Interview: Derrick Green and Eloy Casagrande of Sepultura

Derrick Green and Eloy Casagrande of Sepultura in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Brazilian metal giants Sepultura returned to Japan after a 17-year absence, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson sat down with the band’s Derrick Green and Eloy Casagrande for a great conversation about creativity and quite a few laughs along the way.

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

Sepultura, formed in Brazil in 1984, debuted in 1986 with the full-length album “Morbid Visions”. Sepultura’s current lineup – American vocalist Derrick Green, guitarist  Andreas Kisser, bassist Paulo Jr. and drummer Eloy Casagrande – released the band’s latest album “Machine Messiah” in 2017 on Nuclear Blast internationally and Ward Records in Japan.

Welcome to Japan. It’s been a long time since Sepultura played here in Japan. “It feels great to be back,” says vocalist Derrick Green. “It’s been 17 years since we’ve been here. Way too long! We’re looking forward to the show. Actually, we have a lot of material we want to play. We’re touring on the album ‘Machine Messiah’. Fantastic album! We wanna see everyone there. We’re gonna be playing classic songs as well, so definitely something not to be missed.” Drummer Eloy Casagrande continues: “Oh, yeah. Exactly! It’s my first time here playing with Sepultura and I can’t wait to feel all the energy from the Japanese fans. I’ve heard it is amazing so I can’t wait for that.”

Derrick Green, Stefan Nilsson and Eloy Casagrande in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

You have both helped to create great new music with the band. But when it comes to old songs that were written prior to you joining the band, do you try to make them your own when it comes to drumming and singing or just stay true to the originals? “I think it is a little bit of both,” says Derrick. “For us, we grew up listening to it, being fans of the band. So, there are elements that we wanna hear in those songs that I think a lot of fans want to hear. At the same time, it’s impossible not to make it your own, because you’re putting your stamp on it, your energy. You’re touring the world doing those songs. And you truly believe in those songs, because, as a fan, you believe in those songs. But being in the band, it’s even something more. It really is! You get down to having your own impact on it and how it comes off. It’s a big responsibility and a lot of fun, I have to say. It’s great because it never really gets old. Even doing those old songs over and over and over again. It’s always different though. Each crowd is different. Each scenario is different. Everything is a little bit different, so you’re going after that energy that made you fall in love with music each time you’re on stage.”

Eloy Casagrande of Sepultura in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

“I have the same impression,” adds Eloy. “I hear from a lot of friends that are musicians that play metal music – they say they want to play the same thing every night. They want it to be perfect every night. I don’t agree with that. Every day you are a different person, you are a different musician, so you have to play it differently in my opinion. If I play every show the same, it gets boring. You need to do it differently. You are always involved with the music.”

Derrick – you are an American who moved to Brazil in the 90s to join Sepultura. New country, new language, joining an already established band. Was it a tough task? “It was mind-blowing! I didn’t know what to expect, but at the same time, I’ve been playing in bands and doing music and wanted and desired to play in a band that’s together, that has an opportunity to play in front of a lot of people and to communicate. So, I didn’t want to let that go. OK! This is the time! So, I have to really step up and really happy that the band were open enough to give me the ability to do what I want and also give positive feedback, to grow with them. Because I knew it would take some time for a lot of fans to be accepting of everything. But also for us as a group to get to know each other as bandmates and friends. They had that development for so many years before. I wasn’t expecting it to happen overnight, I wasn’t naïve to that fact. But I was willing to do that process because my whole life up until then has been kind of working for something like that, but I didn’t know it would be Sepultura.”

Legend has it you had some stiff competition for the frontman position in Sepultura from people like Chuck Billy of Testament. “I think that was one thing that really stuck out. I wasn’t trying to do what the last singer had done. I was really doing my own thing. I think I even had some almost-singing parts on the demo that I sent to them. That was something that they felt they could evolve with so they could be different. One person at the label thought I would be a great match for them because I wasn’t trying to imitate somebody that was there before, which would never work. You can’t do that. Fans would know and I would feel that too. It would just be false and fake.”

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

Eloy – you were only 20 when you joined the band in 2011. Was it tough to join a legendary band at such a young age? “Yeah. In the beginning, it was very difficult. I had a lot of pressure on my back! To replace those guys – Igor Cavalera and Jean Dolabella, they are incredible musicians, incredible drummers. I was a big fan of Sepultura before I joined the band. It’s impossible to play metal and especially to live in Brazil and not be a fan of Sepultura! So, I was a huge fan of them and when I was invited to the audition, I was totally in shock! To be in the band, it felt amazing and feels amazing until today. This style of music is what I like to play. In the beginning, it was really difficult with the fans, those more ‘true’ fans. Through the years, with the shows and the new albums, I think that I now have 100% respect and support from the fans. That’s really good to have. I also put myself in the position of the guys. They put trust in – almost – a kid. I was like: ‘Hey, guys! Are you sure what you’re doing?’ It’s a normal concern. You always have a little self-doubt.”

How would you describe Sepultura’s current sound? It has evolved and includes so many different influences. You are often touring with thrash metal bands, but I’d say that you are much more than just thrash metal. “I think you’re right,” says Derrick. “It’s hard to really put a label on it. I definitely would like to push forward toward other types of bands…” Eloy suddenly shouts “Country music!” before a laughing Derrick continues: “Something we’ve never done before. Something that is really open as I think that we are. I definitely don’t see us as only a thrash metal band. But I think that’s the beauty of it. I’m glad that we’ve had that ability to branch out and to not be stuck in one mould, which would be horrible! I don’t like when bands get stuck in that mould. Some bands like to be in that, you know, kind of define themselves through that.”

Eloy Casagrande of Sepultura in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Do you feel any restrictions when you write new music? That you have to fit in with what’s expected of Sepultura? “No. I don’t think so at all,” says Derrick. “Especially with this last album. For example, the first song being ‘Machine Messiah’, being a song that has singing on it. We’ve never done that before. To put that out there, I don’t think we had any idea of the reaction. But you know what? This is how we feel. This is how we’re gonna do it. I think that people have to respect that and they do. You can’t go on in fear. It’s something that we love to do, so why be fearful of trying new things? Of course, it can go back in your face, but still, it’s a fight, I think, to do this style of music. It’s something you have to stand up for and really stand behind or not do it at all.” Eloy continues “Yeah, it’s hard. You have to do what your feeling at the time when you’re doing it. Many bands are always searching for what they were in the past or what they wanna be. We’re just living. We just do what we wanna do. If people are gonna like it or not, that’s not our problem.”

Let’s talk about your creative process. How does the band write music? Together or separately? “I think a lot of things come from Andreas and Eloy at first,“ says Derrick. “Andreas has riffs and Eloy has beats that he’s doing at home and then coming to the studio and going over those ideas. Me sitting there and hearing it, thinking of vocal melody. Sometimes Andreas will send me stuff. Really, throwing things out in the studio. They’re playing something and I start screaming, there’s no lyrics or anything, but trying to think of patterns. Actually, a lot of great things come from that, because it’s just a moment. It’s like: ‘Wow! What was that?’ or it is like ‘Oh, that was horrible!’ Haha!! We can go both ways, but there are so many good things coming out of that. It’s really putting yourself out there, which is hard for a lot of people to do. They have to understand that it really is opening up, being vulnerable. I think it’s a great process that really works well. I think it is growing with us. I wanna go with vocal ideas and just come up with that without hearing any drums or guitar. Or vice versa. It’s really great to switch off but this last album and the album before was primarily starting with beats with Eloy and Andreas’ riffs, then putting it together and then me coming on top of that. And then Paulo coming into the mix and it’s slowly building songs. A lot of it has to do with communicating about what the topic of what’s gonna be written about. That adds to the feel of it too. This is ridiculous what’s going on in Brazil right now when we were writing. The politics and the split between different people. How it’s hard to talk to people. Having that energy and expressing that in the music. Little elements of that too that is added to the creating of a song.”

Derrick Green and Eloy Casagrande of Sepultura in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

In Sepultura’s lyrics one can find some big topics and issues. Existential issues. Do you always think about writing about important themes or is it less planned and just happens? “A lot of it is from reading a lot of different books or seeing certain documentaries or movies and discussing it,” explains Derrick. “Communicating with Andreas, I think the whole concept of ‘Machine Messiah’ came about. We were talking about technology and he was like: ‘Technology is evil, it’s separating us, and robots’. I was like ‘Ah!’ Trust me, you don’t want to be living in the Stone Age.’ There’s a lot of technological advances that’s helped humanity. With technology, humanity can be even better. At the same time, humanity has to look within itself before reaching out into other fields. There’s a lot of repair that needs to be done within ourselves. Certain things came about, like ‘I am the Enemy’. Usually, we are the worst enemy of ourselves and it’s hard to admit that. It’s hard to look at yourself and go: ‘I’m the one that’s fucking shit up!’ Even though there’s always people pointing fingers. But it all starts with: Wait a minute! Let me look at myself first and see what am I doing? That’s like an idea of a song coming about  Trying to find that balance between technology and humanity, is really where it’s at. Hopefully we can get there. A lot of times it is manipulated by military means. You have this great technology and smart minds creating things that kill each other or the planet. I think we can put that energy in another way. Technology can be great: feeding the planet, feeding people, fresh water. There is a balance.”

Your latest album “Machine Messiah” is one of the band’s best ever. It was recorded and produced by Jens Bogren (Opeth, At The Gates, Dimmu Borgir, Soilwork, Kreator, Paradise Lost, Amon Amarth) in Sweden  How big of an impact did he have on the outcome? “Pretty big impact!” says Derrick. “I think it was a mixture of both. We were at a stage where we gave him the demos and a lot of it had already been written before he got hold of it. But his influence was really crucial. He just wasn’t giving us like fillers or things. It was things that really brought the songs to a higher level. He really listened to it, he really felt that this is going to work for the song, completely confident and we believed him. ‘OK, let’s go with it because he knows what he’s talking about.’ He’s a very technical person, I liked this about his past production. Very clean. The sound is so heavy and clear. I felt this would be a change from the last album that we did. I was speaking with Eloy and I was: ‘Man! These producers from Sweden are just so awesome!’ The sound that they are coming out with is so fresh and new. We really should go in that direction on this new album. All that raw energy we had on the last album and creating that into a different sound with somebody on the other side of the world and different views…”

The album was recorded in Sweden. “Yes, it was, in Örebro and Stockholm,” says Derrick. Eloy continues: “He’s a really nice guy. He’s a perfectionist. Everything, each note. Something I really liked as well, he let us do what we want to do. He was never going to change the musicians that we are. Some producers really try to… ‘Oh, I don’t like the feel, I don’t like the way you’re singing that!’ No, he was always trying to achieve the perfection but in your way, the way you are as a musician. I didn’t change any drum parts, which is something I thought was really cool.” Derrick adds: “The input that he gave me was really crucial  As a native English speaker, his pronunciation of certain words and things like that was fascinating. ‘Push this through. It should maybe be said in this way’. It was great to get really deep with him because he was 100% there all the time. And at a time when he wasn’t, it was: ‘Family time. Shutting down shop. I gotta go home!’ Then he would come back and it’s work time in the morning, which we didn’t like. ‘We were like: ‘What? We’re starting at nine in the morning?’ It was a great recording experience.”

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

It seems that songs from the new album dominate the set list on this tour. Is it hard to find a balance between the new exciting material and the old classics? “It seems to have worked out pretty well,” says Derrick. “A lot of people love hearing the new stuff. It’s like a new exciting Sepultura set, instead of “Ah, I kinda knew what they’re gonna play’. I think it’s challenging for us to always play new songs. It’s really difficult at first because we’re putting so much in the studio, we have that moment where we: ‘Oh, holy shit! We did it. It’s done!’ OK, we gotta see how this is going to work in the set list. But it’s been working brilliantly. I think it has these moods in the set. It’s great to play that many songs.”

On the album, you have a cover of a famous Japanese anime song, “Ultra Seven no Uta”, as a bonus track. What’s the story behind you recording that cover? “I think it came from the past we had growing up with that,” says Derrick. “I know in Brazil it was very big. And in the US it was kind of big as well. It was something that we wanted to really experiment with. It was definitely a challenge. I never sang in Japanese before in my life. But we had somebody that was going to the university there, in the city of Örebro. He’s from Japan and we had him come to the studio, Jens arranged this so we could go through all lyrics and everything. It became the most frustrating song by far. I was like: ‘Nah, this is gonna be easy to do!’ Oh my God! But it was a cool challenge and it was something that we wanted to put on. We always do like a cover and we like to do covers that are really interesting, that people can never guess.”

You now have a 14-album back catalogue. Do you ever feel that there is no point in releasing new albums and to just tour the back catalogue as some bands do nowadays when it is tough selling records? “It’s a lot of fun to write new music,” states Derrick. “There’s always ideas that are coming in our heads. Until that stops, we’ll continue creating music. We are artists and I think it’s important as an artist that we continuously create new work. That’s the whole point of even being a musician! When it’s done, it’s done, kind of. Let’s move on. It’s how you learn. As long as it’s fun and we are really into it and there are things coming.”

This summer, Sepultura will play some summer festivals in Europe, then there will probably be more touring in South America. The touring cycle will wind down at the end of this year before work on a new album is likely to start. Sepultura’s current record label is Nuclear Blast and they hope to stay there. “It’s been great working with them,” says Derrick. “I think it is perfect for us there. They really believe in us. It’s been a while since we had a steady label that’s been backing us 100%. We definitely have that feeling with them.”

Derrick Green and Eloy Casagrande of Sepultura in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

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Gig review: Shadows over Tokyo as Dark Funeral and Naglfar return to Japan

Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dark Funeral and Naglfar prove that Swedish extreme metal still rules with a triumphant return to Japan to spread darkness.

Dark Funeral, Naglfar, Ethereal Sin and Nox Vorago at Shimokitazawa Garden, Tokyo, 16th June 2018

Kristoffer “Wrath” Olivius of Naglfar on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In 2016, Swedish black metal band Dark Funeral released their latest album, “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, and they last performed in Japan that same year. They are still touring that album as they now mark their 25th anniversary as a band. This time they have fellow Swedish black metal veterans Naglfar with them as a double headliner for the Japan gigs. What a treat! Two of Sweden’s best extreme metal bands together on stage in Japan.

Nox Vorago

J.N Uduun of Nox Vorago on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The evening kicks off with Swedish hopefuls Nox Vorago as the opening act. Their stage clothes and masks make them kind of look like Ghost’s Nameless Ghouls. But Nox Vorago is much better than that. This is no pop act. This is quality extreme metal from Gothenburg. And, unlike Ghost, Nox Vorago’s members take off their masks and reveal their faces at the end of the set. Their short set is exemplary. They hit the stage, giving us their all with a quality execution of great material and it’s all finished before anyone gets bored. This band has a bright future and no doubt they will be back in Japan.

Ethereal Sin

Yama Darkblaze of Ethereal Sin on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The second support act of the evening is Ethereal Sin, a Japanese band combining avant-garde black metal with folk metal, some big Cradle of Filth influences and other bits and pieces. They’re different to most things out there and they put on a good show. The frontman Yama Darkblaze, who founded the band back in 1997, is a character and he knows how to handle and entertain his audience.

Naglfar

Kristoffer “Wrath” Olivius of Naglfar on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Swedish band Naglfar, perhaps best described as a hard-hitting but melodic black metal band, formed in 1992. Despite having been around for many years and having released some terrific albums, they have never toured much. Founding member Kristoffer “Wrath” Olivius leads the solid current line-up of the band. Having originally been the band’s bassist, he is nowadays its lead singer. A very smart move as he is a great frontman. He is hardworking and sweating buckets as he gives it his all on stage. At times he’s so into the music and the performance that he appears possessed. That’s not a bad thing when you’re fronting a black metal band. Bass duties are now handled by Alex “Impaler Friberg of Firespawn and Necrophobic fame. Naglfar hasn’t released an album since 2012’s “Téras” (on which current Megadeth man Dirk Verbeuren played the drums) but the band has a great catalogue of brutal music. They open the set this evening with “Feeding Moloch” from 2007’s “Harvest” album (a song that has only been performed live a couple of times over the years) and continue with the magnificent “Black God Aftermath”. During this splendid show, we get to hear a few more rare numbers in the form of “The Mirrors of My Soul” and “And the World Shall Be Your Grave”, in addition to expected favourites such as “A Swarm of Plagues” and “The Perpetual Horrors”. A very strong set is finished off with the magnificent “I am Vengeance” and “The Brimstone Gate”. What a return by a great band!

Alex “Impaler” Friberg of Naglfar on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dark Funeral

Dark Funeral on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Flawless is how I would describe the terrific Dark Funeral set in Tokyo this evening. Dark Funeral’s music is dark, dark and darker, yet often very melodic. They know what their strengths are and they focus on them. This evening we get to hear some of their early output but also a fair bit of the newer material from their most recent album, 2016’s “Where Shadows Forever Reign”.

Adra Melek of Dark Funeral on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Since they last played Japan in 2016, they have two new members on stage. But despite the many changes in the Dark Funeral line-up over the years, founding guitarist Lord Ahriman always manage to deliver, both on stage and in the studio. His long-time guitar partner Chaq Mol and fierce frontman Heljarmadr make this more than good, while new drummer Jalomaah and bassist Adra Melek are rock solid. This version of the band is fantastic. Let’s hope that we now will see some stability with this line-up.

Heljarmadr of Dark Funeral on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

They open with “Unchain My Soul” from the latest album and continue with “The Arrival of Satan’s Empire” and “Vobiscum Satanas”. As expected, we get a career-spanning set of songs from 1996’s debut album “The Secrets of the Black Arts” up until the latest album “Where Shadows Forever Reign”. The strength of the latest album is evident as we get quite a few songs from it this evening. They close a great evening of darkness with the title track from the latest album. What a showcase of splendid extreme and dark music! Thank you to the fantastic team at Evoken de Valhall Production for continuing to bring so many great bands to Japan.

Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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Album review: Tad Morose “Chapter X”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish heavy metal band Tad Morose is back with its splendid tenth studio album, “Chapter X”.

Tad Morose has a sound which is based on what I would call proper heavy metal. There are hints of bands such as Judas Priest, Helloween and Primal Fear. There are progressive influences and there are melodic power metal parts and some symphonic touches as well as great guitar wankery. Most of all, this is great metal music. I love it. It’s a solid album from a seasoned metal band.

The band formed in Bollnäs, Sweden in 1991 and has seen many members come and go over the years. Best known among its former members are perhaps vocalists Urban Breed (Bloodbound, Serious Black) and Joe Comeau (Annihilator, Overkill). The current line-up is led by founding member Christer “Krunt” Andersson on guitar and keyboards and long-time drummer Peter Morén. The line-up is completed by Ronny Hemlin on vocals, Kenneth Jonsson on guitar and Johan Löfgren on bass.

The album opens with “Apocalypse”, a major piece of work with all sorts of influences. It’s like a mini rock opera or concept album distilled down to one song. “Chapter X” is full of rock-solid metal tracks such as “Nemesis”, one of my favourite tracks on the album. “Come Morpheus” is another powerful and gloomy metal song which immediately becomes a favourite. “Masquerader”, “Deprived of Light”, “I am Night”, “Vaunt the Cynical” and many more songs are great. There are no weak points on this album. “…Yet Still You Preach” is close to being a power ballad, but still metal enough. This is Tad Morose after all.

Tad Morose’s album “Chapter X” will be released on 15th June via GMR Music.

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Interview: Jake E of Cyhra | “We’ll enter the studio at the end of the summer”

Jake E in Tokyo in 2014. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Jake E and Cyhra, the band he formed with former In Flames guitarist Jesper Strömblad, kicked off their summer festival season in Europe yesterday. Roppongi Rocks checked in with the former Amaranthe frontman to talk about the work on Cyhra’s next album.

Following the release of your terrific debut album “Letters to Myself” last year, you are now writing new material. Are you already working on a new album? “Thank you for those fantastic words. We’re working on new songs and will enter the studio at the end of the summer. But it probably won’t be released until spring 2019. Nowadays the lead times in this industry are long and you have to plan a year ahead.”

Since you released the album last October, you’ve gained a new member (guitarist Euge Valovirta) and lost one (bassist Peter Iwers). What impact on the band and the songwriting have these changes had? “Euge played on the debut album but it was originally not planned that he was going to be a permanent member. But since he is a fantastic guitarist and also a fantastic human being it was a no-brainer to include him as a permanent member. It is a pity that we lost Peter. He too is a great human being and the best bassist I’ve ever played with. However, time didn’t allow Peter to be 100% involved with Cyhra and thus he chose to step down. There’s absolutely no bad blood between us. We’re still great friends. It is I and Jesper who are the musical motor of the band, although Euge has contributed with many great ideas. It will be interesting to see where this leads. The new songs are a natural continuation of ‘Letters’. It is incredibly creative and fun to write album number two now that we know a bit more about how the fans react to our music when we play live. Cyhra is a fantastic live act and I feel that the new material is, even more, audience friendly”.

Jake E on stage in Tokyo with Amaranthe in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Are you planning to replace Peter Iwers in the band? “We will continue without a bassist for now. What we’ll do in the long term, we’ll see.”

Your drummer Alex Landenburg is currently drumming with Kamelot where he had to fill in on very short notice. Has Cyhra been forced to make any changes to accommodate Alex doing the Kamelot tour? “It proves what a great drummer he is. He had 48 hours to fly to the US to do a month-long tour. We didn’t want to stand in his way, so we flew in Adde Larsson who filled-in for a gig.” (Editor’s note: Adde Larsson is a Gothenburg-based session drummer who has played with bands such as Engel, M.A.N, Black Candy Store and Urbandux.)

Jake E on stage with Amaranthe in Tokyo in 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

You opened for Kreator and Sabaton on their North American tour. Do you have any plans for more tours or will it be more one-off gigs here and there? “We would like to tour all the time. Right now we’re fighting against the fact that we are a new band and thus it’s a lot of work to get to do the tours. But Sabaton took us with them and for that, we are eternally grateful. It was really fantastic. Yesterday we played at Metalfest in the Czech Republic. It was wonderful to play in front of 12,000 persons again. Then I really felt that we are here to stay!”

For readers in Europe, Cyhra will next be on stage at the mighty Sweden Rock Festival on Wednesday 6th June.

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Elize Ryd on the new Amaranthe album: “We’re heavier!”

Elize Ryd backstage in Tokyo in March 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish modern melodic metal band Amaranthe is working on its fifth studio album which will also be the first with new vocalist Nils Molin of Dynazty fame. Roppongi Rocks checked in with Elize Ryd, one of Amaranthe’s three vocalists, for a quick update on the new album.

You have just finished the recordings for the new album in Ribe, Denmark. Are you happy with what you’ve accomplished in the studio this time? “Yes. After two months of writing and two months of recording in Ribe with Jacob Hansen, we’re finally finished. It’s a record for us to write and record an album in four months. That says a lot. We had a lot of ideas and melodies that needed to get out. The completed master will be sent out across the world, including Japan, on Monday. Now the work continues with design, layout, translations of the lyrics and so forth.”

Elize Ryd and Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson in Roppongi, Tokyo in 2016. Photo: Selfie by Elize Ryd

How would you describe the new album musically compared to your earlier albums? “Musically we’re heavier! For the sake of our Japanese fans, we have written the fastest song in Amaranthe history, tempo-wise. We have managed to make most of the songs contemporary sounding, which I think is what should be the biggest difference between the albums. You should be able to hear what year an album was written when you listen to it in the future. I think people will be somewhat shocked by the sound we’ve created this time, in a positive way!”

This is the first album with your new vocalist Nils Molin. How has he impacted the new album? “In the beginning, I was reacting to the ‘new’ voice and it felt a bit unusual. But when I listen to it now, his voice feels like a given in this context. We are very satisfied with Nils. He’s done an amazing job. It’s going to be extremely fun to be able to present him to the fans, not only live but also on record.”

Elize Ryd of Amaranthe on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

On the last album, you had the track “That Song” which stood out and got people talking. Have you got any similar surprises on the new album? “That was the favourite song for the record label and also for many fans. I assume it was special enough that it was impossible for it to not get noticed. Regardless if you choose to worry too much about genres or the fact that my voice is quite similar to Rihanna’s at times, it was a well-written and great song that served its purpose. It needed to get out there. We wanted to show people that we are not ashamed over anything. Obviously there are serious thoughts behind every song that we write. I don’t get shocked by anything anymore. Thus I, unfortunately, have to reply ‘no’ to this question. Haha!! It feels a bit boring, but I can really say that we feel that this is musically our strongest album so far. The songs show a really serious side to the band, but also a friendly and humorous side. We’re using certain words we haven’t used before that may start a debate. We’ll see.”

When will the album be released? “I don’t know if it’s official yet, but it will be released this year, which we’re very happy about. Perhaps around my birthday as usual?”

Elize Ryd of Amaranthe on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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Album review: Nervosa “Downfall of Mankind”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Brazil’s Nervosa is back with a fab new album of punishing old-school thrash metal with relentless shredding and anger.

Brazilian thrash metal band Nervosa is back with its aggressive third album. It’s in your face. It’s like an angry pack of wild dogs biting your leg. It’s sinister, aggressive and wonderfully splendid. Nervosa, a trio consisting of Fernanda Lira on vocals and bass, Prika Amaral on guitar and Luana Dametto on drums, plays riff-happy, punishing, relentless and raw thrash metal. There is constant aggressive shredding. The energy and the aggressiveness are always present in Nervosa’s music. It sounds kind of animalistic. Like an out of control wild animal locked into a small cage that is trying to break free.

The album is produced by Martin Furia. When I recently met him here in Japan (he was tour manager for Destruction), he said he very happy with the result of his work on the Nervosa album. Too right, he should be happy. When you have a band with such raw aggression and oversupply of energy, it can be somewhat tricky to capture that in the studio and get it to sound right on an album. But Furia succeeds. He has toured with Nervosa as the band’s sound engineer which probably explains why he’s the man who can take this untamed trio and get them to deliver in the studio as well.

There are some fab uncompromising songs here, such as “…And Justice For Whom?”, “Vultures”, “Raise Your Fist!”, “Fear, Violence and Massacre”, “Never Forget Never Repeat” and so on. No fillers, no compromises, just great thrash metal on every song on this album. My favourite tracks are “Cultura do Estupro” and “Kill The Silence”, a track I like as soon as I see the title. This is a very solid album which includes guest appearances by João Gordo (Ratos de Porão), Rodrigo Oliveira (Korzus) and Michael Gilbert (Flotsam & Jetsam). Good stuff. Love it. I’d love to see these ladies on stage in Japan because live this will no doubt be even more explosive.

Nervosa’s album “Downfall of Mankind” is out now via Napalm Records.

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Album review: Marduk “Viktoria”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Marduk has been at the forefront of extreme metal for nearly three decades. The influential Swedes are back with “Viktoria”, their fourteenth studio album.

Marduk is so much more than the band’s striking visual image that often gets them noticed. Under the dramatic surface, there is some terrific music. This is a very skilled band with fantastic extreme metal songs that are sinister and fierce at the same time. Since forming in 1990, Marduk has evolved from playing some kind of death metal, via black metal, to what I would call somewhat melodic extreme metal (yeah, that’s right!). This is a quality extreme metal band that is approaching three decades of making music and touring the world.

The “Viktoria” album is filled with heavy riffs, drum blastbeats and terrific melodies. It’s not all mayhem as some of the songs on the album contain slower parts which are both gloomy and rather melodic. The result is great. Fast, heavy, slow, gloomy, aggressive, melodic. It’s a great melting pot of styles and tempo changes that are all added up to become Marduk. Marduk’s lyrics revisit historical battles, religion and the very dark side of humanity. The heavy and serious topics of the songs fit very well with the aggressive music. The sinister combination makes great metal music for those of you who like your heavy metal evil and dark.

The album opens with “Werwolf”, a straightforward punishing two-minute track that hits you in the face and wakes you up. Marduk wants your attention! Time to listen! “Equestrian Bloodlust”, a more complex and varied song, is an immediate favourite of mine on this album. The title track “Viktoria” is also a splendid lesson in how extreme metal is done. The album is rather varied but also consistent with it comes to song quality.

Marduk’s album “Viktoria” will be released on 22nd June via Century Media Records. Marduk will tour Japan in November.

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Album review: Stagman “Moder Jord” | Zinny Zan continues his singer-songwriter solo career

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Bosse Stagman, better known as Zinny Zan of Easy Action and Shotgun Messiah fame, has grown up and become a singer-songwriter.

In the early 1980s, Bosse Stagman, under his Zinny Zan stage name, was one of Sweden’s first proper rock stars who fronted sleaze rock band Easy Action, a band which also featured guitarist Kee Marcello. Marcello moved on to bigger stages when he joined Europe, while Stagman became frontman of Shotgun Messiah, a Swedish band which saw some decent success in the US for a few years and also included future Marilyn Manson member Tim Sköld.

Now Stagman has grown up and long gone are his sleaze rock days. He now continues his journey as a solo artist on the same road he went down on last year’s “Är ni kvar där ute?” album. Stagman the solo artist has dropped the brash image of yesteryear. Now he is focused on scaled down singer-songwriter kind of music sung in his native Swedish. Stagman has sort of followed in the footsteps of Tommy Nilsson, a well-known mainstream pop/rock singer who replaced Zinny Zan as frontman of Easy Action in the mid-80s when the band dropped both the image and the sleaze music and became a melodic rock band. Nilsson later became a household name as a solo artist. Stagman covers a relatively wide area of musical styles on this new solo album. Thankfully he’s chosen to just write and perform music that he wants to do, ignoring all trends and expectations along the way. There’s some fine guitar work on several of the songs that reminds us of Stagman’s past as a rock star. We get some blues influences as well as touches of more contemporary rock and pop music, including a few ballads. It is a very personal album, something which is very noticeable in songs like “Stockholm är min stad” (“Stockholm is my city”). He writes lyrics about his life and experiences, not some abstract or made up stories. My favourite track on this album is “Den rätta vägen”, a song which partly sounds like a Squeeze-inspired song.

Easy Action fans will enjoy the fact that Nalle Påhlsson is on bass duty on this album and Björn “Grizzly” Höglund plays drums. While not original members, both of them were part of later line-ups of Easy Action.

Stagman’s “Moder Jord” album is out now via GMR Music.

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Gig review: At The Gates kicks off world tour in style with fab Tokyo show

Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At The Gates kicks off the “To Drink From the Night Itself” world tour with a splendid show in Tokyo. World-class death metal served up by the Gothenburg Sound masters.

At The Gates, Hellchild and Survive at Tsutaya O-East, Shibuya, Tokyo, 29th May 2018

Jonas Björler of At The Gates on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At The Gates wisely chose to kick off their new world tour in Tokyo. Here they have a long history and a loyal audience ready to give the band the support and love the Gothenburg Sound masters deserve and crave.

Two seasoned local bands, thrash metal band Survive and death metal/grindcore band Hellchild, warm up the audience before At The Gates, the masters of Swedish melodic death metal, enter the stage and bring the whole venue to boiling point.

Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

They open with “To Drink From the Night Itself”, the ttle track from the new album and immediately follow that with the classic “Slaughter of the Soul” before they deliver “At War With Reality”. What an opening! This sets the tone for the evening. We get a killer set list, including the live premiere of four songs from the new album: “A Stare Bound in Stone”, “Daggers of Black Haze”, “The Chasm” and “The Mirror Black”. The new songs fit very well with the classics. The sound has evolved, with some progressive elements added to the band’s music, but without going too far away from the band’s melodic death metal roots. One of the highlights of the set is, without doubt, the splendid “Death and the Labyrinth”. That song is one of the six songs performed this evening from 2014’s very strong comeback album, “At War with Reality”.

This is the third time I am seeing At The Gates perform in Japan and they are as great as expected. This band never underestimates its audience, it always delivers a world-class death metal knockout in Japan. Frontman Tomas Lindberg is a phenomenal leader on stage. He rarely stands still more than a few seconds. He’s all over the place and he combines his on-stage presence with terrific death metal vocals.

Adrian Erlandsson of At The Gates on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The band’s current line-up – Tomas Lindberg (vocals), Jonas Björler (bass), Adrian Erlandsson (drums), Martin Larsson (rhythm guitar) and Jonas Stålhammar (lead guitar) – basically can’t be bettered in my view. They have the ultimate band line-up and they fit very well together as a unit. New member Jonas Stålhammar is a great addition. The God Macabre, The Crown, Bombs of Hades and The Lurking Fear man is such an obvious choice to replace co-founder Anders Björler who left the band last year. Stålhammar shows on stage that he deserves the spot.

Jonas Stålhammar of At The Gates on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At The Gates finishes the evening’s massive 20-song set with “The Night Eternal”. The new world tour is off to a splendid start for the Gothenburg veterans who are still very much relevant. A show dominated by material from the last two albums shows that this band is no mere nostalgia act. Of course, they pay respect to their impressive heritage, but they are not stuck in the past. We do get classic 90s songs such as “Slaughter of the Soul”, “Cold”, “”Under a Serpent Sun”, “The Swarm”, “Raped by the Light of Christ”, ”Nausea”, “Suicide Nation”, “Blinded by Fear” and “Kingdom Gone”, but they’re outnumbered by the newer material. We get the best of both worlds in a show with no room for any fillers.

Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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