Gig review: Serious Black brought the magic to Tokyo

Urban Breed of Serious Black on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

European melodic metal band Serious Black finished their “Magic” tour with a great gig in Tokyo on Friday 6th October.

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

Serious Black has often, somewhat incorrectly, been lumped in with European power metal bands. The power metal label has probably helped them win new fans, but their music is a bit broader than that. Some songs are certainly in the power metal space, but there is also more straightforward heavy metal as well as various kinds of melodic metal. Call it what you like, but this is metal with great melodies.

Christian Münzner and Mario Lochert of Serious Black on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Their latest album, “Magic”, was released in August and it is their best so far. Having released three studio albums in just over two and a half years, Serious Black, despite being a relative new band, already has a great body of work to choose from when they play live.

Urban Breed of Serious Black on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In its short time of existence, the band has seen some top-level members departing, including Roland Grapow (Helloween, Masterplan), Thomen Stauch (Blind Guardian) and most recently Bob Katsionis (Firewind). But somehow the band manages to soldier on and this evening they sound stronger and better than ever. Vocalist Urban Breed is a fabulous frontman who has honed his skills in Swedish bands Tad Morose and Bloodbound before he joined Serious Black. He looks the part and he has a voice that fits the music well. He knows how to entertain a crowd and get their attention. The rest of the touring band also has both skills and pedigree: bassist Mario Lochert (Emergency Gate), guitarists Dominik Sebastian (Edenbridge) and Christian Münzner (Obscura, Necrophagist, Alkaloid) and drummer Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody of Fire, Avantasia, Blind Guardian). It’s quite a collection of European musicians. German guitarist Münzner only stepped into the band at the beginning of this tour, but he’s not showing any sign of that on stage. He’s a great fit for the band, despite having a background playing more extreme metal.

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

This evening in Tokyo they perform for their Japanese fans for the very first time. We get crowd favourites such as “I Can Do Magic”, “Serious Black Magic”, “This Machine Is Broken” and “Burn! Witches Burn!” This Friday evening gig is the final gig of the “Magic” tour which has taken the band on a club tour across Europe before this one-off show in Japan.

Christian Münzner and Urban Breed of Serious Black on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

They finish their first-ever Japan gig with the splendid “High and Low”. This is a band that has all the ingredients for making it long-term in Japan. They have the songs, the musicians, the support from a local record label and they have the work ethic and friendliness to get lots of love from Japanese fans.

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

www.serious-black.com

www.facebook.com/seriousblackofficial

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Live report: Chaos Assault with Sigh, Mantar and Boris

Dr Mikannibal of Sigh. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Japanese record label Ward Records put on a fabulously eccentric and extreme music night in Shibuya on Friday 22nd September with Sigh, Mantar and Boris. Roppongi Rocks reports from the first of two nights of Chaos Assault.

Mirai Kawashima of Sigh. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Ward Records invited Mantar to Tokyo for its first-ever Japan gigs, they did it in style by combining the noise-making German duo with some of Japan’s most eccentric and interesting underground acts far removed from mainstream music.

Dr Mikannibal of Sigh. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sigh

Japanese veteran metal band Sigh, led by the legendary frontman Mirai Kawashima, has evolved from playing black metal in the early days to a band now best described as playing avant-garde extreme metal with progressive elements. Sigh has a reputation for greatness, weirdness and fabulous entertainment. Ever since they made a name for themselves when they in the early 1990s signed a record deal with the late Norwegian Euronymous (of Mayhem fame) and his label Deathlike Silence Records, they have had a cult following not only here in Japan but across the globe.

Dr Mikannibal of Sigh. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

This evening Sigh treats us to not only some superb and brutal extreme metal, but also more progressive music performed with flute and saxophone among the mayhem created by the guitars and drums. Weirdly interesting. However, personally I mostly enjoy their more brutal parts which work great when Dr. Mikannibal focuses her energy on vocals. The heavier and more extreme side to Sigh is world-class. Their stage show is always entertaining with fire, blood, capes and Dr Mikannibal feeding off the energy from the crowd. This evening they’re fantastic and entertaining as always.

Mirai Kawashima of Sigh. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Mantar

Hanno of Mantar. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German raw power duo Mantar, consisting of Hanno on guitar and vocals and Erinc on drums, was formed in 2012. Since then they have created some fabulously dark, non-mainstream rage noise. Backed by Nuclear Blast internationally and Ward Records in Japan, they have firmly established themselves as a great studio band and an energetic live act. This Friday night’s performance marks the band’s first-ever gig in Japan and what a debut it is! Both Hanno and Erinc perform bare chested. Hanno’s stage moves and physical appearance reminds me of Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Hanno of Mantar. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Mantar not only sounds different, they also perform in their own way. Instead of facing their audience, they face each other from opposite sides of the stage. Music wise we get fabulous noise. It is a bit of a mystery how Mantar manages to sound so heavy with only one guitar and drums and no bass in sight. They play heavy, extreme music with a punk attitude and some hardcore elements in there and so much more. It’s damp and dark musical mayhem. It’s a high-energy show by two sweaty and hardworking Germans giving it their all. Bleeding fantastic!

Erinc of Mantar. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Boris

The evening is rounded off in a still heave-as-fuck but slower tempo with a performance by Japanese trio Boris. Boris is a genre-bending act and this evening they give us comatose doomy kind of psych rock. A bit like a stoned version of early Black Sabbath in slow motion crossbred with Monster Magnet and Opeth. Hiding in smoke and mostly dim stage lighting, the band performs soundscapes rather than conventional songs. Vocals are kept to a minimum and the focus is more on the instrumental side of things.

Sigh. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Gig report: Accept at Nakano Sun Plaza | A lesson in how heavy metal is done

Peter Baltes and Wolf Hoffmann of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German-American veterans Accept give Japanese fans a lesson in classic heavy metal at a classic Tokyo venue.

Accept live at Nakano Sun Plaza. A classic band at a classic venue. Accept is a heavy metal band still at the top of the game. Perhaps they have never been better than now. At Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo several important  live albums and films have been recorded, most notably Scorpions’ “Tokyo Tapes”. It is a fitting venue for Accept to once again show their fans how it’s done when they returned to Tokyo on 14th September.

Wolf Hoffmann of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

When I grew up listening to heavy metal during the 1980s, Accept was one of my favourite bands. Their classic album “Balls to the Wall” from 1983 was what I measured most other artists against. In 2017, I am still listening to Accept. Things have changed, but Accept is still a touring band that is also releasing new material. There is some room for nostalgia, but this is very much a heavy metal band that  is here and now, still winning new fans while also keeping their old ones.

Mark Tornillo of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Still in the band, for more than forty years, is the core duo of Wolf Hoffmann on guitar and bassist Peter Baltes. American frontman Mark Tornillo has been in the band since 2009 and has sung on the band’s past four studio albums. He has firmly established himself in the band and it is now rather difficult to imagine Accept without him. His voice and vocal style work great with both the new and old songs. Drummer Christopher Williams and guitarist Uwe Lulis are more recent additions to the band who only last month released a great new record, “The Rise of Chaos”. The current line-up is musically probably the band’s best ever. They’re tight, they’re having fun and they deliver.

Uwe Lulis of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Christopher Williams of Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

They open strongly with the new track “Die by the Sword”, followed by 2012’s “Stalingrad”. This evening in Tokyo we get a two-hour show at the highest level. Accept is a world-class metal act and they live up to, and exceed, my expectations. They’re better now than they ever were. They put on an awesome metal show which clearly shows that their newer material is as good as their classic albums from the 80s. Of course we do get some of the old classics, such as “London Leatherboys”, “Neon Nights”, “Restless and Wild”, “Princess of the Dawn” and “Fast as a Shark”. But much of the set is filled with newer songs. Many of the newer songs are actually better than much of the material that the band created in the 80s.

They close a great evening of heavy metal with the 1985 classic “Metal Heart”, their 2010 comeback single “Teutonic Terror”, and, of course, “Balls to the Wall”. Wow! What a great evening of proper heavy metal performed by a bunch of professionals. They may have debuted more than four decades ago, but clearly this is a vital band that will keep going for quite some time yet.

Accept – thank you for the heavy metal lesson. This is how it’s done, kids.

Accept on stage at Nakano Sun Plaza. Photo: Mikio Ariga

www.facebook.com/accepttheband

www.acceptworldwide.com

Gig report: Kreator and Vader destroy Tokyo

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

German thrash metal veterans Kreator and Polish death metal warriors Vader returned to Tokyo for night of furious heavy metal and circle pit fun.

On Wednesday 13th September, it was a cloudy evening in Ebisu and as I got closer to Liquidroom, an agglomerate of black shirts started appearing. All of them waiting anxiously for a night of the pure Polish death metal of Vader mixed with the finest German thrash metal of Kreator.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The lights turned off a little earlier than planned and the screams of approximately 900 people marked the beginning of a sonorous destruction. When Vader entered the stage, they were welcomed with people swimming over the crowd and banging their heads. Starting with the amazing “Wings” and ending with “Triumph of Death”, the riffs of Piotr Wiwczarek and Marek “Spider” Pająk made the crowd open a violent circle pit and go totally mad – for the bliss of the band. After “Tempest”, a little pause was made for Piotr to say how they were happy to be back in Japan and how this night was the best one they’ve had in Tokyo so far. He then introduced the epic heavy track of their latest album, “The Empire”, to Tokyo: “Silent Empire” is definitely an anthem for every brutal death metal fan and it was impossible to keep my head calm during this song. As Vader has been on the road since 1983, it is very complicated pleasing everyone with the golden classics and the strong new tracks. But the old classics “Sothis” and “Dark Age” were gifts to the old-school fans and tons of more riffs and the amazing performances of both bassist Tomasz “Hal” Halicki and drummer James Stewart led to an end with “Send Me Back to Hell”, a brutal yet beautiful demonstration of what these guys are made of.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

During a short break for the Kreator crew to set the stage, it was visible how much love these German men receive from Japan. Most of the people stayed exactly where they were to guarantee a better view of their favourite band and as time flew by, more and more people came in, pushing each other to not miss a single detail.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Right before 8:30pm the lights turned off again and only smoke could be seen from the stage until the band hit it. Opening the spectacle with “Hordes of Chaos”, just before the first riffs, the venue staff became busy with the crowd getting rid of the security grids in the middle of the hall and with many people crowd surfing as Miland Petrozza screamed his first words of the night. “Phobia” was next followed by “Satan is Real” from their latest album “Gods of Violence”.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

The combination of Miland and Sami Yli-Sirnö‘s riffs completely blew my mind and the intensity of the whole band’s performance is stunning. Heads banging on stage and in the crowd gave a great idea of how powerful Kreator can be, but it was the huge circle pit that was opened in the middle of the hall that really enchanted the band and the others around, including me. For those who think a Japanese audience doesn’t know what a circle pit looks like, you should check a Kreator concert in Tokyo. Music kept flowing with energy and craziness until “Fallen Brother”, a requiem to those in the heavy metal world who are already gone but never forgotten. No pits, no surfing, only horns up and silence in a cathartic moment to homage our heroes.

Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

A brief pause to breathe followed and then Miland asked the crowd to open up the biggest circle they could and on his signal do a wall of death to celebrate “Enemy of God”. After the “Apocalypticon” intro, another track of the latest album, it was time for “World War Now”, one of my favourite songs of the album, with a very powerful message through the lyrics, especially in times like those we’re living in now. Another dedication to the loyalty of the fans, “Hail to the Hordes”, came to prove that when Kreator is on the stage, there is no time for resting. One of the greatest moments was when Miland announced “Extreme Aggression”, remembering their trajectory in Japan since 1993 and how much support they receive from here from old and new fans in good and bad times. People got thrilled before they got crazy again. For the encore, the four guys came back to the stage to play the amazing “Violent Revolution”. The bass of Christian Giesler hypnotised me here. Unfortunately, the last song was then announced. They couldn’t end the show with any other track but “Pleasure to Kill”, their biggest classic and probably the most awaited song of the night for many fans. After all these years, the drums of Jürgen “Ventor” Reil still give goosebumps to many while the killing is spread by the rest of the band. As Miland said, this was the last chance of the night for Tokyo to write another epic chapter in the circle pit history. Although some people were a little too tired for that, many others were more than ready to destroy everything and once again salute the German guys with a strong, energetic and violent welcome.

The only difficult things with the Kreator show are the dark lights and the smoke, making the sight a little hard. But even if you can’t see a thing on the stage, being there, with that sound entering your ears and shaking your soul, it’s totally worth it! And I’m sure that the Japanese audience is thirsty for more violence, war and death soon.

www.facebook.com/kreatorofficial / www.kreator-terrorzone.de

www.facebook.com/vader / www.vader.pl

Gig review: Lords of Black – Live in Tokyo: Long Live Rock’n’Roll indeed

Ronnie Romero and Tony Hernando on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Rainbow vocalist Ronnie Romero returned to Japan with his band Lords of Black and delivered a knockout show in Tokyo.

Ronnie Romero on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Having laid the groundwork with their appearance at the Loud Park festival in October last year, Spanish power metal band Lords of Black returned to Japan with confidence and a local fan base with high expectations.

With two very strong studio albums below their belts and a vocalist who is also fronting Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow, they have a reputation to defend. This evening in Tokyo, 30th August, they live up to the high expectations and they exceed them.

Ronnie Romero on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Guitarist Tony Hernando does a fab job as one of power metal’s better guitarists. The whole band sounds tight and eager, ready and willing to please their Japanese fans.

Ronnie Romero on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

With two great studio albums and a Rainbow connection, there is plenty of fantastic music for this band to choose from.

This evening we get an almost two hour headline show by a great band. They open with the fabulous “Merciless” and keep building up from there. We get a very strong main set consisting of 13 songs from the band’s two studio albums. Rarely I have I seen a newer band with such a strong set of their own material.

Ronnie Romero and Tony Hernando on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lords of Black is a great band with tight musicians. But make no mistake about it, it is the strong songwriting skills and Ronnie Romero’s voice that make this stand out from the pack. They have better songs and a better singer than most other bands in the same genre. Romero’s voice is terrific and he’s also a classic frontman who knows how an audience needs to be entertained. He is part Ronnie James Dio, part Freddie Mercury, but most of all himself. Fantastic. You can see why Ritchie Blackmore picked him to front Rainbow.

Ronnie Romero on stage with Lords of Black in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Following the main set we get treated to an extended encore of hard rock classics. First we get Rainbow classics “Kill the King” and “Lost in Hollywood”. Then Japanese guitarist Nozomu Wakai (Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia and Paul Shortino Band) joins Lords of Black and together they perform Deep Purple’s “Burn” and Black Sabbath’s “Neon Knights” before they finish a great evening with Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock’n’Roll”. Indeed.

www.facebook.com/Lords-Of-Black

www.lordsofblack.com

Gig review: The Dead Daisies makes some terrific noise in Tokyo

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Rock’n’roll knockout delivered in Tokyo by the fab The Dead Daisies.

The Dead Daisies‘ Australian founder and guitarist David Lowy has managed to take the best bits from rock history and put together a vital, high-energy band full of attitude, skill and abilities. This is a band that is having fun performing for its fans and with the skills to deliver a proper rock show.

With the band’s members having solid rock industry pedigree (Dio, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Ozzy Osbourne, Journey, Slash, Glenn Hughes, Billy Idol…), they know how to put together a world-class rock show.

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

They kick off in style with “Long Way to Go” and then move on to the fabulous “Mexico” before we get the rock anthem “Make Some Noise”.

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Frontman John Corabi knows how to entertain and leads from the front. But he’s also experienced enough to not overshadow his bandmates the whole time. Fierce bassist Marco Mendoza is hard to ignore as he takes possession of the stage while drummer Brian Tichy bangs away on his drums like it’s nobody’s business. The newest addition to the band, guitarist Doug Aldrich who joined in 2016, has taken the band to a whole new level. His guitar wankery and classic rock poses make this band complete. This evening in Tokyo we get a two-hour rock’n’roll party. The audience at the sold-out gig is with the band the whole way. What we get is like a deluxe, in-the-flesh version of the band’s new live album “Live & Louder”.

The set list is terrific. The best bits from the band’s catalogue plus a few carefully chosen rock classics in “Fortunate Son”, “Join Together”, “Helter Skelter”, “We’re an American Band”, “Midnight Moses” and “Highway Star”.

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

We do get an extended drum solo by Brian Tichy in the middle of the gig. No major fan of drum solos, I feared the worst, but Tichy delivers. Like a possessed maniac he attacks the drums and shows us his skills. Even goes full-on Tommy Aldrige on us and does part of his solo with his bare hands.

The whole band’s tight and work very well together. Having initially been a band with a constantly changing line-up, since last year it now seems there is a real band here and not a project with rock star guests. Wow! What a night of great fun rock’n’roll!

The Dead Daisies on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Dead Daisies – Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan – 5th July 2017 – set list

  • Long Way to Go
  • Mexico
  • Make Some Noise
  • Song and a Prayer
  • Fortunate Son
  • We All Fall Down
  • Lock N Load
  • The Last Time I Saw the Sun
  • Brian Tichy drum solo
  • Join Together
  • All the Same
  • With You and I
  • Mainline
  • Helter Skelter
  • We’re an American Band
  • Midnight Moses
  • Highway Star

www.facebook.com/thedeaddaisies

www.thedeaddaisies.com

Gig review: Paul Shortino gives us a fabulous career retrospective on stage in Tokyo

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

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Showman Paul Shortino performs a splendid career retrospective for his Japanese fans with plenty of Quiet Riot, Rough Cutt and King Kobra tunes.

Having fronted Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot and King Kobra as well as being involved in many other projects, bands, albums and shows, American singer and musician Paul Shortino has quite a career to look back on. The 64-year-old vocal powerhouse has no problem in digging into the vaults to put together a couple of hours of fabulous music for this career retrospective. What a treat of a show he and his Paul Shortino Band deliver to his Japanese fans.

Paul Shortino and his Japanese backing band kick off the evening in style with the King Kobra song “Rock This House” before we get a bunch of Rough Cutt classics. The band returns to King Kobra with “Knock ‘em Dead” before we get treated to some good old Quiet Riot songs.

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

In the middle of the gig, the band takes a break and Shortino does three songs solo.  Just Paul, his acoustic guitar, great tunes and his fabulous voice. And plenty of emotion. This is a genuine rocker with a big heart who is not afraid of showing his emotions. While he is a world-class showman, here he shows us that he doesn’t necessarily need any fancy pyro or sexy dancers to entertain us.

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

With the Shortino/Northrup rocker “The Kid Is Back In Town” the band returns and then we get plenty of goodies from Rough Cutt’s back catalogue. During the evening we do get to see some of Shortino’s Las Vegas stage moves (he’s been fronting the Raiding the Rock Vault show in Las Vegas in recent years). This is a man who clearly loves being on stage and enjoys making people happy with his music.

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

We get a rocking encore consisting of King Kobra’s “Ready To Strike” and, of course, Quiet Riot classic “Bang Your Head”. A fabulous night covering Shortino’s entire career ends with “Stars”, the Hear ‘n Aid charity single Shortino sang on with Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford and others back in 1985. Here Shigeki Fujii proves that he is no mere background singer when he steps up and delivers some ridiculously good vocals next to Shortino. What a combo!

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

The Paul Shortino Band is an all-Japanese affair which started playing with Shortino last year. It’s a great 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. Shortino mentioned that he wants to record an EP with this band. Let’s hope so.

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

Paul Shortino Band is unique in that it gives Shortino complete freedom in performing songs from all parts of his career and not being restricted to just a certain band’s back catalogue. Thus we do get a truly great mix of music from a great American artist.

Paul Shortino Band – Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo – 22nd June 2017 – set list

Rock This House (King Kobra)
Double Trouble (Rough Cutt)
Bad Reputation (Rough Cutt)
Dreamin’ Again (Rough Cutt)
Don’t Settle For Less (Rough Cutt)
Dressed To Kill (Rough Cutt)
Knock ‘em Dead (King Kobra)
Don’t Wanna Be Your Fool (Quiet Riot)
Stay With Me Tonight (Quiet Riot)
The Wild & The Young (Quiet Riot)
Run to You (Acoustic) (Quiet Riot)
Too Many Nights (Acoustic) (Paul Shortino)
Everybody Can Fly (Acoustic) (Northrup/Shortino)
The Kid Is Back In Town (Shortino/Northrup)
You Wanna Be A Star (Rough Cutt)
The Night Cries Out For You (Rough Cutt)
Take Her (Rough Cutt)
Piece Of My Heart (Rough Cutt)
Cutt Your Heart Out / Rock The USA (Rough Cutt)
Ready To Strike (King Kobra)
Bang Your Head (Quiet Riot)
Stars (Hear ‘n Aid)

www.facebook.com/paulshortinoband

www.facebook.com/paulshortino

 

Gig review: Anaal Nathrakh at Astro Hall, Harajuku, Tokyo

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

British extreme metal band Anaal Nathrakh has gone from a studio-only project to a great live act. When they returned to Japan for a brutal gig in Harajuku, Roppongi Rocks’ Caroline Misokane was there.

On 18th June, Anaal Nathrakh, the guys coming from the root of all evil and led by Dave Hunt, hit the stage at Astro Hall in Harajuku for the band’s only Japanese show of the year.

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

For the second time, Anaal Nathrakh brought their heaviness combined with Dave’s epic vocals to the land of the rising sun. And once again they were welcome by a crowd full of power and thirsty for what the Birmingham guys had to offer. Starting with “Acheronta Movebimus”, guitarist G Rash gave a killer riff to warm up the crowd, which was already on fire in a violent circle pit following each note of the song. When Dave entered with his evil screams, the small Astro Hall became even smaller for such energy. Feeding the crowd’s hunger for pure brutal death metal, “The Lucifer Effect” brought even more desire to destroy everything that makes you pissed off and just surf among all those heads and then dive again from the stage.

As Anaal Nathrakh’s lyrics are difficult to comprehend and sometimes aren’t include in the albums’ booklet, for someone who is not used to their sound it gets really complicated to understand why people get so insane with each song played. But besides being a death metal band, Anaal Nathrakh also brings philosophy within each verse and the hate and wrath for the human nature infect every single person in the room, making everyone wanting to explode with every beat of Anil Carrier‘s drums.

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

Although this tour is promoting their newest album, “The Whole of the Law”, only two songs from it were played. One of them was “Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion”, combining Dave’s and Drunk‘s screams with Dave’s clean vocals – definitely one of the masterpieces of the album!

One of the strongest songs the band has ever written, “We Will Fucking Kill You”, was introduced by Dave telling the crowd about its video and the violence showed in it. Also, in response to requests from the band, the first stage dives started. It was supposed to be the end of the evening, but as it was their only show in Japan for the year, they decided to present the fans with some more brutal English death metal, which made people even crazier than they already were. There were times the rails were almost falling down due to the pits and headbanging.

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

Coming back with some old classics like “Drug-Fucking Abomination” and “More of Fire Than Blood”, the band chose the one I consider their best song ever to end the show: “Between Shit and Piss We Are Born”. Once again, brutality, anger and scunner for the human race took control of everyone, making the night an unforgettable and loud as hell one!

What kept my attention the most, and this happened not only by seeing them in action on the stage, but also when I first listened to their studio music, was how powerful and amazing a technical death metal band can be. People who are used to judge the style as only bad noise should check what these English guys can do and how a classical style voice can also have the scariest grunt of all and still be that kind of voice you can even wonder how it would sound singing a classic opera. That is probably why Birmingham will keep being the root of all evil – where everything started back there in the 60s – and keep feeding its people with fury and will to conquer the world’s heavy stages.

Anaal Nathrakh on stage in Tokyo in June 2017. Photo: Caroline Misokane

www.facebook.com/anaalnathrakhofficial

www.anaal-nathrakh.com

Gig review: Pretty Maids – the Danish melodic hard rock veterans have still got it

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

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Danish melodic hard rock veterans Pretty Maids deliver a solid gig in Tokyo in front of their loyal Japanese fans.

Just prior to coming to Japan for yet another round of gigs, melodic hard rockers Pretty Maids opened for KISS back home in Denmark.That gig must have given them some confidence and energy, because when they walk on stage in Tokyo for the second of the band’s two Tokyo gigs, they are on fire as they open with “Mother of All Lies”.

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

The current line-up of Pretty Maids features the two original members Ronnie Atkins on vocals and Ken Hammer on guitar, plus bassist Rene Shades. There are also two newcomers (and vitamin injections!) since they last performed in Japan in 2015: Swedish guitarist/keyboardist Chris Laney (Randy Piper’s Animal and Zan Clan) and drummer Allan Sørensen (Royal Hunt). The band is tight and delivers. But it is frontman Ronnie Atkins that sets this apart. His voice is still intact after all these years and he still knows how to entertain an audience.

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

I first saw Pretty Maids in concert in 1990 and most recently at Loud Park in 2015. This evening in Shibuya we get a full-blown headline gig with all the goodies we want. We get fast rockers and we get some power ballads, just as expected when one of the best Scandinavian melodic hard rock bands performs in Japan.

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

Melodic hard rock bands from Scandinavia has a long tradition of having a loyal fan base in Japan. Pretty Maids is no different. The Japanese love affair kicked off with Europe back in 1983 and soon thereafter Pretty Maids was one of the leading bands in a big crowd of Scandinavian bands finding success in Japan.

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

This evening the band is in a playful mood. We not only get the band’s classics and plenty of their newer material. We also get some great cover songs. We get treated to a part of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” as an intro to “I.N.V.U.”. Then we get a big chunk of Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane” as well as John Sykes’ “Please Don’t Leave Me” (a cover Pretty Maids recorded in 1992). The band’s latest album, “Kingmaker”, was released in October last year and this evening we get to hear three songs from that album: “Kingmaker”, “Bull’s Eye” and “Heaven’s Little Devil”.

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

The best song of the night is the band’s 80s classic “Back to Back”, which is only rivalled by “Future World” during the encore. We get a long set filled with great music. The gig doesn’t really have any dips and the crowd keeps going throughout the gig. The audience knows all the words to the newer material as well as the classics from the 80s.

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

Pretty Maids – Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo – 1st June 2017 – set list

  • Mother of All Lies
  • Kingmaker
  • Red, Hot and Heavy
  • Walk Away
  • Heaven’s Little Devil
  • Yellow Rain
  • Rodeo
  • Savage Heart
  • Pandemonium
  • Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd cover)
  • I.N.V.U.
  • Bull’s Eye
  • Rock You Like A Hurricane (Scorpions cover)
  • Eye of the Storm
  • Please Don’t Leave Me (John Sykes cover)
  • Back to Back
  • Future World
  • Little Drops of Heaven
  • Love Games

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Gig report: Suomi Feast | A celebration of Finnish metal

Insomnium. Photo: Caroline Misokane

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Finland remains a world power in heavy metal. The Nordic country is home to major acts like Nightwish, Children of Bodom and Amorphis, but there is much more to the Finnish metal scene. On Sunday 22nd May, Suomi Feast, a mini Finnish metal festival, took place in Shibuya, Tokyo with the five Finnish metal acts Insomnium, Whispered, Brymir, Dark Flood and Re-Armed. Roppongi Rocks’ Caroline Misokane was there.

Ares

Ares. Photo: Caroline Misokane

With six acts on the bill, Suomi Feast kicked off already in the afternoon. Japanese melodic death metal band Ares entered the stage to warm up the crowd before the Finnish invasion. At the first note of Takeshi Higashimura‘s guitar, the venue went crazy. The show went fine with the crowd responding well to every request of clapping hands and banging heads. Although it wasn’t a long set, it was enough for these Kansai guys to show what they are made of. When they left the stage, I felt more than satisfied with the amazing sound and a will to see them again and again.

 

 

Re-Armed

Re-Armed. Photo: Caroline Misokane

Next band to enter the stage was the Finnish extreme metal band Re-Armed. Coming from Kerava, the four guys were really excited being in Japan for the first time, promoting their latest album, “The Era of Precarity”. Between jumps and amazing guitar solos by Jussi Venäläinen, vocalist Jouni Matilainen gave us his all. By the third song, inflatable balls were thrown from the band to the fans and the show became a piece of fun interaction, with especially Matilainen engaging with the crowd. The extremity of Re-Armed’s songs allowed the audience to form the first circle pit of the night. It was somewhat small in size due to the limited space at the Duo Music Exchange venue. However, this was not a problem for such an excited crowd which wanted to be an active part of the show.

Dark Flood

Dark Flood. Photo: Caroline Misokane

When the curtain fell for the third act of the evening, the guys in Dark Flood were already there while their epic intro was being played. With a powerful riff combined with the drums of Tuomas Jaatinen, “Misery is Music” opened up a long-awaited spectacle to the Japanese audience. Tero Piltonen has one of the strongest guttural voices in Finnish metal and his performance couldn’t be better. Combining his harsh screams with the soft yet powerful voices of Ville Ruumensaari and Kalle Ruumensaari, the trio gave Shibuya an unforgettable experience. Dark Flood is that kind of band that when on stage, they make you forget your name with the intensity of their performance. The greatest moment was during “Deadline”, which is a song where a perfect duet between Ville and Kalle makes the base for the aggressiveness of Tero. They finished their dark show with the track “Summer” and proved that 21 years of waiting was worth it for the Japanese fans.

Brymir

Brymir. Photo: Caroline Misokane

Probably one of the most awaited bands of the night, Brymir made a triumphal beginning with their single “For Those Who Died”, a powerful heavy song starting with the screams of Viktor Gullischen. Now, the crowd, which had been warming up since the opening act Ares, showed what they are made of and the room was completely filled in heat, aggressiveness and passion for Finnish heavy music. This great band was welcomed by Japanese fans singing along and banging their heads. The band’s guitarist Joona Björkroth, who is also the guitarist of Battle Beast, was unable to be in Japan as he’s currently touring in the US with Battle Beast. He was temporarily replaced by Antti Nieminen (IA, Stormic) who, together with the band’s other guitarist Sean Haslam, stole the show with the most amazing guitar solos I’ve ever heard. With these guitarists striking performances, they caught the audience’s attention from the beginning to the end of the show. Brymir could not possibly leave Japan without playing their anthem “Ragnarök”, and when they did, the whole venue went to Finland in a typical Finnish feast with lots of fun, alcohol and good music. Expecting to come back as soon as they can, Brymir created a beautiful part of their history in Japan and surely are already missed.

Whispered

Whispered. Photo: Caroline Misokane

When Whispered entered the stage.it was an important moment for the band who describe themselves as playing Samurai metal, and also for the Japanese fans who feel very honoured in seeing how the culture of their country has inspired and influenced Jouni Valjakka to create his music. With the strength of “Chi No Odori”, Whispered started a memorable show, showing their abilities with their instruments and the power of Jouni’s voice. Jouni tried to speak some words in Japanese, but as the time was very limited the band preferred to not talk too much and play as many songs as they could instead. For every song with a Japanese title, like “Sakura Omen” and “Keisei”, the crowd went delirious while Jouni and Mikko Mattila delighted themselves in strong solos and energetic riffs. Kai Palo is a guy who not only takes care of the four strings of his bass, but he’s also a guy who doesn’t want to see anyone dull while his band is playing, which means that he was clapping hands, banging his head all the time. And when he wasn’t, he was asking the audience to do that. The technical abilities of Whispered are among the best of Finnish bands, but these guys from Tampere show with every single note that they play, that a good band is not only about technique. It has to have power, glory, feeling and a lot of passion too. If you’ve checked them out once and didn’t like their sound, you should check them out live, because after that it is impossible to not say that Whispered is one of the best Finnish bands of all time.

Insomnium

Insomnium. Photo: Caroline Misokane

The evening’s headliner Insomnium has a strong relationship with the Japanese audience. It has been two years since their last visit to Japan, but even if they had been here last month, people would still wait for them like it was their first ever time in the land of the rising sun. Their latest epic album, “Winter’s Gate”, released in 2016, has had a great response from all over the world. It is not hard to understand why when they hit the stage and open their set with “Winter’s Gate pt.1”. The album contains only one song divided into seven pieces and this evening they perform the entire album. As “Winter’s Gate” has its slow parts, we saw the Joensuu guys coming and going off the stage during the first hour of the set. After introducing guitarist Jani Liimatainen (Sonata Arctica, Cain’s Offering, Stratovarius, Paul Di’Anno) who is replacing Ville Friman on this tour, vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevänen took everyone back to “Above the Weeping World” with “The Gale”.

Insomnium. Photo: Caroline Misokane

Jani and the other guitarist Markus Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum) gave an extra flavour to the night as they joke with each other all the time, trying to show who is the best guitar player and even playfully sabotaging for each other. Niilo is the best Finnish death metal singer there is and he can still surprise me with the quality of his vocals. When combined with the clean voice of Jani, it was almost impossible to keep my tears from falling down. Heaviness, energy, humour and plenty of feeling are words that best describe what happened in that moment. With lyrics full of sadness and darkness, Insomnium takes the listener on a trip into the depths of the human mind. The crowd got the opportunity to breathe a little after an intense gig, before the band came back to perform an encore. They revived two classics from the “Shadows of the Dying Sun” album, starting with “Primeval Dark” and then, after thanking and saluting the crowd, finishing the amazing show with “While They Sleep”, maybe one of their best songs ever.

Insomnium. Photo: Caroline Misokane

The five Finnish bands gave Shibuya a musically extreme dark night and brought with them a little piece of the cold lands of Finland to Japan, proving once again that the two countries can make a perfect marriage, at least when it comes to heavy music.

Once again the Evoken de Valhall Production deserves to be congratulated for bringing to Japan bands that most of the other promoters have forgotten. It was a memorable night and I can only guess that, just like me, everyone who attended Suomi Feast already wants more.

www.facebook.com/insomniumofficial

www.facebook.com/whisperedband

www.facebook.com/brymir

www.facebook.com/rearmed

www.facebook.com/darkfloodofficial

www.facebook.com/aresjapan

www.facebook.com/evpro.asia