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 Exit Eden, Magnum, Saxon, Gotus, Riley’s L.A. Guns, Hearts & Hand Grenades and The Gems.


EXIT EDEN – “Femmes Fatales” – Napalm Records 12th January

“Femmes Fatales” is the second album from Exit Eden and it was released on 12th January by Napalm Records. The band’s first album which was released in 2017 featured vocalists Amanda Somerville (Trillium, Kiske/Somerville etc), Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis), Anna Brunner (League of Distortion) and Marina La Torraca (Phantom Elite); however Amanda hasn’t joined the others for the second album.


Whilst, the first album, “Rhapsodies in Black”, was entirely cover versions, the new album features six covers and six original tunes. So far three tracks have featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show – “Run!” in October, their cover of “Separate Ways” in December and “Femme Fatale” on 12th Jan. The other cover versions on the album include Alice Cooper’s “Poison”, Heart’s “Alone” and Marillion’s “Kayleigh”. Former Nightwish singer and bass player Marko Hietala guests on the track “Run!”. Five of the original tracks were written by Brunner and Hannes Braun from Kissin Dynamite, with the latter also responsible for production and mastering. The other original track was co-written by La Torraca. The album was mastered by Jacob Hansen.


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



MAGNUM – “Here Comes The Rain” – Steamhammer/SPV 12th January

Sadly, the release of the “Here Comes The Rain” on 12th January is over-shadowed by the sudden, untimely passing of Magnum founding member, guitarist and songwriter Tony Clarkin just a few days earlier. However, the album itself and the tremendous response to it’s release are fitting accolades to Tony.


The Friday NI Rocks Show on 12th January included a special promo for the album that singer Bob Catley had recorded before Christmas prior to the new of Tony’s poor health, the subsequent cancellation of the upcoming tour and ultimately his passing. That Show also included the tracks “The Seventh Darkness” and “Run Into The Shadows”. The first single, “Blue Tango”, had featured on the Show in November. The album promo was replayed on the NI Rocks A-Z Show on 30th January, along with the tracks “Run Into The Shadows” and “Borderline”. The NI Rocks A-Z Show on 6th Feb kicked off with the track “The Seventh Darkness”.


In addition to Clarkin and Catley, the album features Dennis Ward on bass, Rick Benton on keyboards and Lee Morris on drums.


Magnum was formed by Clarkin and Catley back in 1972 and over the next fifty years they released 23 studio albums as well as ten live albums and many compilations. During a short period when Magnum disbanded from 1996 to 2000, Clarkin and Catley also released two albums as Hard Rain.


Bob Catley was a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show in 2016 - https://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/2621-ni-rocks-interview-with-bob-catley-from-magnum


Website - http://www.magnumonline.co.uk/



SAXON – “Hell, Fire And Damnation” – Silver Lining Music 19th Jan

NWOBHM legends Saxon released their 24th studio album, “Hell, Fire And Damnation” through Silver Lining Music on 19th January. The band tour through the UK and Europe with Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in March and April, stopping off in Dublin on 15th March. They then head off to the USA for five weeks with Uriah Heep.


The title track from the album was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in November, followed by “There’s Something In Roswell” on 19th Jan.


The new album is the first to feature guitarist Brian Tatler from Diamond Head since he took over from Paul Quinn when he retired from touring in 2023. Quinn plays guitar on two tracks on the album though. He and singer Biff Byford were founding members of the band back in 1975. Drummer Nigel Glocker has been with the band since 1981, other than a few short breaks, whilst bass player Nibbs Carter joined in 1988 and guitarist Doug Scarratt joined in 1995.


Brian Tatler was a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show back in 2016 - https://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/2575-ni-rocks-interview-with-brian-tatler-of-diamond-head


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



GOTUS – “Gotus” – Frontiers 19th Jan

The self-titled debut album from Gotus was released on 19th January 2024 by Frontiers Music. The band initially formed in 2019 as a live project that featured Dino Jelusick on vocals, but in 2022 was re-imaged with a new line-up that includes singer Ronnie Romero. The track “Take Me To The Mountain” featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 24th November, followed by “Without Your Love” on 22nd December.


Gotus was founded by guitarist Mandy Meyer and the band name is a homage to his time as a member of Swiss rock legends Gotthard (1996-2004) and Krokus (1981, 2005-08 and 2012 – present). Meyer has also recorded or performed with many other bands, including Cobra, Asia and Unisonic.


Two other former Krokus members make up the rhythm section of the band – Patrick Aeby on drums and Tony Castell on bass. They are joined by Alain Guy on keyboards and Ronnie Romero on vocals.


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



RILEY’S L.A. GUNS – “The Dark Horse” – Golden Robot 22nd Jan

Drummer Steve Riley passed away in October 2023 and the release of the second album from Riley’s L.A. Guns was timed to coincide with what would have been his 68th birthday on 22nd January. It was released by Golden Robot Records. “Overdrive”, the first single from the album was released in 2022 and appeared on the Friday NI Rocks in October that year. It was also featured on the Show on 2nd February 2024. In addition, the track “Rewind” featured on the Show in February 2023 and the title track in September 2023.


There have been several different versions of L.A. Guns over the past 30 years and Riley’s L.A. Guns rose from the ashes of the Phil Lewis fronted version of the band when he reconnected with guitarist Tracii Guns in 2016. Riley had been part of the L.A. Guns lineup from 1987-92 and then in various versions of the band from 1994 onwards. Riley’s revamped version of the band released their first album, “Renegades” in 2020 under the name L.A. Guns, before legal action necessitated a change to Riley’s L.A. Guns.


Riley was joined by another of the early members of L.A. Guns, bass player Kelly Nickels, who was part of the band from 1987 to 1995. Alongside, those two, the band features Scott Griffin on guitar and Kurt Frohlich on vocals.


Website - https://laguns.net/



 HEARTS & HAND GRENADES – “Where I Begin” – Eclipse Records 26th Jan

“Where I Begin” is the third album by a band from Buffalo called Hearts & Hand Grenades and it was released on 26th January by Eclipse Records. All three albums have featured in “NI Rocks Recommends” over the past three years and tracks from them have been played regularly. The single “Burn (By My Fire)” from the new album has been featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show twice – in November and on 5th January – whilst “Better Off Alone” was also played during November.


Hearts & Hand Grenades are Stefanie Wlosinski on vocals and bass, Mike Bress on guitar and keyboards, Kenny Blesy on lead guitar and Cory Michalski on drums. The band’s debut 4 track EP was released in 2019 after they linked up with Goo Goo Dolls vocalist / bass player Robby Takac following a gig supporting that band.


The band’s debut album, “Turning To Ashes” was released in January 2021, followed by “Between The Lines” in November 2021.


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



THE GEMS – “Phoenix” – Napalm Records – 26th Jan

“Phoenix” is the debut album from Swedish band The Gems and it was released on 26th January by Naplam Records. The Gems features three former members of the band Thundermother – vocalist Guernica Mancini, drummer Emlee Johansson and guitarist/bass player Mona ‘Demona’ Lindgren.


The track “Like A Phoenix” was featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show  in August, followed by “P,S.Y.C.H.O.” in November, “Undiscovered Paths” in December and “Fruits of My Labor” on 26th Jan .


All three members of The Gems were part of Thundermother until early 2023. Guernica and Emlee had both joined the band in 2017 and recorded three albums in that period, whilst Mona joined in 2021 and played on the album “Black and Gold”.


Website - https://thegems.se/