EP review: Thunder “Christmas Day”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

British rockers Thunder are back with a scaled-back and mostly acoustic EP release ahead of their Japan tour.

While the title track is a Christmas song, this is not really a Christmas record. It’s more a record with some rare and special goodies from Thunder, released to coincide with their winter tour which will also take them back to Japan in January.

On this EP we get to see a scaled down and stripped bare Thunder which has slowed down the tempo. We get a combination of mainly acoustic arrangements and some live versions of old songs. It’s all good stuff which showcases how truly great this band is. The music has a laidback and casual feeling to it. Yet it is so beautiful and expertly executed. Here they’re not hiding behind volume or any gimmicks. This is just a great band performing some emotional songs as a Christmas present to its fans.

“Christmas Day” is a melancholic ballad and here we get a terrific combination of the distinctive voice of Danny Bowes and the fine guitar work of Luke Morley. Since the very beginning of Thunder In the late 80s, the chemistry between Bowes and Morley has been the very essence of the band’s sound. It is only becoming more prominent and evident over time. They are complemented by guitarist Ben Matthews and rhythm section Chris Childs on bass and Harry James on drums (who is also Magnum‘s drummer).

The six-track Japanese edition of the new EP contains acoustic versions of “Heartbreak Hurricane” and “The Enemy Inside” from the band’s latest album “Rip It Up”, as well as a live version of the track “Broken” from 2015’s “Wonder Days”. “Love Walked In” is a ballad which was originally featured on Thunder’s 1990 debut album “Backstreet Symphony”, here in a fab new version. There is also a splendid version of “Low Life In High Places”, a song which originally appeared on 1992’s “Laughing On Judgement Day”.

This is a British rock band with roots in blues and storytelling, something which more than ever before is evident on this record. Guitarist Luke Morley shows us that he doesn’t need electricity to make his guitar smoke. He is a fine guitarist and an even better songwriter.

Thunder will perform in Osaka on 10th January and on 12th and 13th January they will perform at Club Citta in Kawasaki as part of their “Mix It Up – Then & Now Tour”. Get your tickets here: http://clubcitta.co.jp/001/thunder-2018/

Thunder’s “Christmas Day’ EP will be released on 8th December in Japan via Ward Records.

www.facebook.com/thunderonline / www.thunderonline.com


Album review: Appice “Sinister”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Legendary drumming brothers Carmine and Vinny Appice have finally made a splendid classic hard rock album together and with a little help from their industry friends.

Between them, Brooklyn-born drummer brothers Carmine Appice and Vinny Appice have drummed with major acts such as Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, Heaven & Hell, Last In Line, Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra, Blue Murder, Cactus, Marty Friedman, Michael Schenker, Rod Stewart, Ted Nugent, Paul Stanley and many more. There is no shortage in the pedigree department in this family.

While they have previously toured and released a “Drum Wars” live album together, this is their first joint studio album. With many different guest musicians and vocalists appearing, this is naturally quite a varied album. But it basically is an album filled with blues-based classic hard rock of the best kind. It is a melting pot of the Appice brothers’ careers. Terrific stuff.

One of the prominent guests on this fab album is vocalist Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot, King Kobra, Raiding The Rock Vault). Shortino sings on one of the album’s best tracks, “Monsters & Heroes”, a terrific tribute to Ronnie James Dio. He also takes the lead on the tracks “War Cry” and “Suddenly”.

“Killing Floor” is fabulous song, with Chas West (Lynch Mob, Foreigner, Red Dragon Cartel) on vocals, which sounds as if it could have been a lost Whitesnake track. “Riot” is a great hard rock track (originally done by Carmine’s old band Blue Murder) made even better with one of our favourite Irishmen, Robin McAuley (MSG, Michael Schenker Fest, Raiding The Rock Vault), on vocals.

On the track “War Cry”, we get Shortino’s vocals combined with the guitar of Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake). “You Got Me Running” has, somewhat surprisingly, Carmine Appice on lead vocals. Other notable guests on the album include Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses), Craig Goldy (Dio, Dio Disciples, Giuffria, Rough Cutt), Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol. Last In Line), Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, The Firm, Whitesnake), Johnny Rod (King Kobra, W.A.S.P.) and many more.

“Sabbath Mash” is a weird and wonderful medley of Black Sabbath classics and a nod to the brothers’ past with Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Dio and Ozzy Osbourne.

While this is an album led by two drummers, we don’t get drumming overkill. The track “Drum Wars” is a drum showcase, but much of the rest of the album is just good-old hard rock. There’s plenty of fab guitar work and some terrific vocal efforts as well as great original songs plus a couple of revisits to old stomping grounds.

Appice’s “Sinister” album will be released on 24th November via Ward Records in Japan. It has been released in other markets via SPV/Steamhammer.

www.facebook.com/appicebrothers / www.appicebrothers.com

www.facebook.com/wardrecords / wardrecords.com

Interview: David “Rock” Feinstein of The Rods

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

David “Rock” Feinstein made a name for himself in the late 60s and early 70s when he played with his cousin Ronnie James Dio in Elf. He then continued his career with the hard rock band The Rods during the 80s. When The Rods recently came to perform two sets at Spiritual Beast’s Japanese Assault Fest in Tokyo, Roppongi Rocks’ Caroline Misokane sat down with Feinstein to talk about his years in Elf, what led The Rods to stop with music for a while, the band’s first time in Japan and, of course, his cousin Ronnie James Dio.

You first shot to fame as a member of Elf where you played with your cousin Ronnie James Dio. What can you tell us about your years in Elf? “The Elf years were really great because Ronnie asked me to join him. At that time his band was called Ronnie Dio and The Prophets and they were like the best band, although they were local. I was in another one and there were many bands around that area. I was just out of high school and I was the drummer of my band. My best friend was a guitarist, so I knew how to play a few chords. When I went to see Ronnie Dio and The Prophets, I met Ronnie and he said ‘Hey, you know how to play the guitar?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I know about three chords, why?’ He said that their guitar player was leaving the band and asked if I’d be interested in joining them. I hesitated because I was playing drums, but slowly I started being part of it. Ronnie and the other guys were like five years older than me, so I was kind of learning from watching those guys. It was all a learning experience. I could spend hours talking about Elf. We spent a lot of time writing songs for The Prophets. When we wrote our first album, we became The Electric Elves and then Elf. We went for an audition for that album, with Columbia Records, in a rehearsal room in New York City. At the same time, Ian Paice and Roger Glover from Deep Purple were thinking about getting into producing bands and they came to check us and see if they would be interested in producing us. So, we were in this big room with five or six people and then we played our songs and they loved it. We didn’t know that, but in a few days we knew that the label wanted to sign with us and that Roger and Ian wanted to produce us. Then we recorded our first album with them. After that we started touring with Deep Purple because of the association, as in that time they were probably the biggest band in the world. We were playing in arenas with them. It was a great experience, as we started as a bar band, to play in arenas.”

Soon after you left Elf in the mid-70s, the core of the band were invited to join Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Did you see that as a missed opportunity for you or how did you react to it? “No, actually I left the band before that because I felt I had to do something different, as when I was in the high school I never had any regular job, I was always only a musician. Then it became a career and it got to a point in my life I had to try different things. That’s why I left the band and I thought I’d leave for a while and then come back, but I wanted to try other things. I worked with many other things and during that time Ronnie and the rest of the guys had the opportunity because Ritchie had left Deep Purple to form his own band and he just took the Elf band with him. Their guitarist soon left the band, then the other guys too, but Ronnie stayed with Rainbow until the next step, which was Black Sabbath. I always followed his career. I always followed Ronnie and the band when we weren’t together. I always supported him because Ronnie was such a great talent. He really deserved to reach higher levels. I think if the Elf band had stayed together, we would have reached a greater success, because there was a certain magic about the original line-up of the band. Ronnie was destined to fame because his voice was so amazing. He was so versatile and he could have sang any other style, but he chose heavy metal and he was awesome at what he did.”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

How would you describe how The Rods’ sound has evolved? Initially it kind of had more of a bluesy 70s hard rock feeling and then became more 80s American metal. “After a while I just felt I had to go back to music, because being a musician is something that stays with you, no matter how much time passes. I wanted to put a band together and play some bars, because I had done some other jobs and I knew I didn’t want to pursue those jobs anymore. But I needed to make some money and I thought if I’d put a band together I could play in some bars and earn some money. That’s how The Rods was formed,“ explains Feinstein how he formed the band together with drummer Carl Canedy. “We had two different bassists until we found Garry Bordonaro, who was the right person for it. Elf was more bluesy, kind of my musical background. I was influenced by people like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore. Their styles are more of a blues base, and that’s my style. I’m not a technical guitarist, I can’t even play a scale. I don’t know any. When The Rods was formed, we started as a cover band, until Carl started writing songs and we recorded a demo to send to some people to see if someone was interested in signing us. We just started as a bar band, to play and make some money and all of a sudden we were making records and touring all around. So, it kind of happened because we didn’t start thinking about getting this big. The Rods happened to start at the time of the new wave of heavy metal, it was just the beginning of it. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax were all friends of us and we played jobs along with Metallica and all those bands back in the days when we started. We kind of led the way for these other bands to carry on. But we got to a point in our career where we had so many bad business dealings with management and record labels, so when we stopped playing it was not for internal problems, as we stayed friends. However, we just got tired of the business and that’s why we stopped for a while. In a general way, we realised that The Rods was the beginning of the new wave of heavy metal. There are so many genres inside of metal, and people call our music classic rock, but in my opinion we are a rock’n’roll band. Our songs are not a commercial thing, it’s more like an AC/DC thing. So, I call us a rock’n’roll band.”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The Rods was formed back in 1980. What motivates you to perform with the band in 2017? “I started playing again because, like I said, music is in my blood. I recorded a couple of solo albums released by a German label called SPV. Then I got a call from Carl saying he listened to my stuff and that he liked it a lot and made him want to play together again. We had not seen each other in a long time and he proposed a reunion of the band. Then we played two shows, one in a bar in my hometown and another in Garry’s hometown. Today it’s all because of the internet, that’s how people notice you nowadays, and they come to the shows. We did not have any idea that people still cared about us and then they were there watching us again, bringing their old albums for us to sign. Thus we realised that people still remembered us. It’s been ten years now since then and we have been playing eight to ten shows a year; most of these shows happen when people contact us asking if we could play in their town. We don’t have a booking agency or a management, it’s all directly with us. We try to keep playing only a few shows a year, but sometimes it happens to be more, like in 2011 when we did a European tour supporting Dio Disciples. In these last ten years we have been in places we have never visited before, like Brazil, and now Japan. It’s our first time here and we always wanted to come to Japan. Because of the internet we know now that we have fans all around the world, in places we have never thought our music would reach.”

Your last studio album came out six years ago. Do you have any plans for new albums? “We will record a new album as soon as we come home after this tour. The songs are all written and we hope to release it in the first half of 2018. Personally I think these are the best songs we have written in our career, so it’s going to be a great record.”

Ronnie James Dio reunited with you on the fabulous The Rods’ song “The Code”. What brought that about? “This was a song written by Carl and at the same time it was a song written by someone in the band. It sounded totally different from what we are used to do. Me and Garry are the singers and we write more energetic songs, which are the styles we can sing and also songs that fit into our singing style. So, when we had a song like that we knew we couldn’t do it, we are not capable of singing that type of song. When Carl came with ‘The Code’ we were recording a new album and thought that it was a great song, but not for me or Garry, and it coincided with when I wrote ‘Metal Will Never Die’, which was more The Rods style, but not that much. Also, me and Ronnie were talking about making an Elf reunion album and then he offered himself to sing on a The Rods song. We gave him these two songs, because I knew they needed a really good vocalist, they were very different from what we are used to. We recorded those two songs three or four years before Ronnie passed away. He probably didn’t even know he was sick and it ended that ‘The Code’ featured on a The Rods album and ‘Metal Will Never Die’ made up part of a Dio album.”

You are now playing Japan for the very first time. How does it feel being here and what are your expectations? “It’s been so great being here. We have been here for a couple of days and we have been walking around, checking around, meeting some fans at the hotel and on the streets, people are so nice. Everything we have seen is so clean. The hotel accommodations are the best we have seen in years. We don’t have any expectation of what it’s going to be, no matter where we play. We just do the same thing if we are playing for ten people or ten thousand, it does not matter. We will hit the stage tonight and do our thing. I think people like us here. We’ve met many fans, they greeted us very well. We are loving being in Japan. People are very nice here and we hope that after this weekend we will be able to come back soon.”

Last year at Wacken Open Air, Dio Disciples played with a hologram of Ronnie James Dio and Wendy Dio has already announced a world tour for the hologram show. What do you think about it? Would you be part of it if invited? “For me there’s two different sides of it. I think it’s a great thing because of the technology evolved to make it happen and I want to go and see it live. I know there are a lot of controversy. Even not being too much on the internet to see all the comments, I know there are a lot of people who are against it. But I think no matter what you do, in anything in your life, there will be people against it and people for it. I just hope that when the band will go out on tour, they be well received by the fans. I hope that people understand what it is. Many bands are doing it and not only bands, but people like Michael Jackson performed as a hologram and it was really cool. I know many other bands will do the same in the future. It’s technology, something new. Personally I think it is a cool thing. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I would be part of it and that’s the way I feel about it.”

This year marked the tenth anniversary of the last time Ronnie James Dio sang in Japan (the Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell tour of 2007). What are your greatest memories of him? “I could talk about it for five or six hours. Haha! I got asked the same question many times. It’s probably because of the beginning, before he was famous, when we started in a band and there are a lot of memories from that time. Also, I have so many memories from his last ten years, where we spent so much time together, with him visiting me in Cortland, where his parents live too. Ronnie was a very funny person. The thing I miss the most about him is that when you were around him, he was making you laugh. He was a naturally funny person. And he lived for his fans. They came first, always. I have seen him very ill, coughing, breathless and going to the stage and singing for two hours, like nothing was wrong. And after that going out to hang out with the fans, take pictures, give them autographs. He could spend hours signing things for the fans. He would never cancel a show, he would never disappoint the fans. He lived for them, it’s a very honourable thing to do. He knew how much he mattered to those people and how much they meant to him. In general, he was a very modest person, for being a superstar. Of course, he lived in a beautiful house, but he was a simple person, just like you and me. He was a very brilliant man, with a great mind, a great vocabulary. That’s why his lyrics are the way they are. He had a huge imagination, so when you hear his lyrics, you can clearly see where he was at the moment he wrote it. I miss many things about him. I miss being around him, but I guess I must stop now because I could spend a lifetime just to tell you about him. Haha!”

David “Rock” Feinstein in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

What’s next for The Rods? “One step at a time. Haha! Like I said, as soon as we get back to the United States we will start recording a new album, which we hopefully will release by the first half of 2018. We want to play more next year. We want to play at bigger festivals in the summer. But we take it easy, we take one day at a time. Also, we really hope to come back to Japan very soon.”



Loud Park gig report: L.A. Guns

Phil Lewis of L.A. Guns backstage at Loud Park with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson.

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

L.A. Guns exceed expectations at their Japan gig with Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns reunited once again.

Sleaze/glam rockers L.A. Guns have had many ups and downs and many different line-ups in their career (for a few years there were even two different versions of L.A. Guns touring at the same time). With vocalist Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns now reunited in the current version of the band and a brand new album out, there is a good level of interest in their performance at the Loud Park festival. I didn’t really know what to expect ahead of the gig, but when L.A. Guns perform on stage I am pleasantly surprised. L.A. Guns certainly exceed my expectations.

It is obviously Lewis and Guns who are the main leaders in this classic sleaze rock band, but the newer additions – guitarist Michael Grant, bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Shane Fitzgibbon – all do their bits to make L.A. Guns in 2017 a relevant band and not a mere nostalgia act. The band’s new album, “The Missing Peace”, was released the day before they walk on stage at the Loud Park festival on Saturday 14th October.

Englishman Phil Lewis has turned 60 and has now lived half his life in the US, but his English accent still shines through as he talks on stage between the songs. He sings great. He doesn’t seem to have lost any of his vocal skills with age. Guitarist Tracii Guns is also in fine form and his guitar playing reminds us that he is an underrated guitar wizard. He has a lot of guitar in him and deserves more recognition than he normally gets. During L.A. Guns’ early days Axl Rose briefly fronted the band and then Tracii Guns was in the very first line-up of Guns N’ Roses before he was replaced by Slash. Tracii has also had brief stints in Poison and Quiet Riot. Additionally, he played with Nikki Sixx in Brides of Destruction and Michael Schenker in Contraband.

L.A. Guns open this gig with “Over the Edge” from the 1991 album “Hollywood Vampires”. As this is a short festival gig at noon we basically get a short “best of” set list, but we do get to hear the new track “Speed” as the second song of the set. We then get “No Mercy” from the band’s 1988 debut album, before we get treated to the fab 2002 song “Don’t Look at Me That Way”. “Killing Machine”, a fast rocker from the 1994 album “Vicious Circle”, follows before we get the terrific “Never Enough” from the 1989 album “Cocked & Loaded”. What is labelled as “Jelly Jam”, is an instrumental session where the band’s guitarists get to shine. They finish their set with two of their most memorable songs: “The Ballad of Jayne” and “Rip and Tear”, both from “Cocked & Loaded”. L.A. Guns have reloaded once again and they sound great, here and now.


Loud Park gig report: Slayer

Kerry King of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The mighty thrash metal veterans Slayer once again slayed Loud Park.

Tom Araya and Kerry King of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At 8:00pm, at the end of a long and busy day of heavy metal, many festivalgoers are tired. But there is still one attraction that almost everybody who has bought tickets for the Loud Park festival wants to see: I am of course talking about the mighty Slayer, one of the Big Four American thrash metal bands.

Gary Holt of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Slayer performed at the very first edition of Loud Park in 2006 and this evening it is their fifth time playing this festival. They are seen by me and many others as an integral part of Loud Park. They always put on a great show for their fans at Loud Park.

Kerry King of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Before the band’s festival set on Saturday 14th October starts, a huge curtain is covering the stage. As the house lights turn off we see illustrations in the form of pentagrams, crosses and the Slayer logo. Then the curtain falls to reveal the powerful thrash metal quartet from California.

Opening with “Repentless” from their latest album of the same name, these four guys show that age is just a number when it comes to slaying a stage. Continuing with “The Antichrist” and “Disciple”, Saitama Super Arena opens up in a huge circle pit where tired fans seem to forget their tiredness from a long festival day as Slayer gives them renewed energy. Alternating old classics with more recent songs, brutality and technique dominate the show. Kerry King is, without doubt, one of the best guitarists of all time. When his riffs are combined with Gary Holt’s, the only thing I can think is that Gary was shaped for Slayer and his predecessor, the late Jeff Hanneman, is probably really proud of the team.

During the set vocalist and bassist Tom Araya talks about the love relationship between the band and the fans and then announce the song “Dead Skin Mask”. They play the song as if it were a romantic love song. Definitely dark, weird and beautiful at the same time.

Tom Araya of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Continuing the spectacle, the set keeps crossing their entire career. Building a set list for a band with 12 studio albums to their name and 36 years on the road is not an easy thing to do, but they do it very well. As a tradition, the last few songs at a Slayer gig are always the anthems. Thus, songs like “Hell Awaits” and “South of Heaven” are played with mastery, preparing the audience for the two best known and most awaited Slayer classics of all time: “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death”. It does not matter if you are a new or an old-school fan, when it comes to Slayer these two songs are the ones you were waiting for since the moment you bought your ticket to see the band live.

“Angel of Death” is a strong, brutal and bloody song. Its lyrics are about the Holocaust and the band’s interpretation is no less than magnificent. However, I have to confess that since drummer Dave Lombardo left the band in 2013, this song has not sounded the same. There is a powerful drum solo in it, which Paul Bostaph plays in a spectacular way. But there is something missing and I just can’t find it. Nevertheless it is still my favourite Slayer song and the best one to close another killer set. Slayer once again leaves the Japanese audience amazed and wanting more from one of the truly great thrash metal bands.

Tom Araya of Slayer on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks



Loud Park gig report: Loudness

Akira Takasaki on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Japanese metal band Loudness is better than ever live on stage at Loud Park.

Masayoshi Yamashita on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Japanese veteran metal band Loudness seems to get better by the day. Having seen them perform numerous gigs in Japan over the past few years, they have always delivered, every single time. This day at Loud Park is no exception. With a new record deal with Ward Records in the bag – the new album “Rise To Glory” will be released on 26th January – they seem to have new energy.

Minoru Niihara on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Minoru Niihara on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Akira Takasaki is one of the best guitarists in the metal world. He stands above all other guitarists in Asia. But Loudness is more than just a fab guitarist. Bassist Masayoshi Yamashita and drummer Masayuki “Ampan” Suzuki are tight and reliable. Vocalist Minoru Niihara sounds better now than he did in the 1980s. They are currently putting the finishing touches to their next album and I have no doubt that we will get a fab new record.

At Loud Park, while it is a relatively short festival set, they give us a great mix of songs from throughout their career. The first part of the gig consists of newer material. They open with the instrumental song “Fire of Spirit” from 2008, before they perform “Hellrider”, “R.I.P.”, the fabulous “The Sun Will Rise Again” and “Metal Mad”. Then we get the classics from the 80s: “Rock This Way”, “Crazy Nights”, “In The Mirror”, “Crazy Doctor” and “S.D.I.”. Loudness has a big and loyal following in Japan and they always draw a big audience. At Loud Park they are performing in the early afternoon, but they still get a big turnout. And the band rewards the fans with another great Loudness gig.

Minoru Niihara on stage with Loudness at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks



Album review: Butcher Babies “Lilith”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Butcher Babies returns with a an angry, in-your-face album filled with attitude and some good melodies.

Butcher Babies is a band that has a lot of things counting against them. In the early days of the band, the two female vocalists Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey performed bare chested with only their nipples covered by black tape. Not the easiest thing to overcome if you want to be taken seriously as vocalists and as a band. Many metal heads seem to dislike them (at least in public) and consider them gimmicky and fake. My guess is that many of those thinkers haven’t heard much of the band’s music. Well, it seems that they have put their clothes back on, stopped the drug use and decided to focus on the music. Good choice, because it seems to make wonders to their artistic output.

It’s not fashionable to dig this but I sort of do. Power to them. There is certainly some room to improve on some of the material, but there are some fab songs here. This is modern, angry metal with some great melodies. There are some metalcore vibes here and there, as well as some small nods to bands such as Arch Enemy and Amaranthe and plenty of good melodies under the harsh and angry surface.

The album kicks off with “Burn The Straw Men”, a typical trademark Butcher Babies song, full of energy, hooks and a shout-along chorus. “Headspin” kind of sounds like a pop song by Avril Lavigne. OK for what it is. Could have gotten air time on MTV if anyone still watched music shows on TV. “Korova” is a terrific and energetic song, combining sheer power with a great melody. A piece of arena rock. “#Iwokeuplikethis” is a good brutal and fast song, while In “The Huntsman” we get a great combination of angry brutality and pop hooks. “Controller” is pure energy while “Oceana” is a crossover song with metalcore and all sorts of modern metal melted together to create an interesting song. “Look What We’ve done” is Butcher Babies’ take on a power ballad. Could have been a radio hit if anyone still listened to radio. “Pomona (Shit Happens)” seems to exist to piss people off (yay!). There is always someone who will find the use of swear words upsetting. “Underground and Overrated” is perhaps the song title of the year. The title is better than the song, which isn’t bad though. But, together with the title track “Lilith”, it is one of the weaker songs on an album filled with quite a few good songs. The album was produced by Steve Evetts (Warbringer, Havok, Devildriver, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Sick Of It All, Sepultura, Hatebreed, Suicide Silence, The Cure).

Butcher Babies is a band full of contradictions and strange turns. But it is also a band with attitude and some interesting modern metal to back it up. Overall this is quite a good album of modern metal. I love the energy and no-fucks-given attitude. Despite the shit storm facing them, I hope Butcher Babies will stick around. They’re entertaining and they have some good music..

Butcher Babies’ “Lilith” album is out now via Century Media Records.



Loud Park gig report: Black Earth

Black Earth’s Sharlee D’Angelo with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson backstage at Loud Park after Black Earth’s secret gig.

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Original Arch Enemy line-up reunites once again in Japan for a secret gig at Loud Park.

In 2015, during Arch Enemy’s appearance at the Loud Park festival in Japan, they did a special section where they reunited the original Arch Enemy line-up. Guitarist Christopher Amott and vocalist Johan Liiva came onstage to join their former bandmates to perform some early classics. The move was such a success that in 2016, the original Arch Enemy line-up did a full Japan tour under the name Black Earth (named after Arch Enemy’s 1996 debut album). That Japan tour was a massive success. It was documented and recently released as a special live album and DVD.

At this year’s Loud Park, Black Earth turned out to be an unannounced secret act to the audience’s delight. There is definitely no shortage of love for Arch Enemy here in Japan. Rumours were circulating the night before that Arch Enemy mainman Michael Amott was in Japan. Thus, a large crowd was in front of the stage at 10:30am on Sunday 15th October to find out what the secret act was and if indeed Amott was part of it. For those in the audience with good eyes, it was easy to spot Michael Amott’s signature guitar on the side of stage just before the gig. Then Amott walks on stage together with his brother Christopher, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo, drummer Daniel Erlandsson and Johan Liiva and the crowd goes wild. The rumours were indeed true.

Black Earth opens with a knockout version of the splendid “Bury Me An Angel” from the band’s debut album. We then get treated to “Dead Inside” and “Diva Satanica”, both from the “Stigmata” album. “The Immortal” (from “Burning Bridges”) follows and then we get to revisit “Stigmata” with the song “Beast of Man”. “Silverwing”, another terrific song from “Burning Bridges”, is performed before they close their short set with “Fields of Desolation” from “Black Earth”. An intense, short and fabulous gig on a Sunday morning in Japan.

With Liiva back on vocals, we are reminded that Black Earth is a very different band from what Arch Enemy later became with Angela Gossow or Alissa White-Gluz on vocals. They are three very different singers who have all been great with Arch Enemy.

Black Earth – what a great secret act to add to Loud Park. With the Black Earth live-DVD and a new Arch Enemy studio album both just released, it makes a lot of sense for Michael Amott and his men to do this secret gig. Arch Enemy will return to Japan for headline gigs during 2018 as part of their “Will To Power” world tour.



Loud Park gig report: Cradle of Filth

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

English extreme metal band Cradle of Filth finally made it back to Japan for a great but short festival gig. They will be back in Japan in May for headline gigs.

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Expectations were high when Cradle of Filth returned to Japan after a long absence. With a splendid new album out and what seems like a strong band line-up, the gig at Loud Park on Sunday 15th October was the start on a major world tour for the band.

Cradle of Filth on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

At the Loud Park festival at Saitama Super Arena outside Tokyo, It’s a short festival gig for Cradle of Filth, so this afternoon Japanese fans are treated to a “best of” set of Cradle favourites such as “Beneath the Howling Stars”, “Dusk and Her Embrace”, “Born in a Burial Gown”, “Nymphetamine (Fix)”, “Blackest Magick in Practice” and “Her Ghost in the Fog”. Sadly we only get one song, the terrifically haunting “Heartbreak and Seance”, from the new fabulous album “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay”.

Richard Shaw of Cradle of Filth on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Band founder and frontman Dani Filth is in fine form and clearly enjoys performing for his fans. His possessed singing style works a treat with Cradle’s music. It’s sinister, insane, beastly and entertaining at the same time. He knows what he’s good at and how to deliver that to his fans. The current line-up of the band is tight. Drummer Martin “Marthus” Skaroupka is a long-serving member, but the rest of the band (Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Smerda on guitars, Daniel Firth on bass and Lindsay Schoolcraft on keyboards and vocals) are newer additions. Having had the same line-up for the past two studio albums and tours, it seems to be a stable line-up that will hopefully survive for the long term.

Cradle of Filth will return to Japan in early May for three headline gigs in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Based on the Loud Park gig, we can have even higher expectations on the headline gigs in May.

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth on stage at Loud Park. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks



Loud Park gig report: Brujeria

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Brujeria’s Shane Embury backstage after the Brujeria gig.

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

International Latino death-grind metal band Brujeria finally made it to Japan with their mayhem of an energy-packed show.

In the afternoon of Saturday 14th October, many extreme music fans start to gather in front of the Big Rock Stage of the Loud Park festival to witness a historical moment; a time many of us have been waiting for too long. We are about to see the Mexican grindcore masters Brujeria playing in Japan for the very first time in 28 years of activity. I personally thought that I would have to cross the ocean to see them destroying some Latin American country someday. Thus this was definitely one of the shows I wanted to see the most at Loud Park.

As the intro of “Brujerizmo” starts playing over the loudspeakers, guitarist Anton Reisenegger comes to the stage and starts interacting with the crowd before slaying their ears with his riffs. Vocalists Juan Brujo and Fantasma then show up. A huge circle pit forms in the middle of the audience and the destruction begins.

I never thought a band singing in Spanish could be so popular among Japanese metalheads, but as the gig progresses, people get more and more into the show. When the band plays an old classic like “Colas de Rata”, insanity takes control of the Loud Park family.

What I love the most about Brujeria’s live show is that they speak in Spanish with their audience most of the time and call their fans “cabrones”, no matter where they are playing. While Fantasma presents new songs, like “Viva Presidente Trump”, in English, Juan Brujo only interacts in Spanish during the performance. The audience is so excited during the gig that even though many of them do not understand a word of what is being said, they respond very well. Brujeria’s set rolls on with more classics, such as “Anti-Castro” and the amazing “Marcha de Odio”, a brutal, old-school song that every Brujeria fan considers an anthem.

Most of Brujeria’s songs are about politics, but there are also some about drugs. Juan Brujo directs his fellow band members with his microphone as the guitar riffs of Reisenegger and Shane Embury make a perfect marriage with Nicholas Barker’s drumming in “Consejos Narcos” and “La Ley de Plomo”.

To finish this outstanding performance, the band chooses to play “Matando Gueros”, one of their best known songs and also one of the heavier ones. With a captivating chorus, everybody in the audience screams along as Saitama turns into a little part of Mexico. With Brujeria’s first Japan gig a great success, we can expect them to come back to Japan in the not too distant future.