Single review: Stagman “En mil i mina skor”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former glam rocker Zinny Zan returns with a new Stagman single which brings back memories of some of his old bandmates and 1980s-style Swedish pop and rock.

In an earlier life, Bosse Stagman called himself Zinny Zan when he fronted the terrific glam metal and sleaze rock bands Easy Action, Shotgun Messiah and Zan Clan. Now he’s 55 years old, calls himself simply Stagman and has moved into a musical territory which is part singer/songwriter, part pop and part punk-infused shout-along rock. It suits him well and he’s good at it. I particularly like the hints here and there of the Swedish tradition of melodic shout-along punk-rock. Because it is in the Swedish punk-rock scene that Stagman has his roots: he was a drummer with Belsen Boys, Trassel, Alarm X and Brilliant Boys before he switched to glam metal in the early 1980s when Easy Action was formed. In Easy Action he famously played alongside future Europe guitarist Kee Marcello. But more importantly from a musical pedigree and influence point of view, Easy Action featured three former members of Swedish pop/rock band Noice: Marcello was a live guitarist for Noice which also housed drummer Fredrik von Gerber and bassist Peo Thyrén (aka Alex Tyrone). That connection between Noice and Stagman has now – although Stagman in the past has said that Noice was not really his kind of thing – come full circle as there are some hints of Noice on Stagman’s new single. “En mil i mina skor” is the first taste of his next solo album which will be released later this winter. It is his third solo album since he switched to singing in Swedish in 2016. Stagman sings in Swedish with a distinct Stockholm dialect. Musically he is not miles off what Swedish artists such as Magnus Uggla have built great careers on. Not least the wonderful 1980s-sounding keyboards make me think of Noice and similar bands that were big in Sweden in the early 1980s. Both Uggla and Noice were essentially pop acts, but they had somewhat of a punk attitude. As a youngster in Sweden in the 1980s, I adored Zinny Zan and Easy Action. Now, both Zinny and I have grown up. I really dig the mature and toned-down rocker that Zinny Zan has become.

Stagman’s single “En mil i mina skor” will be released on 16th October via GMR Music.

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Album review: Lindsay Schoolcraft “Martyr”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Cradle of Filth’s Lindsay Schoolcraft goes solo with a splendid and beautiful debut album in collaboration with former Evanescence man Rocky Gray. Just wow!

Canadian musician Lindsay Schoolcraft is best known as a member of British extreme metal band Cradle of Filth. On her new solo album, we get to hear and experience a somewhat different side to this terrific artist. Sure, there are a few hints of Cradle here and there, but musically this is quite different. Evanescence comes to mind more than once (just listen to the track “Dangerous Game”), which is not exactly a surprise as Schoolcraft’s album has been co-written by former Evanescence drummer Rocky Gray who also plays multiple instruments on the album. In Cradle of Filth, Schoolcraft plays the keyboards and provides background vocals. But on this album, she’s at the centre as a lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. She gets to shine like never before. There are some faster and louder tracks, there are ballads and much more. The music is beautiful and, yes, there is that gothic, haunting and eerie feeling on much of it which keeps it interesting. The piano ballad “Blood from a Stone” is sheer beauty and an obvious highlight on a top-quality album. Another immediate favourite is the hard-hitting yet dreamy “See the Light” (with a guest appearance by Ne Obliviscaris vocalist Xenoyr). The album’s opening song, “Saviour”, is my top choice on the album though. It has everything I want: riffy metal guitars, piano, strings, Schoolcraft’s fantastic voice, a great melody, chanting and plenty of variation. The song material is exquisite and so is the production. It is a modern soundscape that manages to bring in medieval touches (Orthodox and Gregorian chants and harp!) and hints of classical music. This is an album that refuses to fit into a specific music category. The result is very Schoolcraft and it is brilliant. Schoolcraft has a busy schedule with Cradle of Filth, but I hope she gets the opportunity to perform her solo material live with a proper tour. This music is too good to just be a side project. As much as I enjoy Cradle of Filth, I like the solo artist Lindsay Schoolcraft more.

Lindsay Schoolcraft’s solo album “Martyr” will be released on 7th October. 

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Album review: Detraktor “Grinder”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Germany-based Detraktor is back with its first full-length studio album filled with relentless thrash metal with some crossover hardcore touches.

I love Detraktor’s take on in-your-face and relentless old-school thrash metal with some crossover hardcore touches. There are no compromises, just great music with plenty of energy and attitude. Detraktor is a multinational band based in Hamburg, Germany. Its members – Henrique Queiroz (drums and vocals), Rafael Dobbs (guitar), Boris Pavlov (guitar) and Juan Orellana (bass) have their roots in Chile, Brazil and Bulgaria. Their music is raw, groovy and bloody good. The album title, “Grinder”, should give you a bit of a hint what this band is capable of. There’s not a weak second on this album, but my standout favourite is the terrific fast track “Rejekt” which hits its listeners like a runaway freight train. It’s as if Californian bands Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies had a Kreator-obsessed Latino out-of-wedlock bastard child in Europe. I love this band. You should too. “Grinder” is the band’s debut full-length studio album. They have previously released a couple of EPs, including “Size Matters”, produced by Dirk Schlaechter of Gamma Ray fame, which landed them a well-deserved German Metal Hammer award as newcomer of the year. This is so much better than most of what’s out there. This is the new soundtrack to your life. Album of the year? Perhaps so. 

Detraktor’s album “Grinder” is out now via the German label Violent Creek.

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Album review: Prime Creation “Tears of Rage”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Sweden’s Prime Creation gives us great melodies, heavy riffs and a contemporary soundscape on its new album. 

Prime Creation formed in Sweden in 2015 and released its debut album in 2016. The band is part of the well-established Swedish melodic hard-rock tradition where great melodies are always at the centre of the songs. But Prime Creation has a certain edge to its music which at times is more hard-hitting than some its peers’ music. One such song is the album’s title track “Tears of Rage” which sounds very modern. The tracks “Lost in the Shades” and “Pretend till the End” are among the album’s obvious highlights. Those songs define what this band is about: catchy melodies with pop hooks, heavy guitar riffs and a contemporary soundscape.  Among all the modern stuff, the band still somehow manages to also keep an unpolished rawness which gives it all some great edginess. That some of the band members have a background in power metal comes as no surprise. For the most part, Prime Creation has a somewhat different sound, although the terrific “Before the Rain” is basically catchy power metal. There is, of course, also a big keyboard-soaked ballad in the form of the track “Endless Lanes” on the album. 

Prime Creation’s album “Tears of Rage” is out now via Silent Wall Productions.

www.primecreationband.com

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Interview: Girlschool “We just go straight through the amps!”

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

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

According to Alice Cooper, school has been out for summer for many students. But one British school has not had the summer off: veteran British rockers Girlschool toured Japan and Australia this summer. Roppongi Rocks caught up with the band backstage in Tokyo.

Kim McAuliffe of Girlschool on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Founded in London in 1978, Girlschool has two remaining founding members: Kim McAuliffe on guitar and vocals and drummer Denise Dufort. Both have turned 60, but are still at the top of their game. Legendary guitarist Kelly Johnson passed away in 2007 and the other member of the classic Girlschool line-up, Enid Williams, left the band, once again, at the beginning of this year. Kim and Denise are joined in the current line-up of the band by lead guitarist Jackie Chambers and bassist Tracey Lamb. Tracey, a founding member of the band Rock Goddess, is back in Girlschool for her third (or fourth stint, really), having first played with the band in 1983.

Sitting in a small room backstage with the four members of Girlschool, there’s endless banter and self-deprecating jokes. It never stops. They’re the same on stage a few hours later. They’re a lovely bunch of ladies and their British humour resonates well with me as I, too, spent a big part of my life living in London. 

It’s now been 41 years since the band was formed. What motivates you to keep going after all these years? “We’re stupid!” says Denise Dufort with a big grin across her face. “Stupidity!” screams Kim McAuliffe and continues: “But also, the fact is, it doesn’t seem like it. It just goes so quick. Anyway, when we first started, if you would’ve told us then that we would still be going now…” Denise jumps in again: “No way!” before Kim says: “It just happened.” Jackie Chambers explains that the band is still going because “We don’t have any other friends!” before Denise screams: “It’s true!”

Girlschool toured here Japan for the first time in 1982. What do you remember from that tour? “The first time you come here, it’s so different,” explains Kim. Denise adds: “Culture shock!” Kim continues: “I remember, when we went on stage, there was so much screaming, we thought we were in The Beatles. What the hell’s going on here? The other funny thing I do remember is that where we’re playing because it was a big theatre, they won’t allow smoke machines. So, there was all this little crew, running in, literally, filling up bags of smoke outside the doors and ran into the stage!”

Girlschool backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lemmy and Motörhead have had a constant presence in the Girlschool story. What has his support meant for Girlschool? “I think what happened was that they gave us more of an identity,” says Kim. “Obviously, we were touring way before we met Motörhead. We sort of had the same thing as Motörhead, the crossover thing. We played punk clubs – they’d think we were heavy rock. And when we played heavy rock clubs, they thought that we were punk. When we did that first tour with Motörhead, people went ‘Ah! That’s what they are! Whatever it is, whatever that may be.’ The crossover thing, you know.” Tracey Lamb adds: “Similar sound. When I was in Goddess in the early years, Jody and me went out and bought all the Girlschool albums and Motörhead albums and there was a similarity in the style, with the crossover punk and metal thing.”

How do you balance playing old classics versus newer material? Do you ever think: Screw the old stuff, let’s just play newer songs? “We’d like to,” says Kim. “But the thing is, I always think, what would I like to hear if I came to see a band? I wanna hear the songs that I know, the classics. Everybody does.” Tracey adds: “It’s good to have a mixture, isn’t it?” Jackie continues: “We put new ones in. We try to put them in, because people who’ve found us only a few years ago, and then there’s some young people only just coming into the band now, so we have to put something new in.” Kim takes over: “But having said that, since Tracey joined, we are playing four new ones, to us, in a sense, that we never usually play.”

Girlschool backstage in Tokyo with Roppongi Rocks boss Stefan Nilsson.

Jackie explains: “We put ‘Bomber’ in for the first time ever.” Kim continues: “We’ve never played ‘Bomber’ live ever. But we do now! And also ‘Action’, which is a relatively new one. Tracey was on that album.” Tracey quickly says: “1988!” before Jackie adds: “New in 1988! Haha!” Kim continues: “We play two new ones, ‘Guilty as Sin’ and ‘Take It Like a Band’, from the last album.” Jackie feels the urge to explain that “When we say ‘new’, it is always like ten years ago!”

Your latest studio album, “Guilty as Sin”, came out in 2015. Can we expect a new studio album anytime soon? “People are saying ‘get a new one together’ and we’re thinking now when Tracey’s back in, we should do something next year,” says Jackie. 

Tracey Lamb is back in the band yet again as Enid Williams left. Was this an obvious choice? Is it a temporary or a permanent solution? “She’s under initiation test,” says Jackie before Tracey proudly says: “I passed. I’m in!” Denise explains: “I wanted Tracey back in the band. Because she’s a great bass player. Me and her always play well together, so I wanted her back!” Kim continues: “This is her third time now. We’ve known each other for 40 years.”

Tracey Lamb of Girlschool backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“It’s fantastic being back,” says Tracey. “I love it! I’m back to stay, I’m back for good. I’ve been away for about 19 years and now I’m back.” Kim screams: “19 years? Bloody hell! Where’s that gone?” before Tracey continues: “It’s great! Because I left Goddess and then a few months later I got a call from Denise: ‘Can you help us out first of all and see how it goes?’ And we had such a great time in Spain and then we played Belgium, didn’t we? It gelled musically.”

Will Rock Goddess continue without you? “Yeah, they have got a new bass player now. They replaced me with a younger model. Haha! She’s only 28!” says Tracey.

Jackie Chambers, who joined Girlschool in 1999, is referred to as “the new girl” by the others. “20 years! New girl?!” says Jackie. “We keep saying the new girl,“ admits Kim. “It’s a bit like Ronnie Wood. He’s the new bloke in the Rolling Stones!” 

Jackie Chambers of Girlschool on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Jackie, you joined a legendary band more than two decades after it was founded. Now, some 20 years later – you have a major role in the band as lead guitarist and songwriter. Was that tough to achieve? “I didn’t see it like that because they were mates,” answers Jackie. “I’d met them all in 1995. Even though we were mates, I never saw myself in the band. Kelly wanted to leave. I never even thought about joining Girlschool. Me and Kim were doing a project, writing together at my house. No, actually we were just getting drunk, weren’t we? Pretending to write songs! When Kelly at one point just had enough, because I didn’t play lead guitar at all. I was in like punk stuff and played rhythm and riffs. She goes: ‘Look, if I help you…’ Cris Bonacci lived two streets away. She’s like ‘I’ll teach you the songs!’ And I thought: ‘Alright then!’ I joined a cover band to get my playing up to speed because I had never played lead guitar. They taught me the songs, I just went away and practised, thinking nothing will ever come of it. And then one day they said: ‘We’ve got some gigs, a London gig and Wacken, which was Kelly’s last gig. They wanted me to do Wacken and I went: ‘Not a chance in hell is that gonna be my first gig!’ in 1999. So, I said: ‘OK, Kelly, you do this as your last gig and I’ll take over there.’ And it just happened. Then Enid came back. The first gigs we did was 2000. So, 1999 I officially joined. I just like writing music. I wanted to be a songwriter, not a guitar player. What went wrong? I get to do both now. I enjoy it. I don’t write all the songs. I like to write music. We just work together, don’t we, really? I jam with Denise to write songs and me and Kim swap ideas on the phone. It’s really high-tech this band, whistling down the phone, an idea!”

Let’s talk about the classic Girlschool sound. Throughout the years, you’ve had many different constellations when it comes to guitars and bass and how the lead vocals have been handled. This year you have again had a shift with Enid leaving the band and Kim being, more or less, the sole lead singer. How have you managed to keep it sounding Girlschool through all these changes? “I’m a bit worried about these gigs now,” says Kim, “because we have like six in a row or something. I’m not used to singing all the songs. I need a bit of a break.” She’s pleading with Jackie and Tracey to take on some of the lead vocals. “I’m going to try one!” says Tracey who then a few hours later sings lead on “Watch Your Step”. “I think it’s just the Girlschool sound, isn’t it?” says Jackie. “We don’t use effects, you see. We just go straight through the amps. I think most bands use effects, pedals and things like that. Because we’re straight through Marshall, that is the sound. So, whoever joins, I mean, obviously I’m sort of similar to Kelly in style anyway, so as soon as she starts playing, that’s the sound, straight through a Marshall. That’s it.” Kim rounds it off: “We plug straight in! And I still use leads. People can’t believe it. ‘Where’s your wireless?’” laughs Kim while shaking her head. A few hours later the band is on stage and killing it. What a fab band and a great bunch of Brits.

Girlschool backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

www.girlschool.co.uk

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Gig review: Crazy Lixx in Tokyo – Swedish melodic hard rock is alive and well

Crazy Lixx on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Yuki Kuroyanagi

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

When Swedish melodic hard rockers Crazy Lixx finally made it to Japan, they crushed it. Their signature mix of melodic yet riff-happy metal is part of a proud Swedish tradition that the Japanese fans love.

Crazy Lixx at Club Quattro, Shibuya on 25th September 2019 

Crazy Lixx on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Yuki Kuroyanagi

Japan’s love for melodic hard rock from Sweden goes back to 1983 when they discovered Joey Tempest and Europe. Since then, a long row of Swedish bands have sold a lot of records and toured in Japan. Crazy Lixx, founded in 2002, has had a following in Japan since they released their debut album in 2007. But they never toured Japan until now. The advantage of them making having their first Japan gigs with six studio albums below their belts is that we get a killer setlist. It’s all hits and no fillers. We get a big serving of the best songs from the band’s latest album, “Forever Wild”, which was released earlier this year, as well as all the earlier hits from the band’s career. It’s quite a treasure trove of rock’n’roll. Crazy Lixx’s signature sound is a terrific mix of melodic yet riff-happy metal with dashes of AOR, glam, sleaze and, yes, hair metal. It boils down to feelgood party rock.

Crazy Lixx on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Yuki Kuroyanagi

They open the show with the terrific song “Wicked” from the “Forever Wild” album and follow it with “Blame It on Love”. The crowd is with them from the second they walk on stage. We get a long set and some of the highlights include “Hell Raising Women”, “Lock Up Your Daughter”, “Children of the Cross”, “XIII” and “21 Til I Die”.

Crazy Lixx on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Yuki Kuroyanagi

Founding members Danny Rexon (vocals) and Joel Cirera (drums) form the backbone of the band together with bassist Jens Sjöholm (who joined the band in 2012). The newest additions to the band, guitarists Jens Lundgren (formerly of Bai Bang) and Chrisse Olsson (Dirty Passion), both fit in very well. There’s chemistry between them and they add something to the band that was perhaps missing in the past. Now there seems to be more unity in the band that shines through in the music.

Crazy Lixx on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Yuki Kuroyanagi

Vocalist Danny Rexon gives the rest of the band a break when he brings out an acoustic guitar and gives us a solo performance of the songs “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” and “Make Ends Meet”. The scaled-down versions are beautiful and show that Rexon is more than just a standard rock singer. Here he shows us he has some serious emotional quality to his vocals that are not always obvious in the more fast and loud songs.

The band closes a terrific night of melodic hard rock with “Never Die (Forever Wild)”. Crazy Lixx is a band whose members don’t take themselves too seriously, but they are a great band who play excellent melodic hard rock very well.

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Review: Evoken Fest with Alestorm, Grave Digger, Bloodbound, Epidemia and Victorius

Patrik Selleby of Bloodbound on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

What a splendid night in the name of metal we got at Evoken Fest. Three power metal bands, an old-school true German metal band and a bunch of good-fun Scottish rockers proved to be a great mix of music that kept the audience entertained.

Evoken Fest with Alestorm, Grave Digger, Bloodbound, Epidemia and Victorius at Duo Music Exchange, Shibuya, Tokyo on 30th August 2019 

Victorius

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

German power metal band Victorius open this evening of Evoken Fest with a great set. Their take on European-style power metal is good and it works well to get this party going. Their latest album, 2018’s “Dinosaur Warfare – Legend of the Power Saurus”, is European power metal in a nutshell: tongue-in-cheek fantasy/folklore/fairytale themes delivered by a great bunch of musicians.

Epidemia

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

Ever since I saw the splendid Russian band Kruiz perform on Swedish TV in the mid-80s, there is something exotic and appealing about Russian heavy metal bands. You just gotta love that combination of trying to look like a cross of Manowar and Judas Priest, straightforward and melodic metal and lyrics sung in Russian. Epidemia is a great power metal band with good musicians and songs. But it is vocalist Evgeny Egorov that makes them stand out from the pack. What a voice and stage presence! Brilliant stuff! I want to see and hear more of this terrific band.

Bloodbound

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

Their set is only seven songs plus an intro, but the members of Swedish power metal band Bloodbound make the most of it. It is power metal at its best. Plenty of guitar riffing, keyboard soundscapes and melodic metal songs. Vocalist Patrik Selleby is terrific. He has a voice made to sing this kind of material and he also knows how to put on a show. His dragon mask and horn make him stand out as much visually as his voice does musically. But behind him, there is also a terrific band of musicians and songwriters led by co-founders Fredrik Bergh on keyboards and lead guitarist Tomas Olsson. They open strongly with “Battle in the Sky”, manage to squeeze in favourites such as “In the Name of Metal” and “Dragons are Forever” before they finish a flawless set with the splendid “Nosferatu”, a song that would not be out of place on an Iron Maiden album. Bloodbound was founded in 2004 and the band has since released eight studio albums, most recently “Rise of the Dragon Empire” earlier this year. But this is their very first Japan visit. Hopefully, we will see them return for some headline gigs with a full-length show.

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

Grave Digger

Grave Digger on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German heavy metal veterans Grave Digger are still going. Original frontman Chris Boltendahl’s long hair has turned white with age, but his voice is as good as it ever was. The current line-up of the band is terrific, where especially lead guitarist Axel Ritt stands out. Germany has a proud metal tradition and while less known to the masses than bands such as Accept, Scorpions and Helloween, quality-wise Grave Digger is right there in the leading pack. They put on a great heavy metal show at Evoken Fest. We get straightforward proper heavy metal and the band proves that there is clearly still a present and a future for this veteran band, something evident in the band’s setlist which this evening only contains one song from the 1980s, “Heavy Metal Breakdown”.

Alestorm

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

Evoken Fest headliners Alestorm are different from most things out there. Despite all the gimmicks with a giant inflatable duck, kilts, sandals and all the other crazy stuff this band wears and does, they are great musicians with great songs. They are entertainers and they’re great at what they do. Between songs, we get crude and boozy jokes and colourful comments by frontman Christopher Bowes. They entertain us with their very own brand of melodic metal with folk metal touches. Jokey kind of bands are perhaps not my thing (it really isn’t), but these jolly men are very good and they certainly know how to entertain a crowd. Their tour shirts say “We came to drink your beer” and that sums it up quite nicely.

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

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Album review: Michael Schenker Fest “Revelation”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Michael Schenker Fest returns with its second studio album of new material plus some special Japanese bonus tracks.

Michael Schenker Fest was born out of the onstage reunion of Michael Schenker and Graham Bonnet in Japan in 2015. In the early 1980s, Bonnet briefly, very briefly, fronted MSG. It lasted for one album and a small part of a gig. When Schenker in 2015 did a tour of Japan with Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock, he had the newly formed Graham Bonnet Band as support act. The two former colleagues reunited for the first time ever for a couple of songs during Schenker’s set. It was a huge success and led to the formation of Michael Schenker Fest which sees Schenker reunited with a whole heap of his old MSG bandmates as well as Doogie White from Temple of Rock.

The new band has toured around the globe ever since, including several successful Japan tours. MSF performs classics from throughout Schenker’s career with MSG, UFO and Scorpions. They released a studio album, “Resurrection”, in 2018 and now they are back with a new studio album called “Revelation”. It’s more of the same of what we have been getting from Schenker and his Fest colleagues. The one notable change is the absence of drummer Ted McKenna who sadly passed away unexpectedly in January during a routine operation. He has been replaced in MSF by two other former MSG drummers, Bodo Schopf and Simon Phillips.

The album, obviously, features some fine guitar work by the revolutionary guitarist Schenker, but also the voices of the legendary vocalists Graham Bonnet, Gary Barden, Robin McAuley and Doogie White. There’s also a guest appearance by current Rainbow singer Ronnie Romero on the track “We Are the Voice” (one of the album’s best tracks). The backbone of MSF still consists of MSG alumni Steve Mann on keyboards and guitar and Chris Glen on bass. Musically, MSF continues in the footsteps of MSG. It is melodic classic rock delivered by some of the most legendary names in the rock business. Everybody misses the great Ted McKenna, but the show must go on. His replacements do not only have the same MSG pedigree, but they are also still able to deliver at the top level. Just like the first MSF album, this one has a few new tracks that will fit in nicely with the old Schenker classics in the live set, such as perhaps “Under a Blood Red Sky”, a great rock song sung by Robin McAuley. “Sleeping with the Light On”, “Leading You Astray” and “Headed for the Sun” are also great tunes.

The Japanese edition of the album comes with a few bonus tracks: “Doctor Doctor” and “Assault Attack” (the album’s highlight for me), both recorded live in Japan in 2017 (with McKenna on drums!) and an alternative version of the track “The Beast in the Shadows” with Loudness guitarist Akira Takasaki as a guest. 

Michael Schenker Fest’s new album “Revelation” will be released on 20th September by Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally. Michael Schenker Fest will tour Japan once again in March 2020.

Gary Barden and Michael Schenker on stage in Japan in 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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Album review: Liv Sin “Burning Sermons”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Sweden’s Liv Sin is back with a terrific hard-hitting yet melodic metal album.

Liv Sin’s frontwoman Liv Jagrell (ex-Sister Sin) has one of those voices meant to sing heavy metal. It is powerful and it comes with plenty of attitude. She’s at the centre of Liv Sin’s music and she leads from the front. Shortly after her former band Sister Sin disbanded in 2015, Liv formed Liv Sin and released the band’s debut album “Follow Me” in 2017. Much of Liv Sin’s music is rooted in proper 1980s heavy metal but it has a modern touch to it as well which means it doesn’t sound dated. “Chapter of the Witch” is a great song. It contains so much good stuff and twists and turns that it puts a big smile on my face. It has terrific energy and the guitars here are fantastic. “War Antidote” is an anthem, a glorious and pompous (in a good way) call to arms of the misfits. “Ghost in the Dark” is the best track on the album and it is Liv Sin’s version of what 80s power ballads were back in the day. On the fab song “Hope Begins to Fade”, Björn “Speed” Strid of Soilwork and The Night Flight Orchestra fame appears on guest vocals. “At the Gates of the Abyss” is the album’s other highlight for me, again with fantastic guitars. It’s great hard-hitting and chest-pounding heavy metal which is also very melodic. It is Liv Sin at its best.

Liv Sin’s new album “Burning Sermons” is out now via Despotz Records. 

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Gig review: Danko Jones at Crowbar in Sydney

Danko Jones on stage in Sydney. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Canadian rocker Danko Jones made a triumphant return to Australia with his trio. Every song in the setlist is a hit. One of the greatest live rock shows this year. Punky rock’n’roll at its best.

Danko Jones, Black Heart Breakers and Screaming Eagle at Crowbar, Sydney, Australia on 7th September 2019 

Crowbar is a great music venue in the Sydney suburb Leichhardt. It is focused on serving beer and putting on heavy metal and hard rock performances. The Metallica and AC/DC pinball machines in the bar area set the tone for what kind of place this is. Local promoter Silverback Touring has become an important part of the Australian live scene as they keep bringing great international rock acts down under.

This evening, talented local Aussie bands Screaming Eagle and Black Heart Breakers did a great job of warming up the beer-fuelled Sydney audience at the Crowbar. The venue slowly filled up and by the time the evening’s headline act Danko Jones walked on stage, the place was packed. It’s been fifteen years since Danko’s last headline tour in Australia. The wait was worth it. We got a proper lesson on how a rock show should be done.

Danko Jones and his trio – consisting of John Calabrese on bass, Rich Knox on drums and Danko Jones himself on guitar and vocals – were dressed all in black. They performed in front of a backdrop with just the Danko Jones logo. Visually there’s nothing fancy here, but bloody ‘ell, they did put on one helluva sweaty and fabulous rock show! Every song is a hit. I don’t think Danko is capable of writing bad songs. At least there are none in the live show. They opened the show with the splendid “I Gotta Rock” from 2017’s “Wild Cat” album. The bulk of the show was focused on newer material, including songs from Danko’s latest album, “A Rock Supreme”, which was released earlier this year. This evening most songs were played back-to-back. There was non-stop energy from the band. They were sweating buckets, but they never tired. They just kept going. On the few occasions when Danko spoke between songs, it was mainly a humorous and self-deprecating monologue. He looked rather aggressive and spoke angrily, but behind all that, he’s a great artist who feeds off the love and admiration of his audience. He’s in a band and he loves it as he sings in the autobiographical tune “I’m in a Band”. Other highlights in what turned into a flawless rock show, included “First Date”, “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Burn in Hell”. The show had everything I had hoped for. I couldn’t possibly have put together a better setlist than what the band delivered this evening. At the end of the night, this had turned into one of the best shows I have seen this year. This is punky rock’n’roll at its best. Now let’s get working on bringing Danko Jones back to Japan. It’s been way too long since this explosive Canadian trio played in Japan.

Danko Jones on stage in Sydney. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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