Single review: Old Man Wizard “Innocent Hands”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

California’s progressive heavy rockers Old Man Wizard have got an addictive new 7-inch single coming out.

I don’t know what it is, but Old Man Wizard’s new single has me hooked. This music is some kind of witch brew from southern California. It’s catchy and riff heavy. Like good old, dirty and dusty psych rock. They call it progressive heavy rock and I guess that kind of explains what this is. Southern California also says something about where this music comes from.

The title track “Innocent Hands” kicks off with some serious metal assault, but with a weird mix of psych rock. Some of this is a bit like melodic black metal, but not really. Perhaps if Monster Magnet and The Doors formed a super group and played melodic progressive black metal mixed with some desert rock… Nah, that’s silly. Never mind, whatever this is, it’s bloody good. I am hooked. The B-side’s “The Blind Prince” is even better. Very energetic and with a funky but dusty groove. More 60s psych rock than metal. I’m confused but I really like this. It’s addictive.

Old Man Wizard consists of Francis Roberts on guitar and vocals, Kris Calabio on drums and Andre Beller on bass.

Old Man Wizard’s two-track 7-inch single “Innocent Hands” will be released on 25th August. The band is currently on tour in the US.

Album review: Venom Inc. “Avé” | Mantas, Abaddon and Demolition Man are back in action

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Venom’s Mantas, Abaddon and Demolition Man are back as Venom Inc. with fab new material on new album.

When old bands reunite and produce new music, you never really know what to expect. Often the result is not great. So, what is the result when British extreme metal pioneers Venom get its line-up from 1989-92 back together again? A fantastic album of great heavy metal by an explosive trio of veterans who manage to combine their past glories with a modern sound and terrific new material.

In Venom Inc. founding Venom members Jeff “Mantas” Dunn on guitar and Anthony “Abaddon” Bray on drums have again teamed up with vocalist and bassist Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan (who fronted Venom during the 1989-92 period when the albums “Prime Evil”, “Temples of Ice” and “The Waste Lands” were released). What a great trio of heaviness. Two years after they reunited in 2015, they have now created a comeback album that beats all expectations.

There are some great, heavy riffs and a dark groove throughout the album. Best of all, there are great songs. The album brings back memories of the classic Venom days back in the 80s and early 90s, but this is much more than that. With “Avé”, Venom Inc. shows us that this trio is still relevant. This is very much a contemporary band, here and now, not some has-beens stuck in the past.

The opener, “Avé Satanas”, is very strong and announces that this is a band that will claim back its spot in the heavy metal race. There’s great energy on tracks such as “Metal We Bleed”, “The Evil Dead” and “War”. “Dein Fleisch” has a sinister vibe to it, both musically and lyric-wise. “Time to Die” is fantastic. “Preacher Man” is one of the stand-out tracks on the album and it has a bit of a Judas Priest flavour. “I Kneel to No God” is simply epic. Many of the songs are a bit longer than your average metal song and that allows Venom Inc. to really live out their musical ambitions to the full and without compromises. There are no dips on this album. A bloody great album closes with “Black N Roll” and, yes, the title is fitting. It has a touch of Motörhead to it.

This is a fantastic album straight through. Venom Inc. has truly arrived with this album. Die-hard Venom fans may not want to admit it, but Venom Inc. is actually far better than anything that Venom has ever done (OK, maybe I’ll make an exception for “Countess Bathory”).

Venom Inc.’s album “Avé” is out now via Nuclear Blast.

Album review: The Lurking Fear “Out of the Voiceless Grave”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Lurking Fear’s much-hyped debut album lives up to the expectations. It’s bloody awesome death metal by a bunch of professionals.

The new death metal band The Lurking Fear’s debut album “Out of the Voiceless Grave” is a brutal album without any compromises. It’s an assault on your senses by a bunch of Swedish extreme metal veterans. The Lurking Fear has a stellar line-up of extreme music royalty: Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates, Disfear, The Crown, Grotesque, Skitsystem, Lock Up, Nightrage) on vocals, Jonas Stålhammar (God Macabre, Bombs of Hades, Crippled Black Phoenix, The Crown, ) on guitar, Fredrik Wallenberg (Skitsystem, Embalmed, Sarcasm) on guitar, Andreas Axelson (Tormented, Disfear, Marduk, Edge of Sanity, Necronaut) on bass and Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates, The Haunted, Riket, Nemhain, Brujeria, Cradle of Filth, Netherbird, Paradise Lost, Vallenfyre, Skitsystem) on drums.

Tomas Lindberg on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Comparisons with At The Gates are impossible to avoid. But The Lurking Fear lives at the more inaccessible end of the musical world which also houses At The Gates. It lives next door to early Morbid Angel. It’s fast, brutal and heavy. High-energy bulldozing metal with some King Diamond-esque horror movie references here and there. There are also fab melodies underneath all the brutality and at times the tempo slows down for a breather. I love this album. It makes me want to start a one-man mosh pit right here at Roppongi Rocks headquarters.

Adrian Erlandsson on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

For the most part, this is Insanely brutal and aggressive, like a high-pressure cooker. But don’t let the death metal typhoon on the surface fool you. This is multi-layered intelligent, yet brutal, music with many nuances.

Picking out favourite tracks on such a solid album is hard. “Vortex Spawn” is a splendid physical assault. “The Infernal Dread” is terrific and so is “With Death Engraved in Their Bone”.  “The Starving Gods of Old” is one of my clear favourite songs on this album. It sort of sounds like a death metal version of a Napalm Death song performed by an early version of Morbid Angel in a speed metal tempo. “Tentacles of Blackened Horror” starts as a “normal” song, only to explode into fucking mayhem once the vocals start. Insane brutality. Splendid! The album closes with the track “Beneath Menacing Sands”, a five-minute masterclass in death metal. Well, there are no weak spots on this album. What a debut album The Lurking Fear has arrived on the scene with!

The Lurking Fear’s album “Out of the Voiceless Grave” is out on 11th August via Century Media Records.

Album review: Kee of Hearts | Kee Marcello and Tommy Heart

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Kee Marcello and Tommy Heart have teamed up in new band Kee of Hearts which has resulted in a catchy AOR album.

Kee of Hearts is a new band in Frontiers Music’s artist roster with plenty of pedigree and talent. Swedish guitarist Kee Marcello made a name for himself in the 80s with glam rockers Easy Action before he joined Europe in 1986 as John Norum’s replacement, just in time for the band’s “The Final Countdown” world tour. German singer Tommy Heart has fronted Fair Warning since they were founded in 1991 and has also sung with the likes of Uli Jon Roth and Soul Doctor.

In addition to Marcello and Heart, the band consists of Swedish bassist Ken Sandin (Swedish Erotica, Alien, Kee Marcello Band, Jim Jidhed) and Italian drummer Marco Di Salvia (Pino Scotto, Human Regression, Polarized, Node, Perpetual Fire, Valas).

If you’re into fine AOR-type of melodic rock, Kee of Hearts won’t disappoint. Marcello’s guitar playing is as fine as ever and Heart was born with a voice made to sing melodic rock.

The album opens strongly with “The Storm”, a melodic rock song which is almost power metal-esque. “Crimson Dawn” has a classic Europe touch to it with Marcello’s guitar bringing us back to the late 80s. On many of the album’s tracks, such as “Bridge to Heaven”, we get big doses of good old American-tinged AOR. But there is also plenty of Northern European melodic hard rock influences on this album. “Edge of Paradise”, one of the album’s strongest tracks, could comfortably have been a song by Treat. “Learn to Love Again” also lives in the same musical neighbourhood.

The Japanese edition of the album contains an scaled down, acoustic version of the song “Invincible” as a bonus track.

The Italy-based Frontiers Music label has developed into a melodic hard rock power house. Its in-house producer, Alessandro Del Vecchio, has his hands all over this album. This is a release that is an obvious Del Vecchio production released by Frontiers.

There is nothing dark or dangerous here. This is radio-friendly and catchy melodic rock with great pop hooks and some fab guitar work. It’s good-natured rock music.

Kee of Hearts’ album “Kee of Hearts” will be released in Japan on 30th August via Marquee and internationally on 15th September via Frontiers Music.

Album review: Bob Kulick “Skeletons in the Closet”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Guitarist Bob Kulick brings in his rock star friends as guests on a solo album filled with melodic rock with some great twists.

Bob Kulick has seldom been at the centre of attention. He has often preferred to be creating music behind the stars rather than being a star in the limelight himself. KISS fans obviously know his great history with the band, including playing guitar on several KISS albums and contributing as a songwriter. He also introduced his brother Bruce Kulick to KISS who ended up hiring him to be the band’s lead guitarist for 12 years. The Grammy Award-winning musician and producer Bob Kulick has during his more than 50 years in the music business also played with Meat Loaf, W.A.S.P., Lou Reed, Michael Bolton, Blackthorne with Graham Bonnet and so much more.

“Skeletons in the Closet” is Kulick’s first solo album. The album’s ten tracks are a mix of new and old material – all of it good, some of it great – plus a twisted take on the James Bond “Goldfinger” soundtrack. With so many different musicians involved, this is a very varied album, but for the most part it resides within the melodic hard rock frame. Some of the album is perhaps a bit too middle of the road AOR for me (although I am fully aware that there are plenty of fans that like that), but the good bits are great and overall this is a very good album. Kulick’s guitar work is, obviously, first rate and he calls on some serious rock star friends to help him on this album.

With Kulick’s wide-reaching connections in the music business, it comes as no surprise that his album features some great guest appearances by people such as Bruce Kulick (KISS, Grand Funk Railroad, Union), Eric Singer (KISS, Black Sabbath, Badlands), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P.), Robin McAuley (MSG), Jimmy Waldo (New England, Alcatrazz, Quiet Riot, Graham Bonnet Band), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio) and many more.

“London”, with Dee Snider on vocals and Frankie Banali on drums, is the album’s stand-out track. This is not only a fab song with great musicianship on display. It also showcases what a great singer Snider is. It’s epic. The best Snider has ever done. Under all that Twisted Sister make-up, big hair and showmanship, there’s a great singer with a distinctive and powerful voice. Matched with Kulick’s guitar and Banali’s drumming it becomes something very special.

“India”, originally done by Kulick’s old band Murderer’s Row, has a great drive and some fab instrumentation, including Kulick playing a sitar. “Player”, with Last In Line’s Andrew Freeman on vocals, is a fabulously rocking song. On “Guitar Commandos” (originally done by Skull, another Kulick band), we get Bob and Bruce Kulick trading guitar licks.

After over 50 years in the music business, Bob Kulick steps into the limelight with his first solo album. Let’s hope he will also do some live shows with this material.

Bob Kulick’s “Skeletons in the Closet” will be released on 15th September via Vanity Music.

Interview: Paul Shortino’s unfinished business

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Unfinished business: The former Quiet Riot frontman Paul Shortino is still raiding the Vegas rock vault, has a King Kobra live album coming out, a new Rough Cutt studio album in the making and a great Japanese collaboration. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson recently sat down with Shortino in Tokyo to talk about his past and his future.

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

One of the nicest men in rock finishes our recent interview in Tokyo by giving me a big hug. That’s Paul Shortino in a nutshell. A great singer who has both the vocal abilities and the stage moves to pull off a great show. But also a decent chap full of love and gratitude.

Shortino is in a great mood as we sit down in his hotel room in Shinagawa in central Tokyo. He has taken a brief break from his Las Vegas show Raiding the Rock Vault to come and do some gigs in Japan with his all-Japanese Paul Shortino Band.

Shortino started to make a name for himself as the frontman for Rough Cutt, one of the many LA-bands that appeared in the early and mid-80s. Rough Cutt’s manager was Wendy Dio and her husband, Ronnie James Dio, also got involved in helping the band with some songwriting, production, promotion and guidance. Most crucially, he decided to include Shortino as one of the lead singers on the track “Stars” for the Hear ’N Aid charity project in 1985. This put Shortino next to not only Dio, but also rock stars such as Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Don Dokken and Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot. Shortino also landed a small role as Duke Fame in the cult movie “This is Spinal Tap!” Shortino eventually joined Quiet Riot (singing on the great “QR” album in 1988) and later Carmine Appice’s King Kobra, in addition to many solo things and other projects. In recent years his main project has been the very successful Las Vegas show Raiding the Rock Vault.

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Touring in Japan

Shortino has successfully been touring Japan in the 80s, twice with Rough Cutt and twice with Quiet Riot. He returned to Japan to perform with the Paul Shortino Band in 2016 and 2017. “It’s a pleasure to be here! I love it! I love this country. I love the fans, they’re nothing like anywhere in the world. They’re really loyal and just beautiful people,” says Shortino who has great memories of his Japan visits in the 80s. “When I was here, we also did a two-week tour for Charvel Guitars with Grover Jackson. We got to actually see more of the country, outside of the cities. We went to Mount Fuji and went to the hot springs. It was nice to see Japan outside of the cities. Because when you come here to tour, you perform in the cities and – boom! – you’re gone. This time we were actually able to see some of the beautiful cities and the countryside. It’s so beautiful here.”

Paul Shortino Band on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Leaving Rough Cutt to join Quiet Riot

Paul Shortino-fronted Rough Cutt, a great American band from Los Angeles, got a record deal with Warner and did well – including two successful Japan visits – but not quite as well as some of the other bands on the LA scene at the time. One issue was that they were waiting for their chosen producer to be available to record their debut album. “We waited so long that that window for that type of success that was going on in the 80s from Ratt, Dokken, Mötley… All those bands that at that time, they already had records out. Lovely Tipper Gore decided to put labelling on records. Our album didn’t sound anything like… Maybe the cover with the spider and the heart and the knife. For people like W.A.S.P. and bands like that, the more gory the album cover was, it didn’t matter if there was a sticker on it. They already had a following of fans and everything else.” When the debut album finally came out, “We were touring with Ronnie on the ‘Sacred Heart’ tour in the States,” explains Shortino who thinks the warning labels that were put on the band’s album covers put off some people. “It had a stamp on there that is was evil. It was far from that. So, timing is everything.”

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When the band’s major break never happened, the record label dropped the band and Rough Cutt’s members went on to play with Dio, Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. “The last time Rough Cutt were here in 1986, we were touring and Quiet Riot were touring right behind us. They were touring Japan at the same time.” When Rough Cutt came home to the States following the Japan tour, Warner decided to drop the band and that is what opened up the possibility for Shortino to replace Kevin DuBrow in Quiet Riot.

“We went into the studio and started recording new songs to shop for a new label,” explains Shortino how Rough Cutt tried to deal with the situation. “I got to meet all the guys in Quiet Riot when we did the ‘Stars’ thing. We became very close during that and getting to know each other. For me it was like a dream come true to be in a room with Ted Nugent, Carmine Appice… Even now I’ve done a few projects with Carmine, but at the time, I idolised all of these guys. We got to know each other and then I was approached when we got back to the States because they had discrepancies with Kevin here in Japan. So when I got home, someone gave me a call and asked me if I would be interested in checking out Quiet Riot. Kevin’s voice was so much different than mine. He had big shoes to fill and he was a taller guy as well! Haha!! I checked it out.” Although he was in the studio with Rough Cutt at the time, he joined Quiet Riot and spent a year working on material with them for the “QR” album.

Spencer Proffer produced the 1988 “QR” album and he brought out the best in Shortino. “When I got to meet Spencer, I really enjoyed what he brought out of me. He was the first producer that really focused on vocals.” Shortino had previously recorded with producers Tom Allom and Jack Douglas during his time in Rough Cutt. “Tom Allom and Jack were really more focused on the production of the Rough Cutt stuff.”

The manager Wendy Dio was the one who suggested that Shortino should replace Kevin DuBrow in Quiet Riot. In 1987, Shortino joined Quiet Riot which then consisted of Frankie Banali, Carlos Cavazo and Chuck Wright. Wright left shortly thereafter and was replaced by Sean McNabbJimmy Waldo (Alcatrazz, New England) also joined.

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“Wendy thought it would be a great move for me. However, it seemed like it was more business than it was…. They had a lot of stuff that was going on. I respect them to the utmost and I don’t have anything bad to say about any of that because it was a great experience for me. The one thing that I did miss was the companionship of Rough Cutt. We were a band. We went through hell and high water together. We were really tight friends and since I left that band, I’ve never experienced that feeling with any other projects. Even in the Quiet Riot thing, as we worked for a year on material at Jimmy Waldo’s house after I had said to Rough Cutt I’m gonna join Quiet Riot. It was like a year of us doing pre-production. Then we came and did Japan Aid. What was interesting about that show, we were working on new stuff, so I didn’t have any idea of the old stuff. Last minute, and Sean McNabb just got in the band, so I had all these lyrics for the songs on the stage and they put them in the wrong order. It was quite an experience. It was the first show that we did with Sean McNabb and myself and Frankie and Carlos. And James Brown was headlining that particular event. It was quite an experience! We went back home and then we worked on the record a little longer. I think we came out with a really good record.”

Rough Cutt is back at it

While Rough Cutt might not have made it back then, they are now giving it another go. “We’ve actually touched base again. We’ve written some songs. It kind of went full circle,” says Shortino. “It took a long time for us to come back. I did a King Kobra record with Carmine and all the original members except for Mark of course. After we did that record, Frontiers approached Rough Cutt to do a record. It wasn’t the right time so we didn’t do it. I did another record with King Kobra.” Shortino also has released albums with The Rhythm Junkies, Badd Boyz and Jeff Northrup (“An incredible songwriter he is. I was only supposed to do a few songs and we connected and I ended up doing the whole record with him.”)

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Rough Cutt is back with its classic mid-80s line-up and still with Wendy Dio as its manager. ”We’ve been writing songs and Wendy and the band want to do something. We’re thinking about calling the album ‘Unfinished Business’ because we did not finish what we started. It’s something that I think we all agree upon, that this is unfinished business. She was managing Rough Cutt, and of course her husband Ronnie. Ronnie was already established so she was able to take him on a solo project to a new height and level of his career and at the same time, she was trying to break Rough Cutt as a new act. So, it’s unfinished business for her. And because I stepped away from the band and now we have kind of connected again. It’s really neat to work together again but on a different level. I live in Vegas, they live in California. Now that we have studios and technology, we can send ideas to each other. It’s much easier to write songs than sitting in a studio. You know, everybody’s banging away stuff and you’re recording it on a Walkman or something. Then you go home and decipher it. Now it’s a little more focus to writing songs. We’ve written some really great songs. Right now, she’s actually been talking to a few labels and it’s a possibility that we will be coming out with another album. Next year. And we’re doing the Monsters of Rock cruise in February. That will be our first gig. We’re hoping to have something to go.”

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Japanese Paul Shortino Band

For Shortino’s Japan gigs in 2016 and 2017, he has performed with a fantastic all-Japanese backing band band led by Jun Senoue (Crush 40) on guitar and keyboards and consisting of guitar wizard Nozomu Wakai (Destinia, Ronnie Romero, Mari Hamada), Shoyo (Cross Vein, Jupiter, Hizaki Grace Project, The Powernude) on bass, Louis Sesto (Blindman) on drums and Shigeki Fujii (Slangrade) on vocals. “What’s really cool about working with the guys here in Japan, it’s taking me back to be able to do some stuff through my whole career. They are very talented and very humble guys. I’m honoured to be on stage with them as well. Mr. Fujii, he will be singing ‘Stars’ with me. I actually asked him to come out and sing some of the lines. I just don’t want him to be in the background. He’s such a good singer. It’s enough room on the stage to share. I’m honoured that he is involved. Louis and Jun, I did a thing with Jun when I left Quiet Riot. I did a thing called ‘Sonic Adventure’ and did the ‘E.G.G.M.A.N.’ That’s how I met Jun. I didn’t know this until I was here last year, that they were at the Sun Plaza and they saw me with Quiet Riot. Those two guys. It was their dream to all of us play together. Which was something they shared with me the last time I was here. It’s like a dream come true to come back to this country, because this is far away for a lot of people. I’m really honoured to be back here,” explains Shortino. “And I’ve been talking to the guys here in Japan that I would love to do an EP. I would love to record with them. That’s something that we’re discussing. Nothing is solid yet.”

Appice drum bros and King Kobra

Ever since Shortino performed with drummer brothers Carmine Appice (Ozzy Osbourne, King Kobra,Ted Nugent, Vanilla Fudge, CactusBlue Murder, Rod Stewart) and Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Heaven & Hell), their careers have crossed paths here and there. Carmine plays with Shortino in King Kobra and the brothers also have a new album coming out which Shortino is involved with. Since Shortino joined King Kobra in 2010, they have released two studio albums and done some touring. “We have a live album coming out. We only just did a few dates last year. We might be doing another record. I just did some songs for Carmine and Vinny, they have a record coming out together. I have a studio and Joel Hoekstra from Whitesnake sent me a song. A few songs I wrote with them. We recorded a song for the album and it was recorded for Ronnie. It’s called ‘Monsters and Heroes’. It was supposed to go out for a compilation album for Ronnie’s cancer fund Stand Up and Shout. I took some of Ronnie’s famous lyrics with my lyrics and told a story about Ronnie. The first line was ‘Sing me a song, you’re the singer. You’re the man on the mountain who rocked the world with his songs’. Now that song is going on their album. The song is finally coming out and I’m really glad.” The Appice brothers’ album “Sinister” is scheduled for release on 27th October via SPV/Steamhammer.

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Raiding the Rock Vault

While Shortino has been busy in recent years with various bands and projects, his main gig has been with the successful Las Vegas show Raiding the Rock Vault. “I also want to try bringing ‘Rock Vault’ over here. To bring some of the classic rock guys that are in the show over here and bring the show over here. Maybe a week, or ten days, in Tokyo and Osaka and Nagoya, so people can see it. It’s an amazing show, it really is. It’s the history of rock from the 60s to 1989 and then grunge took over. There are 38 songs in the show. There is a lot of costume changes, because we kind of want to be with the time period. It started out really focused on that and it’s changed. The show was two and a half hours when it started. No shows in Vegas go that long. They go 90 minutes, because corporates are thinking about how much they are losing when people are watching a show. So, we went and cut it down. Now it’s down to 90 minutes. There was acting before, now there is just dancing and music.” The show has been housed at a few different hotels in Vegas and is currently at the Hard Rock.

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

“We have Robin McAuley from MSG and Survivor, and Mark Boals, who was with Yngwie and have done stuff with Dokken, and myself, and then also a new young lad who is working with Vinny and Vivian Campbell and the late Jimmy Bain, Andrew Freeman. They have a project called Last In Line. They have a great record. Great singer as well. We have a few girls that come in. We had Stephanie Calvert from Starship, now we have Cian Coey who’s been working with Dweezil Zappa and also Meat Loaf. She’s a power house. And a local girl who comes in, Lily Arce, and she does other Vegas shows. We’re the only rock show with real rock stars. Paul Dexter, who did a lot of stuff for Ronnie, the ‘Sacred Heart’ stuff, all of that stuff. He’s designed the set.”


Part of Rock Vault’s success, in addition to that it features real rock stars, is that it is an all-ages show. “So, young people they’re learning about classic rock. It is something that is cool for the new generation because there is so much history in that time period. The music today is not like it was yesterday, you know? I mean, I like some of the stuff that is out there and some of the new bands, but it’s not like the old days.”

Paul Shortino on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

64 and still got it

Shortino is now 64 years old but, unlike some other singers of his generation, he still has a golden voice. “I’m so grateful to God and the universe for giving me my voice. I don’t have some of the range that I used to, but my voice is better than it’s ever been. I listen to some of the old Rough Cutt stuff, even Quiet Riot stuff, and I sing it differently now. You become more seasoned. Instead of showing off everything you can do… When we started to put this set together, listening to some of the stuff I did back then, ‘How in the heck am I gonna sing that now?’ Haha!! So there are some things that I don’t do the same, only because I would have done it differently because I’m older now and I’m more seasoned. Some of the stuff I did was overkill. You just kind of get in the studio and ‘I want everybody to hear what I can do’, you know? I don’t play over the solo in “The Night Cries Out (For You)” even with Rough Cutt. I let the guitar player have it. You learn through time.”

Love and gratitude

Love and gratitude are nowadays at the centre of Shortino’s daily life. It is very obvious that he is so grateful for being able to live the life he lives. He’s a world-class performer who loves doing what he does. “We take so much for granted as people on the planet that we get lost in our own little world. The more grateful I am for things, my health gets better. My voice gets better because I am so grateful that I can still sing, that I have been given a gift. I’m really grateful for that. I’m sorry, I’m a little emotional. It means a lot to me to share this. The world needs to know how love can change everything. Because there is so much hate in the world right now. It breaks my heart to see. Mankind could do better for others,” says a teary-eyed Shortino. “I don’t believe in religion. I was raised a Catholic, but I don’t believe in religion. I think that religion is something that wants to control people, political things. I believe in spirituality. It’s been a great journey for me. I am getting a second chance at life, in my career, everything in life. It’s been a magical journey. I feel for all my other rock guys, who are struggling with addiction. I pray for all of them, because they could find true happiness. Maybe I am supposed to share the things that have changed my life that could maybe change others’, you know? A movement of love and gratitude. I live by that every day.”

Ladies and gentlemen: Paul Shortino! The real deal. Great voice, great guy.

Paul Shortino in his hotel room in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

News: Loudness will release new album in January

Loudness on stage in Tokyo on 30th Dec 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Our favourite Japanese heavy metal band Loudness, currently on tour in Europe, will release their new studio album in January.

The follow-up to 2014’s terrific “The Sun Will Rise Again” will be called “Rise to Glory” and will be released on 26th January 2018 via Ward Records in Japan and earMUSIC internationally.

Loudness Official Facebook page

Album review: The Good The Bad and The Zugly “The Worst Four Years”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Good The Bad and The Zugly (GBZ) is high-energy, good-fun Norwegian punk rock of the best kind.

I may be a Swedish metal guy in Japan, but going back a few generations, Roppongi Rocks has deep and proud Norwegian roots. Thus a Norwegian punk rock band singing about heavy metal kids is right up my alley.

The Good The Bad and The Zugly (GBZ) gives us terrific, high-energy and good-fun punk rock on their new album. Because of the never-ending energy, some of the music gets close to being hardcore, but mainly this is fast and very catchy punk rock, the kind you shout along to. The kind of music that works a treat as a soundtrack to your pre-party rituals at home on a Friday night. The kind that wins new fans at summer festivals. The kind that is so full of energy it spills over and you just can’t sit still while listening to it.

“The Worst Four Years” is a compilation album consisting of the band’s early vinyl singles as well as the Bransjvelter compilation track “I’m Fucked Up” and “It’s a Burning Hell” (a previously unreleased cover of a song by Swedish noise rockers Brainbombs). The material on this album all predates the band’s earlier full-length albums “Anti-World Music” (2013) and “Hadeland Hardcore” (2015).

Being a metal guy at heart, GBZ’s great track “Heavy Metal Kid” makes me laugh out loud of pure joy. Sometimes music doesn’t have to solve all the problems of mankind. Sometimes music can be less serious and just about a bunch of punk rockers playing to entertain themselves and their audience.

The song “Fucking is Awesome”, a live favourite among the band’s fans, says it all, really, about GBZ and what they are focused on.

The Good The Bad and The Zugly’s “The Worst Four Years” is out now via the Fysisk Format label in Norway.

Album review: Ursinne “Swim with the Leviathan”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Ursinne arrives on the scene with a splendidly fierce and beautifully inaccessible death metal album.

With tons of pedigree, new band Ursinne demands my attention. It gets it. And the band’s debut album lives up to the high expectations.

Legendary Bolt Thrower vocalist Dave Ingram (who has also played with Benediction, Hail of Bullets and Echelon) has teamed up with Sweden’s Jonny Pettersson (Henry Kane, Wombbath, Just Before Dawn, Ashcloud) to form Ursinne. After the band finished recording this debut album, they have also added bass player Sonia Nusselder (Ecocide, Shade of Hatred, Sepiroth) as a band member.

Ursinne gives us what we want: brutally great old-school death metal, no modern rubbish. People who like proper death metal will love this, others won’t as this is probably too inaccessible for them. That’s OK.

I love the no-compromises head-cleaning attitude in this music. This is meat and potatoes death metal music. No fancy stuff, just proper music done right. Flawless execution by a couple of veteran pros.

Most of the album is like a bulldozer hitting you without any warning. But there are some variations here and there. On the track “Devil May Care”, we get an interesting melody as a nuance underneath the sheer brutality. “Bullet Bitten”, one of the album’s best tracks, Is dedicated to Motörhead legend Lemmy whose voice also appears in a spoken word format on the track. We also do get a bit of variety with a few fun and unexpected cover songs: “Crazy Horses” (The Osmonds), “Turning Japanese” (The Vapors), “Spellbound” (Siouxsie and the Banshees) and, with Massacre’s Kam Lee as a guest, “Monsters in the Parasol” (Queens of the Stone Age).

Ursinne’s debut album is fantastic in a Bolt Thrower kind of way. I am just sitting here smiling as I listen to the album. Fierce. Thank you for the music and for getting the wax out of my ears.

Ursinne’s debut album “Swim with the Leviathan” will be released on 20th August via Transcending Obscurity Records.