Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 65: Lenny Bruce

Dust Bolt’s Lenny Bruce on stage in Tokyo in 2018. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lenny Bruce is the guitarist and lead vocalist for the German thrash metal band Dust Bolt, a band known for its high-energy stage shows. They released their debut album “Violent Demolition” in 2012 and their fourth and most recent album, “Trapped in Chaos”, came out in 2019. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson talked with Lenny about the five albums that changed his life.

“I tried to mix it up a little bit with musical styles, which probably describes my personality and taste in music best. I am a metal lover, with the blues in my heart, that grew up with the 90s grunge era music around me when I was a kid.”

Slipknot “Iowa” (2001)

“I remember getting into heavy music basically through this album. After exploring bands like Green Day and Nirvana when I was 11 or 12, I suddenly felt the need to find something more aggressive and more absurd somehow, without knowing that something like that would exist, you know? Back then there still wasn’t the internet or smartphones where everything is available. I didn’t go into records stores yet because I actually didn’t know what I was looking for. One late night I put on the TV and saw Slipknot’s ‘Before I Forget’ as a music video, which is on the 2004 album ‘Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses’, and I was blown away. I’ve never heard something like that before and I didn’t know there was music where people would just scream. My sister told me that fans of that music are really insane and that I should stop asking. But one day she brought a CD with Slipknot songs which turned out to be the ‘Iowa’ album. I would listen to nothing else for three years straight. The songs and lyrics, the aggression, pain and anger were exactly what I felt and needed at that time. This definitely changed my life. This might have been the beginning of exploring and actually playing metal music afterwards.”

Pearl Jam “Ten” (1991)

“I am an absolute grunge kiddie when it comes to the music and bands such as Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Mudhoney and more. But the band I found out about later was Pearl Jam. A friend put on the music in the car on our road trips and the songs just wouldn’t get out of my head. Later on, I found their Pinkpop live performance on Youtube and that was just it! Great drumming, bluesy guitars, extraordinary singing and beautiful lyrics. This is how emotional rock music can get. At least that’s how I feel. They are still probably my favourite band when it comes to their message, behaviour, responsibility and political encouragement. I won’t go into details at this time, but this album definitely saved my life and gave me hope when I needed it.”

Jackson Browne “Running on Empty” (1977)

“Such a classic! I love Jackson Browne and 70s music! This album is just beautiful. It’s crazy that it’s all been recorded live! I just love the simplicity of the songwriting and performance. The songs are so strong and they tell a story. I just love that. I you don’t know that record, get into your car, drive down into the sunset and get yourself some Jackson Browne, trust me!”

Jack White “Lazaretto” (2014)

“Uff… It’s hard to say anything about this one. It speaks for itself. Such a beautiful piece of art! This album got me into being interested in music production and recording. I love how Jack White breaks all the modern rules of production – because there are none! And that´s what makes the music sound so organic, special and beautifully imperfect. It’s about the mistakes, the heat of the moment. And not about quantizing and make humans sound like robots.”

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble “Texas Flood” (1983)

“Last but not least – Stevie! I actually wanted to list a punk record here, as I’m a great 80s punk and hardcore punk fan, but Stevie won the race as this is probably one of the records I´m listening to the most. When I first heard Stevie Ray Vaughan´s ‘Lenny’, I knew how I wanted to play the guitar. His music gives me goosebumps every time, any second. He’s just my favourite guitar player in blues next to BB King. Could listen to him all day long.”

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Album review: Red To Grey “Balance of Power”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Meat-and-potatoes thrash metal from Germany.

Red To Grey is a German thrash metal, founded in Munich in 1998, that plays a kind of thrash metal that is somewhat closer to American Bay Area thrash than many other German thrash metal bands. This is straight-up thrash metal with plenty of catchy melodies thrown in with the guitar riffs. It’s melodic yet very thrashy with an underground feel to it. It’s uncomplicated and uncompromising meat-and-potatoes thrash metal. Fronted by vocalist Gaby Weihmayer, the band also features Manfred Uidel Kollmann on bass, Florian Botschek on guitar, Elmar Nuesslein on drums and Tino Bergamo on guitar. “Balance of Power” is the band’s third full-length album and the first one with Gaby on vocals. It contains nine high-energy tracks. My favourites tracks are the fast-and-furious yet melodic “Hellburner”, “We March” with its punky chorus and the fierce “Within Grey Rooms”. The album’s peak is the terrific anthem-like “Vanity and Pride”.

Red To Grey’s album “Balance of Power” will be released on 22nd October via El Puerto Records.

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EP review: Cult Burial “Oblivion”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Very promising extreme metal from London. Cult Burial is heading deeper down the underground on its new EP.

Cult Burial, formed in 2020 in London, England, released its self-titled debut album last year and has also released the “Sorrow” EP. On this new EP, “Oblivion”, we get a little taste of the band’s musical direction. They are going deeper down in the basement, under the floorboards where the sun doesn’t shine. This is cockroach territory. “Oblivion” is a damp and brutal three-track EP. It’s a gloriously stenchy celebration of despair. The band has its roots in doom which is evident in some of the songs. But Cult Burial is a crushing extreme metal band with plenty of tempo changes and style drift going on. It’s a dark and smelly soup of black/death/doom/sludge metal with some industrial bits as well. The EP’s three songs – “Oblivion”, “Parasite” and “Paralysed” – all leave the listeners floored, as in knocked down by a freight train. It’s heavy, sinister and lives deep down in the catacombs. The band’s main characters are César Moreira (lyrics and vocals) and Simon Langford (songwriting, guitar, drums) with Felipe Grüber contributing some guitar playing. This is shaping up rather nicely. A new full-length album is planned to be released in 2022.

Cult Burial’s EP “Oblivion” is out now.

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Album review: David Reece “Blacklist Utopia”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former Accept frontman David Reece is not stuck in the past on his great new album.

Unlike another former Accept vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, American singer David Reece is creating new music which no one will mistake for Accept. David replaced Udo Dirkschneider as frontman for the German heavy metal band Accept in the late 1980s. He sang on the terrific “Eat the Heat” album and performed on the following tour to support the album. He knew he couldn’t become the new Udo and thus he brought his own game to Accept. Since leaving Accept, David has had a good solo career as well as fronting bands such as Bonfire, Bangalore Choir and Sainted Sinners. He has continued putting his bluesy American hard rock voice to good use. I have always dug his voice and on this new album he’s showing us that he’s still got it. “Blacklist Utopia” offers its listeners 13 tracks of melodic hard rock with David’s voice at the heart of it all. It’s a high-quality and quite diverse album. Immediate favourites for me include the opening track “Utopia”, “Red Bloodied Hell Raiser”, “I Can’t Breathe” (perhaps the album’s highlight), “Most of the Time”, the ballad-like singer-songwriteresque “American Dream”, “Devil at My Doorstep”, “Save Me” and “Highway Child”. It is melodic and good hard rock built around David’s voice and its capabilities. It has great guitars but sounds quite different from the German metal of Accept. David is backed up by a band of seasoned musicians: Andy Susemihl (ex-U.D.O., Sinner, Bangalore Choir) on guitar, Malte Frederik Burkert (Victory, ex-Sainted Sinners) on bass and Francesco Jovino (ex-U.D.O., Sinner, Primal Fear, Jorn, Sunstorm, Voodoo Circle) on drums. It’s a solid band that backs up David very well. As you notice, two of the band members have played with Udo Dirkschneider in U.D.O. and one has been playing with former Accept guitarist Herman Frank in Victory. To take the Accept references up another level, it was recently revealed that David Reece and Francesco Jovino have founded a new band called Iron Allies together with Herman Frank.

David Reece’s new album “Blacklist Utopia” will be released on 29th October via El Puerto Records.

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Video premiere: Creeping Flesh “Like So Many Before Them”

Creeping Flesh, an old-school death metal band from Gothenburg, Sweden, debuted with the EP “Unravelled by War” in 2014. Since then the band has released several more EPs and the full-length album “Into the Meat Grinder” in 2019. Today, Roppongi Rocks is proud to premiere the video for the song “Like So Many Before Them”. The track is taken from the upcoming Creeping Flesh album “…And Then the Bombs Came” which will be released via Emanzipation Productions in 2022.

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Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 64: Brittney Slayes

Brittney Slayes. Photo: Shimon Karmel

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Canadian vocalist Brittney Slayes is one of the most powerful voices in heavy metal in recent years. She co-founded heavy metal band Unleash The Archers in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 2007. The band debuted in 2009 with the album “Behold the Devastation” and its most recent release was the album “Abyss” which came out via Napalm Records in 2020. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Brittney to find out about the five albums that made her carry the flame of metal.

Megadeth “Countdown to Extinction” (1992)

“This is the first heavy metal record I ever heard. My brother had ordered it from a Columbia House Records mail order catalogue and liked it but wasn’t the hugest fan, so he passed it over to me and said ‘maybe you’ll like this’. He was right. I remember putting the cassette into my little boombox and sitting on the floor with the lyric booklet in my hands and just falling in love with the album. I loved everything about it, from the cover art to the heavy chugging guitars to the overly theatrical vocal performance. I still think it’s one of the greatest metal records to this day!”

Iron Maiden “Best of the Beast” (1996)

“I discovered Maiden later in my life, after I had graduated from high school and lost my way a little bit when it came to music. A friend put this CD on in the car on the way to a party one night and the metalhead in me was immediately reawakened. The duelling guitars, the soaring vocals; it was like I had finally found my calling. After the ride he gave me the CD. He said ‘I have a feeling you’ll listen to it more than I will’ and once again, he was right. That album started my journey into truly rediscovering my love of heavy metal. When I was younger, I listened to a lot of heavier stuff; White Zombie, Tool, Incubus – their early albums, but in high school I stopped. This album was the first time I had ever heard anything like ‘power metal’ or ‘trad metal’ or whatever you want to call it, but it changed me forever.”

Judas Priest “Painkiller” (1990)

“Again, I discovered this album late. After, illegally, downloading the entire Iron Maiden discography, I started to look for other bands that had a similar sound and inspired me in the same way, and of course that brought me to Judas Priest. ‘Painkiller’ introduced me to the ‘falsetto’ style vocals of Rob Halford and was the first time I started saying to myself ‘hey, I bet I could do this’ regarding fronting a band. I started going to more live shows, and checking out local bands, and seeing what the local metal scene was like. This album is hands down one of the greatest heavy metal records of all time, and if I ever had to show a non-metalhead a record to get them into metal this one would probably be the one I used.”

Queensrÿche “Operation: Mindcrime” (1988)

“The year was 2008, Unleash The Archers was finally complete with five members, we had a name, and we had our first show booked. We had five songs written but I was still struggling with finding my ‘metal voice’ after having sung classical and chamber music my whole life.  We had found our second guitar player Mike online and he was a bit older than us and knew the local metal scene really well, he was so awesome at the business side of things and as a brand-new band we were so lucky to have found him. He and I were talking about my struggle one day and he suggested I listen to Queensrÿche. I respect him a lot so I found them online right away and was blown away by Geoff Tate from the first listen. ‘Queen of the Reich’ and ‘Warning’ were exactly what I was going for vocally, but it wasn’t until I heard ‘Mindcrime’ that I really began to study his vocal style and emulate what he could do. His control and tone are just so rich and warm, and the emotion he is able to convey is still unmatched to this day in my opinion. My falsetto style is based solely on Geoff Tate, and I still strive every single day to achieve the extraordinary level of storytelling he did with this record.”

Soilwork “The Living Infinite” (2013)

“I had heard amazing concept records before, but nothing so cohesive and complete as this one. I had heard somewhere that this was the first time the vocalist Björn had taken on a lot of the writing himself and had a huge part in the entire direction of the record and that was why it sounded so much like one whole just split into twenty tracks. I had never heard of them before but got asked to fill in as their merch person at their Vancouver show last minute, so my first time hearing them was live and they were AMAZING. Björn was amazing. I had never heard someone go from such beastly screams to such a full clean voice like he does and I still don’t think anyone compares. OK, maybe Tomi from Amorphis, but they are equals in this for sure. A friend of mine came by the merch booth and I was like ‘are you a fan of these guys? Which album should I buy?’ He pointed to ‘The Living Infinite’ without a second’s hesitation. I am so glad that he did. This record directly inspired ‘Apex’ and ‘Abyss’. It is the reason they were originally going to be a two-disc record, and the reason I decided to write the story out in an outline with very distinct directions to the boys on how to write the guitar riffs. I wanted a record as complete as this one in sound, feeling, and tone, and I can guarantee you that ‘Apex’ and ‘Abyss’ would not exist without this album having existed first!”

Honourable mentions: These records may not have changed my life, but they were huge milestones for sure! Lost Horizon “Awakening the World” (2001) and “A Flame to the Ground Beneath” (2003), Iced Earth “The Crucible of Man” (2008), Fleshgod Apocalypse “Veleno” (2019), Dragonland “Under the Grey Banner” (2011).

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Album review: U.D.O. “Game Over”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Udo Dirkschneider is still the same old Udo on the new U.D.O. album.

Udo Dirkschneider is always Udo. His characteristic voice became one of the most recognisable in heavy metal when he fronted Accept in the 1970s and 80s. He continued to play the same kind of guitar-happy meat-and-potatoes heavy metal with his solo band U.D.O. which released its debut album in 1987. Over the years he has reunited with Accept a couple of times, but in recent times he has focused on his own music projects. Now in his fifth decade as a professional artist, his voice is intact and the energy is still there. On the new U.D.O. album, “Game Over”, he continues with the same straightforward heavy metal that he has always played. Guitars, catchy melodies and with THAT voice always present. Either you like Udo or you don’t. This is more of the same. The current line-up of the U.D.O. band consists of Udo’s son Sven Dirkschneider (who did a stint with Saxon) on drums, Andrey Smirnov (who has toured with former Iron Maiden vocalists Paul Di’Anno and Blaze Bayley) on guitar, Tilen Hudrap (who has played with Testament, Vicious Rumors and Pestilence) on bass and Dee Dammers on guitar. The new album contains no fewer than 16 tracks, including gems such as the anthem-like “Metal Never Dies”, “Prophecy”, “Like a Beast”, “Thunder Road” and “Midnight Stranger”. The somewhat awkwardly named “Kids and Guns” (about US gun control) has some terrific and playful guitar work. “Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye” is a track that stands out because it is an emotional ballad showing a different side to Udo. Personally, I prefer my Udo loud and angry.

U.D.O.’s new album “Game Over” will be released on 22nd October via AFM Records.

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Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 63: Bernie Marsden

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Bernie Marsden is best-known as Whitesnake’s co-founder, guitarist and songwriter. Prior to Whitesnake, Bernie played with UFO, Wild Turkey, Cozy Powell’s Hammer, Babe Ruth and Paice Ashton Lord. He has also had an active solo career playing both rock and blues and has played with Ringo Starr. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson talked with Bernie about the five albums that changed his life.

The Beatles “With the Beatles” (1963)

“Having been totally smitten by the arrival of the Beatles on television and radio with ‘Please Please Me’, I was a confirmed Beatles fan. But it was their second UK album that I believe made my decision to play the guitar as a job, even at the age of 12! From the opening guitar line of ‘It Won’t Be Long’ I was hooked. I first noticed the songwriting credits on an album, wondering what those bracketed names meant. The simplicity of the line-up was important, two guitars, bass and drums, and crucially on both early Beatles albums it clearly stated who played individual instruments, and so the magical words ‘lead guitar’ entered my life. Each day after school I would rush home to play the album. I didn’t have a guitar at the time. I now realise that it was at this point I wanted one very soon. I’m still trying to perfect George’s solo in ‘All My Loving’ and the rhythm guitar of John Lennon all through this album is still mesmerising. It was also the first album I ever took notice of the cover. Still timeless.”

John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers “Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton” (1966)

“By the time this seminal album was in my hands I had been playing guitar about three years. I had discovered Eric Clapton when he was with the Yardbirds. I had their live album featuring him. I was a Yardbirds fan, so when he quit, I was concerned. Jeff Beck entered my life, I was quite pleased! Hearing the ‘Blues Breakers’ album for the first time was THE turning point really. Such spectacular guitar playing, the sound, his phrasing and overall feel was daunting. I was about to be 16, but this Clapton guy was barely 21 and already playing incredibly good guitar. Even at 16, I inherently knew this was very special indeed. His playing is flawless, inspiring and still unbelievable for me.”

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

“Next, Jimi Hendrix touched down in England. So, after the emergence of Clapton as ‘God’, where do you find new heroes? Jeff Beck, who I feel should be in my five, was rapidly getting followers and rightly so. A friend of mine quietly passed me an album to ‘check out’. I had heard Jimi Hendrix on the radio with ‘Hey Joe’. The word was quietly out about the unknown American who just might be as good as Clapton. Nobody believed that, until this LP arrived. I wasn’t prepared for the next 40 minutes, from the opening feedback of ‘Foxy Lady’ I was in a state of audio shock! I of course was fully committed to Cream but this was difficult to take in. Could this be as phenomenal as I first thought? I immediately played the album again. It was. And I’m still of the opinion it might be THE greatest debut LP of all time. I saw Jimi Hendrix first in 1968 at the Woburn Festival, and everything I expected from him was delivered. A unique artist, I was privileged to see him and be one of my generation to witness from start to finish of his important, but so short, career.”

Led Zeppelin “Led Zeppelin” (1969)

“There has always been a debate about Jeff Beck’s ‘Truth’ album and the 1969 debut Zeppelin album. I can understand the comparison. I had ‘Truth’ and was amazed at Jeff’s sound and style. A friend was raving about Led Zeppelin. I was aware of the names Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones through their involvement with the ‘Truth’ sessions but knew little about them. Crucially I had never heard the names of Robert Plant and John Bonham though. Their contributions are why this album is in the list. Jimmy was very clever post his input on the Beck record to put a line up together and produce this great sounding record, it was Plant that made me listen. I still listen today to all his records. A class act and great person.”

Steely Dan “Can’t Buy a Thrill” (1972)

“Still today, just the title of this album makes me smile. It takes me straight back to my first year as a pro musician, cruising and flying along the autobahns of the then West Germany. I was with UFO, a band so far musically removed from Steely Dan as you can imagine. Each day during my first tour I would hear ‘Reelin’ In the Years’ on US Forces radio, booming out of small and large car speakers! I could never at first make out the lyrics, but all I cared about was the first parts, and then THAT solo. Take a bow and much respect to this day, Mr Elliott Randall. The song made me realise the importance of being a good songwriter. As soon as I could I obtained ‘Can’t Buy a Thrill’. I was amazed, each and every song was original. I had never heard of Becker and Fagen, and yet here was a whole album of their music and a band of brilliant musicians to match. It confirmed a short part of my history with UFO, listening to the Dan and then playing heavy metal was never going to work. I resolved there and then to be a writer in a band I wanted to be in. It took a while, but it was Steely Dan who opened the doors.”

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Album review: Hellhound “Warrior of Rising Sun”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Hellhound consists of dedicated Japanese metalheads on a mission.

As I listen to “Warrior of Rising Sun”, Japanese heavy metal band Hellhound’s new album, I have a big smile on my face. The album is a mix of new songs and re-recordings by the current line-up of the band of some of the band’s old songs. The band has been around for almost two decades. They debuted with the “Welcome to Metal Zone” EP in 2004 and followed that with the first full-length studio album “Tokyo Flying V Massacre” in 2006. Hellhound is proper heavy metal, true metal, grassroots metal. It is the kind of metal music lovers around the world play in their basements and at local rock clubs and live houses. Music that gives you no choice but to play air guitar and headbang. The ingredients in the Hellhound metal soup include some NWOBHM, scoops of Manowar, a few pinches of thrash and speed metal and a true dedication to the heavy metal genre across everything this band does. It is retro without trying to be retro. It is just real metal played by a bunch of Japanese men with patch-covered battle vests and studded leather armbands. The song titles are classic: “Samurai Warrior”, “Let Metal Rule the World”, “Metal Psycho”, “Heavy Metal Hammer Down”, “Heavy Metal Patrol”, “Heavy Metal Till I Die”, “Metal Warrior” and so on. Their previous album from 2018 was called “The Oath of Allegiance to the Kings of Heavy Metal”. You get the picture. The band members’ stage names are also in line with the overall mission: Crossfire on vocals and guitar, Lucifer’s Heritage on guitar, Blackwind on bass and Mountain King on drums. I love it. This is excellent stuff for heavy metal lovers. It is a Japanese heavy metal crusade. It reminds me of some of those Russian metal bands that emerged in the mid-1980s. Like those Russians, Hellhound is a bunch of dedicated guys that love metal and want to spread the metal gospel. Power to them.

Hellhound’s album “Warrior of Rising Sun” will be released on 22nd September via Spiritual Beast.

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Video premiere: Battering Ram “Coming Home”

Today we premiere a brand new single and video from Swedish hard rockers Battering Ram. The quartet was founded in Filipstad, Sweden in 2017 and released its self-titled debut album in 2020. The band consists of Tony Trust on drums, Jocke Ståhl on bass, Jonas Edmark on guitar and Johan Hallström on vocals. A new album will be released in 2022 by Uprising Records.

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