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 includes albums from Wig Wam, Infinite & Divine, Khymera, Those Damn Crows, Gabrielle De Val, Robin McAuley, First Signal and Godsmack.
WIG WAM – “Out of the Dark” – Frontiers 10th Feb
“Out of the Dark” is the sixth studio album from Norwegian band Wig Wam and it was released by Frontiers Music on 10th February. It is the second album released since the band reformed in 2019 and it capitalises on the spotlight placed on the band following the use of an earlier track on the popular US series “Peacemaker”. The track “High n Dry” featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 6th Jan, followed by “Forevermore” on 27th Jan.
Wig Wam formed in 2001and released 4 albums before splitting in 2014. Their debut album in 2004 was originally entitled “667..the Neighbour of the Beast”, but was later renamed “Hard to be a Rock n Roller”. Further albums followed in 2006, 2010 and 2012. After a 5 year break, the band reformed in 2019 and released the album “Never Say Die” in 2021.
All of the original band members remain – Âge Sten Nilsen (aka Glam) on vocals, Trond Holter (aka Teeny) on guitar, Bernt Jansen (aka Flash) on bass and Øystein Andersen (aka Sporty) on drums.
Website - https://www.wigwamofficial.com/
INFINITE & DIVINE – “Ascendancy” – Frontiers 10th Feb
Swedish band Infinite & Divine released their second album, “Ascendancy”, through Frontiers Music on 10th February. Infinite & Divine is a collaboration between singer Tezzi (Terese Persson) and guitarist and producer Jan Âkesson. The track “LARP” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in December, followed by “Our Time” on 20th January and “Ashes to Ashes” on 3rd March.
Terese “Tezzi” Persson has been involved in a number of projects before teaming up with Âkesson for the debut Infinite & Divine album, “Silver Lining” in 2019. Since then she has also released an album with all girl band Venus 5.
Jan Âkesson has worked as a songwriter, guitarist and producer. He released seven albums with the band Stonelake between 2005 and 2018 and an album called “Ascension” with a solo project entitled Shadow Rain. He plays guitar, bass and keyboards on the new album.
The other musicians involved are Jens Westberg on drums and Mikael Hylén on keyboards.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/infiniteanddivine
KHYMERA – “Hold Your Ground” – Frontiers 10th Feb
“Hold Your Ground” is the sixth album from Khymera, and the fifth to feature Dennis Ward. It was released by Frontiers Music on 10th February. The track “Firestarter” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in December and “Hear Me Calling” was featured on 3rd March.
The first, self-titled, album from Khymera was released in 2003 and featured Steve Walsh on vocals, Daniele Liverani on guitars and keyboards and Dario Ciccioni on drums. Dennis Ward replaced Walsh for the release of “A New Promise” in 2005 and “The Greatest Wonder” in 2008. By the time “The Grand Design” was released in 2015 the band line up had changed. The fifth album “Masters of Illusions” was released in 2020.
The current Khymera line-up features Dennis Ward on vocals and bass, Michael Klein on guitar, Eric Ragno on keyboards and Michael Kolar on drums. The album also included backing vocals from Pete Newdeck.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/khymeraaor
THOSE DAMN CROWS – “Inhale/Exhale” – Earache 17th Feb
Welsh band Those Damn Crows released their third album, “Inhale/Exhale”, through Earache Records on 17th February. There was a promo feature for the new album on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 17th February that included the tracks “See You Again”, “Takedown” and “This Time I’m Ready”. “Takedown” had also been included on the Show the previous week whilst “Wake Up (Sleepwalker)” was featured in September and “Man on Fire” in November.
Those Damn Crows released their debut album “Murder and the Motive” in 2016 and were guests on the Friday NI Rocks Show at that time - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/2835-ni-rocks-interview-with-those-damn-crows - Their second album “Point of No Return” was released in 2020.
The band features Shane Greenhall on vocals, Ian ‘Shiner’ Thomas and David Whinchurch on guitars, Lloyd Wood on bass and Ronnie Huxford on drums.
Website - https://www.thosedamncrows.com/
GABRIELLE DE VAL – “Kiss in a Dragon Night” – Escape Music 17th Feb
“Kiss in a Dragon Night” is the first solo album from Gabrielle De Val who has a long history fronting the band The Val and previously D’Val. The album features a multitude of guest musicians and it was released on 17th February by Escape Music. A picture disc vinyl version is available to pre-order from her website. The track “Fuel to the Fire” featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 22nd January, followed by “Candle in the Window” on 3rd March.
Singer Gabrielle De Val fronted a band called D’Val in the late 80’s, releasing a single and recording some demos over a short period. It wasn’t until 2010 that they re-emerged as The Val and released their debut album “Back”. Further albums followed in 2015 and 2020.
The tracks on “Kiss in a Dragon Night” are a mix of re-worked tracks by The Val, cover versions and newly written tracks. There are duets with Robin McAuley, Mark Boals, Mick Devine, Terry Brock and Steve Overland and backing vocals from Lee Small. Guest musicians include guitarists Gary Pihl, Steve Morris and Tommy Denander and keyboard players Steve Mann, Erik Ragno and Nick Foley. Fredrik Folkare plays bass and Johan Kullberg plays drums on the album.
Website - https://www.gabrielledevalofficial.com/
ROBIN MCAULEY – “Alive” – Frontiers 17th Feb
“Alive” is the third solo album from Irish born singer Robin McAuley and it comes less than two years after his previous one “Standing on the Edge”. His only other solo release was in 1999. The new album was released by Frontiers Music on 17th February. I have my vinyl copy pre-ordered for when it gets released on 12th May. The title track from the album has featured on the Show twice – in December and January – and the track “Feel Like Hell” was included on 13th January whilst “Can’t Go On” was included on 10th February.
Robin was my guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in May 2021 when the previous album was released. - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3813-ni-rocks-interview-with-robin-mcauley . He is undoubtedly best known for his long association with Michael Schenker – first in the McAuley Schenker Group and then later in Michael Schenker Feat and most recently the Michael Schenker Group. However, he has been involved with numerous other bands and projects over the years, including Survivor, Far Corporation and most recently Black Swan.
Working with Robin on the album are guitarist Andrea Seveso, drummer Nicholas Papapicco and Alessandro Del Vecchio who produced the album as well as playing bass and keyboards.
Website - http://www.robinmcauley.com/
FIRST SIGNAL – “Face Your Fears” – Frontiers 17th February
“Face Your Fears” is the fifth album from First Signal; a band that features Harry Hess from Harem Scarem on vocals. His main collaborator on this album is producer and musician Michele Guaitoli. It was released on 17th February by Frontiers Music. The track “Shoot The Bullet” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 10th March.
First Signal formed in 2010 and over the past 13 years Hess has worked with three different musical partners to deliver five albums for Frontiers. The first self-titled album in 2010 was a collaboration with Dennis Ward, whilst the next three albums released between 2016 and 2022 feature Daniel Flores.
Producer Michele Guaitoli also plays bass and some guitar on the new album. The other members of the band are guitarist Marco Pastorino and drummer Marco Andreetto. Singer Harry Hess also fronts Harem Scarem and he has a long history as a producer. He was my guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in 2017 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3129-ni-rocks-interview-with-harry-hess-from-harem-scarem
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/firstsignalband
GODSMACK – “Lighting Up The Sky” – BMG 24th Feb
“Lighting Up The Sky” is the eighth and reportedly final studio album from American band Godsmack and it was released on 24th February through BMG. I had my blue marble vinyl copy ordered! There was a special promo feature with singer Sully Erna chatting about the new album on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 24th February and it included the tracks “You and I”, “Red White and Blue” and “Surrender”. The latter had already featured on the Show back in October, whilst “You and I” had been played in January. Another track, “Soul on Fire”, was played on the Show on 3rd March.
Godsmack formed in Massachusetts in 1995 and released their self-titled debut album in 1998. Since then, they have had huge success in terms of album sales and touring. It seems however that they have now decided that “Lighting Up The Sky” will be their final album.
Godsmack are Sully Erna on guitar and lead vocals, Robbie Merrill on bass, Tony Rombola on lead guitar and Shannon Larkin on drums.
Website - https://www.godsmack.com/