Roppongi Rocks premieres Swedish groove rockers Electric Boys‘ new video for the track “Hangover in Hannover”. This is the first single taken from the band’s new album, “The Ghost Ward Diaries”. Out via Mighty Music on 23rd November. Enjoy!
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
Following his successful Japan tour last month, Ace Frehley is back with a new studio album full of good stuff.
Spaceman is back and he told you so. I am not sure if it is the just announced final KISS world tour that has got him to up his game or what (he has said he’d like to take part in that tour). But the fact of the matter is that 2018 is the year of original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. His recent Japan shows were awesome (certainly a contender for live shows of the year in Tokyo). During the Japan tour in September, he didn’t play any songs from the new album. Hopefully, he will come back for that because with this new album he has some great new music to add to his back catalogue of classic rock.
The whole new album has that great laidback Ace Frehley touch. Many of the songs remind me of songs Ace did with KISS in the 70s and on his self-titled solo album from 1978. “Spaceman” is a terrific Ace Frehley album which opens with the splendid “Without You I’m Nothing”, a very typical Frehley song combining fab guitar work with his characteristic laidback approach to singing. “Rockin’ with the Boys” is kind of an Ace Frehley answer to the KISS classic “Beth” (although it is not a ballad). “Off My Back” is an obvious favourite of mine. “I Wanna Go Back” is another. “Bronx Boy” is an answer to “New York Groove”. While this is an album of all new material, dedicated KISS and Frehley fans will find plenty of nods to his musical heritage. “Mission to Mars” is a smoking rocker of a track while the exquisite “Pursuit of Rock and Roll” is a new “Rock Soldiers”. The nine-track album closes with the jam-tastic instrumental piece “Quantum Flux”.
It’s so great to hear Ace back at the top of his game. He’s still a guitar wizard and he has some fab new songs for his fans. Ace is indeed back and he did tell you so!
Ace Frehley’s new album “Spaceman” is out on 19th October via eONE.
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
Nearly four decades into their career, the members of Swedish melodic hard rock band Treat return to Japan with a great new album and a killer setlist.
Treat at Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo, 4th October 2018
Following the band’s successful tour of Japan last year, Treat has produced a great new album (“Tunguska”, out via Frontiers Music internationally and King Records in Japan) and is now back on the road. Opening the Tokyo gig with “Skies of Mongolia” (from 2010’s comeback album “Coup de Grace”), Treat takes control of its loyal Japanese audience from the very first note of the show. The audience is with them and it is obvious that this will be an enjoyable evening of “hard rock with melodies” as founding band member Anders “Gary” Wikström likes to describe the band’s music. They continue the gig with “Nonstop Madness” from 2016’s “Ghost of Graceland” and we’re off to a great start.
Treat’s current line-up is its best ever. It is the same line-up that they had at the end of the 1980s – Anders Wikström on guitar, Robert Ernlund on vocals, Patrick Appelgren on keyboards and former Talisman drummer Jamie Borger. The only new addition is bassist Pontus Egberg who joined Treat in 2016. Egberg, who is also the bassist in King Diamond and has a background in bands such as The Poodles and Lion’s Share, has added some spice to Treat’s musical casserole. He’s a world-class bassist, but also a great backup singer and, perhaps best of all, he performs some serious dance moves on stage. Robert Ernlund’s voice is intact. It has matured but it is still stunning. Musically, this band has never been better. When Wikström’s guitar malfunctions in the middle of the fantastic “Rose of Jericho”, the band carries on regardless. Absolute professionals. Appelgren on keyboards and Egberg’s groovy bass save the song. The show must go on.
The evening’s setlist is close to flawless. We obviously get some of the old classics, such as “Ready for the Taking”, “Party All Over”, “Conspiracy” and, of course, “World of Promises”. But a big part of the set list is made up of songs from the three most recent studio albums. The evening’s highlights for me include the strong opening with “Skies of Mongolia”, a powerful version of “Riptide” and, of course, “Ghost of Graceland”. The newer material is more mature and the sound has evolved. But it is still trademark Treat music and somehow the old and the new fit well together in the current live show. Having seen all of Treat’s Japan tours since they reunited, it is obvious that this great band is getting even greater. They are better than ever and they will no doubt be back in Japan soon again.
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
With Guns N’ Roses on a short break from their ongoing multi-year world tour, guitarist Slash has found time to put out a new album with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.
In essence, this is more of the same that Slash and his men created on their last album, 2014’s splendid “World on Fire”. Since the last album, the major difference is of course that Slash has rejoined Guns N’ Roses. Guns N’ Roses is a rather complex band where Axl Rose has a say in everything and where the partly reunited classic line-up of the band has not yet produced any new music. The GNR live set has been focused on playing classics as well as some covers. This, I believe, is why Slash needs to put out an album like Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators’ “Living the Dream”. Here he gets to do what he wants to do without too much pressure or too high expectations. Because of this, we get quality rock’n’roll by a terrific band of rock brothers who play well together, seemingly without too much drama. The world-class band line-up remains the same that toured the previous album – in addition to Slash there is vocalist Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge), bassist Todd Kerns (Bob Kulick, Hookers & Blow, Sin City Sinners), drummer Brent Fitz (Union, Vince Neil, Alice Cooper, Bruce Kulick) and guitarist Frank Sidoris (The Cab). As is the case with many of the world’s truly great guitarists, Slash never goes too far. Sure, he shows off his guitar-playing skills, but he makes sure he is part of the songs. His guitar never overstays its welcome. It never overshadows the songs.
“Living the Dream” offers us straightforward and catchy rock’n’roll built around Slash’s guitar and Myles Kennedy’s characteristic voice. It’s radio friendly and won’t scare too many parents. “Sugar Cane” is a clear favourite of mine with trademark Slash guitar riffs. So is “Mind Your Manners”, a straightforward rock’n’roll track. “Lost Inside the Girl” is terrific – the album’s best track – and “Driving Rain” is another strong track. “The One You Loved is Gone” and “The Great Pretender” are power ballads where not least Myles Kennedy gets to shine. The album “Living the Dream” is great fun. This is a band playing melodic rock’n’roll, music that they love and have produced without overthinking things. That laidback, casual feeling is what makes this rock album a good one.
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators’ new album “Living the Dream” is out now via Roadrunner Records.
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
Amaranthe is back with its fifth studio album. It’s everything you’d expect from this band and more: fast-paced and catchy modern metal bursting with energy and with some great new twists.
“Helix” is a logical next step for Gothenburg, Sweden-based band Amaranthe. It’s the band’s fifth album in seven and a half years. Since they debuted in 2011 with “Amaranthe”, they have kept themselves busy with countless tours around the world and frequent album releases. Amaranthe had its signature sound established already on the debut album but they keep evolving and refining the sound. The solid musical foundation of the band – Olof Mörck on guitar and keyboards, bassist Johan Andreassen and drummer Morten Løwe Sørensen – remains intact since the very first album. The band has since the beginning fielded three vocalists with distinctly different vocal styles. Now only Elize Ryd remains of the original vocal trio. She’s the one that takes centre stage in Amaranthe, but on this album, we also get to hear the other two singers – Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson and Nils Molin – really staking out their own kingdoms in the futuristic Amaranthe world.
The three vocalists are working in great harmony here. Elize Ryd gets to shine as usual – she’s a great vocalist and an entertainer who likes to rock out. Growler Henrik Englund Wilhelmsson, who joined the band after the first two albums, sounds fiercer than ever. He sounds angry which adds an edge to his splendid performance. Nils Molin, previously best known as the voice of Dynazty, shows here why he was chosen by Amaranthe as Jake E’s replacement in 2017. He adds something new to this band’s sound. He has a great voice and he sounds very relaxed when he’s singing. His singing seems to come naturally. He was born to sing music like this. His big moment on this album is the terrific power ballad “Unified” where he really gets to demonstrate the refined side of his voice. On other tracks, such as the album’s first single, the massive “365”, Molin gets to demonstrate the less polished, rockier side of his vocal abilities. He can handle both styles which is why he is a perfect fit for Amaranthe.
Musically, many of the songs on the album are very much trademark Amaranthe: fast-paced and catchy modern metal bursting with energy and with heavier parts thrown in here and there. But we also get plenty of new stuff, not least in the smaller details. Amaranthe is a band with a signature sound built on contrasts. Some of the turns in the songs are very fast and sharp – from commercial pop-like choruses to extreme metal anger. They always manage to keep things interesting. They never shy away from adding things from different musical genres and making it part of Amaranthe’s music. Parts of the music on this album is grittier, heavier and darker. It’s less perfect, it’s dirtier and…better. Some of it is less direct, it requires the listener to pay attention. I like it a lot. There’s still plenty of modern, melodic and catchy metal with pop hooks, but this time with more twists and frequent tempo changes. Henrik’s growling plays a bigger and more crucial role this time, a musical direction which I particularly like. To put it in simple terms: they manage to get me to headbang and do some disco moves with my feet at the same time. Genre purists will hate this as they can’t define what this is. But I love it. It is obvious that Olof Mörck and producer Jacob Hansen have spent a great deal of effort on getting the arrangements and production just right. I love the many small details in the soundscape. On a track like “GG6”, one of the album’s best tracks, we find the essence of Amaranthe: terrific growling, hard-hitting drums, guitar riffs and keyboard wizardry, all tied together by a catchy chorus. The fast and furious “Iconic” is terrific, combining aggressive extreme metal verses with a melodic and catchy chorus. Amaranthe at their very best.
Following the last Amaranthe album, 2016’s “Maximalism”, I thought they had peaked. Not so. This is a step up. Where will Amaranthe go from here? Now that they have former Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow as their new manager, who knows what’s next? Clearly, Gossow is ready to take on the challenge: “Yes, different kind of band for me. I really dig their sound and they are lovely people. They have a lot of potential, will be exciting to see how far and big I can make them”, comments Gossow as I check in with her regarding her new Amaranthe collaboration.
Amaranthe’s album “Helix” will be released on 19th October via Spinefarm Records/Universal Music.
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
Belgian extreme metal masters Aborted are back with a brutal new album and, as expected, it is sheer brilliance.
It seems that Aborted can do no wrong. Aborted’s new album “TerrorVision” is as good as expected. The band’s tenth studio album is everything anyone could have hoped for. Aborted is an extreme metal band living somewhere between Death Metal Valley and Grindcoreland. Aborted always, always deliver. Since I saw them live on stage in Tokyo in 2015, I have loved this band. It is something about the special combination of a technically gifted metal band and a completely insane frontman that appeals to me. The band also has more energy in its music than most other artists.
Aborted is always a punch in the face. It is relentless carnage, musical mayhem and it is always brilliant. Aborted is a band that never ever has disappointed me, not in the studio and not on stage. Vocalist Sven de Caluwé is nuts. But he is also a very talented artist that always gives his audience what they want and more. In Aborted he is backed up by a great band with not only technical skills, but they are also great songwriters. Don’t let the brutality fool you. This is very sophisticated music. There are many layers and nuances in Aborted’s music. It is technical extreme metal but Aborted’s members never get too carried away. They always manage to put in both aggression and passion into their terrific delivery.
My favourite songs on the new album include “Squalor Opera”, “Visceral Despondency” and “Exquisite Covinous Drama”. Having said that, there isn’t a weak song on this album, not even a weak minute. “The Final Absolution” is splendid and quite possibly the finest moment of Aborted’s career so far. It has a kind of atmospheric black metal quality to some parts of the song but they are coupled with Aborted’s typical grindcore energy and brutality to create one massive piece of music.
Aborted’s new album “TerrorVision” is out on 21st September via Century Media Records.
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
When Swedish heavy metal band Lechery recently did their first Japan tour, Roppongi Rocks sat down with the band backstage in Tokyo before the first gig for a talk about how proper heavy metal should be done. “We are genuine. When I sing heavy metal, I mean it,” says frontman Martin Bengtsson.
Sweden’s Lechery is a terrific heavy metal band that is fronted by Martin Bengtsson, formerly bass player in Swedish death metal bands Arch Enemy and Armageddon. Timeless might be a way to describe Lechery’s take on heavy metal which combines great twin guitars with shout-along choruses and plenty of energy. The band debuted with the album “Violator” in 2008 and its most recent album, “We Are All Born Evil”, was released earlier this year. In Japan, the band is backed by record label Spiritual Beast.
Lechery currently consists of Martin Bengtsson on vocals and guitar, Fredrik Nordstrandh on guitar, Martin Karlsson on bass and Kristian Wallman on drums. It is a solid band built around Bengtsson’s strong metal songs and his fitting vocal style.
Lechery’s musical style is quite different from the melodic death metal of Arch Enemy and Armageddon. It is more classic heavy metal with nods to the 1980s but without sounding too retro. Is Lechery perhaps a deliberate step away from death metal? “It was more like going from heavy metal to death metal and then back to heavy metal. Death metal is not something that I particularly like,” explains Martin Bengtsson as we sit down backstage after the soundcheck. “We write the kind of music that we enjoy ourselves. That’s our starting point,” says drummer Kristian Wallman. Guitarist Fredrik Nordstrandh continues: “We don’t deliberately try to sound a specific way. It is just us being genuine. This is how it is. Martin writes most of the songs and this is how he writes and when we play these songs together, this is the way it sounds.” Bengtsson adds: “I have played together with Fredrik for a long time. A song that we played together 20 years ago, can easily be used on one of our records today because nothing has happened. We don’t fake it to try to catch some current trend. Some other bands do that.” Nordstrandh continues: “We have played in the same way, when we play together, since way back. It is difficult to change that. It wouldn’t feel genuine to change things. I wouldn’t be comfortable with it.”
Part of your signature sound is the fantastic shout-along choruses you have on many of your songs. Do you always bear in mind when you compose that it needs to be catchy and melodic, or can you also create heavier material? “I write music that allows the audience to participate,” says Bengtsson. “It shouldn’t be too complicated. When I go to a concert it’s more fun if I can take part. But, with, say, ten songs or whatever it is on an album and you shout ‘heavy metal’ in all the songs – then, perhaps, it becomes less interesting. You have to do it here and there, not all the time. There’s a relatively wide area of things that we can do. If you play certain musical styles within heavy metal, you can only do that. But for us, we can include a clean guitar and stuff. That’s how it remains fun.” Nordstrandh takes over: “What do we think is good? What is it that we like? You want to entertain yourself. If I listen to a band I want to be entertained. That happens when I can sing along to some interesting chorus or listen to a good melody or a great riff. It doesn’t necessarily have to be extravagantly technical.”
Bengtsson steps in with a classic Lechery statement: “We are genuine. When I sing heavy metal, I mean it. Many artists get dressed up and sing about it, but it’s noticeable if it’s not for real. I often say that I can walk out on stage in my underwear and still be harder than the pretenders. You notice it. It’s from the heart.” He looks me in the eye as if to really emphasise that he is dead serious. “It shines through if it isn’t for real. If you don’t actually mean it,” adds Nordstrandh before Bengtsson shouts: “And it should be fun!”
In Lechery, Martin Bengtsson is the creative motor when it comes to songwriting. “Yes, but we have to do it together in the end or else there is nothing,” explains Bengtsson. “Martin writes all the foundations to the songs, then the rest of us step in and add some spice. We have to do it together,” adds Nordstrandh.
Your latest album, “We Are All Born Evil”, has been received very well by critics across the board. Did the great reviews come as a surprise to you? “We felt that it was a really great album from the beginning,” says Nordstrandh. “But we were somewhat surprised by the fantastic response we got in the album reviews in the press.” Bengtsson continues: “It’s a bit hard to take it in. I like playing heavy metal and it is only a bonus if others also like what we do. If no one had liked it, we’d still be standing here and playing.”
Unlike many other metal bands, Lechery has had a very stable line-up. Drummer Kristian Wallman, who joined in 2011, is the only new member since the band was founded in 2004. “Some bands play together for half a year, then when they don’t get a record deal they call it quits,” says Bengtsson. “We just play together and have fun doing it. I think that over time it works. We play what we play and if we do it long enough, hopefully at some point we become good at it. Many bands keep jumping between different musical styles in order to find something – but that doesn’t work. I can’t just write a nu-metal song, at least not immediately. One has to practice the craft.” Nordstrandh adds: “Things didn’t happen overnight for us. We fought hard for quite a long time. Before ‘Violator’ was released, we were at it for quite a few years. It’s been a long road.”
Kristian Wallman explains how he came into the band: “Bassist Martin Karlsson and I have known each other for many years. We have played together since the dawn of time. I felt very welcomed and well taken care of.” Bengtsson adds: “The personal chemistry works very well,” before Wallman continues: “It’s imperative that the personal chemistry works in order to have fun and hang out.” Bengtsson quickly adds: “And to be bored together as well!” with a reference to the fact that life on the road is not always rosy. Nordstrandh continues: “There are no big fights or scandals, but we don’t always have the same opinion. At times there are people that are upset.”
Lechery is an exquisite band name. Where did this come from? “There was a documentary about Alexander the Great where there was a lot of sinful lechery going on,” explains Bengtsson. “Lechery is an old word for lust. There were a lot of grapes and bed-hopping going on then. It sounded great. Nowadays we are also extending the concept to album covers and such. It’s fun to tease people. Iron Maiden and Metallica were names that were already taken. Now it’s too late to change.”
While Bengtsson’s earlier bands Arch Enemy and Armageddon have a history in Japan, this tour is Lechery’s first in Japan. What expectations do you have on Japan? “I have no big expectations,” says Martin Karlsson. “I am just very happy to be able to be here. I think we as a band can fit in well here. We hope that we can come back.” Nordstrandh continues: “We are very grateful for the opportunity to come here. We’ve been working hard for this. We’ve been in touch with the record label Spiritual Beast since the first album was released. We’ve tried, but it’s not easy. It is very costly to do a Japan tour for a Swedish band. It takes time to build up a fan base and connections. So, it feels great being here!”
What’s next for Lechery? “We’ll do a European tour in September. We’ll bring Solitude to Sweden. They will tour with us in Sweden, Germany and such. After that, we’re due to start working on a new album. That’s the plan,” says Wallman before it is time for the band to get ready for its first-ever Japan gig.
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
Celtic rock from Sweden? Yes. And it works. Sir Reg is back with a feckin’ good album.
The Celtic-sounding rock band Sir Reg is actually from Sweden. However, the band’s frontman Brendan Sheehy is Irish, which helps to explain why this sounds so good and authentic. “The Underdogs”, the band’s fifth studio album since forming in Sweden in 2009, is a solid album which kicks off in style with the title track and is followed by “Conor McGregor”, two of the album’s best songs, both of them bursting with energy. Strong melodies, fine musicianship and smart lyrics are at the centre of this album. Sheehy’s voice is exactly what you’d expect from a decent Celtic rock band and the Swedish musicians backing him are first class. They include Mattias Söderlund, formerly of Swedish cult punk band Charta 77.
Sir Reg is a modern, faster, better and more alert version of The Pogues and The Dubliners. Sir Reg has the same foundation, but the end result is more high-energy rock. They don’t sound dated at all. They are also musically more advanced and thus can really marry the Irish folk music of yesteryear with modern rock. This is a band full of energy, musical talent and punk attitude. They also have some seriously great songs. “Sinner of the Century” is a beautiful song which is one of my favourites. It is more The Waterboys than The Dubliners. “Stereotypical Drunken Feckin’ Irish Song”, however, is a comical take on The Dubliners and Irish stereotypes (it includes the line “Stick a shamrock up your arse”). While there is some obvious melancholy in some of the lyrical themes on this album, overall this is feel-good music. It makes me want to dance on a table in an Irish pub with a pint in my hand.
Sir Reg’s album “The Underdogs” is out on 21st September via Despotz Records.
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
A brutal and sweaty evening of exquisite extreme metal with The Crown and Origin in Shibuya. The Swedish death metal veterans The Crown have gone back to their brutal roots on their latest album and it shows on stage as well. Their American cousins in Origin are doing their best to upstage them.
The Crown, Origin, Descent and Primitive at Cyclone, Shibuya, Tokyo, 14th September 2018
Following short opening sets by two Australian bands, Primitive and Descent (where especially Descent’s frontman Anthony Oliver stands out with his hard-hitting performance), American band Origin walks on stage and delivers a musical punch in our faces.
Like a neglected American stepchild of Napalm Death and Aborted, Origin gives us a fabulous gig full of chaos and brutality, but with a very technical foundation. This is fantastic and highly energetic extreme metal. I’d like to define it as tech death with grindcore touches. Frontman Jason Keyser knows how to get an audience going. He successfully encourages the audience to perform some serious stage diving, crowd surfing and even a wall of death going during the band’s set. The Japanese audience is up for it and soon a monitor accidentally gets kicked off the stage and microphone stands are pushed aside. It is a sweaty performance for both the band and its audience.
28 years into their career, the evening’s Swedish headliners The Crown now has a terrific line-up and a splendid new album out. To many fans’ delight, they have turned the clock back and taken its sound closer to the band’s early days but without sounding dated. Original members Johan Lindstrand (vocals), Marko Tervonen (guitar) and Magnus Olsfelt (bass) are still there and in the current line-up they are joined by Robin Sörqvist on lead guitar and drummer Henrik Axelsson. While two former The Crown members (Tomas Lindberg and Jonas Stålhammar) are now both in the mighty At The Gates, I think it is fair to say that The Crown has never had a better line-up than the one they have now. Having recorded 2015’s “Death Is Not Dead” album with guitarist Tervonen on drums, the band now has a proper foundation with Axelsson behind the drum kit. And Sörqvist is a phenomenal lead guitarist that takes The Crown’s music to a new level. Now, with the band’s third Japan tour happening, the band is tight, hungry and it feeds off its Japanese fans’ participation in the live show.
They open their set with “Destroyed by Madness” and continue with “Iron Crown”, both tracks from their latest album “Cobra Speed Venom”. In a 14-song set, we get no fewer than six songs from the latest album. That’s how good the new album is. But, of course, this evening we also get older favourites such as “Blitzkrieg Witchcraft”, “Iblis Bane”, “Crowned in Terror”, “Deathexplosion” and “Angels Die”. They finish a flawless set with the fabulous “Total Satan” from the “Deathrace King” album. Quite a finish to a long evening in the name of extreme metal.
By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
Patrick Donovan and his men in the Toy Called God army are back with a new studio album of groovy but radio-friendly modern American metal.
Toy Called God plays modern melodic metal with an obvious American sound to it. It’s quality and slightly gritty radio rock with an edge and plenty of groove. The new album, “#Socialvangelism”, is the Bay Area-based hard rock band’s fourth studio album. The band’s current line-up consists of Marcus D. Lance on vocals, Patrick Donovan on guitar, Damian Lewin on bass and Jacob Baptista on drums.
The album kicks off with “United Corporations of America”, a modern rocker which sets the tone and expectations for the rest of the album. We get it all on this track: catchy metal, power vocals, great melodies, variation and guitar wankery. Just the way we like it. “Punch Life in the Face” is an Alter Bridge-sounding track and it’s one of the best songs on this 11-track album. But most of all, Toy Called God has managed to develop a contemporary sound that is borrowing from some of the greats but without trying to copy them. “Miss Me” is aggressive but not brutal, melodic yet hard-hitting with guitars that chug along. It’s the album’s highlight for me. “Take a Bullet Not a Selfie” is a terrific social commentary set to a catchy tune. It will no doubt be a live favourite. “She” is a bit different. It’s almost a power ballad. The album also features a terrific cover of The Beatles classic “Eleanor Rigby”. It’s a brave move but Toy Called God pulls it off. Somehow they manage to both stay relatively true to the original song and inject some of the band’s modern metal attitude into the song. The title track “#Socialvangelism” closes the album. It kicks off in a hazy stoner kind of fashion (hello Monster Magnet influences!) and then adds some power rock in the chorus to wake up the listener before we get a splendid guitar solo.
Toy Called God’s album “#Socialvangelism” is out on 18th September via Sliptrick Records.