quiet Riot and the second time in February 2021 after the release of the Durbin album “The Beast Awakens”.



In addition to Durbin on vocals, Mike Flyntz on guitar, Perry Richardson on Bass and Robert Sweet on drums the album features Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards and backing vocals. The latter also produced, mixed and mastered the album as well as co-writing many of the tracks.


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



 BATTERING RAM – “Second to None” – Uprising! Records 15th July

Swedish band Battering Ram released their second album, “Second to None”, through Uprising! Records on 15th July. The first two singles were featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show during 2021 – “Coming Home” in September and “Ram You Down” in October. The track “Hold On” is included on the NI Rocks A-Z Show on 2nd August.


Battering Ram formed in 2017 and released their self-titled debut album in 2020. Their brand of old-school hard rock was well received and the album got some great reviews.


The band are Johan Hallström on vocals, Jonas Edmark on guitar, Joakim ‘Jocke’ Ståhl on bass and Tony Trust on drums.


Website - https://battering-ram.com/


 ORIANTHI – “Live From Hollywood” – Frontiers 15th July

I don’t include a lot of live albums in the recommendations feature, but this one from Orianthi is definitely worth mentioning. “Live From Hollywood” was released by Frontiers Music on 15th July as an album and on DVD format. The track “Contagious” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 20th May followed by “Blues Won’t Leave Me Alone” on 15th July.


“Live From Hollywood” features tracks from three of Orianthi’s four solo albums as well as tracks from RSO, her collaboration with Richie Sambora.


Orianthi released her first album “Violet Journey” in 2007. She then worked with Carrie Underwood and Michael Jackson ahead of the release of her second album “Believe” in October 2009. Whilst a member of the Alice Cooper band between 2011 and 2014 Orianthi released the album “Heaven In This Hell” in March 2013. That album actually featured all five tracks from a EP (“Fire”) produced by Dave Stewart that was released in 2011. Her next album was “Radio Free America” by RSO in 2018. That was followed by the solo album “O” in 2020. Her next solo album “Rock Candy” will be released in October.


In addition to Orianthi the performers on the live album are drummer Glen Sobel, bass player Justin Andres, keyboard player Michael Bearden and guitarists Nick Maybury and Carmen Vandenberg.


Orianthi has been a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show twice. The first time in 2014 when she was in Belfast touring with Richie Sambora and the second time in 2020 after the release of “O” - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3791-ni-rocks-interview-with-orianthi-sp-641207451


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


HIGHWAY SENTINELS – “The Waiting Fire” – Louder Than Loud 22nd July

“The Waiting Fire” is the debut album from the band Highway Sentinels and it was released on 22nd July through Louder Than Loud Records. The band was formed during the covid lockdowns and features a number of well known musicians including singer David Reece. The album includes guest appearances from a number of well known guitarists. The track “How To Be Real” which features Joe Satriani was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 8th July.


Highway Sentinels was formed by author, journalist and musician Steven Rosen and keyboard player Jimmy Waldo who was a founding member of Alcatrazz. Those two brought in singer David Reece, who has fronted Accept, Bangalore Choir and Bonfire as well as drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning etc) and bass player Donnie van Stavern (Riot).


The guest guitarists on the album are Joe Satriani, Tracii Guns, Bumblefoot, Paul Gilbert, Mike Flyntz, Joe Stump and Herman Frank.


SCAR FOR LIFE – “Sociophobia” – Pride & Joy 22nd July

“Sociophobia” is the fifth album from Scar for Life, a band that formed in Portugal in 2008. It’s also the band’s first album release in eight years and their second with Irish singer Rob Mancini. The album was released on 22nd July through Pride & Joy Records. The track “Strike Down” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in May and “Don’t Stand In My Way” was included on the Show on 12th August.


 Scar for Life was formed by guitarist Alexandre Santos and he is the only original member of the band remaining. Rob Mancini joined in 2014 and was the band’s third vocalist. Gotthard’s Marc Lynn joined as bass player and Tobbe Jonsson as drummer for the latest album.


The band’s self titled debut album was released in 2009, followed by “It All Fades Away” in 2010, “3 Minute Silence” in 2012 and “Worlds Entwined” in 2014. The first two albums featured Rez on vocals, whilst the third features Leonel Silva.


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



MATT MITCHELL & THE COLDHEARTS – “Mission” – Earache 29th July

“Mission” is the second album from Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts and it was released on 29th July via Earache Distribution. Mitchell had previously fronted the bands Pride, Furyon and Colour of Noise before starting this solo project. The track “C’mon C’mon” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in April, followed by “Mission” on the Show on 8th July.


I think I first encountered singer Matt Mitchell when Classic Rock Magazine carried the Furyon 3 track EP “Underdog” in 2010, but prior to that he had actually been part of the band Pride alongside other members of Furyon. The album “Gravitas” was released the same year and I saw the band play The Diamond Rock Club twice during 2012. Sadly, Furyon released just one more album, “Lost Salvation”, in 2015. That same year Mitchell was part of Colour of Noise for the release of their self-titled album. The band also featured Bruce John Dickinson from Little Angels but they also released one album.


The self-titled debut album from Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts was released in 2019 and this second album was written during the lockdown.


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