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 Stargazer, Demons Down, Frozen Crown, Stonetrip, Cross Country Driver, The Answer, Kamelot, Stormwarning, The Flood, Ad Infinitum and Last in Line.


STARGAZER – “Life Will Never Be The Same” – Mighty Music 3rd March

Norwegian band Stargazer released their third album, “Life Will Never Be The Same”, through Mighty Music on 3rd March. Stargazer formed in 2008, although some of the members had been in a band together since 2001. A self titled album was released in 2009, but it was another ten years until the follow-up was released in 2019. That album, “The Sky Is The Limit” was their first with Mighty Music.


The track “Live My Dream” from the new album was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in September 2022. That was followed by “Can You Conceive It” in January and “Heartbroken” on 24th March.


Stargazer are Tore André Helgemo on vocals on rhythm guitar, William Ernstsen on guitar, Sondre Bjerkset on keyboards, Jomar Johansen on bass and Sven Skogheim on drums


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



 DEMONS DOWN – “I Stand” – Frontiers 10th March

Frontiers Music have an excellent reputation for bringing great musicians together in new bands or for different projects. Demons Down is another of those “supergroups” and they released their first album “I Stand” on 10th March. Three tracks from the album have featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in recent weeks – “I Stand” in January, “Disappear” in February and “Where Will Our Tears Fall” on 3rd March.


Demons Down is fronted by Chilean singer James Robledo who has a long history of success in his own country before signing to Frontiers in 2019 for the release of an album with a band called Sinner’s Blood and then a solo album in 2021. Italian guitarist Francesco Savino has also featured on several recent Frontiers releases, including that from his own band False Memories, as well as the recent T3nors album.


The other members of Demons Down are all current or former members of House of Lords, although ironically none of them played on that band’s album “Demons Down” that was released in 1992. Bass player Chuck Wright and drummer Ken Mary were both in House of Lords from 1987 to 1991 and from 2000 to 2005; whilst guitarist Jimi Bell has been with the band since 2005. Wright has also played with Quiet Riot, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper etc, whilst Mary has played with Alice Cooper, Kip Winger, Impelliterri, Bonfire and many others. Bell is also a member of Autograph and he was a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in 2017 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3105-ni-rocks-interview-with-jimi-bell-from-house-of-lords


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



FROZEN CROWN – “Call of the North” – Scarlet Records 10th March

Italian power metal band Frozen Crown released their fourth album “Call of the North” on 10th March. All four albums have been released since 2018 and all through Scarlet Records. Track from the band have featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show regularly since early 2019 and the title track from the latest album was included on 10th March, followed by “Black Heart” on 24th March.


Frozen Crown formed in 2017 and signed with Scarlet Records for the release of “The Fallen King” in 2018. The track “Neverending” from that album has almost ten million views on YouTube. The second album, “Crowned in Frost” was released in 2019 and “Winterbane” was released in 2021.


Singer Giada ‘Jade; Etro and guitarist Federico Mondelli are the only members of the band to feature on all four albums. They are joined in the current line-up by guitarist Fabiola ‘Sheena’ Bellomo, bass player Francesco ‘Ikki’ Zof and drummer Niso Tomasini.


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



STONETRIP – “Run Free” – Golden Robot 10th March

“Run Free” is the debut album from Australian band Stonetrip and it was released on 10th March via Golden Robot Records. It follows on from the release of a self-titled debut EP in 2021.


The track “Leave a Light On” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in July 2022, whilst “Sideways” featured on 10th March.


The band from Melbourne made their live debut in 2019 and signed with Golden Robot not long after. They released a five track EP in December 2021. Stonetrip are Mark Ritchie on vocals, Mick Malusa and Jason King on guitars, Con Batz on drums and Sebastian Barahona on bass.


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



CROSS COUNTRY DRIVER – “The New Truth” – Frontiers 17th March

Cross Country Driver is a new project featuring Rob Lamothe from Riverdogs and the debut album “The New Truth” was released by Frontiers Music on 17th March. In addition to Lamothe on vocals and guitar, the key members of the band are James Harper on guitar and Zander Lamothe on drums, but there are also many guest artists; including Vivian Campbell and dUg Pinnick.


The track “A Man With No Direction” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in January, whilst “Rio Tularosa” featured on 24th February.


The album took several years to pull together and it includes a fairly long list of contributors including Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard / Last in Line / Riverdogs), Mike Mangini (Dream Theatre), Greg Chaisson (Badlands), dUg Pinnick (King’s X) and Rhonda Smith (Jeff Beck / Prince).


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



THE ANSWER – “Sundowners” – Golden Robot Records 17th March

Local legends The Answer marked their return from a hiatus of about six years with the release of “Sundowners” through Golden Robot Records on 17th March. The new album was much anticipated and I had my signed, red and black splatter vinyl version pre-ordered.


The Answer have of course continued to feature regularly on the Friday NI Rocks Show over the past 12 years and the release of a new album has provided even more material. The lead single “Blood Brother” has now featured three times (October, November and 10th March), “Livin’ on the Line” twice (January and February) and “Want You To Love Me” (December) and “Oh Cherry” once (17th March).


The Answer formed in 2000 and that original line-up featuring Cormac Neeson on vocals, Paul Mahon on guitar, James Heatley om drums and Micky Waters on bass. The band released their first album, “Rise”, in 2006 and another five studio albums between 2009 and 2016.


Website - https://theanswerrock.com/



KAMELOT – “The Awakening” – Napalm Records 17th March

American power metal band Kamelot released “The Awakening”, their 13th studio album, on 17th March. This is their third album with Napalm and fourth with singer Tommy Karevik. I’d ordered the red and black splatter vinyl version. Four tracks from the album have featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show – “One More Flag in the Ground” (January), “Opus of the Night (Ghost Requiem)” (February), “Eventide” (17th March) and “New Babylon” (7th April).


Kamelot was formed in 1987 by guitarist Thomas Youngblood and he is the only original member remaining. Tommy Karevik is the fourth different vocalist and he has been with the band since 2012. Bass player Sean Tibbetts first played with the band in 1991/92 and re-joined in 2009. Keyboard player Oliver Palotai joined in 2005 and drummer Alex Landenburg in 2019.


The band released their first studio album in 1995 – the first of two with singer Mark Vanderbilt. There were then seven studio albums with singer Roy Khan between 1998 and 2011 before Karevik joined.


Over the past few years many different, amazing female vocalists have contributed to the Kamelot sound either in the studio or on stage – including Amanda Somerville, Charlotte Wessels, Eliz Ryd, Simome Simons, Alissa White-Gluz, Floor Jansen, Kobra Paige, Noora Louhimo and Lauren Hart. The latest of those is Melissa Bonny from Ad Infinitum who performs on the track “New Babylon” on the new album (along with Simone Simons) and accompanied the band on tour this year. Kobra Paige also performs on “One More Flag in The Ground”, whilst cellist Tina Guo performs on “Opus of the Night” and “Midsummer’s Eve”.

Website - https://kamelot.com/



STORMWARNING – “Stormwarning” – Frontiers 17th March

Stormwarning is a new Frontiers Records project centred on Argentinian vocalist Santiago Ramonda and the self-titled debut album was released on 17th March. The track “Eye of the Storm” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show in February, followed by “Satellite Falling” on 3rd March.


Santiago has been performing for over 15 years but came to the attention of Frontiers Music a couple of years ago. They have teamed him with a production team featuring Sergio Mazul (Semblant) and Marcelo Gelbcke (Landfall) to create Stormwarning. Gelbcke also plays guitar, bass and keyboards on the album whilst the drummer is Felipe Souzza.


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



THE FLOOD – “Hear Us Out” – Escape Music 24th March

Khalil Turk at Escape Music creates some great musical collaborations and The Flood is yet another one. The Flood features vocalist Chris Ousey as well as guitarist Kim Kirkpatrick, bass player Billy Sheehan, drummer Nigel Glockler and keyboard player Didge Digital. The album “Hear Us Out” was released on 24th March and I picked up one of the limited edition sunset boulevard coloured vinyl copies.


The track “Dangerous Dawn” was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 10th March, followed by “The Devil He Don’t Care” on 24th March.


Vocalist Chris Ousey is probably best known for fronting Heartland, but he has also performed with Monroe, Virginia Wolf, Snakecharmer and others as well as releasing some solo albums. Last year he released an album called “Is Anybody Listening” on Escape Music along with guitarist Steve Mann.


Jim Kirkpatrick is best known as the guitarist for FM but also releases his own solo material and performs with Band of Friends. Keyboard player Didge Digital also played with FM whilst Nigel Glockler will be known to many as the drummer with Saxon. Billy Sheehan is a bass legend of course, performing with Mr Big, Winery Dogs, Sons of Apollo and many more.


Jim Kirkpatrick was my guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in October 2021 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3825-ni-rocks-interview-with-jim-kirkpatrick-from-fm



AD INFINITUM – “Chapter III: Downfall” – Napalm Records 31st March

Ad Infinitum, the symphonic metal band fronted by Melissa Bonny, released their latest album “Chapter III: Downfall” through Napalm Records on 31st March. I had my limited edition curacao coloured vinyl version pre-ordered. The band have featured regularly on the Friday NI Rocks Show since 2020 and five tracks from the new album have featured so far – “Upside Down” (3 times – October and November 2022 and January 2023), “Somewhere Better”  (November), “Seth” (January), “From The Ashes” (4th March) and “Eternal Rains” (31st March).


Ad Infinitum formed in 2018 and this is actually the band’s fourth album. After releasing “Chapter I : Monarchy” in April 2020 they decided to release an acoustic version called “Chapter I: Revisited” in December 2020. These two albums got a vinyl release as “Echoes of Monarch” in October 2022. They released their second album, “Chapter II : Legacy” in October 2021.


In addition to Melissa Bonny on vocals, the band features guitarist Adrian Thessenvitz, bass player Korbinian Benedict and drummer Niklas Müller. Melissa Bonny previously fronted Evenmore and Rage of Light and has provided vocals for many other bands including Warkings, Feuerschwanz and Kamelot. She also fronts a new band called The Dark Side of the Moon. Melissa was my guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show in December 2020 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3794-ni-rocks-interview-with-melissa-bonny-from-ad-infinitum-rage-of-light


Website - https://adinfinitumofficial.com/



LAST IN LINE – “Jericho” – earMusic 31st March

“Jericho” is the third album from Last In Line and it was released on 31st March by earMusic. We’re not on the earMusic distribution list for tracks but I’d ordered the album on vinyl and purchased the tracks “House Party at the End of the World” and “Ghost Town” which featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 17th March and 31st March respectively.


Last in Line formed in 2012 initially to perform tracks from the first three Dio albums (“Holy Diver”, “Last in Line” and “Sacred Heart”) as guitarist Vivian Campbell, bass player Jimmy Bain and drummer Vinny Appice had played on all three albums. Those three were joined by singer Andrew Freeman.


The band released their first album of original material, “Heavy Crown”, in 2016 shortly after the death of Jimmy Bain. They then recruited Phil Soussan to play bass and released their second album, “II”, in 2019.


Website - http://www.lastinlineofficial.com/