Well, that’s another year gone, and before I get in to detail about my views on the year, really if you look at the last 3 months of the year, you’ll see the main players , in my eyes anyway and how far they’ve come!

So lets get going, Million Dollar Reload, a band whose debut album I think I originally bought 3 years ago in the Rosetta Bar when they opened for Danny Vaughn. Finally these guys seem to be getting a break from label hassles etc, and they ended the year opening for The Darkness in The Ulster Hall the same weekend that they also shared the bill with them at Hard Rock Hell in Wales.
Trucker Diablo ended the year gaining a slot at Hammerfest next March after playing Highway to Hell in Glasgow, opening both Irish shows for Black Stone Cherry, getting signed to a US label, and if you’ve seen the preview video, having their song prepped for Rock Band on Xbox!

Sweet Taste, after a few personnel changes, the band played Highway to Hell in Glasgow and were selected to play Hard Rock Hell too. The new lineup looks very solid onstage and 2012 could be very promising for them.

Swanee River opened a full Irish tour for The Answer, then went out to India and headlined a festival!

Special mention really must be given to Ray Haller from Sweet Savage who was invited to join Metallica onstage in San Francisco in December, playing the Sweet Savage song Killing Time that Metallica covered many moons ago!

Over the year I’ve heard some great material from local bands, the likes of Baleful Creed, Novice, Redlight, Nasa Assassin and the Worldsend album finally got released! I’d have to say my favourite album of the year by a local band would have to be Swanee River’s Smoking Jacket!, a fine classic rock style album, and a brilliant live band as well!

Family stuff has stopped me getting to as many gigs as I would have liked, but I have seen some fantastic shows over this past year. Many of these it has to be said have happened at The Diamond Rock Club which again gets my vote for venue of the year, Club is the proper word for it, I don’t think there’s an atmosphere anywhere else like it, it just feels like you’re among friends. Back in February we had Ricky Warwick getting up onstage with Trucker Diablo for 3 songs, including The Almighty classic Free and Easy, we had Dan Reed, there was the totally amazing Four Tools on Stools (Million Dollar Reload’s acoustic alter ego), Jaded Sun, JettBlack, Toby Jepson, Stormzone’s album preview, the Summerfest with some of the best local bands……..as for the bigger boys, Alice Cooper in The Odyssey was probably my favourite “big gig” of the year. I should also mention local bands ‘Tric and High Output who both impressed me massively at live performances

Outside of Northern Ireland, we received in so much great material from bands I would never have had the opportunity to have heard otherwise. From our cousins across the Atlantic I really must give special mention to Pistol Shot Gypsy and Dirty Americans! PSG’s album blew me away when I heard it, especially the track Trainwreck, its been a staple of my show over the past year. Dirty Americans getting in touch with us was a huge surprise, I’d been a massive fan of frontman Myrons previous band The Workhorse Movement (they were signed to Roadrunner, played Download etc, check out Keep The Sabbath Dream Alive) and their album was also fantastic, if you haven’t heard either band I highly recommend them!

Along the way RRNI picked up the US syndicated show Hard Rock Nights, hosted by Brian Basher, and I love it so much. It reminds me of the late 80s when the only inlet to US rock radio we had was when Cool FM would have their American Top 40 show hosted by Rick Dees, listening to Brian every week passionately talking about great rock from all over the world, and in turn taking some of our great bands from Northern Ireland and exposing them to a larger audience through his show, has been I believe a great thing for everyone this year! His show is going from strength to strength and its great to see!

One of the things Brian introduced me to was, very similarly to here in Northern Ireland, the boiling Australian rock and metal scene melting pot! Combined with the Youtube The Hard Rock Show hosted by 2 aussies, Shayne and Andrew we’ve heard some great Aussie rock bands  like The Lockhearts, Dead Star Renegade and Sunset Riot! Again if you haven’t heard any of these guys, please do check them out. One Australian band I have to give our own Balatty credit for bringing to our attention, is Heaven The Axe, absolutely cracking female fronted metal! And to be fair to them, they put a hell of a lot of effort into self promotion which seems to be paying off back in Oz with some great support slots, if only the physical world was as small as the online one we’d all be seeing some cracking multi band international line ups lol

And I guess finally my personal album of the year, its been a great year for albums, Black Stone Cherry, Anthrax with a real return to form, Chickenfoot, The Answer, Sebastian Bach, but I have to say Foo Fighters gave me the greatest pleasure this year, and I’m not a die hard Foos fan, but this album is pretty damn amazing!

And so to the future! 2012 has such huge potential, Million Dollar Reload and Trucker Diablo should have new albums released and could well be on the verge of breaking out and gaining a thoroughly deserved bigger audience, Trucker already have 2 festival appearances lined up including Hammerfest, Double-Wide have signed to a Swedish label, Mental Deficiency have picked up some great support slots, Stormzone have been receiving great reviews for their recent 3rd album, Jaded Sun (okay they’re from the South but hey they rock!) should have new material out, The Answer are on tour, Sweet Taste should capitalise on recent great publicity from their Hard Rock Hell performance, Nasa Assassin release a new single at the start of January and are supporting Skindred in Belfast……………….and no doubt there’s even more in the works from other bands, all I can say is good luck to everyone, maybe finally the mainstream media is starting to take notice of how great the rock scene is here!

Last Updated (Monday, 02 January 2012 23:15)