Album review: Mad Invasion “Edge of the World”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Mad Invasion combines classic 70s hard rock with 80s melodic hard rock and modern influences on its debut album.

Mad Invasion may be a name new to many music fans, but in this band, we find some seasoned musicians. Mad Invasion consists of Pete Sandberg (Alien, Madison) on vocals, Björn Dahlberg on guitar, Hal Marabel (Bad Habit) on guitar and keyboards, Mats Jeppsson (Raise Cain) on bass and Mats Bergentz (Silver Mountain, Syron Vanes) on drums. The music on the band’s ten-track debut album “Edge of the World” follows a proud Swedish tradition of melodic hard rock, although Mad Invasion has a bit more traditional 70s hard rock in its music than some of the other bands in the genre. This band has managed to establish a signature sound that is somewhat different – and better – than the typical melodic hard rock sound where it is often hard to distinguish between different bands. They all sound the same. Mad Invasion manages to avoid that. The result of their classic 70s hard rock/80s melodic hard rock combo is great and the contemporary seasoning they have added on top makes it different in a great way. Most songs on the album manage to include all those three distinct musical elements. “Walking in the Shadows” is terrifically catchy and an immediate favourite, not least due to the heavy-yet-slow guitars. “Devil’s Calling” will be released as the first single from the album and it is an obvious choice. The title track “Edge of the World” is one of the strongest tracks on the album and another stand-out track for me is “Scream’n Shout” because of its drive and energy. “Crazy & Wild” has a splendid combination of heavy guitar riffs, 80s keyboards and an addictive chorus. Overall, I think this band will go down well with fans of melodic Swedish hard rock, because this is both great and different from the pack.

Mad Invasion’s debut album “Edge of the World” will be released on 24th September. The first single “Devil’s Calling” will be released on 25th June. Pre-order the album here:

Album review: Motörhead “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” deluxe box set

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The best-ever live album gets released in an expanded 71-song deluxe box set format! It doesn’t get any better than this! This is gold for both casual Motörhead fans and devoted Motörhead archaeologists.

Motörhead’s live album “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” was released four decades ago and it has never been equalled. How can one possibly improve the best live album to ever be released? Well, adding a shit load of extra material and release it in a mega box set is one way to do it and that is what BMG is doing. “No Sleep” is getting a special box set release with no fewer than 71 songs! If you, like me, consider this album, originally released in 1981 via Bronze Records, as the best-ever live album, the sixty bonus tracks that are included in this box set are a terrific gift to mankind. This is gold for both casual Motörhead fans and devoted Motörhead archaeologists. This is a fab opportunity not only to hear what was arguably the band’s best-ever line-up at the peak of their creative abilities. It is also a historical document that gives some fantastic insights into where the band was at in 1980 and 1981. The band line-up for this tour was Lemmy Kilmister on bass and vocals, Fast Eddie Clarke on guitar and Philthy Animal Taylor on drums. With all members of that powerful line-up now dead, this is a terrific way to remember how good they were as a live act at that specific point in their career. They had a magnificent combination of great songs, terrific performances by fab musicians and an excellent raw energy. Motörhead was a band that always delivered throughout the years and the different line-ups, but 1980-81 was certainly one of the band’s absolute peaks. One of the best-ever hard rock bands recorded live when they were at their absolute best!

Despite name-dropping the legendary London venue Hammersmith in the album title, Motörhead didn’t play there on the “Short Sharp Pain in the Neck” tour. The original live album (which reached number one on the UK album chart) consisted of eleven tracks, most of which were recorded during shows in Newcastle and Leeds on 28th-30th March 1981 (the exception being “Iron Horse/Born to Lose” which was recorded at an unspecified location in 1980). The original live LP included two songs from their 1977 self-titled debut album (“Iron Horse/Born to Lose” and “Motörhead”), five songs from 1979’s “Overkill” (the title track plus “Stay Clean”, “Capricorn”, “No Class” and “Metropolis”), the title track from 1979’s “Bomber” and three songs from 1980’s “Ace of Spades” (the title track plus “(We Are) The Road Crew” and “The Hammer”). In addition to the songs from the original live album (here presented in remastered versions), this terrific 71-track box set offers us a couple of bonus tracks from earlier CD reissues (“Over the Top” and “Train Kept A-Rolling”) as well as the full two Newcastle shows and the Leeds show from that 1981 tour of the UK. There are also three terrific songs recorded during a soundcheck in Newcastle: “Stay Clean”, “Limb from Limb” and “Iron Horse”. Among the bonus material we get raw versions of the songs “Shoot You in the Back”, “Jailbait”, “Leaving Here” (a cover song that was the band’s debut single in 1977), “Fire, Fire”, “Too Late, Too Late”, “Bite the Bullet” and “The Chase Is Better Than the Catch”.

They were Motörhead. They played rock’n’roll. Don’t forget them.

Motörhead’s four-CD deluxe box set “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” will be released on 25th June via BMG. The deluxe edition includes a 28-page book, poster, plectrum, tour pass, ticket, flyer and badge. Alternative 3-LP and 2-CD editions feature the new remastered songs from “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith and the full Newcastle show from 30th March 1981.

The Official Motörhead website

EP review: Death Reich “Death Camp”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Death Reich gives us old-school meat-and-potatoes death metal with plenty of aggression and energy.

Death Reich is a death metal band from Uddevalla, Sweden. On the “Death Camp” EP, the band’s first official release, we get two very good original songs, the title track “Death Camp” and “Hunger”. We also get the Metallica cover “Fight Fire with Fire”. Turning Metallica’s thrash metal into death metal works fine (the Swedish lads manage to put their own spin on it), but, personally, I much prefer Death Reich’s own songs, especially the splendid “Hunger”. Death Reich plays fast, furious and uncompromising death metal. It’s old-school meat-and-potatoes death metal with plenty of aggression and energy. There’s nothing polished or modern about this stenchy music. It has a terrific underground feel to it which brings me back to the late 1980s and early 90s when Sweden had a terrific local death metal scene. Death Reich consists of Jonas Blom (drums), Johnny Lehto (vocals), Christer Bergqvist (guitar), Robert Babic (guitar) and Robert Axelsson (bass). These five bearded men are part of what seems like a very promising emerging wave of newer Swedish bands playing old-school death metal. There is hope for a bleak, stenchy and aggressive future!

Death Reich’s EP “Death Camp” will be released via Non Serviam Records on 16th July.

Video premiere: Killing “Legion of Hate”

Danish thrash metal band Killing has today released a new single and video, “Legion of Hate”. The song is taken from the forthcoming album “Face the Madness” which be released on 13th August via Mighty Music. Killing’s members are Jesper Skousen on drums, Snade and Rasmus Holm Sørensen on guitars and Rasmus Soelberg on vocals and bass.

Interview: Jimmy Waldo of Alcatrazz | “We did want it to be harder and more focused”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Jimmy Waldo co-founded Alcatrazz in 1983. At that point he had already made a name for himself with the band New England and later went on to play with bands such as Quiet Riot, Blackthorne, Graham Bonnet Band, Rock Island Orchestra and many more. Alcatrazz is now recording a studio album, its first with new frontman Doogie White, which is expected to be released later this year. Roppongi Rocks boss Stefan Nilsson checked in with Jimmy to hear more about the progress with the new album and what we can expect from Alcatrazz once they are back on stage.

I have heard five new Alcatrazz tracks from your current recording sessions. They sound fantastic! Tell us about the musical approach to the forthcoming album. Did you set out to make it more powerful and harder or is that just the way things are shaping up? “We did want it to be harder and more focused, but ultimately that is just the way we all wrote and played on this record. I’ve always been into heavier music with Alcatrazz, so this was really a natural progression from ‘No Parole’.”

Now you are creating new music with input from Doogie White. How has it been working with him on the creative process for the forthcoming album? “Doogie is a great, great singer and a total pro to work with. He’s really into the details of his performance and the music, nothing gets by him. He brought some great songs to the record and great performances.”

You have been deploying your keyboard wizardry in combinations with some terrific guitarists over the years, including Vinnie Vincent, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Bob Kulick, Carlos Cavazo and now Joe Stump. How do you as a keyboardist manage to create, record and perform live with some of these larger than life guitarists? Is there a lot of friction or can you easily find a balance between keyboards and guitars? “There was and is no friction, with these guys. This is heavy guitar driven music. I happen to love great guitar playing and it has always been fun and a challenge sometimes to make keyboard parts work around the guitar, but all the guys you have mentioned are real pros and we always worked together to make it right for the song first and foremost.”

Alcatrazz has performed some covers live in the past, such as some The Animals, Rainbow, MSG and Blackthorne classics. Now with Doogie White fronting the band, can we expect some non-Alcatrazz songs from Doogie’s past to turn up in the setlist? “Yes, a few Rainbow and MSG, but mostly songs from our new record, ‘No Parole’ and a few from ‘Born Innocent’. We are all writing all the time, so it’s possible something new may show up in the set, later on.”

Do you think that recent songs from last year’s “Born Innocent” and the forthcoming album will dominate the setlist or will it still be heavily focused on the 1980s Alcatrazz songs? “We will do a few, but they won’t dominate the setlist. It will be a combination of songs, some from ‘No Parole’ will be in there, but we can only play so many songs, so we will find a balance that works for everyone in the band.”

You’ve been off the road due to the pandemic for a long time now. Are you keen on getting back on the road and up on stage? “Absolutely! I have always loved touring and playing live, it’s much more fun than making records.”

Album review: Social Disorder “Love 2 Be Hated”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish multi-instrumentalist Anders “LA” Rönnblom teams up with Tracii Guns, Rudy Sarzo, Snowy Shaw and other stars in new classic hard rock project Social Disorder.

Swedish musician Anders “LA” Rönnblom has launched a new project called Social Disorder. The multi-instrumentalist plays guitar, bass and piano on the project’s debut album “Love 2 Be Hated” and is the project’s main songwriter. Among the many musicians contributing are guitarists Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) and Jeff Duncan (Armored Saint), bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio), Dave Stone (Rainbow) on keyboards and fellow Swede Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate) on drums. The ten-track album kicks off with “Windy Road”, a slow and solid track that is somewhat of a power ballad with a dramatic side to it. Rönnblom insists that “Love 2 Be Hated” is not a concept album (although most of the lyrics on the album are a journey through the difficult parts of his life), but the opening track has all the hallmarks of the beginning of a concept album. “Dreaming” is a powerful melodic hard rock song. Very catchy, full of energy and with great guitars. The title track “Love 2 Be Hated” is another terrific track and “Raise a Glass” has excellent Jon Lord-like keyboard wizardry (as does many of the songs on the album). “Sail Away” is an epic piece of music and perhaps the peak of the album. It’s slow-paced bluesy hard rock somewhere between Rainbow and Whitesnake. “Down on My Knees” is great blues rock and “Out of Love” is very Whitesnake-y. “The One” is a piano ballad which no doubt will have its raving fans, but I prefer the heavier side of Social Disorder. The album closes with the amusing instrumental track “Wings of Serenity” where we get some instrument worshipping and wankery, but it’s still a very enjoyable track. The two things that stand out for me on this album, in addition to the solid musicianship (which is expected considering the players involved), are the splendid songwriting skills of Anders “LA” Rönnblom and the excellent voice of Thomas Nordin, a Swedish vocalist that I have never previously heard of. Who is he? Where has he been hiding? I want to hear more of him.

Social Disorder’s album “Love 2 Be Hated” will be released on 18th June via AFM Records.

Interview: Doogie White of Alcatrazz | “I am very proud of what we have done”

Doogie White on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

With Alcatrazz being busy working on a new album and the first tour dates getting nearer, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with the band’s new vocalist Doogie White for a chat about stepping into existing bands, the sound of the new Alcatrazz material, what we can expect from the new setlist and memories from past Japan tours. In the current line-up of Alcatrazz, Doogie is joined by Gary Shea (bass), Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), drummer Mark Benquechea and guitarist Joe Stump.

Over the years, you have been drafted in to join established acts such as Rainbow, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Praying Mantis and Tank. Clearly, you have a reputation for being a reliable vocalist that can step in and deliver. What do you think are your biggest strengths as a vocalist and frontman? “That’s not a question I can answer definitively. You would have to ask those who have asked me to join them on the great adventures we shared together. And we ALL had adventures. What I do know is that I learn my lines. I come in best prepared. I leave my ego at home as I am aware it’s not my name on the billboard or the ticket. I am actually quite good at what I do and do it with enthusiasm and respect, for the band, the music and for the fans. When I joined Rainbow my second thought was ‘Okay, you are a fan of the band and as a fan what would you like to see and hear?’ I think I got the balance correct. With Yngwie Malmsteen, I knew what my role was and just delivered the best I could. With Michael Schenker, we were writing partners and band mates. We wrote some great songs together and played some amazing shows and festivals. But as with all these guitar players, they keep things fresh by changing the players and its usually the vocalist who is first to go as it was with Yngwie. With Ritchie Blackmore I had to quit as his management would not talk to me or the band and it was all untenable. I gave him six songs the night of the last show for the next album as he had asked me to do. Of course, it all ended as the lights went down that night but the songs thankfully ended as Cornerstone’s second album ‘Human Stain’ which was glorious. Steen Mogensen did a sterling job for Cornerstone over five albums. Michael and I still talk every so often but his record company wanted a new line-up of MSG after nine years of Temple of Rock and the Michael Schenker Fest. Maybe we will do another Temple of Rock album somewhere down the line. It’s all in the lap of the gods.”

As you have done in the past with a number of famous acts, you have now joined Alcatrazz as its new vocalist. Was it an immediate “Yes, I’d love to take on this challenge!” when you got the question? “I was just finishing writing and recording an album for Frontiers. The project is Long Shadows Dawn and the album is ‘Isle of Wrath’ with Emil Norberg as co-writer, guitarist, producer. It’s super-hot and exciting. Then Alcatrazz contacted me. Musically we hit it off right away. That’s when I knew it was gonna be great. Graham Bonnet is a dear friend of mine and he was the one who asked me to meet him and have a coffee where he told me he hated the music he was playing with Alcatrazz and wanted to go back to the Graham Bonnet Band where he could play music he sometimes liked. I suggested he should do just that. ‘At 73 and being a legend, go out and play what you want to, maybe that will make you happy’. I did not think he would quit the band and I certainly did not think I would be asked to step up to the microphone. Life can be funny sometimes. But he and I have been friends for 20 something years and remain so.”

The five new Alcatrazz tracks I have heard sound terrific. How have you found writing songs with the other members of Alcatrazz in these strange times where band members are spread out geographically? “Well, it’s been years since budgets allowed five players to gather in a room and jam out ideas. I have not done it since the 90s. All I ask from anyone I work with is a killer riff and an under-produced backing track that I can weave my melodies through, then the other guys can work their magic and at some point, it’s ‘abracadabra’ and a song is magically pulled out of the rawk hat.”

The new Alcatrazz music is a bit more hard rock and power metal than some of the earlier lighter Alcatrazz material. Is this a deliberate musical move? “I think so. The early sound is of its time. This new stuff is hopefully of now. Of course, it pulls from the past but also has a bold view of where we want to go. I am very proud of what we have done. It will be hugely interesting to hear what the fans think. I know they will love it.”

Alcatrazz has announced some tour dates later this year and there’s more to come. Are there any past Alcatrazz songs that you will shy away from singing live? “I have not listened to anything yet. I will sing what I am asked to by the band as they know their audience. I will suggest others. For now, I am doing press and promotion, videos and phone ins. I will look at what needs to be done in mid-June and start work finding my voice for the old songs. Interesting times ahead I think.”

Doogie White on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In the Alcatrazz live shows, do you think you will perform any material from your past in addition to old and new Alcatrazz songs? “I have a solo band called White Noise. My rule of thumb is that I only play songs that I wrote or heavily contributed to, as in ‘Ariel’, as an example. But we will probably dig out some tunes to replace the non-Alcatrazz songs that are someone else’s. We are kicking around songs from Rainbow and Schenker. I am all for playing as many new songs as is comfortable. However it goes, it will be a killer show whatever we choose to do.”

Now that Dan McCafferty of Nazareth has more or less retired, you are my favourite Scottish singer. Are there any other hidden gems among your fellow Scottish singers that the world should pay attention to? “I will offer up four. The living: Phil Campbell of The Temperance Movement, I do prefer him solo, and Paul Buchanan of Blue Nile. The dead: John Martyn and Jimmy Dewar.”

You have toured Japan many times since you first came here with Praying Mantis in the early 1990s. What’s your best Japanese tour memory? “When in Japan you will find me wandering before and after the show. Wandering is what I do best. I used to go to The Lexington Queen and Rock Rock, but I don’t know if they are still there. I have nothing but great memories of every time I have had the privilege to be in Japan. Just wandering makes it all great for me. I gave master classes at a few music colleges some years back where I sang with a number of promising Japanese musicians and visited the ESP Guitars factory which was fun. I have eaten amazing food and yet still get surprised by what Japan as a nation can throw up and leave me breathless. Hiroshima, early morning, was hugely haunting for me. Standing under the neon at night when the jetlag is at its worst is a beautiful sight whether in Tokyo or Osaka or somewhere else. I love walking through the train stations with the fans seeing us off on the train and then welcoming us at the other end. Amazing. See you soon Japan with Alcatrazz.”

Album review: Unflesh “Inhumation”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

New album from a blackened melodic death metal trio from New Hampshire.

Unflesh is a blackened melodic death metal trio from New Hampshire, USA. “Inhumation” is the band’s second album and follows their 2018 debut “Savior”. For this new album, band founder Ryan Beevers (guitar and vocals) has recruited new members Orion Hubbard on bass and Jeff Saltzman on drums. What we get here is soul-eating melodic death metal delivered with aggression and darkness. The basements of old New Hampshire houses can be rather damp. That smelly dampness shines through in the music of Unflesh. Good tracks like “Renounce Flesh and Blood”, “Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell”, “The Sepulchral Depths” and “Dehumanized Legion” demonstrate what these three gentlemen of darkness are capable of. Whatever has happened between these three men down in that basement (what happens in a New Hampshire basement stays in that New Hampshire basement), sweet extreme music is the result. Unflesh nicely combines technical and atmospheric parts with runaway freight-train meat-and-potatoes kind of death metal. It is underground music and it is beautiful music in its own smelly, extreme and dark way.

Unflesh’s new album “Inhumation” is out now.

Album review: The Vicious Head Society “Extinction Level Event”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Exquisite prog metal on new The Vicious Head Society album by Irishman Graham Keane.

“Extinction Level Event” is the second album by The Vicious Head Society, a progressive metal project by Irish musician Graham Keane. The Vicious Head Society debuted in 2017 with the album “Abject Tomorrow”. The follow up “Extinction Level Event” is a concept album about the end of the world. Well, cheer up, we’re not dead yet. And until the world ends, we can listen to this magnificent prog metal album. What we get is a modern-sounding progressive metal album with influences from all over the place. On a track like “Judgement” (clocking in at over ten minutes), death metal style growling sits next to some Oriental-inspired instrumental parts. Two of the album’s nine tracks are instrumental. On this new album, Graham (on guitar and keyboards) has the help of some fine musicians, such as Nathan Maxx (lead vocals), Klemen Markelj (drums), Pat Byrne of Irish prog rockers Hedfuzy (bass), Matheus Manente (bass), Nahuel Ramos (keyboards), Andy Ennis of Overoth (growls) and violinist Shelley Weiss. Australian guitarist Chris Brooks guests with some insane guitar work on the track “YP138”, one of the peaks of the album. What makes this an exquisite prog metal album is the combination of skilled musicians, excellent songwriting, a modern production and great musical variety. The album never gets boring. There are twists and turns as well as mood and tempo changes throughout this musical journey to the end of the world. And unlike some other prog metal acts, The Vicious Head Society keeps over-the-top musical wankery out of its music.

The Vicious Head Society’s new album “Extinction Level Event” is out now via Hostile Media.