RIP Cherry Sickbeat

Cherry Sickbeat of NervoChaos on stage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

NervoChaos guitarist Cherry Sickbeat has died following a short battle with cancer.

Cherry Sickbeat stood out in a punk rock and extreme metal world dominated by men. She would often let her guitar do the talking.

She first made a name for herself as a vocalist and guitarist in the band Hellsakura. In the past couple of years of her life, her main job was as guitarist in the extreme metal band NervoChaos. She played on the band’s most recent album, the fabulous “Nyctophilia”, and she toured relentlessly around the world with the band during 2015-17.

Cherry “Sickbeat” Taketani was born in 1970 in Brazil. She was a Brazilian national of Japanese descent, her Japanese grandparents having emigrated from Japan to Brazil. She was a multi-instrumentalist, most famous for her guitar work, but she was also an accomplished vocalist, drummer and shamisen player.

Cherry, we salute you. Thank you for the music and the mayhem. RIP.


Festival report: Japanese Assault Fest

The Rods on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Spiritual Beast’s annual Japanese Assault Fest in November is a great little mini festival taking place at Club Seata in Kichijoji, Tokyo. Here’s Roppongi Rocks’ Caroline Misokane’s report from day one of this year’s two-day heavy metal festival.

Ambush on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks


The first international band of the night is the Swedish classical heavy metal quintet of Ambush. Playing an old-school heavy metal mixed with a hard rock feeling and a hair metal look, the guys from Växjö came to warm up the stage and crowd for a night full of rock and roll. With only two albums released, the set list was short but the band put on a cheerful gig from the start with the band members already dancing and jumping around as they walked on stage. Songs like “Close My Eyes” and “Ambush” come shaped with interesting riffs by Adam Hagelin and Olof Engqvist, and great bass lines by Ludwig Sjöholm.

Ambush on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The captivating element is definitely the vocals of Oscar Jacobsson, who combines penetrating screams and soft lines when it is needed. If he had been in a band in the 70s or 80s, he would have probably been considered one of the best heavy metal singers of all time. Unfortunately they did not have much time, but it was not a real issue for a band with a rhythm like theirs. The quintet celebrated their first visit to Japan with lots of beer and the excitement took over the venue. When the good “Natural Born Killers” started, people went crazy, singing along, showing how familiar they are with this song and thrilling the band, even making them stop playing for a while just to hear the fans. Closing the show with “Don’t Shoot (Let ‘Em Burn)”, the Swedish heavy metal band left with such gratitude and pleasure that it was impossible for the fans to not keep asking for more even after the curtain had come down.

Chronosphere on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks


Five or six minutes later than planned, the curtain opened showing four guys all dressed in red trousers and black shirts. It was time for the Greek quartet of Chronosphere to teach a thrash lesson to the Kichijoji audience. Having started in 2012, the band has already released three albums. The set list covered all three releases, plus one cover song. Starting the set with the amazing “Before It’s Gone”, from their latest album “Red ‘N’ Roll”, the quartet set the stage on fire with their power and energy, all the way banging their heads while executing impressive riffs.

Chronosphere on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Guitarists Spyros Lafias and Stam Syrakos are perfectly synced with each other, combining technique and aggressiveness, while bassist Kostas Spades reminded me of Jason Newsted in his Metallica years. Not only for the haircut, but also for the way he performed: always turning his big neck around while his pick touch the chords of his aesthetically shabby instrument. Strolling through the past and the present, when “Picking Up My Pieces” started, the already crazy crowd went crazier with the killer riffs and the beats of Thanos Krommidas, opening a huge circle pit and one or two fans even went crowd surfing over the audience. “Brutal Decay” and the fast “War Infection” were the prelude for the last song, which was a great surprise: a cover of Metallica’s “Battery”. With skill and brutality, they gave their best, pleasing the fans not only with a brutal sound, but also an energetic and enthusiastic performance. By the end, Kostas left his bass to surf over the heads of his fans in front of the stage. Chronosphere certainly has the potential for soon being discovered by a major label which may take their music to even more metalheads worldwide. And if I was already a Greece lover for its contribution to the modern society, now I love this country even more because one of my favourite bands come from there.

F.K.Ü. on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks


One of the most awaited attractions of the night was probably the Swedish thrashers of F.K.Ü. (short for Freddy Krueger’s Ünderwear). Being on the road for the last twenty years with an extreme sound, many people consider them one of the best thrash metal bands of the present. When the intro began, people already started pushing each other to honour the title of “moshoholics” that the band has given to its fans.

F.K.Ü. on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Opening the night with “Rise of the Mosh Mongers”, what Tokyo saw was four people bathed in blood and mud destroying riffs, while marching on the stage guided by the amazing screams of Larry Lethal. As their lyrics make references to horror films, their performances never stray far from that theme. Guitarist Pete Stooaalh’s performance was a spectacle filled with riffs and solos and electrifying interaction with the fans along with bassist Pat Splat. Drummer Unspeakable Emp used all of his strength to give the Japanese fans what they really deserved. One of the most interesting and agitated songs is “Hate Your Guts (But Love Your Brain)”, which has a great chorus, this evening sung by the whole of the Club Seata audience.

F.K.Ü. on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

They also played some songs from their new album “1981”, showing the fans that even after all these years, they have not lost the recipe for how to create a true thrash metal song. Intensity, heat and bloody are the words that best describe this performance!

The Rods on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The Rods

It was around 8pm when the mighty headliners The Rods entered the stage to shake Tokyo for the very first time ever. Unfortunately, the venue was not that crowded at this point in time, but that didn’t stop them from doing one of the best rock shows I have seen in years. People might think that because of their age, The Rods cannot be that great live anymore. But the trio, consisting of David “Rock” Feinstein, Garry Bordonaro and Carl Canedy, really give a rock and roll lecture when their on stage!

The Rods on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Opening the gig with “I Just Wanna Rock”, David’s energy spreads all around the venue, while Garry performs some kind of very old school rock and roll dance. They remind me of bands like AC/DC and Deep Purple, not only by the influence these bands have on their sound, but also on their stage performance. One of the greatest moments was when they played “I Live For Rock And Roll”. It shows the spirit of three young boys that only want to play some riffs and be recognised for it. It seems like their dream came true. Between songs, David thanked and greeted the fans in a very kind way, and so did Carl and Garry. First times are always the most special ones and it was clear how happy these guys were to finally be in Japan. Some people find it boring when a drum solo starts in a show, but I particularly love moments like these, especially when it comes to Carl Canedy, whose solo combined speed, power, feeling and, of course, more rock and roll. One of the highlights of the night was definitely David joking around with the staff beside the stage as well as with the photographers in the pit, and, of course, with the fans. With an impressive set of 23 songs, it was impossible to not get into the spirit. The rock music of the 80s is not gone. Words are not enough to start describing the vibe of the night, but I guess that after this amazing start, we will see The Rods more often in Japan.

The Rods on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Interview: Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

British extreme metal band Cradle of Filth recently returned to Japan after a 16 year absence to do a great gig at the Loud Park festival. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson had a backstage chat with frontman Dani Filth where they discussed band chemistry, the brilliant new album, the creative process behind it (“a very prolific writing session slash team building exercise slash drinkathon”), the role of visual and lyrical themes, soothing the soul by getting demons out and much more.

Cradle of Filth likes to be controversial. But behind the sometimes provocative images and lyrics that have been constants in the band’s career, there is an intelligent and hardworking rock band. Dani Filth, fearless leader and frontman, is still going strong 26 years after founding the band. Over the years there have been many line-up changes. However, in the last few years Cradle seems to have found a stable and terrific line-up consisting of Dani Filth on vocals, Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka on drums, Daniel Firth on bass, Lindsay Schoolcraft on keyboards and guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda. The Japan visit is the start of a new world tour which will see them return to Japan in May.

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“It’s brilliant being back. We haven’t been back for 16 years apparently,” says Dani Filth as we meet a short time before Cradle of Filth is due on stage at the Loud Park festival in Saitama outside of Tokyo. The band’s latest album, “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay”, was released in September and has been favourably received. “We’re particularly proud of it, yeah. Much of this year has been spent in the studio. Since we finished in the back end of May, we’ve been constantly entrenched in interviews and continuing to do so.”

With such a fab new album just released, the Japanese fans are hoping for some of the new material to be played at the festival. “We’re only playing for 50 minutes, so it’s really gonna be a cross-section of fan favourites. When we come back in May, we’ll have the opportunity to play for an hour and a quarter, so you can introduce more tracks from the new album. Obviously people expect new stuff, the last record, a cross-section of fan favourites and then we want to put some stuff we haven’t played for a while. If the drummer had anything to do with it, the gigs would be three weeks long each.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka joined Cradle in 2006 as the replacement for Adrian Erlandsson. He has taken on a leading role in the band, adding keyboards and orchestration to his drum duties. “He’s obviously the backbone of the band. Everybody has contributed a lot to this record. When it came to the writing session, we went to the Czech Republic, to the hometown of Ashok and Martin. We were playing a festival in Slovakia at the end of a two-week period, so we thought, without sounding too profane about it, it was obviously going to be cheaper doing it with everybody meeting in the Czech Republic than it would be somewhere like London. Basically, everybody came together to create ideas. We didn’t really think that we’d come away from that with pretty much 90% of an album written, but we did because everybody had done so much pre-production. They came with whole songs and bits of songs and then riffs, pieces of the puzzle to put together. It was just a very prolific writing session slash team building exercise slash drinkathon.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The British band is now rather international with members from all over the place. The current line-up, perhaps the band’s best ever, is solid and there seems to be great chemistry. “Yeah, it’s very strong. We’re very close… Well not close geographically, we’re literally spread across the known universe. But when we get together, like yesterday for example, we all went out together on a sightseeing trip. We walked around the whole of Tokyo. When we’re on tour we spend a lot of time together. Everybody is very appreciative of one another. We have a good laugh together. There’s a good connection. That’s very important. My other band, Devilment, played this year at Bloodstock. Fortunately Richard, the guitarist, lives a couple of stops away, up the motorway from the venue. So I stayed around his for four days.”

Cradle of Filth has always been a theatrical, cinematic extreme metal band. But its sound has evolved over the years and taken twists and turns. “That’s important obviously, because you don’t want to make the same record twice. Although, obviously, the building blocks of the band are there. You don’t want to stray too far away from the blueprint of what makes the band what it is. It’s like picking a set list for a show. Although you literally don’t write a game plan out, it’s a bit more natural than that. But you’ve gotta look at, also, the fact that you don’t want to stray too much away from the beaten path. But it’s gonna be novel enough that it’s new: new elements, old elements. You can make some big mistakes writing an album. This one, because the way the band gels, we literally just wrote… Some of the songs we developed on previous records. There is some stuff that didn’t make this record that might make another record. Some were whole songs which people introduced at the writing session. Others were just composites of lots of different ideas. I think that the only important thing is it sounds very British, it sounds Cradle of Filth, very cinematic. But at the same time, slightly different from everything else we have done.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

How important are the non-musical parts such as visual and lyrical themes to the overall Cradle package? “I always do that off the back of the music. I think it would be very selfish and I think it limits the scope of… When you’re trying to write material, if you’ve been told how it’s going to be… I mean, if you’re going to do a full concert record, it would be good sometimes to come up with the ideas beforehand, so people got parameters to work within. But for this album, I wanted to… It came so swiftly off the back of the last record as well. I just wanted people to come up with their own ideas and bearing in mind it is going to have a common theme, it’s going to be quite concise and I can come up with ideas from that. The songs gave a flavour that enabled me to come up with a concept.”

In addition to new Cradle songs, the new album contains a terrific cover song, Annihilator classic “Alison Hell”. “We’ve been wanting to do it for absolutely ages. I think the catalyst was the fact that we bumped into Jeff Waters from Annihilator on a couple of occasions recently, mentioning to him our desire to do it and he was ‘Yeah, man. You guys would do such a good job with it’. We felt compelled to do it. And also, because the nature of the song, it’s very ornate and creepy and very musical. I think it sat very well with the rest of the album. Strangely enough, a lot of people have said ‘Oh, I really like that track’ without even realising it’s a cover version, people who weren’t familiar with Annihilator. Jeff’s heard it and he loves it, which is good. He actually put on his website that he thought it’s the best cover version he’s heard of an Annihilator track.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

With a new album out, Cradle is also starting a new touring cycle with Japan being the first gig on the new tour. “Yeah, this could be considered the first show. In a couple of weeks’ time we’ve got a UK tour. Then we’ve got a couple of things pencilled in that haven’t been totally confirmed. The main bulk of the world tour starts mid-January and literally goes right through till the end of June. We’re only doing a handful of summer festivals because we’re concentrating on winter festivals next year, so that in 2019 we can do the whole run. Otherwise we would just be sitting on our asses in 2019.”

With a busy schedule for Cradle, does Dani have time for Devilment and other projects? “Yeah, absolutely. Well, not any other projects. I am still starting my novel, but every time the opportunity comes around, there’s something else to fill it. ‘We gotta do a new album.’ That’s what sucks the life out of that. But Devilment, people are saying ‘It’s just putting more on your shoulders’, which is true, but it’s also like an escape valve, pressure valve. It’s something I can do that kind of soothes the soul. Because you get a lot of demons out that get in the way elsewhere.”

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth in Japan. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Cradle of Filth will return to Japan in early May for three headline gigs in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Get your tickets here:

Video | Live & Louder in Japan | An official The Dead Daisies documentary


By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Dead Daisies – “Live & Louder in Japan” (Official Documentary)

Here’s a fab documentary following one of our favourite bands on their Japan tour earlier this year. Great band, great songs, great people, great fans and a great documentary. Get the popcorn and beers out and make some noise!


EP review: Thunder “Christmas Day”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

British rockers Thunder are back with a scaled-back and mostly acoustic EP release ahead of their Japan tour.

While the title track is a Christmas song, this is not really a Christmas record. It’s more a record with some rare and special goodies from Thunder, released to coincide with their winter tour which will also take them back to Japan in January.

On this EP we get to see a scaled down and stripped bare Thunder which has slowed down the tempo. We get a combination of mainly acoustic arrangements and some live versions of old songs. It’s all good stuff which showcases how truly great this band is. The music has a laidback and casual feeling to it. Yet it is so beautiful and expertly executed. Here they’re not hiding behind volume or any gimmicks. This is just a great band performing some emotional songs as a Christmas present to its fans.

“Christmas Day” is a melancholic ballad and here we get a terrific combination of the distinctive voice of Danny Bowes and the fine guitar work of Luke Morley. Since the very beginning of Thunder In the late 80s, the chemistry between Bowes and Morley has been the very essence of the band’s sound. It is only becoming more prominent and evident over time. They are complemented by guitarist Ben Matthews and rhythm section Chris Childs on bass and Harry James on drums (who is also Magnum‘s drummer).

The six-track Japanese edition of the new EP contains acoustic versions of “Heartbreak Hurricane” and “The Enemy Inside” from the band’s latest album “Rip It Up”, as well as a live version of the track “Broken” from 2015’s “Wonder Days”. “Love Walked In” is a ballad which was originally featured on Thunder’s 1990 debut album “Backstreet Symphony”, here in a fab new version. There is also a splendid version of “Low Life In High Places”, a song which originally appeared on 1992’s “Laughing On Judgement Day”.

This is a British rock band with roots in blues and storytelling, something which more than ever before is evident on this record. Guitarist Luke Morley shows us that he doesn’t need electricity to make his guitar smoke. He is a fine guitarist and an even better songwriter.

Thunder will perform in Osaka on 10th January and on 12th and 13th January they will perform at Club Citta in Kawasaki as part of their “Mix It Up – Then & Now Tour”. Get your tickets here:

Thunder’s “Christmas Day’ EP will be released on 8th December in Japan via Ward Records. /

Album review: Appice “Sinister”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Legendary drumming brothers Carmine and Vinny Appice have finally made a splendid classic hard rock album together and with a little help from their industry friends.

Between them, Brooklyn-born drummer brothers Carmine Appice and Vinny Appice have drummed with major acts such as Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, Heaven & Hell, Last In Line, Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra, Blue Murder, Cactus, Marty Friedman, Michael Schenker, Rod Stewart, Ted Nugent, Paul Stanley and many more. There is no shortage in the pedigree department in this family.

While they have previously toured and released a “Drum Wars” live album together, this is their first joint studio album. With many different guest musicians and vocalists appearing, this is naturally quite a varied album. But it basically is an album filled with blues-based classic hard rock of the best kind. It is a melting pot of the Appice brothers’ careers. Terrific stuff.

One of the prominent guests on this fab album is vocalist Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot, King Kobra, Raiding The Rock Vault). Shortino sings on one of the album’s best tracks, “Monsters & Heroes”, a terrific tribute to Ronnie James Dio. He also takes the lead on the tracks “War Cry” and “Suddenly”.

“Killing Floor” is fabulous song, with Chas West (Lynch Mob, Foreigner, Red Dragon Cartel) on vocals, which sounds as if it could have been a lost Whitesnake track. “Riot” is a great hard rock track (originally done by Carmine’s old band Blue Murder) made even better with one of our favourite Irishmen, Robin McAuley (MSG, Michael Schenker Fest, Raiding The Rock Vault), on vocals.

On the track “War Cry”, we get Shortino’s vocals combined with the guitar of Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake). “You Got Me Running” has, somewhat surprisingly, Carmine Appice on lead vocals. Other notable guests on the album include Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses), Craig Goldy (Dio, Dio Disciples, Giuffria, Rough Cutt), Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol. Last In Line), Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, The Firm, Whitesnake), Johnny Rod (King Kobra, W.A.S.P.) and many more.

“Sabbath Mash” is a weird and wonderful medley of Black Sabbath classics and a nod to the brothers’ past with Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Dio and Ozzy Osbourne.

While this is an album led by two drummers, we don’t get drumming overkill. The track “Drum Wars” is a drum showcase, but much of the rest of the album is just good-old hard rock. There’s plenty of fab guitar work and some terrific vocal efforts as well as great original songs plus a couple of revisits to old stomping grounds.

Appice’s “Sinister” album will be released on 24th November via Ward Records in Japan. It has been released in other markets via SPV/Steamhammer. / /

Interview: David “Rock” Feinstein of The Rods

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

David “Rock” Feinstein made a name for himself in the late 60s and early 70s when he played with his cousin Ronnie James Dio in Elf. He then continued his career with the hard rock band The Rods during the 80s. When The Rods recently came to perform two sets at Spiritual Beast’s Japanese Assault Fest in Tokyo, Roppongi Rocks’ Caroline Misokane sat down with Feinstein to talk about his years in Elf, what led The Rods to stop with music for a while, the band’s first time in Japan and, of course, his cousin Ronnie James Dio.

You first shot to fame as a member of Elf where you played with your cousin Ronnie James Dio. What can you tell us about your years in Elf? “The Elf years were really great because Ronnie asked me to join him. At that time his band was called Ronnie Dio and The Prophets and they were like the best band, although they were local. I was in another one and there were many bands around that area. I was just out of high school and I was the drummer of my band. My best friend was a guitarist, so I knew how to play a few chords. When I went to see Ronnie Dio and The Prophets, I met Ronnie and he said ‘Hey, you know how to play the guitar?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I know about three chords, why?’ He said that their guitar player was leaving the band and asked if I’d be interested in joining them. I hesitated because I was playing drums, but slowly I started being part of it. Ronnie and the other guys were like five years older than me, so I was kind of learning from watching those guys. It was all a learning experience. I could spend hours talking about Elf. We spent a lot of time writing songs for The Prophets. When we wrote our first album, we became The Electric Elves and then Elf. We went for an audition for that album, with Columbia Records, in a rehearsal room in New York City. At the same time, Ian Paice and Roger Glover from Deep Purple were thinking about getting into producing bands and they came to check us and see if they would be interested in producing us. So, we were in this big room with five or six people and then we played our songs and they loved it. We didn’t know that, but in a few days we knew that the label wanted to sign with us and that Roger and Ian wanted to produce us. Then we recorded our first album with them. After that we started touring with Deep Purple because of the association, as in that time they were probably the biggest band in the world. We were playing in arenas with them. It was a great experience, as we started as a bar band, to play in arenas.”

Soon after you left Elf in the mid-70s, the core of the band were invited to join Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Did you see that as a missed opportunity for you or how did you react to it? “No, actually I left the band before that because I felt I had to do something different, as when I was in the high school I never had any regular job, I was always only a musician. Then it became a career and it got to a point in my life I had to try different things. That’s why I left the band and I thought I’d leave for a while and then come back, but I wanted to try other things. I worked with many other things and during that time Ronnie and the rest of the guys had the opportunity because Ritchie had left Deep Purple to form his own band and he just took the Elf band with him. Their guitarist soon left the band, then the other guys too, but Ronnie stayed with Rainbow until the next step, which was Black Sabbath. I always followed his career. I always followed Ronnie and the band when we weren’t together. I always supported him because Ronnie was such a great talent. He really deserved to reach higher levels. I think if the Elf band had stayed together, we would have reached a greater success, because there was a certain magic about the original line-up of the band. Ronnie was destined to fame because his voice was so amazing. He was so versatile and he could have sang any other style, but he chose heavy metal and he was awesome at what he did.”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

How would you describe how The Rods’ sound has evolved? Initially it kind of had more of a bluesy 70s hard rock feeling and then became more 80s American metal. “After a while I just felt I had to go back to music, because being a musician is something that stays with you, no matter how much time passes. I wanted to put a band together and play some bars, because I had done some other jobs and I knew I didn’t want to pursue those jobs anymore. But I needed to make some money and I thought if I’d put a band together I could play in some bars and earn some money. That’s how The Rods was formed,“ explains Feinstein how he formed the band together with drummer Carl Canedy. “We had two different bassists until we found Garry Bordonaro, who was the right person for it. Elf was more bluesy, kind of my musical background. I was influenced by people like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore. Their styles are more of a blues base, and that’s my style. I’m not a technical guitarist, I can’t even play a scale. I don’t know any. When The Rods was formed, we started as a cover band, until Carl started writing songs and we recorded a demo to send to some people to see if someone was interested in signing us. We just started as a bar band, to play and make some money and all of a sudden we were making records and touring all around. So, it kind of happened because we didn’t start thinking about getting this big. The Rods happened to start at the time of the new wave of heavy metal, it was just the beginning of it. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax were all friends of us and we played jobs along with Metallica and all those bands back in the days when we started. We kind of led the way for these other bands to carry on. But we got to a point in our career where we had so many bad business dealings with management and record labels, so when we stopped playing it was not for internal problems, as we stayed friends. However, we just got tired of the business and that’s why we stopped for a while. In a general way, we realised that The Rods was the beginning of the new wave of heavy metal. There are so many genres inside of metal, and people call our music classic rock, but in my opinion we are a rock’n’roll band. Our songs are not a commercial thing, it’s more like an AC/DC thing. So, I call us a rock’n’roll band.”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The Rods was formed back in 1980. What motivates you to perform with the band in 2017? “I started playing again because, like I said, music is in my blood. I recorded a couple of solo albums released by a German label called SPV. Then I got a call from Carl saying he listened to my stuff and that he liked it a lot and made him want to play together again. We had not seen each other in a long time and he proposed a reunion of the band. Then we played two shows, one in a bar in my hometown and another in Garry’s hometown. Today it’s all because of the internet, that’s how people notice you nowadays, and they come to the shows. We did not have any idea that people still cared about us and then they were there watching us again, bringing their old albums for us to sign. Thus we realised that people still remembered us. It’s been ten years now since then and we have been playing eight to ten shows a year; most of these shows happen when people contact us asking if we could play in their town. We don’t have a booking agency or a management, it’s all directly with us. We try to keep playing only a few shows a year, but sometimes it happens to be more, like in 2011 when we did a European tour supporting Dio Disciples. In these last ten years we have been in places we have never visited before, like Brazil, and now Japan. It’s our first time here and we always wanted to come to Japan. Because of the internet we know now that we have fans all around the world, in places we have never thought our music would reach.”

Your last studio album came out six years ago. Do you have any plans for new albums? “We will record a new album as soon as we come home after this tour. The songs are all written and we hope to release it in the first half of 2018. Personally I think these are the best songs we have written in our career, so it’s going to be a great record.”

Ronnie James Dio reunited with you on the fabulous The Rods’ song “The Code”. What brought that about? “This was a song written by Carl and at the same time it was a song written by someone in the band. It sounded totally different from what we are used to do. Me and Garry are the singers and we write more energetic songs, which are the styles we can sing and also songs that fit into our singing style. So, when we had a song like that we knew we couldn’t do it, we are not capable of singing that type of song. When Carl came with ‘The Code’ we were recording a new album and thought that it was a great song, but not for me or Garry, and it coincided with when I wrote ‘Metal Will Never Die’, which was more The Rods style, but not that much. Also, me and Ronnie were talking about making an Elf reunion album and then he offered himself to sing on a The Rods song. We gave him these two songs, because I knew they needed a really good vocalist, they were very different from what we are used to. We recorded those two songs three or four years before Ronnie passed away. He probably didn’t even know he was sick and it ended that ‘The Code’ featured on a The Rods album and ‘Metal Will Never Die’ made up part of a Dio album.”

You are now playing Japan for the very first time. How does it feel being here and what are your expectations? “It’s been so great being here. We have been here for a couple of days and we have been walking around, checking around, meeting some fans at the hotel and on the streets, people are so nice. Everything we have seen is so clean. The hotel accommodations are the best we have seen in years. We don’t have any expectation of what it’s going to be, no matter where we play. We just do the same thing if we are playing for ten people or ten thousand, it does not matter. We will hit the stage tonight and do our thing. I think people like us here. We’ve met many fans, they greeted us very well. We are loving being in Japan. People are very nice here and we hope that after this weekend we will be able to come back soon.”

Last year at Wacken Open Air, Dio Disciples played with a hologram of Ronnie James Dio and Wendy Dio has already announced a world tour for the hologram show. What do you think about it? Would you be part of it if invited? “For me there’s two different sides of it. I think it’s a great thing because of the technology evolved to make it happen and I want to go and see it live. I know there are a lot of controversy. Even not being too much on the internet to see all the comments, I know there are a lot of people who are against it. But I think no matter what you do, in anything in your life, there will be people against it and people for it. I just hope that when the band will go out on tour, they be well received by the fans. I hope that people understand what it is. Many bands are doing it and not only bands, but people like Michael Jackson performed as a hologram and it was really cool. I know many other bands will do the same in the future. It’s technology, something new. Personally I think it is a cool thing. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I would be part of it and that’s the way I feel about it.”

This year marked the tenth anniversary of the last time Ronnie James Dio sang in Japan (the Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell tour of 2007). What are your greatest memories of him? “I could talk about it for five or six hours. Haha! I got asked the same question many times. It’s probably because of the beginning, before he was famous, when we started in a band and there are a lot of memories from that time. Also, I have so many memories from his last ten years, where we spent so much time together, with him visiting me in Cortland, where his parents live too. Ronnie was a very funny person. The thing I miss the most about him is that when you were around him, he was making you laugh. He was a naturally funny person. And he lived for his fans. They came first, always. I have seen him very ill, coughing, breathless and going to the stage and singing for two hours, like nothing was wrong. And after that going out to hang out with the fans, take pictures, give them autographs. He could spend hours signing things for the fans. He would never cancel a show, he would never disappoint the fans. He lived for them, it’s a very honourable thing to do. He knew how much he mattered to those people and how much they meant to him. In general, he was a very modest person, for being a superstar. Of course, he lived in a beautiful house, but he was a simple person, just like you and me. He was a very brilliant man, with a great mind, a great vocabulary. That’s why his lyrics are the way they are. He had a huge imagination, so when you hear his lyrics, you can clearly see where he was at the moment he wrote it. I miss many things about him. I miss being around him, but I guess I must stop now because I could spend a lifetime just to tell you about him. Haha!”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

What’s next for The Rods? “One step at a time. Haha! Like I said, as soon as we get back to the United States we will start recording a new album, which we hopefully will release by the first half of 2018. We want to play more next year. We want to play at bigger festivals in the summer. But we take it easy, we take one day at a time. Also, we really hope to come back to Japan very soon.”

Loud Park gig report: L.A. Guns

Phil Lewis of L.A. Guns backstage at Loud Park with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson.

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

L.A. Guns exceed expectations at their Japan gig with Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns reunited once again.

Sleaze/glam rockers L.A. Guns have had many ups and downs and many different line-ups in their career (for a few years there were even two different versions of L.A. Guns touring at the same time). With vocalist Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns now reunited in the current version of the band and a brand new album out, there is a good level of interest in their performance at the Loud Park festival. I didn’t really know what to expect ahead of the gig, but when L.A. Guns perform on stage I am pleasantly surprised. L.A. Guns certainly exceed my expectations.

It is obviously Lewis and Guns who are the main leaders in this classic sleaze rock band, but the newer additions – guitarist Michael Grant, bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Shane Fitzgibbon – all do their bits to make L.A. Guns in 2017 a relevant band and not a mere nostalgia act. The band’s new album, “The Missing Peace”, was released the day before they walk on stage at the Loud Park festival on Saturday 14th October.

Englishman Phil Lewis has turned 60 and has now lived half his life in the US, but his English accent still shines through as he talks on stage between the songs. He sings great. He doesn’t seem to have lost any of his vocal skills with age. Guitarist Tracii Guns is also in fine form and his guitar playing reminds us that he is an underrated guitar wizard. He has a lot of guitar in him and deserves more recognition than he normally gets. During L.A. Guns’ early days Axl Rose briefly fronted the band and then Tracii Guns was in the very first line-up of Guns N’ Roses before he was replaced by Slash. Tracii has also had brief stints in Poison and Quiet Riot. Additionally, he played with Nikki Sixx in Brides of Destruction and Michael Schenker in Contraband.

L.A. Guns open this gig with “Over the Edge” from the 1991 album “Hollywood Vampires”. As this is a short festival gig at noon we basically get a short “best of” set list, but we do get to hear the new track “Speed” as the second song of the set. We then get “No Mercy” from the band’s 1988 debut album, before we get treated to the fab 2002 song “Don’t Look at Me That Way”. “Killing Machine”, a fast rocker from the 1994 album “Vicious Circle”, follows before we get the terrific “Never Enough” from the 1989 album “Cocked & Loaded”. What is labelled as “Jelly Jam”, is an instrumental session where the band’s guitarists get to shine. They finish their set with two of their most memorable songs: “The Ballad of Jayne” and “Rip and Tear”, both from “Cocked & Loaded”. L.A. Guns have reloaded once again and they sound great, here and now.

Loud Park gig report: Slayer

Kerry King of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The mighty thrash metal veterans Slayer once again slayed Loud Park.

Tom Araya and Kerry King of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At 8:00pm, at the end of a long and busy day of heavy metal, many festivalgoers are tired. But there is still one attraction that almost everybody who has bought tickets for the Loud Park festival wants to see: I am of course talking about the mighty Slayer, one of the Big Four American thrash metal bands.

Gary Holt of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Slayer performed at the very first edition of Loud Park in 2006 and this evening it is their fifth time playing this festival. They are seen by me and many others as an integral part of Loud Park. They always put on a great show for their fans at Loud Park.

Kerry King of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Before the band’s festival set on Saturday 14th October starts, a huge curtain is covering the stage. As the house lights turn off we see illustrations in the form of pentagrams, crosses and the Slayer logo. Then the curtain falls to reveal the powerful thrash metal quartet from California.

Opening with “Repentless” from their latest album of the same name, these four guys show that age is just a number when it comes to slaying a stage. Continuing with “The Antichrist” and “Disciple”, Saitama Super Arena opens up in a huge circle pit where tired fans seem to forget their tiredness from a long festival day as Slayer gives them renewed energy. Alternating old classics with more recent songs, brutality and technique dominate the show. Kerry King is, without doubt, one of the best guitarists of all time. When his riffs are combined with Gary Holt’s, the only thing I can think is that Gary was shaped for Slayer and his predecessor, the late Jeff Hanneman, is probably really proud of the team.

During the set vocalist and bassist Tom Araya talks about the love relationship between the band and the fans and then announce the song “Dead Skin Mask”. They play the song as if it were a romantic love song. Definitely dark, weird and beautiful at the same time.

Tom Araya of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Continuing the spectacle, the set keeps crossing their entire career. Building a set list for a band with 12 studio albums to their name and 36 years on the road is not an easy thing to do, but they do it very well. As a tradition, the last few songs at a Slayer gig are always the anthems. Thus, songs like “Hell Awaits” and “South of Heaven” are played with mastery, preparing the audience for the two best known and most awaited Slayer classics of all time: “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”. It does not matter if you are a new or an old-school fan, when it comes to Slayer these two songs are the ones you were waiting for since the moment you bought your ticket to see the band live.

“Angel of Death” is a strong, brutal and bloody song. Its lyrics are about the Holocaust and the band’s interpretation is no less than magnificent. However, I have to confess that since drummer Dave Lombardo left the band in 2013, this song has not sounded the same. There is a powerful drum solo in it, which Paul Bostaph plays in a spectacular way. But there is something missing and I just can’t find it. Nevertheless it is still my favourite Slayer song and the best one to close another killer set. Slayer once again leaves the Japanese audience amazed and wanting more from one of the truly great thrash metal bands.

Tom Araya of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Loud Park gig report: Loudness

Akira Takasaki on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Japanese metal band Loudness is better than ever live on stage at Loud Park.

Masayoshi Yamashita on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Japanese veteran metal band Loudness seems to get better by the day. Having seen them perform numerous gigs in Japan over the past few years, they have always delivered, every single time. This day at Loud Park is no exception. With a new record deal with Ward Records in the bag – the new album “Rise To Glory” will be released on 26th January – they seem to have new energy.

Minoru Niihara on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Minoru Niihara on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Akira Takasaki is one of the best guitarists in the metal world. He stands above all other guitarists in Asia. But Loudness is more than just a fab guitarist. Bassist Masayoshi Yamashita and drummer Masayuki “Ampan” Suzuki are tight and reliable. Vocalist Minoru Niihara sounds better now than he did in the 1980s. They are currently putting the finishing touches to their next album and I have no doubt that we will get a fab new record.

At Loud Park, while it is a relatively short festival set, they give us a great mix of songs from throughout their career. The first part of the gig consists of newer material. They open with the instrumental song “Fire of Spirit” from 2008, before they perform “Hellrider”, “R.I.P.”, the fabulous “The Sun Will Rise Again” and “Metal Mad”. Then we get the classics from the 80s: “Rock This Way”, “Crazy Nights”, “In The Mirror”, “Crazy Doctor” and “S.D.I.”. Loudness has a big and loyal following in Japan and they always draw a big audience. At Loud Park they are performing in the early afternoon, but they still get a big turnout. And the band rewards the fans with another great Loudness gig.

Minoru Niihara on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks