Black Stone Cherry: Family Tree - Taking cues from their recent blues EP featuring a selection of standards, the BSC boys offer up another honest, gritty album that rocks hard but still has a softer side. For some reason they receive quite a lot of critical derision, but Black Stone Cherry are incredibly consistent and consistently good.
Blackberry Smoke: Find A Light - After their deep south beginnings, Blackberry Smoke have settled neatly into a country meets rock hybrid that is both and neither of those things at the same time. Find A Light maybe doesn’t have many of the truly memorable singalong moments that the likes of Holding All The Roses undoubtedly does, and yet once it gets its claws into you, it proves another thoroughly compelling collection.
Trauma: As The World Dies - Good honest US thrash metal from the band that in their early days featured a certain Cliff Burton. Burton left for bigger things, Trauma released an album, Scratch And Scream and then promptly split. Ex-Testament man, Greg Christian is now onboard and with As The World Dies, Trauma finally begin to truly realise the potential they’ve long held. If you like Metal Church, or Flotsam & Jetsam, this is worthy of your time.
Roger Taylor: The Lot - Bringing together all of the Queen drummer’s solo albums, singles and a few live shows and also featuring all his work with The Cross and other rarities, this 13 disc set is an exhaustive collection of Roger Taylor’s underrated work outside of his legendary band. Often dismissed as indulgent fluff, or derivative rock, The Cross albums alone - including the rare Blue Rock - are due reappraisal and alongside solo albums like Fun In Space and Happiness, prove Taylor has been almost as effective outside of Queen as he has as a part of them.
Kamelot: The Shadow Theory - Well, it’s Kamelot, so you know it’s good and you know it’s going to be bombastic and conceptual storytelling in a symphonic power metal style. In all honesty, the last four or five albums from this band stay maybe too close to a similar framework and could be viewed as a little safe. But crank this up and just let the music do the work and it’s still difficult not to be thoroughly impressed.
Marillion: All One Tonight-Live At The Royal Albert Hall - If ever you needed proof that old proggers can indeed learn new tricks, then it surely has to be this triumphant DVD/CD set from Marillion’s incredible show at The Royal Albert Hall. Magnificent in scope and execution, the sheer joy on and off stage is matched every step of the way by the magnitude and scope of the band’s majestic music. In a catalogue almost overladen with live releases, this may well be Marillion’s best.
Audrey Horne: Blackout - How these Scandiwegian hard rockers haven’t received more recognition goodness only knows, but if you want to combine upbeat 70s era Kiss with Thin Lizzy and then infuse it all with something much more current, but still end up with a retro-rocking explosion, then Audrey Horne are your band. Blackout is their sixth album, although be safe in the knowledge that you can choose from 2013’s Youngblood, 2014’s Pure Heavy or this latest offering to be amazed by some of the best hard rock any era of the genre has served up.
Dukes Of The Orient: Dukes Of The Orient - The name John Payne was enough to immediately get me onboard on this one. I know it isn’t fashionable to say that I prefer Payne era Asia over the original line-up, but I did and still do. When Geoff Downes airbrushed those latter years out of the band’s history, singer and bassist Payne kept the flame alive with the glorious GPS and then everything went quiet. Dukes Of The Orient sees him revive the sound once more, this time with Erik Norlander alongside him and the results are superb.
Myles Kennedy: Year Of The Tiger - Alter Bridge and Slash frontman Myles Kennedy steps out on his own with an understated, mainly acoustic album. Highlighting his voice and his excellent songwriting skills Year Of The Tiger proves an engaging experience and one that continually draws you back for more.
Judas Priest: Firepower - Is there anything else left to be said about an album that confounded expectations and exceeded even the wildest of hopes? This is Judas Priest at their best and no bones about it. A stunning album from start to finish, Firepower is a proud, defiant message that no one has ever done this style of music better than Judas Priest.
Rose Tattoo: Blood Brothers - Released in 2007, Blood Brothers is the overlooked release of the Aussie barroom bruiser’s catalogue. To be fair it is one of only two albums from the outfit since 1986, so it could be easy to dismiss this collection as an unnecessary addition - if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s pretty bloody excellent. It isn’t quite up to the standard of the opening pair of releases from Rose Tattoo, but then in the world of sweaty, honest rock n’ roll, few albums are. Blood Brothers, however, is still an abrasive and effective stomp of authority.