Album review: Cradle of Filth “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dani Filth and his Cradle of Filth are back with a hard-hitting album full of drama as well as bombastic and fabulously twisted metal.

If you, like me, enjoy the weird and wonderful and especially dramatic, extreme and bombastic music, this is an awesome album. English shock rockers Cradle of Filth take their public image seriously. It plays an important part of the package. But there is much more than just image and surface to Cradle of Filth. This is a talented and skilled band that still got it. They are able to perform at the highest level once again.

The “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay” album consists of melodic extreme metal with an overload of bombastic, dramatic and, at times, symphonic music. There are plenty of nods and references to horror-flick music here. We get some haunting church choir-like (and “Omen” smelling!) bits and pieces throughout this varied album.

Only band leader Dani Filth remains from the original line-up. Apart from drummer Martin Skaroupka (who replaced Adrian Erlandsson in 2006), the current line-up consists of relatively newer additions. But it is clear that Dani Filth, despite all the people coming and going in the band over the years, has managed to assemble a bunch of great musicians in the current line-up.

I didn’t really have any big expectations on this album. Having now listened to it intensely for a number of days, all I can say is: what an insane gem of an album! Dani Filth sings as if he were possessed, like a deranged horror-movie villain with an attitude and a sinister sense of humour. It somehow reminds me of the band name of one of his early bands: Carnival Fruitcake. His voice, combined with very strong songwriting and some fabulous arrangements, make this a great album. The constant twists and turns and tempo changes keep it interesting. It seems like a never-ending magical journey through the sewers of some horrible, dark and damp city.

“Achingly Beautiful” is a standout track with fantastic vocals (which often sounds possessed by some kind of wicked demon) and dreamy, sinister choirs. Fabulous! Sheer joy for the ears. On “The Seductiveness of Decay” we get a whole bunch of great stuff. What a track! They even manage to throw in some Iron Maiden-esque guitars in the mix (who would’ve thought?). “You Will Know the Lion by His Claw” is, for the most part, straight-forward extreme metal which works great, especially when embedded among the other more varied songs. “The Night at Catafalque Manor” is an epic piece of metal while the splendid cover of Annihilator classic “Alison Hell” has a bit of a King Diamond-feel to it.

I think this is a terrific album that takes its listeners on quite a fantastic journey. Due to its bombastic nature, no doubt there will be listeners out there that won’t get it, that will hate it. But they’re wrong. This is great stuff. The Cradle of Filth gang is back on top. They’re creating great, twisted dark music.

Cradle of Filth will perform in Japan at the Loud Park festival on 15th October. The album “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay” will be released on 22nd September in Japan via Ward Records and internationally via Nuclear Blast.

www.facebook.com/cradleoffilth

www.cradleoffilth.com

www.loudpark.com

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Gig report: Accept at Nakano Sun Plaza | A lesson in how heavy metal is done

Peter Baltes and Wolf Hoffmann of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German-American veterans Accept give Japanese fans a lesson in classic heavy metal at a classic Tokyo venue.

Accept live at Nakano Sun Plaza. A classic band at a classic venue. Accept is a heavy metal band still at the top of the game. Perhaps they have never been better than now. At Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo several important  live albums and films have been recorded, most notably Scorpions’ “Tokyo Tapes”. It is a fitting venue for Accept to once again show their fans how it’s done when they returned to Tokyo on 14th September.

Wolf Hoffmann of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

When I grew up listening to heavy metal during the 1980s, Accept was one of my favourite bands. Their classic album “Balls to the Wall” from 1983 was what I measured most other artists against. In 2017, I am still listening to Accept. Things have changed, but Accept is still a touring band that is also releasing new material. There is some room for nostalgia, but this is very much a heavy metal band that  is here and now, still winning new fans while also keeping their old ones.

Mark Tornillo of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Still in the band, for more than forty years, is the core duo of Wolf Hoffmann on guitar and bassist Peter Baltes. American frontman Mark Tornillo has been in the band since 2009 and has sung on the band’s past four studio albums. He has firmly established himself in the band and it is now rather difficult to imagine Accept without him. His voice and vocal style work great with both the new and old songs. Drummer Christopher Williams and guitarist Uwe Lulis are more recent additions to the band who only last month released a great new record, “The Rise of Chaos”. The current line-up is musically probably the band’s best ever. They’re tight, they’re having fun and they deliver.

Uwe Lulis of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Christopher Williams of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

They open strongly with the new track “Die by the Sword”, followed by 2012’s “Stalingrad”. This evening in Tokyo we get a two-hour show at the highest level. Accept is a world-class metal act and they live up to, and exceed, my expectations. They’re better now than they ever were. They put on an awesome metal show which clearly shows that their newer material is as good as their classic albums from the 80s. Of course we do get some of the old classics, such as “London Leatherboys”, “Neon Nights”, “Restless and Wild”, “Princess of the Dawn” and “Fast as a Shark”. But much of the set is filled with newer songs. Many of the newer songs are actually better than much of the material that the band created in the 80s.

They close a great evening of heavy metal with the 1985 classic “Metal Heart”, their 2010 comeback single “Teutonic Terror”, and, of course, “Balls to the Wall”. Wow! What a great evening of proper heavy metal performed by a bunch of professionals. They may have debuted more than four decades ago, but clearly this is a vital band that will keep going for quite some time yet.

Accept – thank you for the heavy metal lesson. This is how it’s done, kids.

Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

www.facebook.com/accepttheband

www.acceptworldwide.com

Interview: John Corabi | “It’s very easy to put a band together until you get into a tour bus”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When former Mötley Crüe singer and Ratt guitarist John Corabi recently visited Japan with his current band The Dead Daisies, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson sat down with him in Tokyo for a chat about his career and what’s coming up.

Vocalist and guitarist John Corabi is perhaps best known as the former lead singer of Mötley Crüe, but he has been involved in numerous bands over many years until he joined The Dead Daisies. He first started to make a name for himself with the band The Scream in the late 1980s. Here he briefly played with drummer Scott Travis who would soon go on to join Judas Priest.

In 1992, Corabi joined Mötley Crüe to replace the original singer Vince Neil. He remained in the band for several years, recording both the full-length studio album “Mötley Crüe” and the “Quaternary” EP and touring with the band. After Mötley, Corabi teamed up with former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick in a band called Union. The band released two studio albums and a live album. During a Japan tour in 2005, Union used KISS drummer Eric Singer as a fill-in. Corabi, Kulick and Singer also played together in the Eric Singer Project. Corabi, did a stint with Nikki Sixx and Tracii Guns in Brides of Destruction and joined Ratt as a touring guitarist for a number of years. In early 2015, he was invited to join The Dead Daisies as its lead vocalist. In The Daisies he fronts a band formed by Aussie guitarist David Lowy that now consists of a seasoned bunch of pros: guitarist Doug Aldrich (Dio, Whitesnake), bassist Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent) and drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, Foreigner).

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sometimes a lead vocalist, sometimes a guitarist, sometimes both. Do you miss the guitar when you’re focusing on singing? “I think I am OK, yes. The thing with me…there is a left brain, right brain thing. I think when I am playing guitar, I’m not as good vocally. Something’s gonna suffer a little bit. It’s not like ‘Oh my God! That guy sucks!’ So, I love the fact that I am just able to focus. Being a frontman, your job is to connect with the audience and be visual, you know, ringleader at the front. So I’m able to do that a little better without the guitar.”

“I have way too many guitars already. I’m always playing at home,” explains Corabi about his love for the guitar. But Corabi always seem to keep himself busy, with or without guitar. “We’re getting ready to go back in the studio in November to do a new album. And I have a solo record to do as well, contractually.”

The Dead Daisies is a hardworking band. As part of their touring around the world, they have played twice in Japan in the past year and released a fabulous live album, “Live & Louder”, which basically contains the show they are now performing around the world. It was recorded during a co-headline European tour with The Answer. “When we were out with The Answer, we only did a 60-minute set. So we were kind of changing songs around, so that we could have everything. We recorded, I think, all the shows in the UK, Germany, we did one in Paris. Then Doug did an amazing job going through all the different versions of everything and finding the one, like ’OK, this one’s really good. Everyone’s playing great, so let’s use that one.’ He kind of went through everything and then we gave it to our buddy Anthony Focx. He mixed it for us.”

John Corabi and Marco Mendoza of The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Daisies is a band full of talented rock stars with strong wills. How does the creative process work in such a situation and how does it differ from you writing your solo stuff? “The funny thing about it is… I’ve got solo record to do. So, if I want to wank off for eight minutes – y’know what I mean? – I can save it for that record. The cool thing about it is…nobody really comes in… We know that we’re gonna write and the way we write is everybody grabs an acoustic guitar and we all sit in a room together, including Brian, who is an amazing guitar player. We all sit in a room together. ‘Hey, we’ve got this riff’ and we just starting jamming the riff. We’re all throwing shit in at the same time. It’s a very collaborative thing. Nobody really comes into the band, for the last two records anyway, with full songs. It’s just a riff or an idea. It’s just a very primitive, loose idea, where everybody is like ‘OK, what do you guys think of this riff?’ ‘Awesome, let’s work on that!’ Then everybody starts to throw their ingredients into the pot. As far as my solo thing… That will be something where I’ll focus more on finishing the songs and having set finished songs before I go into the studio pretty much on my own. So I’m not worried about the process in this, it’s really easy. I’m more worried about doing my solo record than having to actually finish a fucking song. It’s crazy.”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Having played in so many different bands over the years, Corabi has had a career taking him on a roller coaster journey around the world with some great highlights. “All the bands, for one reason or another, were… Each one had an individual characteristic about it. It was like The Scream, for us it was a first record deal, like a major record deal, for all of us. It was the first trip to England and Europe. It was our first big tour, first tour bus… I’m pretty sure 20 years from now, you’re gonna sit back and you’ll remember your first blowjob. You know the girl’s name, what she was wearing, what you were listening to… So that’s The Scream. Mötley, obviously, everything just got shifted into a way higher gear with those guys. They are all great musicians but crazy. That was five years of my life that was a blur. Then the thing with Union was equally… I thought the band was a great band, there were talented players in it. But I think Union was kind of a…it was almost very therapeutic. Because Bruce and I were going through the exact same fucking thing at the same time. He got the boot from KISS so that they could do the original line-up with make-up and he split up with his wife of like 10 or 15 years. I went through the exact same thing. They were getting back together. The band’s getting back together, I was on the out. The girl that I was engaged to for years decided…whatever. So for Bruce and I, it was just therapeutic for us. The Ratt thing was just basically me giving myself a bit of a mental break without really having to get out of the business. It still allowed me to go out and do music, travel the world, play my guitar. Not be in the limelight, just be back here. Like anybody else that has a job, on Friday I just put my hand out and I get a cheque. I didn’t have to worry about t-shirts, tickets, nothing. I just did that for a while until I’d cleared my head and I was like ‘Alright! Now it’s time to get back to work’ and I started trying to put a band together. It took me forever.”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“It’s very easy to put a band together that looks great on paper until you get into a fucking tour bus with people for like six months at a time, or three months at a time, a month at a time! Then you start seeing people’s idiosyncrasies, their quirks and… ‘Oh my God! I’m gonna fucking kill this guy’, do y’know what I mean? That was part of my process too. Once I decided I wanted to do my thing, it took me a while… I had three or four drummers, I had a dozen guitar players. ‘Til I found the right combination I didn’t want to do anything. Then I finally got it. Now my son is my drummer, so it’s pretty cool.”

“With The Daisies, there was just like ‘OK, let’s go tour on this record’. David and Jon Stevens actually just wrote a bunch of songs and went into the studio and recorded it with session guys. And they decided to go on tour. Whether someone’s schedule or somebody not getting along, or whatever, there was a bit of a turnover there because they were growing in public. Well, here we are. Everybody seems happy. Everybody seems reasonably happy with our turnout here in Japan and record sales. So, onward and upward, Johnny!”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Corabi seems very comfortable in Japan. Having played here twice with The Daisies, he has also performed in Japan with Ratt, Mötley Crüe, Union and ESP. “Japan has always had… I don’t know what it is. I just remember reading magazines growing up as a kid. The Japanese audience. Cheap Trick live at Budokan. Just all these great records. Mötley, when we came over here, they were like ‘Dude! You’re gonna fucking lose your shit in Japan. You’re never gonna believe it! The fans they come out in droves and they come bearing gifts.’ My first trip here and they were right! I was like ‘Holy fuck! These fans are unbelievable.’ You go to the hotel, there’s a hundred of them in the lobby. They just want an autograph and they are very polite, have a picture. ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry!’ I just kind of fell in love with it the first time I was here. The fans, I don’t know how they do it. My first trip over here was with Mötley. I showed up and these two fans came and they gave me Converse sneakers. I was like ‘Oh, wow!’ I’ve always been a Converse guy. So they gave me these Converse, I guess they were made for Japan, you wouldn’t get them in America. The thing that freaked me out… Now you can go on Google or Wikipedia and it’s got like my birth date, my shoe size, everything is there. I’m talking 1994, when shit was dial up, fax… These fucking people showed up with two awesome pair of Converse high tops, in my size! How the fuck do they do that? What used to amaze me, we would get on the bullet train, because we hubbed out of Tokyo for like six days, seven days. And we would go to Sendai and back or we’d go to Yokohama and back, Nagoya and back. I would get on the train and we would take off and I would see them on the platform as we were pulling away and then we would get to Nagoya and we would get off the train, and I would see that person… ‘How the fuck did you guys get here?’ Even today when we went to the train station, there was a bunch of fans from the show last night. How the fuck do they know that we’re on this train and this time? It’s like a mystery to me. It’s amazing to me, it really is. I love it, man. I’ve never met anybody that I had to get verbal with. Never aggressive, they are always apologetic. Like last night when we got in from the gig, it was like ‘Aargh! OK.’ We just did a signing. We did the gig, we did the signing, we changed, we came back to the hotel. I was starving and then, you know. But it’s part of the gig. It’s amazing to me. I’ve always loved Japan and the fans, their affinity and love for what we do. It’s awesome!”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

While The Daisies keep Corabi quite busy, he still has a bit of time for side projects. In addition to the solo record he has in the works, he also plans to release a special live version of the 1994 “Mötley Crüe” album he sang on. “I didn’t even know it was the 20th anniversary. I did a show, I forget where I was. With my band, we were doing a little bit of Scream, Mötley, Union, new stuff, whatever. Somebody in the audience yelled ‘Happy anniversary!’ I was looking around, I thought somebody was in the audience. I’m looking around and they’re like ‘Happy anniversary, Crab!’ And I go ‘It’s not my fucking anniversary! What are you talking about?’ And they’re like “Nah, dude. It’s 20th today! It’s 20 years since the Mötley ’94 thing came out.’ I was like ‘Cool’ and my manager, he actually set it up where we went and we learned the whole record and we went out and did some shows. Then I really wanted to bring it over here, to bring it to Australia, to the UK and all these different places because – well, Japan we played – but we didn’t play a majority of the United States, Canada, South America, Europe. We never played one note of music. This could be cool. It was funny – I was doing that and we were continuing to roll it into 2015 when The Daisies called. So, I had a break and I went home and, not to bring up business or whatever, but I started to research bringing my band to places like the UK, Europe and even here. I started to realise the amount of money I would have to ask for. Like the UK now is…it’s not just about hotel rooms and flights and food. There’s visas and they don’t do the band visa any more. You’ve got to do individual ones. It’s like 700 or 800 bucks a guy. I’m like ‘Fuck! I’m going to have to ask for an astronomical sum of money to make this work.’ The crew guys, the band – it’s five guys, then there’s the merch and… I talked to my manager about it and I said ‘Let’s go in.’ We went into a club in Nashville, where I live. I literally called the club owner, it was like two weeks out. I go ‘Do you have a day available?’ He goes ‘I can give you like a Tuesday.’ Fine, whatever, it doesn’t matter and I promoted it for two weeks really hard. I probably had 300 or 400, 500 people in the place. I just set it up, we recorded everything and videotaped a bunch of shit from the show. I basically gave it to Michael Wagener. I asked him to do his thing. He was like ‘Do you want to fix anything?’ I’m like ‘No! As is.’ That’s actually coming out, it was gonna come out last year, but ‘Make Some Noise’ was coming out. We were literally the same week. So I pulled my record and then I figured I was going to put it on in January and Daisies were like ‘We’re gonna do a live album’. So, I said ‘Alright, I’ll hold my live record ‘til The Daisies’ comes out, runs its course.’ I’m gonna release mine probably sometime between September and November. We’re gonna take a break mid-September, we’re gonna write for a couple of weeks and then we’re in the studio November 1st. That’s a perfect time to do it. Then the first quarter of next year, I’ll have off probably with these guys so I can go out and do some shows if I have to. I just put that record out and that way everybody can hear what it would’ve sounded like.”

John Corabi in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“For me, I did some of the shows and inevitably there’s still that huge conglomeration of fans that are still kind of pissed at me for even thinking of joining Mötley. So, I was out doing the 20th anniversary thing and some of the people are like ‘Ah! Riding their coat tails again’ and I’m like ‘No. Actually I wrote this stuff. I do whatever the fuck I want.’ I’m not gonna do the shows anymore, let’s put the record out and now I can go out and go back to what I was doing with Scream, Mötley, Union. The last show I did, we were on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in March, we actually did some Daisies stuff, some new shit and we had some fun.”

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At age 58, John Corabi is clearly enjoying himself and has a bright future with The Dead Daisies and his side projects.

www.facebook.com/johncorabimusic

www.facebook.com/thedeaddaisies

Gig report: Kreator and Vader destroy Tokyo

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

German thrash metal veterans Kreator and Polish death metal warriors Vader returned to Tokyo for night of furious heavy metal and circle pit fun.

On Wednesday 13th September, it was a cloudy evening in Ebisu and as I got closer to Liquidroom, an agglomerate of black shirts started appearing. All of them waiting anxiously for a night of the pure Polish death metal of Vader mixed with the finest German thrash metal of Kreator.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The lights turned off a little earlier than planned and the screams of approximately 900 people marked the beginning of a sonorous destruction. When Vader entered the stage, they were welcomed with people swimming over the crowd and banging their heads. Starting with the amazing “Wings” and ending with “Triumph of Death”, the riffs of Piotr Wiwczarek and Marek “Spider” Pająk made the crowd open a violent circle pit and go totally mad – for the bliss of the band. After “Tempest”, a little pause was made for Piotr to say how they were happy to be back in Japan and how this night was the best one they’ve had in Tokyo so far. He then introduced the epic heavy track of their latest album, “The Empire”, to Tokyo: “Silent Empire” is definitely an anthem for every brutal death metal fan and it was impossible to keep my head calm during this song. As Vader has been on the road since 1983, it is very complicated pleasing everyone with the golden classics and the strong new tracks. But the old classics “Sothis” and “Dark Age” were gifts to the old-school fans and tons of more riffs and the amazing performances of both bassist Tomasz “Hal” Halicki and drummer James Stewart led to an end with “Send Me Back to Hell”, a brutal yet beautiful demonstration of what these guys are made of.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

During a short break for the Kreator crew to set the stage, it was visible how much love these German men receive from Japan. Most of the people stayed exactly where they were to guarantee a better view of their favourite band and as time flew by, more and more people came in, pushing each other to not miss a single detail.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Right before 8:30pm the lights turned off again and only smoke could be seen from the stage until the band hit it. Opening the spectacle with “Hordes of Chaos”, just before the first riffs, the venue staff became busy with the crowd getting rid of the security grids in the middle of the hall and with many people crowd surfing as Miland Petrozza screamed his first words of the night. “Phobia” was next followed by “Satan is Real” from their latest album “Gods of Violence”.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The combination of Miland and Sami Yli-Sirnö‘s riffs completely blew my mind and the intensity of the whole band’s performance is stunning. Heads banging on stage and in the crowd gave a great idea of how powerful Kreator can be, but it was the huge circle pit that was opened in the middle of the hall that really enchanted the band and the others around, including me. For those who think a Japanese audience doesn’t know what a circle pit looks like, you should check a Kreator concert in Tokyo. Music kept flowing with energy and craziness until “Fallen Brother”, a requiem to those in the heavy metal world who are already gone but never forgotten. No pits, no surfing, only horns up and silence in a cathartic moment to homage our heroes.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

A brief pause to breathe followed and then Miland asked the crowd to open up the biggest circle they could and on his signal do a wall of death to celebrate “Enemy of God”. After the “Apocalypticon” intro, another track of the latest album, it was time for “World War Now”, one of my favourite songs of the album, with a very powerful message through the lyrics, especially in times like those we’re living in now. Another dedication to the loyalty of the fans, “Hail to the Hordes”, came to prove that when Kreator is on the stage, there is no time for resting. One of the greatest moments was when Miland announced “Extreme Aggression”, remembering their trajectory in Japan since 1993 and how much support they receive from here from old and new fans in good and bad times. People got thrilled before they got crazy again. For the encore, the four guys came back to the stage to play the amazing “Violent Revolution”. The bass of Christian Giesler hypnotised me here. Unfortunately, the last song was then announced. They couldn’t end the show with any other track but “Pleasure to Kill”, their biggest classic and probably the most awaited song of the night for many fans. After all these years, the drums of Jürgen “Ventor” Reil still give goosebumps to many while the killing is spread by the rest of the band. As Miland said, this was the last chance of the night for Tokyo to write another epic chapter in the circle pit history. Although some people were a little too tired for that, many others were more than ready to destroy everything and once again salute the German guys with a strong, energetic and violent welcome.

The only difficult things with the Kreator show are the dark lights and the smoke, making the sight a little hard. But even if you can’t see a thing on the stage, being there, with that sound entering your ears and shaking your soul, it’s totally worth it! And I’m sure that the Japanese audience is thirsty for more violence, war and death soon.

www.facebook.com/kreatorofficial / www.kreator-terrorzone.de

www.facebook.com/vader / www.vader.pl

KISS legend Gene Simmons to release “The Vault” to celebrate 50 years in rock

Gene Simmons in Tokyo in Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Legendary KISS co-founder Gene Simmons is about to release the ultimate collector’s item for the serious KISS collectors out there: “The Vault”.

KISS legend Gene Simmons is always coming up with new ways of marketing himself. With “The Vault”, a massive US$2,000 limited edition box filled with music and memorabilia, he takes it a step further by hand-delivering the boxes to his fans.

Among many goodies (a Gene Simmons action figure!), “The Vault” includes no fewer than 150 never-released-before songs written and performed by Simmons. Among the many interesting recordings are one where Simmons is demoing KISS songs in the 70s with Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen.

Simmons will bring “The Vault” to you in person. He will travel the world in 2018 with “The Vault Experience”. Confirmed Japan dates for the “The Vault Experience” are 7th and 8th April 2018. It is unclear if this is to coincide with a KISS tour or not. As previously announced, Simmons will perform with his Gene Simmons Band in Japan in October 2017.

www.genesimmonsvault.com

www.facebook.com/officialgenesimmons

 

 

Album review: Zornheym “Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns”

Zornheym: Scucca (guitar), Zorn (guitar), Bendler (vocals) and Angst (drums)

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish symphonic extreme metal band Zornheym, led by former Dark Funeral guitarist Zorn, has arrived on the scene with a splendid debut album full of drama.

Zorn, perhaps best known as the former guitarist of Dark Funeral, has also played with Devian and Aktiv Dödshjälp. With Zornheym he takes the driver’s seat and is in full control. With him on this epic journey he has Bendler (Facebreaker) on vocals (who some of you may remember as a fill-in vocalist for Scar Symmetry), guitarist and musical arranger Scucca and Diabolical drummer Angst.

“Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns” is a rather varied album with constant twists and turns. There is a basic foundation not too dissimilar to Dark Funeral’s music, but this is somewhat different due to the symphonic elements and some unexpected turns in songs and fine orchestrations.

Zornheym has a well thought-out concept and the execution is flawless. There is fabulous aggression and guitar mayhem, but there are also many fine melodies. It is extreme metal but with added drama, theatrics and symphonic influences. The end result is beautifully bombastic. On “A Silent God”, one of the standout tracks on the album, we get some fantastic choirs adding a dimension to a fantastically dramatic track. Stunning! And the great use of choirs, harmonies and chants prevail throughout the album. These variations and added texture set Zornheym apart from many other artists active in the same genre.

Zornheym is bombastic, theatrical extreme metal with great melodies and so much variation and many twists and turns that it is always interesting. This is a terrific debut album which has been recorded at Wing Studios by extreme metal master Sverker Widgren (October Tide, Demonical, IXXI, CB Murdoc, Diabolical).

Zornheym’s “Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns” is out today via Non Serviam Records.

www.facebook.com/zornheym

www.zornheym.com

Preview: Chaos Assault festival with Mantar and Sigh

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Festival preview: On 22nd and 23rd September, Ward Records are putting on a mini festival with a difference. We get some really great and unique extreme bands performing over two days at a club in Shibuya, Tokyo.

German duo Mantar will finally play in Japan! The duo has developed a loyal following and are now ready to meet their Japanese fans. Mantar is a raw and sinister drums-and-guitar duo with no bassist in sight. Somehow they still manage to sound heavier than most other bands. Heavy extreme music with a punk attitude, Mantar is damp and chaotic mayhem. Their music is a melting pot of various extreme metal genres. They formed in 2013 and released their debut album, “Death by Burning”, in 2014. They have since released “Ode to the Flame” in 2016 and the EP “The Spell” in 2017. In addition to their studio work, they have been a hard-touring band and in the process they have developed a distinct signature sound that stands out from the crowd.

Sigh’s Dr. Mikannibal on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Cult Japanese band Sigh was one of the early black metal bands in Japan. They have since evolved into an avant-garde extreme metal band. They established a reputation for greatness, weirdness and fabulous entertainment and made a name for themselves when they in the early 1990s signed a record deal with the late Euronymous of Mayhem and his label Deathlike Silence Records. They debuted in 1993 with “Scorn Defeat”. Sigh has toured internationally and here in Japan they have opened for bands such as Watain and Mayhem.

For the first evening of Chaos Assault, the two headliners will be joined by Boris (a jam-tastic Japanese genre-bending noise rock/heavy psych trio). On the second day, Mantar and Sigh will perform together with Doom (progressive fusion metal) and Church of Misery (Japanese doom/psych/stoner rock).

This is a rather promising mini festival with a fab mix of unique heavy artists far removed from the mainstream. Come and join the weird and the wonderful at this celebration of uniqueness.

Get your tickets here: https://wardrecords.com/special/CHAOSASSAULT.php

Album review: Belphegor “Totenritual”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Helmuth Lehner, Austria’s master of dark ceremonies, is back with gloriously heavy and dark extreme metal on the new Belphegor album.

With 2014’s “Conjuring the Dead”, Austrian extreme metal masters Belphegor set the bar sky high. Now the follow up is here and Helmuth Lehner‘s done it again. On “Totenritual” we get glorious mayhem! If you like your metal extreme and from deep down the abyss, this is for you.

This album is trademark Belphegor: dark and very heavy metal but with some fabulous melodies interwoven with the mayhem. It is blackened death metal with plenty of doom with tuned-down guitars and some thrash and speed metal influences here and there. Call it whatever you want, it’s fabulously good music.

The album, the band’s eleventh studio album since forming in the early 1990s, opens with “Baphomet” which closely resembles the songs on the last album. But already on the second track, “The Devil’s Son”, we get some nuances to Belphegor’s sound. This album clearly is related to its predecessor, but Belphegor has not made a “Conjuring the Dead II”. The band has evolved and on this new album we can hear some new sides to one of our absolute favourite extreme metal bands.

Over the years, Belphegor has developed a very distinct style of music. However, they don’t just stand still. They keep pushing the limits in different directions within the framework that defines Belphegor. Helmuth’s obviously the brain and engine here, but bassist Serpenth, who has been in the band since 2006, has also put his mark on the band’s output.

The album is consistent and rock solid: all tracks are of the highest level. Immediate favourites include “Swinefever – Regent of Pigs”, “Apophis – Black Dragon”, “Totenkult – Exegesis of Deterioration” and “Spell of Reflection”. The short spoken sound bites inserted here and there on some of the tracks nicely add to the haunting horror flick-feeling of Belphegor.

For the last album, the band recorded with Erik Rutan in Florida. This time they have recorded closer to home, in Germany and Austria, but the album has been mixed in Florida by Jason Suecof (Trivium, Death Angel, Deicide, Whitechapel, The Black Dahlia Murder).

Following “Conjuring the Dead”, I expected nothing short of a masterpiece from Belphegor this time and that’s what I got.

Belphegor’s “Totenritual” is out on 15th September via Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally.

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Gig review: Lords of Black – Live in Tokyo: Long Live Rock’n’Roll indeed

Ronnie Romero and Tony Hernando on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Rainbow vocalist Ronnie Romero returned to Japan with his band Lords of Black and delivered a knockout show in Tokyo.

Ronnie Romero on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Having laid the groundwork with their appearance at the Loud Park festival in October last year, Spanish power metal band Lords of Black returned to Japan with confidence and a local fan base with high expectations.

With two very strong studio albums below their belts and a vocalist who is also fronting Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, they have a reputation to defend. This evening in Tokyo, 30th August, they live up to the high expectations and they exceed them.

Ronnie Romero on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Guitarist Tony Hernando does a fab job as one of power metal’s better guitarists. The whole band sounds tight and eager, ready and willing to please their Japanese fans.

Ronnie Romero on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

With two great studio albums and a Rainbow connection, there is plenty of fantastic music for this band to choose from.

This evening we get an almost two hour headline show by a great band. They open with the fabulous “Merciless” and keep building up from there. We get a very strong main set consisting of 13 songs from the band’s two studio albums. Rarely I have I seen a newer band with such a strong set of their own material.

Ronnie Romero and Tony Hernando on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lords of Black is a great band with tight musicians. But make no mistake about it, it is the strong songwriting skills and Ronnie Romero’s voice that make this stand out from the pack. They have better songs and a better singer than most other bands in the same genre. Romero’s voice is terrific and he’s also a classic frontman who knows how an audience needs to be entertained. He is part Ronnie James Dio, part Freddie Mercury, but most of all himself. Fantastic. You can see why Ritchie Blackmore picked him to front Rainbow.

Ronnie Romero on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Following the main set we get treated to an extended encore of hard rock classics. First we get Rainbow classics “Kill the King” and “Lost in Hollywood”. Then Japanese guitarist Nozomu Wakai (Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia and Paul Shortino Band) joins Lords of Black and together they perform Deep Purple’s “Burn” and Black Sabbath’s “Neon Knights” before they finish a great evening with Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock’n’Roll”. Indeed.

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Album review: H.E.A.T “Into the Great Unknown”

H.E.A.T | Photo: Klara Fowler

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish melodic rockers H.E.A.T are back with a catchy and very radio-friendly new album.

Since the last H.E.A.T studio album, 2014’s “Tearing Down the Walls”, guitarist Eric Rivers has left while original guitarist Dave Dalone has returned. There is some fine guitar work on the album, so Dalone seems to have easily reclaimed his place in the band. But most of all this album is a showcase for singer Erik Grönwall who gets to show off a few different sides.

Following the 2015 “Live In London” live album, which featured quite a lot of rock’n’roll, the new album, the band’s fifth studio album, is more focused on melodic rock and even some pop. We do get a few rockers of the very catchy kind in addition to some very different songs. The album opens with “Bastard of Society” which is a trademark H.E.A.T rock song. Then follows the first surprise with the track “Redefined”. This is some kind of modern pop with a big chorus. Very different from what we are used to, but quite a good song. “Shit City” is back to the old H.E.A.T and then with “Time on Our Side”, we’re back in the modern pop world again. You know, the world where Coldplay rules. “Best of the Broken” is somewhere in the middle. A bit like when Depeche Mode started using rock guitars. This song has a singalong rock chorus but more modern pop verses. “Eye of the Storm” is a classic power ballad with radio hit potential. “Blind Leads the Blind”, one of the album’s best rock songs, is classic H.EA.T: catchy, melodic rock, complete with added fancy keyboards fighting a good fight against the guitars.

Erik Grönwall and Crash of H.E.A.T in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Ikuko Yamanaka, Roppongi Rocks

“We Rule” is a Disney-esque ballad complete with violins and all the works. Somewhere between “Top Gun” and “Pocahontas”, I’d say. “Do You Want It” is pop rock with a great melody. Very catchy. The title track “Into the Great Unknown” is a big song which defines the album. It has some rock groove to it as well as pop hooks and some great guitars. Very much a summary of the album and thus an obvious title track.

The Japanese edition has a great bonus track, “FYI Miley”. A smoking rocker of a song, it is by far the best song on the album and a good reason for everybody to track down the Japanese edition.

In summary: H.E.A.T has delivered a different, more varied album which is centred around modern radio rock with pop hooks. Not what I expected after “Live in London”. But still very good. It takes a bit of getting used to, but H.E.A.T pulls it off. Not least because vocalist Erik Grönwall can do both pop and rock and he brings the rest of the band with him on this album. H.E.A.T’s new direction may lose them a few old fans, but it will also win them some new fans as they become more accessible to the masses and more radio friendly.

H.E.A.T’s “Into the Great Unknown” will be released in Japan on 20th September via Marquee Inc and internationally on 22nd September via Gain.

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