Festival report: Loud Park 16

Rudy Schenker on stage at Loud Park with Scorpions. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Rudy Schenker on stage at Loud Park with Scorpions. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Roppongi Rocks summarises this year’s Loud Park festival which took place at Saitama Super Arena outside of Tokyo on 8th and 9th October 2016.

Loud Park is a heavy metal and hard rock festival that has room for everything from classic rock to extreme metal. This year’s line-up looked good but struggled to live up to last year’s phenomenal line-up. There were, however, enough great bands on the bill to yet again attract a big crowd of Japanese metalheads of all kinds.

Here’s a summary of what Roppongi Rocks experienced at this year’s festival in no particular order:

Mikkey Dee on stage at Loud Park with Scorpions. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Mikkey Dee on stage at Loud Park with Scorpions. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Scorpions may be out on their 50th anniversary tour, but with Mikkey Dee (ex-Motörhead, Dokken, King Diamond) as its new drummer, Scorpions has picked up energy.

Klaus Meine on stage at Loud Park with Scorpions. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Klaus Meine on stage at Loud Park with Scorpions. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

They sound great and give a performance worthy of their headline billing. Rudy Schenker and Klaus Meine are normally the two members in the limelight, but this evening guitarist Matthias Jabs is a monster on guitar and steals some attention and so does Mikkey Dee. He is a major injection of energy. Scorpions never had a better drummer. He adds heaviness even on the ballads. This evening they give us some classics as well as some newer songs. They cover Motörhead’s “Overkill” as a Lemmy tribute. They finish a great set with an encore consisting of “Still Loving you”, “We’ll Burn the Sky” (with former Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth – who also did his own gig at the festival – as a guest) and “Rock You Like a Hurricane”. With Dee behind the drums, Scorpions still got a few years in them.

David Coverdale of Whitesnake on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

David Coverdale of Whitesnake on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Headlining the second night and closing the whole festival, Whitesnake kicks off strongly with “Bad Boys”, “Slide It In” and “Love is no Stranger”. It’s been less than a year since David Coverdale and his band last successfully toured Japan and the Japanese still turn up to the gigs and buy the t-shirts. We get a solid greatest hits set of favourites from the 70s and 80s. The current line-up of Whitesnake has some fantastic musicians in it, but I am not sure about all the solo performances that are included in the set. At a festival gig with a slightly shorter set list, it would make much more sense to give the audience a few more classic songs instead. But as they finish with the Deep Purple classic “Burn” and make everyone happy all is forgiven.

Nightwish finishes their massive world tour (149 shows across 36 countries) in support of their latest album “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” at Loud Park and will now take a break until 2018. Having already toured Japan earlier this year, this evening Nightwish has many fans who want to be part of the world tour finale. As always, they deliver a phenomenal set. Floor Jansen, who has settled in nicely as the band’s vocalist, is beaming up on stage. She so clearly enjoys performing for her fans. The rest of the band, led by Tuomas Holopainen, is also on top form. The set list is near perfection: “Shudder Before the Beautiful”, “Yours is an Empty Hope”, “Storytime”, “Elan”, “7 Days to the Wolves”, ‘Wishmaster”, “I Want My Tears Back”, “Nemo”, “Last Ride of the Day” and “The Greatest Show on Earth”. One can’t ask for much more than that.

Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral backstage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral backstage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dark Funeral, the Swedish black metal veterans, led by Lord Ahriman, are in fine form as they kick off their Asian and European tour at Loud Park. They open with “Unchain My Soul” and follow it with the old classic “666 Voices Inside”. New frontman Heljarmadr is a perfect fit for the band. He’s the real deal and takes the band to a new level. Their latest album, “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, is phenomenal and they match the quality for the album with their live performance. Visually, nothing has happened in Dark Funeral’s world since they formed in 1993: we get black and white corpsepaint, spikes and black leather. The band looks as haunting and sinister as their music.

Dokken on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dokken on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The classic Dokken line-up (Don Dokken, Mick Brown, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson) may have reunited for money, but, boy, do they deliver! They sound great and have clearly made a real effort for this Japan tour. Sure, they’re older and Don’s voice is not what it used to be, but this reunion of the old Dokken sounds much better than expected. Musically they pull it off in style. We get a great set with all the classics, from “Kiss of Death” via “Into the Fire” to “Tooth and Nail”.

The current Todd LaTorre-fronted version of Queensrÿche sounds fantastic as they open their set with “Guardian”. We get old favourites like “Operation: Mindcrime”, “Best I Can”, “Empire” and “Queen of the Reich”. LaTorre is a powerful singer who fits the old and new material like a glove and he is a great frontman. Bassist Eddie Jackson is missing from this gig, unclear why, but the band still delivers.

American 80s heavy metal band Armored Saint features not one, but two former Anthrax members – vocalist John Bush and bassist Joey Vera. Armored Saint was always good and promising but they never quite made it to the top. Still touring with their original line-up (minus guitarist David Prichard who passed away in 1990), the band is better than ever and they deliver a great gig, almost faultless. John Bush is on fire, running around on stage as if he were a member of Iron Maiden. Great stuff.

Zetro of Exodus backstage at Loud Park in Japan, Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Zetro of Exodus backstage at Loud Park in Japan, Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

What can I say? Since frontman Zetro returned two years ago, Exodus is smoking hot. They have never been better. With Gary Holt away on Slayer duty in America, stand-in guitarist Kragen Lum from Heathen fills his place in style. The band is tight and great. We get classics such as “The Toxic Waltz” and “Bonded by Blood” but also newer songs like “Blood In Blood Out” and “Body Harvest”. The biggest surprise in an excellent set was that the band opens the set with “The Ballad of Leonard and Charles”.

Swedish doom metal masters Candlemass finally makes it to Japan and gives us a great set. Vocalist Mats Levén (Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion, Treat, Krux, Abstrakt Algebra, Swedish Erotica) is a great fit for the band and he is also a great frontman on stage. With the exception of “Emperor of the Void”, we get a short festival set made up of early classics such as “Mirror, Mirror”, “Crystal Ball” and “Solitude”. Candlemass founder Leif Edling (who has been sidelined from the band due to illness) makes an appearance on a few songs, for the first time in over two years to the delight of the band’s fans.

Nikki Sixx on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Nikki Sixx on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

With Nikki Sixx no longer in Mötley Crüe and DJ Ashba no longer in Guns N’ Roses, Sixx:A.M. is finally getting the attention it deserves (“We’re a real band now!” says DJ Ashba to me backstage after the gig). They are much heavier and rockier live than in the studio. There are of course some echoes of Mötley Crüe, not least visually. But this is a bit different and in many ways better. James Michael is a first-class frontman who can also sing (not always the case for some characteristic frontmen). DJ Ashba steals the show with great guitar work. This guy has really become a very skilled guitarist.

DJ Ashba and Nikki Sixx of Sixx:A.M. on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

DJ Ashba and Nikki Sixx of Sixx:A.M. on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The Dead Daisies gives us good fun party rock at their first ever gig in Japan. With three ex-Whitesnake members in the band (Doug Aldrich, Marco Mendoza, Brian Tichy) and with Whitesnake as the evening’s headliner, The Dead Daises get a massive crowd to turn up despite a very early time slot. Former Mötley Crüe vocalist John Corabi does a great job as frontman and chief entertainer.

Italian Lacuna Coil is currently on tour in support of their latest album “Delirium” and they are in fine form. Vocalist Cristina Scabbia sounds better than ever. The highlight of the gig is when they perform “Blood, Tears, Dust” live for the first time ever.

Finnish metal band Amorphis has played in Japan numerous times, including several appearances at Loud Park. Being back in Japan for a second time this year, they give us another great performance which they open with the title track from their latest album, “Under the Red Cloud”. We get a set focused on newer material with the exception of “On Rich and Poor” and “Black Winter Day”.

Riot onstage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Riot on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Cult heavy metal band Riot, formed in New York City in 1975, has seen many changes over the years. The current version of the band, with no original members in it, brought along guitarist Rick Ventura to Japan as a guest for this gig. Ventura originally played guitar in Riot between 1978 and 1984. With new versions of old bands, it is difficult to know what to expect, but this version of Riot sure delivers at Loud Park with a set list dominated by early 80s classics before they finish with “Warrior” from the band’s 1977 debut album, “Rock City”. They’re on fire and the Japanese crowd loves it.

Riot on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Riot on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

What else? Finnish Children of Bodom gives us a solid performance as always. They have never disappointed their Japanese fans during their many Japan tours. Last year’s gig at Loud Park was such a success they were asked back for a second year in a row. I only caught a glimpse of Shinedown who seemed to do a good gig and the same goes for Danger Danger. While Ritchie Blackmore was not playing at the festival, two members of the latest incarnation of Rainbow did: vocalist Ronnie Romero performed with Lords of Black and keyboardist Jens Johansson was there with Cain’s Offering. Former Yngwie Malmsteen and Talisman vocalist Jeff Scott Soto turned up at the festival to perform with Japanese Kuni. Myrath did a great gig of Middle Eastern-flavoured rock – they’re much heavier live than on record. This is a band to keep an eye on. Norwegian extreme metal band Enslaved, who this year celebrates 25 years of mayhem, did well but it could’ve been fantastic if they had played in a tad bit more darkness. Music from a place where the sun doesn’t shine much is best framed in darkness. Dizzy Mizz Lizzy from Denmark was back for a second straight year at Loud Park and a third Japan visit in a year. The band clearly has got some traction in Japan.loud-park-poster

Did I miss any gigs I should have seen at the festival? Perhaps Killswitch Engage (I only caught a glimpse of one song which was very good), Blind Guardian, Terrorizer, Masterplan, Symphony X, Sons of Texas and Savage Messiah. As always with major festivals, one has to make some hard choices between clashing set times, artist interviews and other happenings. Loudness did not perform this year, but vocalist Minoru Niihara, just back from the Monsters of Rock Cruise West, turned up at Loud Park for an interview and signing session to the delight of many festival goers. Loudness is always at the heart of the Japanese metal scene.

While the line-up at this year’s festival was not as great as last year, overall Loud Park 16 was another great weekend of exhausting heavy metal fun. The Japanese metal community is a friendly one which loyally turns up at this annual hard rock celebration regardless of the actual artist line-up.

Album review: Open Surgery “Post Mortem Mutilation”

open-surgery-band-picBy Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Open Surgery gives us Florida-inspired old-school Swedish death metal on its second stench-filled album. 

Death metal band Open Surgery, founded in a small countryside town in Sweden in 2012, released its first full-length studio album, “Experiments of Excessive Torture”, in 2013. The band is now back with its second full-length album, “Post Mortem Mutilation”.

This is beautiful, damp chaos in musical form. It is basement music full of stench and ill winds. Open Surgery plays gloriously old-school, underground death metal. This album takes me back to the early 1990s and how the death metal scene used to be before it achieved some mainstream popularity and some bands suddenly got proper record deals with big international companies. Some of the scene’s DIY feeling disappeared there and then. But Open Surgery brings back some of the old feeling with this great release.

open-surgery-picThis is not music for the fainthearted or people who like their music clean and clear. But if you are into not-so-melodic, old school underground Swedish death metal, you are likely to dig this. There is nothing fancy about this and that is why this is good. It’s not trendy, it’s not overly complicated, there is no hidden agenda or people pretending to be cool. It’s just very good death metal by a bunch of Swedes who know their death metal history.

The band’s music lives within the borders of the old-school death metal world. But within those borders, there is quite a bit of variation on this album, especially when it comes to tempo changes and some fine guitar work. The band says that they are influenced by the old Florida death metal like Morbid Angel, Deicide and Obituary and that can certainly be heard on this album.open-surgery-album-cover

While Open Surgery is a relatively new band, its members have been active within the scene for years and have played with bands such as Intestinal, Suicidal Seduction and Aktiv Dödshjälp.

In December you can catch Open Surgery live at the Black Christmass festival in Sweden where they will support bands such as Bloodbath, Marduk, Unleashed, The Haunted, 1349, Firespawn, and many more.

Open Surgery’s album, “Post Mortem Mutilation” is out now on BVR Records.


Open Surgery – band members

Daniel Persson – vocals and guitar

Terje Nevestveit – guitar

Erik Johansson – bass

Apollo Andersson – drums




Album review: New England “Live at the Regent Theatre”

new-england-live-at-the-regent-coverBy Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

New England gives us classic American rock on their new live album.

In the late 70s and early 80s there were some great classic rock bands in the US. New England was one of the best bands. They released some great albums and toured as opening act for bands such as KISS, AC/DC, Rush, Thin Lizzy and Journey. They were very promising and had a minor hit with “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya”, but unfortunately never made it big.

When John Fannon left the band, the other three members of New England (Hirsh Gardner on drums and backing vocals, Jimmy Waldo on keyboards and backing vocals and Gary Shea on bass) went on to play much harder, rawer rock in the band Warrior with Vinnie Vincent as its new singer and guitarist. When Vincent joined KISS, Shea and Waldo went on to form Alcatrazz where they played with Graham Bonnet, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. Waldo later ended up in Quiet Riot and Blackthorne and is currently in Graham Bonnet Band.

The original line-up of New England reunited a few years ago and nowadays play occasional gigs in North America. In November they will perform in Japan for the first time. This new live album showcases the band at its best. It’s a scaled back production, leaving the band and its songs bare. When the quality of the music is this good, you don’t need any smoke and mirrors.


Back in the day, the songwriting of this band was above and beyond most of the competition. They still write new material and it is equally good. “Live at the Regent Theatre”, was recorded at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts in August 2014. The melodies, the vocals, the musicianship, New England has it all. For lovers of AOR and classic rock, this is it. It’s grown-up rock in a fine American tradition. But New England can also rock it out, as they do on this album on “Holdin’ Out on Me”, which basically is an AC/DC-style rocker.

There is plenty of good stuff on this live album. One of my favourites is the version here of the hit single “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” which is simply splendid.

New England’s album “Live at the Regent Theatre” will be released on 15th November on King Records in Japan and GB Music/Sony Megaforce in the US and Europe.

New England will perform at Club Citta in Kawasaki, Japan on 18th and 20th November. Get your tickets here: http://clubcitta.co.jp/001/newengland-2016/

Read Roppongi Rocks’ recent interview with Gary Shea of New England here.

Album review: Graham Bonnet Band “The Book”

Graham Bonnet on stage with Michael Schenker Fest in Tokyo 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Graham Bonnet on stage in Tokyo in August 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

One of the most distinguished voices in rock, Graham Bonnet, is back with the debut album of Graham Bonnet Band. It’s tasty, terrific and bleeding fantastic!

Former Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz and Blackthorne vocalist Graham Bonnet is back with a fantastic first album with his current band – Graham Bonnet Band.

Already back in June 2015, when an early version of Graham Bonnet Band toured Japan as opening act for Bonnet’s former paymaster Michael Schenker, they were fantastic. Since that tour, the band has added two new members and taken this a few levels up the stairway to quality rock heaven.

The album, “The Book”, kicks off with “Into the Night”. This is a great introduction to the band where all members get to shine. “Welcome to My Home” continuous in the same way and so does pretty much this whole album. “Dead Man Walking” is a smoking rocker where not only Bonnet is on fire, but all the band’s musicians get to show what they’re capable of. Fabulous stuff. Actually, most of this album is a terrific showpiece for this band. “Strangest Day” and the title track “The Book” are, next to “Into the Night”, perhaps my current favourites on this very solid album.

This album really is a career defining moment for Bonnet, where all his past work in rock comes together on one explosive rock album. But this is a band that is so much more than just a famous singer. Fierce bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone (Hardly Dangerous) provides the backbone together with drummer Mark Zonder (Warlord, Fates Warning), while guitarist Conrado Pesinato (Hardly Dangerous) stands up very well to the many famous guitarists Bonnet has played with during his career (Michael Schenker, Ritchie Blackmore, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Bob Kulick, Chris Impellitteri, etc). The latest addition to the band is Jimmy Waldo. Waldo has played with Bonnet in the past in both Alcatrazz and Blackthorne and is also a founding member of classic 70s rock group New England.

Graham Bonnet and Beth-Ami Heavenstone in Tokyo 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Graham Bonnet and Beth-Ami Heavenstone in Tokyo in August 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Graham Bonnet Band is ridiculously good. The band members are very skilled, but they are also quite playful, perhaps even a tad bit naughty, and it shines through in the music. Add the one and only Graham Bonnet on top of that and you have something terrific. This is a classic, up-tempo rock album of the best kind. It doesn’t get any better than this. Melodic, energetic and with that unmistakable voice from Skegness. Fans of Bonnet’s earlier bands will not be disappointed with this terrific album. What’s there not to love about this band?

Graham Bonnet Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Graham Bonnet on stage in Tokyo in June 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Having seen Graham Bonnet perform on two Japan tours with Michael Schenker in 2015 and 2016, I am hoping that we will get to see a full Japan tour with this complete line-up of the Graham Bonnet Band sometime soon. In the meantime, I will listen to this album frequently and go and see Jimmy Waldo perform with the reunited New England when they play Japan in November.

In addition to the new material, there is a bonus CD where Graham Bonnet Band has re-recorded some of the classics from Bonnet’s earlier bands.

I love this band. You should too. “The Book” will be released by Frontiers Music on 4th November and on Ward Records in Japan on 28th October. Buy the album. And the t-shirt. And buy tickets to go and see them live.

www.facebook.com/grahambonnetmusic / www.grahambonnetband.com

Interview: Zetro talks about life on the road and the next brutal Exodus album

img_3604By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Thrash veterans Exodus have started thinking about the next album which will be brutal and “a fucking wrecking ball”.

When Bay Area thrash metal veterans Exodus recently came to play in Japan for a second time on its ongoing world tour in support of the fantastic “Blood In Blood Out” album, Roppongi Rocks met up with Steve “Zetro” Souza backstage at Saitama Super Arena after the gig at the Loud Park festival.


Zetro, one of the most legendary vocalists in thrash metal, first sang in Legacy – the band that evolved into Testament – before he joined Exodus in 1986. He is currently on his third stint fronting Exodus. “For me it’s been great. The fans have been so receptive for me everywhere and it just continues” says a very happy Zetro.

Exodus has been touring ever since the return of Zetro in June 2014. In October that year they released their latest smoking-hot album, “Blood In Blood Out”, the band’s tenth studio album featuring terrific songs – such as “Body Harvest”, “Black 13”, “Salt the Wound” and “Blood In Blood Out” – and even a guest appearance by former Exodus and current Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. “I came in at the end. It was all written, pretty much vocally recorded too. I came in and just was myself. I did what I know how to do. I approached it like I would approach any Exodus record. I know this band. I started with this band when I was 22, I’m 52.  Even stepping out for ten years, you don’t need to tell me how to be Exodus. I know what we’re doing up there. I get it” explains Zetro.

Zetro of Exodus backstage at Loud Park in Japan, Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Zetro of Exodus backstage at Loud Park in Japan, Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Since 2011, Exodus’ mainman Gary Holt has been on double duty as he is also playing guitar with Slayer, who like Exodus is a band with a busy touring schedule. Despite Holt being busy with “his other band”, Exodus has kept going, often with Heathen’s Kragen Lum as a stand-in guitarist instead of Holt. It is a replacement that has been working well for the band and the fans. “Kragen plays Gary pretty fucking close, man!” says Zetro.

While Kragen Lum is doing a fine job and fits in well with the band, does Zetro miss Gary Holt on the tour bus? “I do! I miss Gary. Nothing against Kragen, but I came home after the last European thing and I was telling my girlfriend ‘I love Kragen to death but it’s time for Gary Holt to come back!’ You know what I mean? This is Gary’s band, you understand? I love him in Slayer. If you are gonna think about a guy that could’ve taken that spot of the iconic Jeff Hanneman, Gary Holt is the best guy you could have got. And we love it. We found a way to work around it. Nobody cared tonight. I know they want to see Gary, but ‘Blacklist’ is still ‘Blacklist’, ‘Bonded by Blood’ is still ‘Bonded by Blood’, you know what I mean?”

Zetro of Exodus backstage at Loud Park in Japan, Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan

Zetro of Exodus backstage at Loud Park in Japan, Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The tour in support of the latest album is not over yet. In October and November, Exodus will be playing in Europe with Obituary, Prong and King Parrot as part of the Battle of the Bays Europe tour. “It’s time for the album cycle, but do you know how many shows we have done on this tour? When we finish with Obituary, it will be 278. And I keep tracking every one. This time I am paying attention very well!”

While Holt has been busy with Slayer for the past few years, he is still very much involved with Exodus and when time allows, he performs with the band. “We did this little three-date tour, just in California and Vegas, it was Killswitch Engage, Exodus and Unearth and Gary played with us on this. It was just a month ago. I talked to his wife and she was ‘Oh my God. He was so nervous to play with you guys! Because he hasn’t played with you in such a while, he didn’t want to make any mistakes. You should see him pacing the house’. I was like, really?”


So, what about the new album. What can we expect? “I got a text message from Gary – I’ll read it to you, it’s hilarious, it’s funny as hell. Here it is: ‘Last album is too soft. This one is gonna be a fucking wrecking ball!’ That’s Gary Holt!” laughs Zetro.

Does Zetro and the band feel any pressure to make the next album as great as “Blood In Blood Out”? “No! It’s not like that. How can you feel pressure when you are 30 years into this business? Just do what you do! Stay true to yourself. And I got Gary and Tom. Gary is in Slayer and it’s gonna be heavy. Everything he’s ever done has been heavy. Even the three records that I did not sing on… We opened with ‘The Ballad of Leonard and Charles’ tonight. I love those songs! I kick myself in the ass I didn’t get to sing on them, you know? So, it’s gonna be brutal!”

When will it come out? “Next year. Tom and Gary are getting together. In January we’ll start.”

It is obvious that Zetro loves being back in the band and to tour around the world. He was exceptionally good at last year’s Thrash Domination festival in Japan and again here at Loud Park. “It’s fun being back, they’ve all been great. I can’t say tonight was better than, say, Thrash Domination, because it was great that night too. It was more people here tonight but still, they’ve all been great. We’ve gone to South America twice, the shows out there are phenomenal. We’ve done Europe – this will be the fourth Europe tour in a year, we did three In this year alone. We’re not gonna let them down now.”

Zetro of Exodus backstage at Loud Park in Japan, Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Zetro of Exodus backstage at Loud Park in Japan, Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Exodus is fabulous live act. In addition to frontman Zetro, today’s touring Exodus consists of co-founder Tom Hunting on drums, Jack Gibson on bass, Lee Altus on guitar and Holt stand-in Kragen Lum on guitar. “Yeah, it’s really tight. We’re like a machine now. You know what it is? Everybody’s clean. There’s no substance, everybody keeps a clear head. I think the focus is… We got crushed tonight. We got fucking crushed tonight and that’s the way we approach it every night. I go up there and it’s like a fucking football game. ‘Give me the ball! You want the touchdown scored? Give me the fucking ball. I’ll take it in the end zone, no problem’. And that’s the approach. That’s why when we go up there, it’s lethal.”

But with what seems like a rather demanding singing style, how does Zetro keep his voice in order with all the touring going on? He sounds better than ever before. “I agree! Not to be a pompous asshole, but I agree! It’s technique. What I do is…it’s jaw, it’s chest, it’s the way I cock my neck. Just a whole bunch of different things that I do. It’s very important to me to be able to do that. How many times do you go and see a singer and ‘Yeah, they were good, but he just didn’t sing like he does on the record.’ I want you to be able to close your eyes and picture what it sounds like when I scream on the record, I scream live,” explains Zetro and continues “I’m careful with it. I don’t get too excited, clinch my fucking mic. Have you seen I throw it back and forth in my hands? I toss it back and forth in the air. It relaxes me” says the man who used to clinch his wireless mic on stage so hard that he would bend it and make it impossible for the crew to change batteries.

As we wrap up the interview, former Anthrax and current Armored Saint vocalist John Bush walks into the room. “Hey, dude! You’re the man!” he says to Zetro. “No, you’re the man“ replies Zetro and then tells me “This is one of my favourite singers in the world!” It is obvious that many of the characters from the thrash metal world remain good friends and active in a scene where bands still help each other. Some things in the music business have not changed.

www.facebook.com/exodusattack / www.exodusattack.com

Album review: Civil War “The Last Full Measure”

civalwar-2016-6-4By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Civil War is back from the battlefield with its third full-length studio album.

If you have a band where four of the founding members have previously played with Sabaton and if you adopt the same focus on battles and wars in your lyrics, it is hard to avoid comparing the two bands. They both play a similar kind of power metal music, but, thankfully, Civil War is so much better than Sabaton, a band I have never understood. The main difference, apart from that Civil War writes better songs, is that in Nils Patrik Johansson (Astral Doors), Civil War has a vocalist that is miles better than Sabaton’s Joakim Brodén.

Much of this album is great. “A Tale That Should Never be Told” is a great tune. “Gangs of New York” and “People of the Abyss” are also very good and so is the title track “The Last Full Measure”. “Deliverance” is outstanding.

Then there is “Tombstone”. I am not sure what this is or what the band was thinking. It kicks off in an incredibly strange fashion, like a cabaret-style performance, and then it goes back and forth between that and a more normal metal song at break-neck speed. Very bizarre.

During its best bits, Civil War sounds like a new Saxon – musically (as can be heard on “Strike Hard Strike Sure”), but also because Johansson’s voice often sounds quite similar to Biff Byford’s voice crossed with a bit of Ronnie James Dio as well.

Civil War’s “The Last Full Measure” will be released on 4th November on Napalm Records.

www.facebook.com/civilwarsweden / www.civilwar.se

Album review: HammerFall “Built to Last”

hammerfall-band-2016By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

HammerFall is back with its tenth studio album, “Built to Last”. This oldi power metal album will no doubt please its loyal fans.

HammerFall plays melodic power metal built to last (!) in the tradition of classic 1980s heavy metal. It’s a bit like having Helloween, Accept, Manowar and Iron Maiden baked into one powerful, yet melodic, tongue-in-cheek Swedish heavy metal celebration. HammerFall’s trademark style has added some fantasy-like sword battles, castles and princesses to its take on modern, straight-forward heavy metal.

Vocalist Joacim Cans has a hard rock voice that fits this music perfectly. He seems to have taken his voice to a new level on this album. He really hits the high notes on tracks like “The Sacred Wow”. Cans’ vocals for this album were recorded with James Michael (Sixx:A.M.) in Los Angeles.

With a foundation firmly in classic 80s heavy metal, HammerFall has taken this music style into today and produced a catchy metal album with great guitar riffs, melodies and powerful choirs (Mats Levén of Candlemass is in there somewhere). “Built to Last” is the band’s tenth studio album and it is solid and strong. It opens with “Bring It!” and then moves into what sounds like a new HammerFall singalong anthem, “Hammer High”. My prediction is that existing fans will love this track but some others will write off this sword-fighting battle track as a bit too corny. Corny perhaps, but corny in a Manowar kind of way.

On the great track “New Breed”, Cans sings “Heavy metal running through our veins” and that is what this is all about. A band with love for classic heavy metal and who is having fun performing it. Many of the songs on the album have very strong singalong choruses. They sound as if they have been made to please fans by providing ample opportunities for singing along, headbanging and some air guitar outbursts.

But we also get some slower tracks, such as “Twilight Princess” and parts of “Second to None”. “Stormbreaker” and “The Star of Home” are among the album’s best tracks while “Dethrone and Defy” is perhaps the best of them all.

HammerFall comes from Gothenburg and over the years has shared a number of members with other established Gothenburg bands like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. In addition to Cans, the current line-up consists of founder Oscar Dronjak (ex-Ceremonial Oath) and Pontus Norgren (ex-Talisman) on guitars and Fredrik Larsson (ex-Evergrey) on bass. Since the departure in 2014 of long-time drummer Anders Johansson, the band has used David Wallin (Pain) as a replacement.

This album will no doubt please HammerFall’s loyal fans and it will probably win them some new ones as well.

HammerFall’s “Built to Last” is out on 4th November on Napalm Records.

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