Album review: Candlemass “The Door to Doom”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Swedish doom masters Candlemass have reunited with original singer Johan Längqvist to create a fabulous new album that by far beats expectations.

Candlemass, one of the best and most important heavy metal bands to come out of Sweden, is back with “The Door to Doom”, its twelfth studio album. Johan Längqvist was part of the original Candlemass line-up. He sang on the band’s 1986 debut album “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” but departed shortly thereafter. Last year he, at least to me, surprisingly was brought back into the band to replace Mats Levén who has sung for the band for the past six years. I have no idea where Längqvist has been hiding for the past three decades, but he’s back and he sounds fantastic! The rest of the band consists of its most classic line-up: Leif Edling on bass, Mats “Mappe” Björkman on rhythm guitar, Lars Johansson on lead guitar and Jan Lindh on drums.

“The Door to Doom” is of course based on the trademark Candlemass doom metal, but it is also quite a varied album. We get several calm sections as well as some serious heaviness. On “Black Trinity” we get the good-old familiar Candlemass sound as a foundation, but then a chorus that is more contemporary and modern sounding. The mix of old and new works very well. On “Astorolus – The Great Octopus”, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi provides a guest guitar solo which takes a great song to an even higher level. “The Omega Circle” is stunning and showcases that Johan Längqvist is indeed a fabulous vocalist. The beautiful slow piece “Bridge of the Blind” is my favourite track on this eight-track album which does not have a weak moment. This album is solid straight through. Perhaps it is the impact of Längqvist’s return or something else, but to me it seems that Candlemass has got renewed energy. Their new music is terrific and the band has risen once again. This is so good it hurts. Epicus Doorus Doomicus Fantasticus!

Candlemass’ new album “The Door to Doom” will be released on 22nd February via Napalm Records.

Album review: Skraeckoedlan “Eorþe”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Swedish rockers Skraeckoedlan are back with their third album. It’s a wonderful mix of fuzz, stoner and progressive rock. One of Sweden’s best bands right now.

“Eorþe” is Skraeckoedlan’s third studio album since they were founded in Sweden in 2009. The Swedish rockers’ music smells of 1970s rock. Stoner rock? Yes, there are bits of that and fuzz rock parts. There are psychedelic echoes and plenty of tasty progressive rock influences on this album. But while the basic sound is based somewhere in a distant yesteryear, this is no retro act. Skraeckoedlan manages to sound modern and relevant here and now. Most of all, they have established a signature sound that’s fabulous, groovy and bloody great. There are of course American influences here, but there are also hints of Swedish 70s bands such as Solid Ground and November. Skraeckoedlan’s songs have lyrics written in the band’s native Swedish. They’re a spectacular mix of fantasy, mythology and nature. The combination of the music, the lyrical themes and the band’s image, makes this an awesome band. “Tentakler & Betar” is one of the standout tracks on an overall even and terrific album full of great riffs and melodies. “Kung Mammut” with its many twists and turns is another favourite of mine. Sweden has a proud tradition of giving birth to great rock bands. Among the best of the current Swedish bands are no doubt Skraeckoedlan. If you haven’t yet discovered this great band, now is the time to do so. This is a fantastic album from a terrific and quite unique band.

Skraeckoedlan’s album “Eorþe” is out now via Fuzzorama Records.

Album review: Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia “Moonglow”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia returns with a terrific album taking us back into a wonderful fantasy world of rock opera-meets-metal musical.

Edguy’s Tobias Sammet started Avantasia as a side project in 1999. It was planned as a one-off project, but it grew and got a life of its own with albums and live performances and a star-studded line-up of guest musicians. “Moonglow” is the eighth studio album by Avantasia. Guest vocalists appearing on the new “Moonglow” album are Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), Bob Catley (Magnum), Michael Kiske (Helloween), Candace Night (Blackmore’s Night), Mille Petrozza (Kreator), Geoff Tate (ex-Queensrÿche), Jorn Lande (ex-Masterplan), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and Eric Martin (Mr. BIG).

Avantasia is a fantasy world and the “Moonglow” album is the latest chapter in this rock opera-meets-metal musical. There are terrific melodies, guitars and plenty of drama. Musically, Avantasia lives, as expected, somewhere between power metal, melodic rock and what you can hear at a modern West End musical in London. It works a treat. The track “Book of Shallows” is a bit faster and heavier than most other songs and it is also one of my favourite tracks on this stunning album. “The Raven Child” is a beautiful song. “Alchemy” is a splendid rocker on which Geoff Tate gets to shine. He hasn’t sounded this good for many years. Avantasia is escapism and I love this fantasy world of rock we get to experience on “Moonglow”. The soundscape on this album is massive, with plenty of twists and turns, and the fabulous production really helps to shape this album into something special. Avantasia’s music puts a smile on my face. It’s bombastic in a good way. The album includes a cover, “Maniac” from the “Flashdance” film soundtrack. It’s a bit of a strange choice of a song that is the album’s weakest point. With so much great original music, I don’t know why Sammet decided to include a cover song. But don’t let that distract you from the other fantastic music Avantasia gives us on this album. 

Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia “Moonglow” is out today via Nuclear Blast internationally and Ward Records in Japan. Avantasia will perform live in Tokyo on 9th May.

Interview: Graham Gouldman of 10cc

Graham Gouldman of 10cc in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

10cc frontman Graham Gouldman, one of the best songwriters in the history of British pop and rock, sat down with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson in Tokyo to talk about songwriting, 10cc and working with The Ramones and Ringo Starr.

“Roppongi Rocks, eh?” says Graham Gouldman as we sit down backstage at Billboard Live in Tokyo’s Roppongi Midtown district. Best known as the frontman and the only remaining original member of British rock group 10cc, Gouldman has also written songs for the likes of The Hollies and The Yardbirds, produced other artists such as The Ramones and toured as a member of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band.

How would you describe 10cc musically? “I just say it is 10cc music. It’s so eclectic really. I think we always did what is best for the songs. So, we would have different singers playing on different songs and there might be different lead guitarists on different songs because your style is better than mine for this particular song. That’s what we’ve always done. I think in that way we almost have different bands on different tracks, whereas other bands, say Queen, are a prime example of…it’s always Freddie’s voice, it’s always Brian’s guitar. That guitar sound is very identifiable. But with us, less so.”

Graham Gouldman of 10cc in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Every member of the classic 10cc line-up was a multi-instrumentalist, singer, writer and producer. Was this an asset or something that caused arguments? “How could it be a bad thing? We had so many hits…Hehe!! We never fought over songs, because we never rejected a song. Whoever wrote it… The principle was: if you think it’s good, OK, but I can make it better. So, allow me to do that. Or rearrange things, or suggest a different chord here, a slight melody change or sometimes we’d change the rhythm a bit. It was a really positive thing. The ownership of the song was the four of us. Normally we wrote in pairs. Whoever wrote it, we all took ownership of it and treated it like our own. I think that was one of the most positive aspects of the band, a really important part of what we were.”

Even prior to founding 10cc, you were a songwriter for bands such as The Yardbirds and The Hollies. Is it a big difference to compose for other artists than for your solo albums or 10cc? “I generally just write songs. Although I have written specifically… Like for The Hollies, I did ‘Bus Stop’. I had them in my head when I was writing because I knew I wanted to… I can’t say I was… I was just thinking about them rather than going ‘I’d better do this, I’d better do that.’ You can’t write with that sort of burden. But that was a rare occasion really. Generally, when you’re writing, you’re just writing. Not thinking, just writing.”

You’ve been a professional songwriter since the 1960s. How do you keep coming up with new song ideas? “I know. It’s a long time. I go through periods of not writing. Like I’ve been on the road a lot recently, so I haven’t been doing that much. But now I’m itching to get back in the studio. And the only way I can get back in the studio is to write some songs. So, I’ve got to write some songs! It’s in my head now.”

Let’s talk setlists. You now have quite a large drawer full of great songs you have written. How do you approach putting together a setlist? “With setlists, I always think of the beginning and the end first and then fill it in. However much I plan a setlist, when you play it live, you can find a glaringly obvious mistake. Not a mistake in what you’re playing, in that this song should not be there, it needs to be somewhere else. That’s just an instinctive feeling you get. But actually, this set that we are doing tonight, although we have changed it slightly… Tonight’s set will be slightly different because one of the boys that are here, who’s our singer, has got a throat problem and we’re gonna adapt the set to suit him. But normally the set that we do is pretty much unchanged for the last, I’d say, about two years. We do a much longer set than we’re doing tonight, normally. Normally it wouldn’t be like completely hits and nothing else. But we’re going to change things tonight, because of Iain. We’ve got like a 70-minute setlist, just non-stop hits. But normally we’d do an hour and fifty and have album tracks and all sorts of stuff.”

Graham Gouldman of 10cc with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson backstage at Billboard Live.

You produced the Ramones album “Pleasant Dreams” in 1981. How did this come about and was it an easy yes for you? “I know! Weird! They approached me. I thought I was the last person in the world that The Ramones would want. I said to them: Why did they want me to do it? It was nothing to do with 10cc, it was all to do with the 60s. The British Invasion, my connection with that. I said, well, I will give it a shot. But rather than commit ourselves to a whole album, let’s do two or three tracks and see how it works out and then make a decision. It went OK.”

How were those weeks in the studio in March-April 1981? Reportedly the band had a lot of internal conflicts at that time. “I was actually surprised how… Johnny, bless him and God rest his soul, is a miserable bastard, I’d have to say. Joey was delightful and very conscientious of what I was doing. And the other boys were great. I know he didn’t like the album that we did. He said so. He never said it to me, but he told everybody else. It was an interesting project. I loved being with Joey. I thought he was great. We did all the tracks in New York, but we did a lot of the vocals at our studio in the UK. I used to take him out for dinner to different places. Everybody sort of fell in love with him. He’s a sweet guy!”

The Ramones namechecked 10cc in the song “It’s Not My Place (in the 9 to 5 World)”. Did you have anything to do with this? “Alright! I didn’t know that! Wow! They knew my connection with The Yardbirds, that was more their thing. Although their music was very different, they loved guitar bands.”

You and Debbie Harry sang background vocals on some of the tracks on that Ramones album. Was this done to add some mainstream star power to a punk band? “Yeah, I did a few things. I just did what I thought was good for the record. Johnny thought it was a bit clean. He should have said something!”

Last year you toured as part of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. How did you end up there? “Yeah, I did two tours with him. I loved it. It was great. I got a call from their production manager. Do you fancy working with Ringo? No, why would I? I said yeah! That’s it, I don’t need to know anything else. Yes! And then it all went quiet. Then it came back. A journalist friend of mine phoned me from New York. He said: Can you give me a quote? I said: What for? That you’re joining Ringo Starr and the All Starr Band! I said: Are you sure? I hadn’t heard anything officially. And there it was. It was on Ringo’s website or something. I loved it. It was great. Working with Steve Lukather and Colin Hay, Gregg Rolie, Gregg Bissonette, Warren Ham. Fantastic! I really enjoyed it. They asked me to do this year but I have other commitments. It’s a lot of fun. Ringo is like a real showman. He loves it! He loves playing. He loves jamming. He’s very enthusiastic. It was great to spend time with him. To just stand next to him on stage. A lot of times when he played the drums, I’d sort of look over sometimes. There’s Ringo Starr! Haha!!”

You have released solo records in recent years, but it’s been a long time since 10cc released a new studio album. Any such plans? “No! I won’t do that. It’s one thing to go out as 10cc, we’re playing the music of 10cc. We do it right up ‘til the last single that was ever released by 10cc. But I won’t record under the name 10cc. It’s a line I can’t cross. I don’t want to. I don’t think it’s right.”

But can we expect more solo material from you? “Yeah, definitely. I really enjoy writing and recording. I put an EP out. It was called ‘Play Nicely and Share’, an EP, six tracks. I’ll probably do another one whenever I can. Probably not ‘til the middle of the year. There’s so much work to do.”

What’s next for you? “I do a thing called Heart Full of Songs which is an acoustic show I do. I am doing that. We’re going to Holland, we’re doing some dates there, and we’ve got a Scandinavian tour with 10cc and then a UK tour with 10cc. So, busy time coming up.”

Do you write songs all the time and anywhere, or do you need to be in the studio? “I don’t need to be anywhere. But the only thing that happens on the road, it’s not actually writing songs, but sometimes if you’re jamming, you come up with a riff or chord sequence and I make a note of it if it’s interesting. If it is good, I usually remember it. That’s one of the sort of tests. But I might have a tape, a recording of it, as a bit of insurance!”

Graham Gouldman of 10cc in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Do you mainly write alone now or in collaboration with others? “I collaborate as well. Both, really. I like both processes. If I am writing on my own, it might take me… I might get the bulk of a song and then it might take me quite a long time to actually finish the lyric. If I am working with someone else, it’s a much quicker process. I don’t mind as long as it produces something good! Occasionally I go and watch what’s the top 20 downloads or streams or whatever it is. Most of the time I don’t get it at all. Another time I go: ‘Oh, that’s good’. But, generally, I’m just listening to what’s sort of in the air.”

Album review: Lugnet “Nightwalker”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Lugnet is back with “Nightwalker”, a very tasty rocker of an album full of 70s hard rock vibes. 

Sweden keeps delivering bands who are here and now, but who are paying their respects to the hard rock bands of the 1970s. Lugnet is one of the best ones. The 70s retro sound is there (crossbreed Deep Purple with Black Sabbath and add a pinch of early Whitesnake and you’ll be close), but this is much more than just that. The band has some fantastic songs, such as “Die For You”, “Begging”, “Never Again” and the title track “Nightwalker”. This is the band’s second album, following the 2016 debut album. New vocalist Johan Fahlberg is a great addition who is also the current singer of German band Jaded Heart. Another notable band member is drummer Fredrik Jansson who is also a member of Angel Witch. The blues-rock influences on this album are obvious and it comes as no surprise that guitarist Matti Norlin and bassist Lennart Zethzon are also members of Swedish blues-rock band Badge. The current Lugnet line-up is completed by guitarist Marcus Holten. The track “Cockroach” is one of the best on the album and it has a Glenn Hughes feeling – think a hard rock version of Trapeze. Very tasty music. This is a fabulous album that oozes retro vibes but without being a tribute band. This is fantastic new music based on an established 70s rock sound. Bloody awesome! Music to get laid to. 

Lugnet’s album “Nightwalker” is out now via Pride & Joy Music.

Album review: Devil’s Gun “Sing For The Chaos”

Devil’s Gun. Photo: Lars Andersson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Devil’s Gun returns with a new album filled with classic-sounding heavy metal. 

Sweden has a long tradition of producing great metal bands in pretty much all metal sub-genres. In recent years, many Swedish bands with a sound based on classic 70s and 80s heavy metal have emerged. Among them is Devil’s Gun. The band released its first full-length studio album “Dirty ‘N’ Damned” in 2016 and now the follow-up album is ready. Devil’s Gun plays heavy metal of the good old classic kind. There are many echoes of the classic Accept sound here, the way they sounded in the 80s. Joakim Hermansson’s vocal style seems to be heavily inspired by Udo Dirkschneider, the legendary former Accept frontman. Genre-wise there is nothing new here. But that’s perfectly OK. This is a shout-out to the 80s metal that many of us grew up with and it is executed well. While the style is clearly 80s heavy metal, this is no tribute band or mere copycat. This is great new music built on a foundation of 80s metal. There are a lot of Accept vibes here, but there are also some echoes of American 80s bands such as Mötley Crüe and W.A.S.P. on songs such as “Queen of Destruction” and on some songs, such as “Bad To The Bone”, we get a bit of a Judas Priest vibe. We also get a few nods to AC/DC here and there. The lyrics are classic metal: “Killer Machine”, “To The Devil”, “Tear Down The Wall”, “Lights Out”, “Electrical Shock”, “On The Road” and so on. Only the interestingly named song “Alligator Fuckhouse” stands out from the standard heavy metal formula. Metalheads – it is time to stretch your necks because when this album is released, it’ll be headbanging time! Now I just need to find my old air guitar and dust it off. Love it!

Devil’s Gun’s album “Sing For The Chaos” will be released on 12th April via Black Lodge Records.

Album review: Epitimia “Thread”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Russian band Epitimia gives us atmospheric black metal mixed with pagan metal and acoustic folk music pieces on new album. 

The atmospheric black metal band Epitimia was founded in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2008 and “Thread” is the band’s fifth studio album. The acoustic folk music influence is a major part of Epitimia’s music. It helps making this into an interesting cross of acoustic folk music, pagan metal and more straightforward black metal. It feels as if the band has taken two, or perhaps even three, different musical foundations and merged them into songs. The black metal parts are rather depressing music, while the pagan influences and the acoustic folk bits are somewhat more hopeful in nature. The mix is weird and wonderful. There are certainly some interesting contrasts in the songs. The fact that all the lyrics are sung in Russian adds to the far-from-mainstream-music feeling. The crossover works. It is perhaps an acquired taste and certainly not for everyone, but I love the underground touches and the weird but successful mix of styles. Some might argue that Epitimia could benefit from better production, but I think otherwise. The DIY-sounding production is part of the whole package. This is Epitimia. They are supposed to be like this. Take it or leave it. I dig it. 

Epitimia’s “Thread” is out now via Naturmacht Productions.

Album review: Toto “40 Tours Around The Sun”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Toto has been around since the 1970s and on the band’s new live release they show us that they have still got it after four decades of touring.

American rock band Toto has a reputation as a band made up of professional session players who wanted an outlet for their own music. A band of musicians loved by other musicians. Despite a bit of a revolving door when it comes to band line-ups over the years, Toto is always a band of pros. Toto always delivers. Guitarist Steve Lukather has been part of the Toto journey since the beginning and co-founder Steve Porcaro (keyboards) is also there, although he has come and gone a few times over the years. Vocalist Joseph Williams, who originally sang for Toto in the 80s, is back behind the microphone and they have a great touring band in place. 

Toto’s new live release, “40 Tours Around The Sun”, recorded during the band’s European tour in 2018, is being offered in multiple audio and film formats. It’s a terrific show they put on. As always, Toto gives us pop and rock with some funk, some soul, a pinch of jazz, some world music, a bit of prog and so on. We get many different musical influences in what essentially boils down to slick soft rock. The instrumental “Dune (Desert Theme)” is a majestic piece of music and one of the highlights for me on this new live release. We obviously get the hits “Africa”, “Hold the Line” and “Stop Loving You”. But we get much more than that. From the band’s self-titled debut album from 1978, we get “Hold the Line”, “Angela” and “Girl Goodbye”, and we also get many more great songs from throughout the band’s career. Steve Lukather’s guitar on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is phenomenal. On songs such as “Make Believe” and “Rosanna”, with full-blown instrumentation with saxophone, keyboards and everything, Toto is in its element. These slick musicians are indeed world-class but they also have a feeling for how to put all the parts together. On “No Love” we get saxophone player Warren Ham delivering some tasty music on a harmonica which turns into one of the best moments on this release. “Africa” is also delivered to us in a jam-tastic version.

Toto’s “40 Tours Around The Sun” is out now via Ward Records in Japan. Toto will perform eight shows in Japan between 14th and 27th February.

Gig review: Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia – Metal Souls Live

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Destinia’s music is classic heavy metal and hard rock in the tradition of Dio, Rainbow and Whitesnake. For a special Metal Souls Live performance in Tokyo, Japanese guitarist Nozomu Wakai brings together Tommy Aldridge, Marco Mendoza and Ronnie Romero on stage. 

Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia at Tsutaya O-East, Shibuya on 21st January 2019

Nozomu Wakai on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Etsuo Kawamura 

Nozomu Wakai is one of Japanese rock’s most promising guitar players. Having got himself into the spotlight with his initial Destinia full-length studio album and a follow-up EP, he then continued to build a fan base as guitarist in Mari Hamada’s touring band. He also teamed up with singer Paul Shortino (Quiet Riot, Rough Cutt, King Kobra) for gigs in Japan with the Paul Shortino Band in 2016 and 2017.

Ronnie Romero on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Etsuo Kawamura 

For Nozomu Wakai’s latest Destinia album, 2018’s “Metal Souls”, he put together a dream team consisting of Ronnie Romero (Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Lords of Black) on vocals, Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, The Dead Daisies, Blue Murder, John Sykes, Ted Nugent) on bass and Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, John Sykes, Ted Nugent) on drums. The album was well received and soon the idea was bandied about to perform the album live at a special show in Tokyo.

Tommy Aldridge on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Etsuo Kawamura

What a powerful band Destinia is. Drummer Tommy Aldridge has more drums in his blood than perhaps any drummer out there. The combination of Aldridge and bassist Marco Mendoza is explosive. The two gentlemen have anchored many bands together over the past few decades and it shows. Ronnie Romero has a powerful voice and with this trio added to the guitar playing of Nozomu Wakai we have something terrific. The song material is outstanding which, of course, also helps. Japanese guitarist Nobu Doi, one of Wakai’s high-school friends, has been added to the Destinia live band and, while seemingly a bit shy in the limelight on stage, he lets his guitar do the talking and does a fine job backing up his friend.

Marco Mendoza and Nozomu Wakai on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Etsuo Kawamura

This evening Nozomu Wakai is clearly very happy to be at the centre of a star-studded Destinia. Getting the love from his Japanese audience seems to overwhelm him a few times during the set. The audience is very switched on. They know most of the lyrics to the Destinia songs. We get to hear all the ten tracks from last year’s “Metal Souls” album, including the splendid “Be A Hero” and “Judgement Day”. We also get three songs from the first Destinia release from 2014: “Requiem for a Scream”, “Still Burning” and “Ready for Rock”. To the delight of the audience, Tommy Aldridge also gives us a superb version of his trademark bare hands drum solo.

Destinia closes the evening’s show with some classic songs: Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town”, John Sykes’ “Please Don’t Leave Me”, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Over the Mountain” and Whitesnake’s “Fool For Your Loving”. Wakai performs these songs with a big smile on his face. Standing on stage performing such classics with some of the musicians from those bands is a dream come true for the young Japanese guitarist.

The question now is obviously: what’s next for Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia? I hope that more people will get a chance to experience this line-up of Destinia live on stage. It could be perfect for some of the European rock festivals for example. Based on the initial success of the debut gig, I also hope we will get to see Destinia on stage here in Japan again. Whatever happens with Destinia, you will soon get the chance to hear Nozomu Wakai play on a forthcoming Shortino album. Nozomu Wakai is a guitarist and songwriter you should keep an eye on. This is only the beginning!

Destinia on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Etsuo Kawamura

Album review: We Are The Catalyst “Ephemeral”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish band We Are The Catalyst gives us modern and catchy metal with pop melodies on its third album. 

Formed in 2012, Swedish band We Are The Catalyst has already had some initial success with tours in the UK and China and well-received record releases. An EP release in 2013 was followed by the band’s debut full-length studio album, “Monuments”, in 2014 and a second album, “Elevation”, in 2016. Band members Cat Fey (vocals), Kenny Boufadene (guitar and vocals), Joni Kaartinen (bass) and Håkan Strind (drums) have previously played together in the band One Without. Now they’re back with the rather catchy “Ephemeral”, their third album featuring twelve shiny new tracks. We get very modern-sounding melodic metal combining plenty of keyboards with guitar riffs and heavy drums. It’s the sort of contemporary blend of metal and pop that narrow-minded listeners often brush off as “not metal and so I can’t listen to it”. For those of us who are a bit more curious and open-minded, we can discover some good new music on “Ephemeral”.

We Are The Catalyst is the kind of band that has a chance of making it big as they can potentially appeal to a much larger mainstream audience than more “pure” metal acts. The band lives in that contemporary Swedish musical world that houses diverse acts such as Smash Into Pieces, Amaranthe, CyHra, In Flames, Ghost and much more. It is a world where fitting into a specific genre is secondary to creating modern melodic music. As much as I love my old-school metal stuff that fits within certain limits, it is refreshing to hear some of these newer acts focus on creating music and not worrying about being “true” or anxious about fitting in. The focus here is on writing great melodic songs that are then performed in an appealing fashion of back and forth between pop and in-your-face metal riffing. Some of the songs are built up in a similar way to the classic hard rock power ballads of the 1980s where a song continuously builds up to reach a crescendo and then is brought down to start over again. It works very well. The voice of Cat Fey is a great fit for this music – or perhaps the music was written to fit in with her vocals. Either way, the combination works well.

The album opens with what sounds like a bit of a Lacuna Coil-flavoured catchy pop/metal song called “Over Pale Waters”. It’s a potential radio hit. It sets the tone for the album which continues in a similar fashion throughout. “Innan Allt Faller”, one of the album’s best songs, is sung in the band’s native Swedish, whereas the album’s other songs all have English lyrics. “Alone Against The World” is another track that will work well in the band’s live show. The album closes with what is my favourite track, the dreamy “Dust”. This is a promising band that we all should keep an eye on. They have another UK tour this month and, hopefully, they will keep touring as that is the way that this band will go to the next level.

We Are The Catalyst’s album “Ephemeral” will be released on 13th February.