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 Firewind, New Years Day, These Wicked Rivers, The End Machine, Scott Stapp and Circle of Friends.


FIREWIND – “Stand United” – AFM Records 1st March

“Stand United” is the tenth studio album to be released by Firewind, the band formed by Greek guitarist Gus G. It was released on 1st March by AFM Records. Four tracks have featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show so far – “Salvation Day” in October, “Come Undone” in November, “Fallen Angel” on 12th Jan and “Chains” on 16th Feb.


Firewind was originally formed in 1998 when a demo album was released, but was put on hold for a few years whilst Gus G worked on other projects. The first album “Between Heaven and Hell” was released in 2002. Another 8 albums were released over the next twenty years in between Gus G touring and recording with Ozzy Osbourne and releasing his own solo albums.


There have been a few line-up changes over the years, but the current members have worked together on the last couple of albums – Herbie Langhans on vocals, Gus G on guitar, Petros Christo on bass and Jo Nunez on drums.


Gus G was a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show in 2020 - https://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3749-ni-rocks-interview-with-gus-g


Website - https://firewind.gr/



NEW YEARS DAY – “Half Black Heart” – Another Century 1st March

New Years Day released their fifth album, “Half Black Heart” through Another Century / Century Media on 1st March. There was a special promo feature with singer Ash Costello talking about the new album on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 1st March. This included the tracks “Half Black heart”, “Secrets” and “Hurts Like Hell”. Previously, the track “Vampyre” had appeared on the Show in September 2023 and “I Still Believe” in January.


New Years Day was formed in 2005 and released their debut album in 2007. A second album wasn’t released until 2013 and they signed with Another Century for the release of “Malevolence” in 2015 and “Unbreakable” in 2019.  Singer Ash Costello is the only remaining member of the original line-up, although guitarist Nikki Misery has been in the band since 2011. Bass player Brandon Wolfe, drummer Trixx Daniel and guitarist Jeremy Valentyne all actually rejoined the band for this album, having previously been members between 2015-17.


Website - https://nydrock.com/



THESE WICKED RIVERS – “Force of Nature” – Fat Earth Records 1st March

“Force of Nature” is the second album from English band These Wicked Rivers and it was released on 1st March 2024 through Fat Earth Records. The album’s title track featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show in November, followed by “The Riverboat Man” in January and “Don’t Pray For Me” on 1st March.


These Wicked Rivers formed in Derby in 2014 and released their debut EP in 2015 and another in 2017. Their debut album “Eden” was released in 2020. The band are singer and guitarist John Hartwell, base player Rich Wilson, guitarist Arran Day and Dan Southall on drums.


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



THE END MACHINE – “The Quantum Phase” - Frontiers 8th March

“The Quantum Phase” is the third album from ‘supergroup’ The End Machine, but the first to feature new singer Girish Pradhan rather than Robert Mason. The album was released via Frontiers Records on 8th March. The track “Silent Winter” featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 19th January, followed by “Killer of the Night” on 16th February and “Hell or High Water” on 15th March.


The End Machine was formed to re-create the classic Dokken sound and featured three former Dokken members – George Lynch on guitar, Jeff Pilson on bass and Mick Brown on drums – as well as Warrant / Lynch Mob vocalist Robert Mason. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2019. “Phase 2” was released in 2021 and saw Steve Brown replace his brother on drums.


Two members of the band have been guests on the Friday NI Rocks Show. George Lynch in 2015 - https://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/1831-ni-rocks-interview-with-george-lynch - and Jeff Pilson in 2020 - https://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3725-ni-rocks-interview-with-jeff-pilson-foreigner-black-swan-etc


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



SCOTT STAPP – “Higher Power” Napalm Records 15th March

Creed frontman Scott Stapp released his fourth solo album, “Higher Power”, through Napalm Records on 15th March. The title track from the album featured on the Frida NI Rocks Show in August and September 2023, followed by “What I Deserve” in October. “Black Butterfly” was first played on the Show in December and again on 5th April, whilst “Deadman’s Trigger” featured in January and “If These Walls Could Talk” which features Dorothy on vocals was included in the Show on 22nd March.


Scott Stapp released his first solo album in 2005, shortly after Creed first disbanded, and the second in 2013 after Creed went into hiatus again. After a short period with Art of Anarchy, a third solo album was released in 2019.


In addition to the guest vocalist appearance from Dorothy, there are three tracks on the album that feature guitarist Yiannis Papadopoulos.


Website - https://scottstapp.com/


CIRCLE OF FRIENDS – “Cherokee Moon” – Escape Music 22nd March

“Cherokee Moon” is the second album to be released by Escape Music under the banner Circle of Friends. The first, “The Garden”, was released in 2021 and featured a wide range of guest musicians brought together by producer Bruce Mee and Khalil and the team at Escape Music; and was originally meant to be a one-off. The new album includes 5 covers and 6 original tracks and once again features a great guest list. Two covers – “Princess of the Night” with Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, and “Girl From Lebanon” with Tanya Rizkala on vocals, featured on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 29th March.


Other guest vocalists include Harry Hess, Robin McAuley, Robin Beck, Mark Boals and Rick Altzi. Other musicians working on the album include Steve Mann, Tommy Denander, Steve Morris, Robert Sall and Fredrik Folkare.


The album can be purchased from the Escape Music shop - https://www.the-music-shop.net/