Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 76: Dregen

Dregen in Tokyo in 2010. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish guitarist and vocalist Dregen first made a name for himself with Backyard Babies. Then he co-founded The Hellacopters and later joined Michael Monroe’s band. He has also been recording and touring as a solo artist and has collaborated with many other artists. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Dregen to find out about the five albums that shaped this bad to the bone rock star.

KISS “Alive!” (1975)

“There could potentially be more KISS records among this top 5 list, but if I had to choose just one, I’d pick ‘Alive!’ It totally blew me away. I dug the three first albums, but here are the same great songs with a turbo engine as well. I also love the sound and production of ‘Alive!’. It’s sonic and unpolished.”

Sex Pistols “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” (1977)

“I got this album from my mom as a ‘bribe’ for helping her with cleaning the house. It blew me away. It still does today. The songs and the timeless production. It still, over 40 years later, sounds so good and not dated. The extra bonus was that you have to wear sunglasses just by looking at the cover.”

The Ramones “It’s Alive” (1979)

“I’m such a sucker for great live albums. And great bands.”

Demolition 23 “Demolition 23” (1994)

“Such an underrated album by Michael Monroe and Sami Yaffa from Hanoi Rocks. Nasty Suicide was in the band too, but not on the record. Great songwriting and simple, but genius production by Little Steven. Demolition 23 was Backyard Babies’ first real support tour so this album brings up a lot of great memories.”

Bob Dylan “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” (1963)

“Can still not understand how Mr. Zimmerman, at the age of 21, could pull off and write such a song and lyrics as ‘Masters of War’. The album also includes evergreens like ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘Girl from the North Country’ and ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’. I’ll leave it right there.”

Album review: Alcatrazz “V”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Alcatrazz, now with the terrific Doogie White on vocals, delivers a smashing fifth studio album.

“V” is Alcatrazz’s fifth studio album since the band was founded in 1983. Between every album, Alcatrazz has evolved. It has always moved on musically and has had at least one significant member change with every new album. And every time they have continued to deliver. The new album is no exception to that tradition. Alcatrazz co-founders Gary Shea (bass) and Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) have played on all albums, but throughout the band’s history there have been several significant line-up changes. After the first album, “No Parole from Rock’n’Roll”, lead guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen was replaced by Steve Vai, who played on album number two, “Disturbing the Peace”. When it was time for the third album, “Dangerous Games”, Vai had been replaced by Danny Johnson. On album number four, “Born Innocent”, Joe Stump was the lead guitarist. He replaced Conrado Pesinato who was the lead guitarist for the live release “Parole Denied – Tokyo 2017”. Now, for the first time in Alcatrazz history, Alcatrazz is releasing a new album without changing its lead guitarist. Joe Stump is still in the band. This time, it is original vocalist Graham Bonnet that is absent and has been replaced by Doogie White. Doogie was a surprise addition to the band for me, but – oh my! – he is the perfect choice for Alcatrazz. The Scotsman can sing like it’s nobody’s business. He is a seasoned rock vocalist that has fronted Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock, Praying Mantis, Tank and much more. Not many people could take on the gig of being the new frontman in Alcatrazz. Doogie can and he does. Musically, on this new album, Alcatrazz has taken a step in a harder and heavier direction. It sounds fantastic. Joe Stump is a brilliant metal guitarist of the neoclassical kind (with Joe in the band no one is missing Yngwie). Plenty of guitar wankery, yes, but never over-the-top, never too much, never overshadowing the songs. Joe’s guitar wizardry enhances the songs. Drummer Mark Benquechea, who joined Alcatrazz in 2017 in time for the Japan reunion shows, is a powerhouse that functions well with Shea, Waldo, Stump and White. The new album also features guest appearances from Saxon’s drummer Nigel Glockler, Tank’s bassist Cliff Evans and Riot’s bassist Donnie Van Stavern. The album is rock solid but standout tracks for me include “Return to Nevermore”, “Midnight Won’t Last Forever”, “House of Lies” and “Grace of God”. Most of the songs are hard and heavy, but Alcatrazz has retained its catchiness. A great melody has always been a key ingredient for Alcatrazz. I really dig this fresh new take on Alcatrazz. It’s not tired, it’s relevant, it’s here and now while still paying respect to the band’s history. Bringing in Doogie was a very smart move. Welcome back, Alcatrazz!

Alcatrazz’s new album “V” will be released on 15th October via Silver Lining Music. Alcatrazz will tour the UK in November and December together with Girlschool.

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 75: Ian Haugland

Ian Haugland of Europe backstage at Club Citta, Kawasaki, Japan in 2019.
Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Before he made it big with Europe, drummer Ian Haugland auditioned and was offered a place in Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force (he turned it down) and played with Candlemass’ Leif Edling in the band Trilogy. In 1984, when he was about to turn 20, he joined Europe and today he is still the anchor of the band’s rhythm section. In the 1990s, he played drums with Glenn Hughes (including on the “Burning Japan Live” album). When he is not recording or touring with Europe, Ian hosts his own rock radio show for the Rockklassiker radio station in Sweden. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Ian to find out what five albums made him rock the night.

Deep Purple “Deep Purple in Rock” (1970)

“I remember the first time I heard ‘Speed King’. It was like being hit by a freight train! In my opinion, this is the first true hard rock album. The whole band is on fire and the songs are all killers no fillers.”

UFO “Phenomenon” (1974)

“This album and drummer Andy Parker’s playing was my first guiding star to become a drummer. ‘Doctor Doctor’ from this album was the very first song that i tried to play along to when I started playing drums. There was no easy way without computers or YouTube at hand. All you could do was just listen to the song in your headphones, and concentrate real hard to try and figure out what the drummer was doing, and then try to do the same!”

Rainbow “Rising” (1976)

“This album featuring the legendary drummer Cozy Powell made me realise that I wanted to be a rock drummer too. Cozy’s thunderous drumming on ‘Tarot Woman’, ‘Stargazer’ and ‘A Light in the Black’, paved the way for my future rock’n’roll dream!”

Emerson, Lake & Palmer “Brain Salad Surgery” (1973)

“This is one of the first albums that I bought just by looking at the album cover painted by the great late Swiss artist H.R. Giger. Totally futuristic and one of a kind, just like the music that sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1973!”

Rush “2112” (1976)

“It was my brother’s girlfriend at the time that had this album in her record collection. I remember being totally hooked from the first seconds of ‘Overture’. I just couldn’t understand how amazingly great players they were and how many great songs they had on one album. Since that moment I’ve been a diehard Rush fan, and still am today!”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 74: Derrick Green

Derrick Green of Sepultura in Tokyo in 2018. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

American vocalist Derrick Green has been fronting Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura since he successfully auditioned to join the band in 1997. Prior to joining Sepultura, Derrick sang in the American bands Outface and Alpha Jerk. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Derrick to find out about the five albums that changed his life.

Rush “Moving Pictures” (1981)

“One of the first albums that I ever purchased was an album by the band Rush, ‘Moving Pictures’. This album changed my life in many ways. It started me on the road to buying vinyl as much as possible. It opened the door to my curiosity of music an art. I love the album artwork because it looks so mysterious and I had no idea if the artwork was related to the music which I found out it was in my mind. I knew then that the songs on the album would stand the test of time and still ring true today.”

Descendents “Milo Goes to College” (1982)

“The same day that I purchased Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’ album, I purchased the next album that changed my life which was from a band called Descendents and the album was ‘Milo Goes to College’. I was mystified by the simplicity of the album cover and I felt there was a story behind the title of the album. The lead singer had gone off to pursue the profession of a scientist. I thought this was so cool and punk rock to leave the band at such a great point in their career. This was a strong introduction into the world of punk and hardcore music. Fast pace, great melodies, clever lyrics, everything that I could relate to that was going on in my life at that time. Rebelling and questioning everything, I was ecstatic to know that there were other people that felt the same way that I did.”

“Walt Disney Presents Peter and the Wolf” (1958)

“This album was a game changer for me and my love of classical music began at a very young age because of this album by Sergei Prokofieff. It started a realization in my mind that music could create such a magnificent story. This album helped in brightening my imagination. Each instrument became a character in the story. This was absolutely mind blowing to me.”

The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967)

“I still remember where I was and who I was with when I first heard this album. It was at my neighbour’s house in our new neighbourhood and it was with my first white friend. I’ve never heard anything like this before. Every song was so memorable and easy to sing along to. I thought they had the perfect formula for writing songs but each song had its own character. Still when I listen to it today it brings back a flood of memories of my childhood and the innocence of being a child.”

U2 “War” (1983)

“It was refreshing to hear this album for the first time. I knew that the times were rapidly changing and U2 had their finger on the pulse of what was really going on in the world. I love the fact that they were from a place I’ve never been to, I knew nothing about, but I could still understand the message that they were communicating with their music. I wanted to collect everything they had ever done and anything they were going to produce in the future. I became an instant fan. I still have not seen them live. I don’t want to ruin the image I’ve held in my mind for so many years.”

Album review: Carchosa “Realms”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Henrik Nygren serves us another delicious melodic death metal Carchosa pizza from Malmö.

Henrik Nygren’s one-man death metal project Carchosa has unleashed a fierce new album on the world. Something about “Realms” is very appealing to me. It’s world-class underground death metal baked into one crisp folded pizza. It has an edge to it that makes it different from many other acts in the melodic death metal scene. It’s a pizza of death, a melodic death metal pizza from Malmö, Sweden. “Realms” is the follow-up to Carchosa’s self-titled debut album that was released in 2018. I loved the debut album and the eight tracks on the follow-up are also to my liking. Henrik is behind the music and lyrics as well as the guitars and vocals. Carchosa is sinister, persistent, relentless, tormenting and in-your-face melodic death metal. Henrik has found his Carchosa signature sound and sticks to it. I love it. New York-based singer Emi Pellegrino’s clean vocals on the splendid track “Dawn of Storms” are a sharp contrast to Henrik’s harsh vocals. The combination works very well. It is an obvious highlight on the album. Other guest appearances on the album are guitar solos Andy Gillion, Teemu Mäntysaari (Wintersun), Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry) and another highlight, the guitar solo on “Hexes Arcana” by Scott Carstairs (Fallujah). I hope Henrik can take this project and turn it into a touring band. The music is too good to not be performed live.

Carchosa’s new album “Realms” is out now.

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 73: Ross The Boss

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

New Yorker and guitarist Ross Friedman, aka Ross The Boss, first made a name for himself with punk rockers The Dictators. In 1980, he co-founded heavy metal band Manowar. Ross has also played with Shakin’ Street, Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, Brain Surgeons, Death Dealer and many more. He continues to create and perform new music with the Ross The Boss Band. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Ross The Boss to find out about the five albums that made him a king of metal.

BB King “Live at the Regal” (1965)

“When I first started playing, I was a blues freak. I still am. I think that’s one of the most exciting blues records ever made!”

The Who “Live at Leeds” (1970)

“I really love live records. I think The Who are one of my favourite bands of all time That record captured them at their peak. Some people would argue with me but that era of The Who was just absolutely magnificent. Untouchable!”

The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967)

“I bought it the day it came out. It totally changed music forever.”

Black Sabbath “Master of Reality” (1971)

“I think ‘Master of Reality’ has Tony Iommi’s best riffs. I’m a huge fan of Black Sabbath and all of their records but ‘Master of Reality’ is my favourite.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced” (1967)

“Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Are You Experienced’ totally took the electric guitar to new heights. The beginning of a new era!”

“To be honest with you, my favourite albums keep changing but today as I write this those are my favourites. Of course, Cream has to be in there but alas!”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 72: Lars Chriss

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Guitarist Lars Chriss co-founded Swedish heavy metal band Lion’s Share in 1987. The band released its self-titled debut album in 1995 and has to date released six full-length albums. Lion’s Share is currently working on a new album and a few singles from it have already been released. In addition to Lion’s Shares, Lars is also active as a sound engineer and music producer for international artists. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Lars to learn about the five albums that rocked his world.

KISS “Alive!” (1975)

“A friend had a cassette with KISS ‘Alive!’ on one side and ‘Destroyer’ on the other side. I was totally blown away and had never heard anything like this before. After this I was totally into KISS and they’ve had a huge impact on my life ever since. At school we made costumes, built our own guitars, put on the make-up and did a big show for all the kids – playback of course. I have met everyone except Eric Carr and Mark St. John. Bruce Kulick did a guest solo on the song ‘The Edge of the Razor’ from the Lion’s Share album ‘Emotional Coma’. I was actually supposed to open up for KISS on their farewell tour last year in Gothenburg, Sweden with the band Johan Kihlberg’s Impera. We’ll see if they manage to come back and if we still will be the opening act.”

Black Sabbath “Mob Rules” (1981)

“This is my favourite album of all time. No one has had such a huge influence on my guitar riffing and songwriting style like Tony Iommi and Ronnie James Dio. In November and December of 1999, Lion’s Share did a tour opening up for DIO, Motörhead and Manowar. I was in heaven being able to hang out with my teenage idols every day – and of course especially with Ronnie. Lion’s Share also backed up Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, DIO) at a drum clinic he did in Stockholm, Sweden in 2010. I think we did ‘The Mob Rules’, ‘We Rock’, ‘Stand Up and Shout’ and ‘Heaven and Hell’ with him, which was really cool. I remember him calling us Black Sabbath Junior, which was a huge compliment of course.”

ABBA “Arrival” (1976)

“People always ask about the Swedish music wonder and if it’s something in the water up here. I think we all have ABBA to thank for a lot of the great musicians, producers and songwriters to come out of Sweden. Benny Andersson is a genius when it comes to writing very complex music that still sounds simple and catchy. His music is timeless and I’m sure people will listen to his songs long after he’s gone. My generation grew up with the ABBA influence all over the radio and TV here in Sweden, and I think that’s what the Swedish music wonder comes from. Every kid was also able to pick an instrument and play as one of the things to learn in school back then. I played guitar with a teacher in school weekly from when I was about ten years old up until I was 16. However, I am not sure if it’s still like that in Swedish schools…”

Judas Priest “British Steel” (1980)

“The band that together with Tony Iommi has had the biggest influence on my songwriting in Lion’s Share. We were honoured to contribute to the official ‘A Tribute to Judas Priest – Legends of Metal’ album with ‘A Touch of Evil’ – together with Saxon, Testament, Helloween, Mercyful Fate, Devin Townsend and others. The liner notes were written by Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, which was very cool. As teenagers both Nils Patrik Johansson and I were huge fans of The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) style, and I think I still have a lot of those influences when I write riffs and songs.”

Lion’s Share “Lion’s Share” (1995)

“Not even close to being my favourite Lion’s Share album, but since this is about records that changed my life, it must be in here since it was my first album release ever. We first got signed in Japan to Zero Corp, which at the time had Judas Priest and Michael Schenker on the label. I think Symphony X, who also were signed there, put out their debut around the same time we did. It was mind-boggling to imagine people on the other side of the globe buying and listening to the songs I wrote in my bedroom. From what I understand, it sold pretty well both in Japan and Sweden and opened a lot of doors which later got us signed to Century Media and got us on our first tours with Saxon, etc. ‘Sins of a Father’ from that album has been a huge fan favourite through the years, and we also released a new recording of it recently with our current singer Nils Patrik Johansson and a more updated sound.”

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 71: Mia Wallace

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Mia Wallace is the bassist for thrash metal band Nervosa and black metal band Abbath. The Italian musician is also playing with Niryth and Kirlian Camera. Previously, she has performed with acts such as The True Endless, Skoll and Triumph of Death. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Mia to hear about the five albums that created perpetual chaos for her and helped shape her as an artist.

Sepultura “Roots” (1996)

“The energy I felt listening to “roots, bloody roots” was unbelievable. Headbanging came basically automatically and for the first time!”

Billy Idol “Rebel Yell” (1983)

“I listened to this song and I realised how important the bass is in a song. How much the bassist is NOT noticed and of course, I had a super crush on Billy and his charisma.”

Doro Pesch “Love Me in Black” (1998)

“That’s when I realised how much power is inside of a woman. God save the Queen!”

Motörhead “Ace of Spades” (1980)

“Wait a moment! That’s how a bassist is noticed! Being cool as hell! I discovered that Lemmy was, and still is, the essence of rock‘n’roll, and I discovered that he is god.”

Immortal “Battles in the North” (1995)

“Oh, my goodness! Who is this guy with war paint??? I discovered the cold mountains of Norwegian black metal. Now I am becoming part of this history almost 25 years later, with the living legend Abbath.”

Album review: KK’s Priest “Sermons of the Sinner”

KK’s Priest. Photo: George Chin

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Ex-Judas Priest men KK Downing and Tim “Ripper” Owens carry on the Priest legacy with KK’s Priest.

Guitarist KK Downing was for four decades an integral part of creating and evolving the trademark Judas Priest sound. Vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens did the impossible and replaced Rob Halford as Priest’s frontman and pulled it off. Now the two former Judas Priest members have reunited in the band KK’s Priest. Yes, as the name suggests, the two men have not moved on. KK’s Priest is musically very much living in Judas Priest country. Why not? They are carrying on the Priest legacy just like the current line-up of Judas Priest is carrying it on. The album “Sermons of the Sinner” contains excellent Priest music, just the way we like it. If you dig Judas Priest and don’t get all cranky and caught up in the “but KK left the band and should move on”, you’ll enjoy this. The record is filled with songs written and performed in the classic Judas Priest style. The whole album is one giant celebration of the classic Priest sound. Song titles such as “Hail for the Priest”, “Brothers of the Road”, “Raise Your Fists”, “Metal Through and Through” and “The Return of the Sentinel” tell us what this is all about. It makes sense for KK to carry on with the sound he helped to create. And as long as he does it this well, please continue, Sir. Both KK and Ripper still got it. Their performances are world class. They are joined in the band by the very capable AJ Mills on guitar, Tony Newton on bass and Sean Elg on drums. Former Judas Priest drummer Les Binks featured in an early line-up of KK’s Priest but he is no longer involved and does not play on the album. Killer tracks on the album include “Hellfire Thunderbolt” which is a terrific revisit to the sound of 1990’s “Painkiller”. The tile track is also a kickass track that stands out. It’s a good fun album and I think this is just the beginning. KK’s Priest is likely to stay around with tours and more albums already being planned. Great for us fans. That means we can enjoy both Judas Priest and KK’s Priest. Power to them both.

KK’s Priest’s debut album “Sermons of the Sinner” is out now via Explorer1 Music Group.

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 70: Ronnie Bergerståhl

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Ronnie Bergerståhl was the drummer for Swedish death metal band Grave for more than a decade. He currently plays with Demonical, Goathead and Nattas and has also played with many other acts such as Centinex, Entombed A.D., Julie Laughs Nomore and World Below. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Ronnie to find out what five albums made him become a servant of the unlight.

Helloween “Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II” (1988)

“This is my absolute favourite album ever. When I first heard Helloween back in 1988, it was actually their debut album, ‘Walls of Jericho’. The lightning-fast double bass drums did for sure strike the metal nerve in me. I had some problems with the vocals though. I didn’t like Kai Hansen’s voice that much, but the music was ace! Then when I heard ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I’, they had a new singer: Michael Kiske. That was it for me. Then came ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II’ and with the opening song, ‘Eagle Fly Free’, I was floored. There isn’t one bad or dull moment on the album. The vibe is extremely positive and the musicianship is stellar. From the drumming by my favourite drummer, the late Ingo Schwichtenberg, who tragically committed suicide in 1995, to Kiske’s vocals. 100% joy.”

Iron Maiden “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (1988)

“What can you say? It’s absolutely amazing. The vibe of the album is in my opinion very harsh and dark. This is not a ‘happy’ album whatsoever. From the opening kinda intro on ‘Moonchild’ to the last note of ‘Only the Good Die Young’, it’s a brilliant album. Dickinson’s voice peaked on the album in my opinion and the twin guitars by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith… Jesus Christ! Amazing! The rhythm section with Nicko McBrain on the drums and Steve Harris on bass really shines here. Without a doubt, this is Iron Maiden’s best album to date.”

King Diamond “Them” (1988)

”A Danish occult singer who had sung with Mercyful Fate. When that band called it quits, Kim Bendix Pedersen formed a new band named after his alter ego/stage name, King Diamond, with one of the guitar players from Mercyful Fate, Michael Denner, Swedish guitarist Andy LaRocque, former Mercyful Fate bass player Timi Hansen and Swedish drummer Mikkey Dee. They released their debut album ‘Fatal Portrait’ in 1986, which is a stunning album. Then they did the album that most fans believe is their best one, ‘Abigail’, in 1987. I never got the hype of ‘Abigail’, although it is an amazing album. In 1988, they released my favourite album, ‘Them’. It all starts with an intro which scared the crap out of me when I heard it the first time. Then the classic and famous drum intro roll from Mikkey. That set the standard for the album. Amazing. ‘Them’ is a concept album. Very dark story which I won’t go into any further. I urge you all to check it out. Listen to it with head phones in darkened room for the ultimate feel.”

Death “Human” (1991)

“My favourite death metal album of all time. What makes it so good is the drummer, Sean Reinert. Sean passed away a few years ago, but his legacy will for sure live on through his performance on ‘Human’. The musicianship on ‘Human’ was something that no one had heard before when it came out in 1991. The speed of the double bass drums was and is eve to this day, ridiculously fast. The songs are so complex, but the four of them managed to get it done with perfection. Sean on drums, bass player Steve Di Giorgio, guitarist Paul Masvidal and guitarist, vocalist and the guy who started the band, Chuck Schuldiner. Chuck died from a brain tumour in 2001. This is extreme metal, without being too over the top. The lyrics are actually very clever. No Satanism or blood and gore. It’s smart, extreme music, almost a bit jazzy. The bass player plays a fretless bass with his fingers. An amazing album from an amazing band.”

Guns N’ Roses “Appetite for Destruction” (1987)

“A masterpiece when it comes to hard rock. GNR was my first ‘love’ when it came to hard rock and metal. However, what got me interested from the start was the album cover. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. It still is. Unfortunately, with all the censorship and stuff like that, they changed the cover art. Anyway, as a drummer myself, I really liked Steven Adler’s drumming on the album. It’s so far away from being ‘perfect’ but it’s perfect for the songs on the album. He has an outstanding groove, which suits the songs like a glove. The tempos within the songs are like riding a rollercoaster, but it just feels right. The musicianship overall is amazing. From Adler to the unique bass sound of Duff McKagan, to the toxic twins Izzy Stradlin and Slash on guitars. Then top that with Axl’s voice. It doesn’t get much better and more rock’n’roll than this album.”