Gig review: Michael Schenker Fest rocks Tokyo

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Oh, what a night! Michael Schenker Fest with a reunited MSG on stage gets a lot of love in Tokyo.

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

There are guitar heroes and then there’s Michael Schenker. Many guitar heroes take it too far and get lost in ridiculously long guitar solos and often boring attempts at showing off. That is not the case with Michael Schenker. He is undoubtedly one of the best and most influential guitarists in the history of rock but he delivers his terrific guitar magic without boring his listeners. Much of his music throughout his career has been delivered as proper rock songs performed by great bands and terrific vocalists. Schenker’s songs are not there just to show off the guitar player in all his glory.

Japan loves guitar heroes and Michael Schenker is big business here. Schenker fans not only buy concert tickets, they also buy all the merch and signature guitars and special meet & greet packages. No wonder Schenker’s management decided to record this sold-out Tokyo gig for a forthcoming live DVD (yes, Japanese fans still buy CDs and DVDs).

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

A Michael Schenker in great form and in a great mood walks on stage in front of a sold-out crowd and get the party started with “Into the Arena”. The loyal crowd loves it. Many of the faces in the first few rows are the same as when Schenker last played Tokyo in June last year. A big part of this audience has followed Schenker their whole lives. I, too, have been a Schenker fan for as long as I can remember (I even named one of my first rock bands in the late 1980s after the MSG classic “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”). But there are also new fans joining the ranks. Schenker’s mostly melodic hard rock is still relevant and appealing.

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Last year Schenker and Graham Bonnet reunited for the first time since the early 1980s when they shared the stage in Japan. This year have seen the two men reunite again and this time it’s been a proper MSG reunion. The MSG reunion line-up consists of Ted McKenna (drums), Steve Mann (guitar and keyboards), Chris Glen (bass) and no less than three of MSG’s legendary vocalists: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley.

Gary Barden on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Gary Barden on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Graham Bonnet and Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Graham Bonnet and Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Billed as Michael Schenker Fest, this MSG reunion was indeed a fest. The bulk of the 17-song set is made up of MSG classics, but we also get “Coast to Coast” from Schenker’s time in Scorpions and three UFO classics – “Shoot Shoot”, “Rock Bottom” and “Doctor Doctor” – close the evening. What a band, what a set list, what a gig, what a Michael Schenker Fest.

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

No doubt Michael Schenker will keep his love affair with Japan going for a long time to come. With a new Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock album planned for next year, he will be back. And the loyal Japanese fans will still be there for both the old and the new music.

 

 

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker Fest – set list – Tokyo 24th August 2016

  1. Into the Arena
  2. Attack of the Mad Axeman
  3. Victim of Illusion
  4. Cry for the Nations
  5. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
  6. Armed and Ready
  7. Coast to Coast
  8. Assault Attack
  9. Desert Song
  10. Dancer
  11. Captain Nemo
  12. This Is My Heart
  13. Save Yourself
  14. Love Is Not a Game
  15. Shoot Shoot
  16. Rock Bottom
  17. Doctor Doctor

    Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

    Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Read Roppongi Rocks’ recent interview with Michael Schenker here.

Robin McAuley on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Robin McAuley on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

www.facebook.com/michaelschenkerrocks

www.michaelschenkerhimself.com

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Review: Hellgoat “Eden in Flames”

HellgoatBy Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Hellgoat is back with a new hellish single and a US tour.

I like goats and Hellgoat is an American black metal band with goats all over the place. That is a good start. Hellgoat formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 2004 and released their first full-length album, “Blasphemy From Serpent Tongues”, in 2005. It has since released several records and toured. Their most recent full-length album, “Infernal Zeal”, came out in 2015.

This eminent two-track 7-inch single, which coincides with the band’s US tour during the autumn, starts off with some scene-setting sounds of goats, a fire and distant chanting, before we get a beastly roar and move into the black metal musical mayhem of “Inner Sanctum Ablaze” and “Scars of Our Devotion”. Hellgoat is old-school, primitive black metal of the best kind. The production is also old-school in the old demo-cassette way. It fits the music. This is terrific unrelenting underground black metal. It is brilliantly unpleasant and does the trick. Head-cleaning stuff.

The “Eden in Flames” single will be released on 15th September jointly on American labels Boris Records and Pale Horse Recordings.

 

www.facebook.com/hellgoat-359498710801448/?fref=nf

www.boris-records.com

Album review: Rebel Machine “Nothing Happens Overnight”

Rebel_Machine_Press_Photo_Doni_Maciel_02By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Brazilian rockers Rebel Machine have released their debut full-length album, “Nothing Happens Overnight”.

Rebel Machine from Porto Alegre, Brazil plays good fun, kick-ass rock’n’roll in the same genre as Slash and the Conspirators.

Rebel Machine Nothing Happens Overnight Cover Art

They’re not reinventing the wheel, not doing anything new. They’re just playing their melodic, radio-friendly and melodic hard rock and they’re good at it. This is party music for rockers.

This album is 33 minutes of uncomplicated and catchy hard rock music. The album’s closing track, “Life Is Fuckin’ Good”, pretty much sums up what this band is all about.

“Waiting for You” could be a hit. “Don’t Tell Me I’m Wrong” is currently my favourite track on the album together with the great “Run Away”.

This self-released album has had production help by Renato Osorio and mixing and mastering by Benhur Lima, both famous for their work with Brazilian metal band Hibria. But Rebel Machine is musically quite different from Hibria’s heavier take on rock music.

Sometime you don’t need deep lyrics and complicated song structures. Sometimes you just need great rock music to get the party started. That’s where Rebel Machine comes into your life.

 

Rebel Machine – band members

Marcelo Pereira – vocals

Murilo Bittencourt – guitar

Marcel Bittencourt – bass

Chantós Mariani – drums

 

www.rebelmachine.com.br / www.facebook.co  m/rebelmachineofficial

Album review: Vindland “Hanter Savet”

vindland-bandBy Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Vindland gives us melodic pagan black metal from France on their debut album “Hanter Savet”.

When something is labelled “pagan black metal” it gets my attention. And this album deserves it. It keeps my attention throughout. Great stuff, it’s up there with the best of the genre. The information about Vindland is rather limited and the questions are many. How come a French band can come seemingly from nowhere and match the best? I know next to nothing about this band (perhaps this is deliberate?) but I do know that this is really, really good stuff that deserves your attention and your business. Apparently they have been around for over a decade and previously released an EP in 2009.

Vindland-Hanter-Savet2016

They have great songs, production, musicians…. What’s there not to like for someone who is into pagan black metal? Unlike many of the genre’s leading figures, the members of Vindland are no Norsemen or Finns. They come from France and just like some Nordic pagan metal bands sing in their native tongue, most of the lyrics on this album are written in Breton, a Celtic language spoken in Brittany, France.

On “Hanter Savet” we get eight original tracks (all great stuff with no weaknesses) plus a re-recording of “And The Battle Ended” which originally appeared on the band’s 2009 EP. The album has a great dark atmosphere that sets the tone for the music which combines some rather catchy and somewhat unusually melodic pagan black metal with plenty of good guitar riffs. Vindland’s music on this album is quite varied, but all within the band’s signature sound. The great melodies set this apart from the pack.

Vindland’s “Hanter Savet” is out now on Black Lion Records.

www.facebook.com/vindlandbzh / www.facebook.com/blacklionrecords666

 

EP review: Bloodshed Remains “Peace”

Bloodshed RemainsBy Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Austrian hardcore act Bloodshed Remains is back with an in-your-face EP.

Formed in Austria in 2006, Bloodshed Remains is a great, energetic and in-your-face hardcore act with attitude. Following a brief intro (the title track “Peace”), we get three hardcore tracks on this new EP.

“Bright Lies” is a straightforward two-and-a-half-minute hardcore track. On “Burnt Out” we get some fine bass work from bassist Hatsch that makes this track stand out. Brilliant stuff. If we get more of that bass on future tracks, this band will go places with their music. The EP’s final track, “Victim of Circumstance”, is the most aggressive song. It rides along like an angry gang looking for trouble. More perpetrator than victim perhaps.

cover

There are some hints of our favourites Suicidal Tendencies in Bloodshed Remains’ music. However, this is a less sophisticated take on the music without the flashy thrash metal guitars and other crossover influences. This is somewhat more basic and different. Austria is no doubt far away from Venice, California. Bloodshed Remains plays less flamboyant hardcore music without bells and whistles and where the guitars have more of a support role – no big guitar solos or things like that. More like the sheer power of bands like Sick Of It All, if you know what I mean.

The “Peace” EP is out now on Demons Run Amok Entertainment. A new full-length album is planned for 2017.

www.bloodshedremains.at/ www.facebook.com/bloodshedremains.ychc

www.demonsrunamok.de

Album review: Bewitcher – speed metal meets dirty hard rock

Band picBy Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Bewitcher is a great metal trio from Portland, Oregon in the US, whose self-titled debut album mixes dirty hard rock with speed metal in a great and unusual combination.

Bewitcher refers to its music as old-school blackened thrash/speed metal and there are certainly some hints of all that, but I would describe this a bit differently as they have created their own unique sound. They play a form of hard rock which they perform as if it were speed metal. It’s a bit like a bastard child of AC/DC and Pantera, or Tribulation and Judas Priest, or Motörhead and Testament, or Girlschool and Megadeth. With Venom as its ugly stepsister. It’s a fabulous non-stop attack of great riffs delivered at the speed of light over a foundation of classic hard rock. There is a NWOBHM foundation here upon which a furiously fast ride is launched.

The album opens with “Bewitcher”, a great track that kicks off with some kind of late 70s synthesizer spiel before the band makes this song into an 80s speed metal track. With song titles such as “Speed ‘Til You Bleed”, “Hot Nights, Red Lights” and “Black Speed Delirium”, this is a bunch of rockers with much love for 80s heavy metal.

Album cover

The trio’s stage names are in line with their tongue-in-cheek song titles: Unholy Weaver of Shadows & Incantations (guitar and vocals), Infernal Magus of Nocturnal Alchemy (bass and vocals) and Diabolic Crusher of Hallowed Light (drums).

I really like this rather different take on hard rock meets speed metal. They have created something that is different in a good way and it makes them stand out from the ever-flowing stream of releases by new metal bands. Who knows where this wild ride will end? Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

The LP version of “Bewitcher” is out now on Diabolic Might Records and the CD version will be released on 9th September on Divebomb Records.

www.facebook.com/bewitcherofficial / www.cultofthebewitcher.com