Masa Ito’s Rock TV celebrates 200 shows with Michael Schenker as a special guest

Masa Ito and Michael Schenker filming Masa Ito’s Rock TV. Photo: Mikio Ariga

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

On Sunday 28th January, Masa Ito’s Rock TV filmed its 200th show in front of an audience in Shibuya with German guitar legend Michael Schenker as a special guest. Roppongi Rocks was of course there.

Masa Ito is the most famous rock music journalist in Japan. Here in Japan he is even more famous than some of the artists he interviews. He has been instrumental in introducing many foreign artists to the Japanese market since the early 1980s. He has worked in print and radio and in recent years, in addition to his radio show Power Rock Today on bayfm, one of his main outlets has been the Masa Ito’s Rock TV show which he launched in 2014.

Special guest for the 200th show was none other than Michael Schenker who was in Tokyo to promote his new Michael Schenker Fest album “Resurrection” (being released in Japan via Ward Records and internationally via Nuclear Blast).

Masa Ito interviewed Schenker in front an enthusiastic audience of lucky fans. Schenker talked about the new album “Resurrection” which features three legendary former MSG vocalists – Graham Bonnet, Gary Barden and Robin McAuley – as well as Doogie White from Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock. It also features old MSG musicians Ted McKenna, Chris Glen and Steve Mann. As several of the band’s members are based in Scotland, Schenker said that he has been rehearsing in Scotland. Schenker drives himself up there with a pit stop in Manchester along the way.

Michael Schenker filming Masa Ito’s Rock TV in Tokyo. Photo: Mikio Ariga

Schenker is very pleased how the new album came together and having four different singers was not a problem as it sort of fell naturally who sings what on the different tracks. He also discussed how Metallica’s Kirk Hammett ended up as a guest on the album. While Schenker says that he doesn’t listen to music as he focuses on “self expression”, he said he had heard Metallica’s “The Unforgiven” while shopping clothes in Paris and liked Hammett’s guitar playing. Michael Schenker, who regularly tours in Japan, said that the new tour will kick off in North America in March and that he didn’t yet know when the next Japan gigs will be (it’s only three months since he last performed in Japan).

To the audience’s delight he did mention that he named his current band Michael Schenker Fest with a view of having guests (”No guest, no fest!”). In addition to the legendary names already in the band, he said that Klaus Meine of Scorpions and Phil Mogg of UFO would be great to have as guests sometime during the new world tour.

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www.michaelschenkerhimself.com

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The Roppongi Rocks Music Awards – What rocked our world in 2017

Graham Bonnet on stage in Tokyo in October 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

2017 was, as expected, another year filled with terrific rock music. We can’t mention all the good stuff here, but here are some of our favourites from the past year.

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

Gigs of the Year

Megadeth and Accept. Two gigs stood above the also-rans in 2017: Megadeth at Zepp Tokyo in May and Accept at Nakano Sun Plaza in September. Two veteran bands that are now perhaps better than ever before. They showed the kids how heavy metal is done. Part of the reason for them finishing on top is that they still create great new music and, unlike many of their peers, are no nostalgia acts.

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth backstage in Tokyo.

Extreme Metal Album of the Year

Venom Inc. “Avé”. 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). What a great trio of heaviness that has created a comeback album that beats all expectations. 

Runners up: Belphegor “Totenritual”, Cradle of Filth “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay”

Heavy Metal Album of the Year

Accept “The Rise of Chaos”. A veteran band that is better now than they ever were in the 1980s.

Runners up: Ice Age “Breaking the Ice”, Iced Earth “Incorruptible”

Melodic Metal Album of the Year

CyHra “Letters To Myself”. Former Amaranthe and In Flames members returned in a new band with a terrific debut album.

Classic Rock Album of the Year

The Night Flight Orchestra “Amber Galactic”. Soilwork and Arch Enemy members got together to play some catchy classic rock fun.

Runners up: Horisont “About Time”, Troubled Horse “Revolution on Repeat”

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

Live Album of the Year

The Dead Daisies “Live & Louder”. A terrific live album that captures a great live band exactly the way they are on stage.

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

Big Love Award

Paul Shortino. A man with a big voice but an even bigger heart. He loves his fans, he loves performing his music and he loves life. In the 80s he toured Japan with Quiet Riot and in 2017 he returned to Tokyo to perform songs from his back catalogue with Quiet Riot, King Kobra, Rough Cutt and much more. Wonderful guy. The music industry could do with more people like Shortino.

Video of the Year

Marty Friedman “Whiteworm”. A terrific instrumental song with a beautiful video combining Japanese art house-style drama with shots of the guitar wizard with his guitar and amps.

Alcatrazz in Tokyo in March 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Reunion of the Year

Alcatrazz. Gary Shea and Jimmy Waldo reunited with Graham Bonnet for some special Japan dates playing Alcatrazz classics. Neither Yngwie Malmsteen nor Steve Vai were part of the reunion, but it sure was a treat for the Japanese fans. During the year, Graham Bonnet, by the way, managed to perform in Japan with Graham Bonnet Band, Alcatrazz and Michael Schenker Fest.

Conrado Pesinato and Graham Bonnet on stage in Tokyo in March 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Energy Injection of the Year

Conrado Pesinato filled the shoes of Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai when Alcatrazz reunited in Japan. Fab guitarist who has also played in Graham Bonnet Band. Keep an eye on this fine guitarist.

Old James. Photo: Tammy Raybould

Newcomers of the Year

Ursinne arrived on the scene with a splendidly fierce and beautifully inaccessible death metal album. With legendary Bolt Thrower vocalist Dave Ingram, Jonny Pettersson (Henry Kane, Wombbath, Just Before Dawn, Ashcloud) and Sonia Nusselder (Ecocide, Shade of Hatred, Sepiroth). 

Old James: The fabulous Canadian musician Brian Stephenson (Annihilator, Skull Fist) is back with his own trio and a jam-tastic debut album. Love it.

Zornheym: Swedish symphonic extreme metal band Zornheym, led by former Dark Funeral guitarist Zorn, debuted with an album full of drama.

The Lurking Fear is a new band and its 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: Tomas Lindberg, Jonas Stålhammar, Fredrik Wallenberg, Andreas Axelson  and Adrian Erlandsson.

Congrats to the winners and apologies for all the great music from 2017 that we’ve forgot to mention here. Now on to 2018! Cheers!

Preview: Epica will return to Tokyo for a one-off Tokyo show in January

Simone Simons and Mark Jansen on stage with Epica in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dutch symphonic metal band Epica will return to Tokyo for a one-off Tokyo show in January.

It took Dutch symphonic metal band Epica some 15 years before they made their first ever gigs in Japan in April 2017. “The Japan Principle Tour” was a huge success and already in January they will be back for a special one-off show in Tokyo.

Simone Simons of Epica on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Prior to that, on 20th December, Epica will release a special EP, “Epica vs Attack on Titan songs”, via Ward Records. The new EP which will feature covers of the soundtrack to Hajime Isayama’s popular Japanese anime series “Attack on Titan”. Roppongi Rocks has listened to the EP and can gladly report that Epica has put a distinctive Epica twist to the anime soundtrack.

Coen Janssen and Simone Simons of Epica on stage in Tokyo in April 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Epica were warmly welcomed by their Japanese fans when they toured Japan for the first time. The tour was also a smooth one for the band. “I’ve never been so relaxed on a tour in a country like here. Strictly on time, everything is well organised. It’s sometimes different in other countries,” said Epica’s founder Mark Jansen in an interview with Roppongi Rocks during the last Japan tour.

As a follow-up to the first successful Japan tour, on Thursday 18th January Epica will play at Tsutaya O-East in Tokyo with Japanese violinist Ayasa as opening act.

Get your tickets here: https://wardrecords.com/special/EPICAtop.php

www.facebook.com/epica

RIP Cherry Sickbeat

Cherry Sickbeat of NervoChaos on stage in Tokyo in May 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

NervoChaos guitarist Cherry Sickbeat has died following a short battle with cancer.

Cherry Sickbeat stood out in a punk rock and extreme metal world dominated by men. She would often let her guitar do the talking.

She first made a name for herself as a vocalist and guitarist in the band Hellsakura. In the past couple of years of her life, her main job was as guitarist in the extreme metal band NervoChaos. She played on the band’s most recent album, the fabulous “Nyctophilia”, and she toured relentlessly around the world with the band during 2015-17.

Cherry “Sickbeat” Taketani was born in 1970 in Brazil. She was a Brazilian national of Japanese descent, her Japanese grandparents having emigrated from Japan to Brazil. She was a multi-instrumentalist, most famous for her guitar work, but she was also an accomplished vocalist, drummer and shamisen player.

Cherry, we salute you. Thank you for the music and the mayhem. RIP.

www.facebook.com/nervochaoswww.nervochaos.net

KISS legend Gene Simmons to release “The Vault” to celebrate 50 years in rock

Gene Simmons in Tokyo in Oct 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Legendary KISS co-founder Gene Simmons is about to release the ultimate collector’s item for the serious KISS collectors out there: “The Vault”.

KISS legend Gene Simmons is always coming up with new ways of marketing himself. With “The Vault”, a massive US$2,000 limited edition box filled with music and memorabilia, he takes it a step further by hand-delivering the boxes to his fans.

Among many goodies (a Gene Simmons action figure!), “The Vault” includes no fewer than 150 never-released-before songs written and performed by Simmons. Among the many interesting recordings are one where Simmons is demoing KISS songs in the 70s with Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen.

Simmons will bring “The Vault” to you in person. He will travel the world in 2018 with “The Vault Experience”. Confirmed Japan dates for the “The Vault Experience” are 7th and 8th April 2018. It is unclear if this is to coincide with a KISS tour or not. As previously announced, Simmons will perform with his Gene Simmons Band in Japan in October 2017.

www.genesimmonsvault.com

www.facebook.com/officialgenesimmons

 

 

Preview: Chaos Assault festival with Mantar and Sigh

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Festival preview: On 22nd and 23rd September, Ward Records are putting on a mini festival with a difference. We get some really great and unique extreme bands performing over two days at a club in Shibuya, Tokyo.

German duo Mantar will finally play in Japan! The duo has developed a loyal following and are now ready to meet their Japanese fans. Mantar is a raw and sinister drums-and-guitar duo with no bassist in sight. Somehow they still manage to sound heavier than most other bands. Heavy extreme music with a punk attitude, Mantar is damp and chaotic mayhem. Their music is a melting pot of various extreme metal genres. They formed in 2013 and released their debut album, “Death by Burning”, in 2014. They have since released “Ode to the Flame” in 2016 and the EP “The Spell” in 2017. In addition to their studio work, they have been a hard-touring band and in the process they have developed a distinct signature sound that stands out from the crowd.

Sigh’s Dr. Mikannibal on stage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Cult Japanese band Sigh was one of the early black metal bands in Japan. They have since evolved into an avant-garde extreme metal band. They established a reputation for greatness, weirdness and fabulous entertainment and made a name for themselves when they in the early 1990s signed a record deal with the late Euronymous of Mayhem and his label Deathlike Silence Records. They debuted in 1993 with “Scorn Defeat”. Sigh has toured internationally and here in Japan they have opened for bands such as Watain and Mayhem.

For the first evening of Chaos Assault, the two headliners will be joined by Boris (a jam-tastic Japanese genre-bending noise rock/heavy psych trio). On the second day, Mantar and Sigh will perform together with Doom (progressive fusion metal) and Church of Misery (Japanese doom/psych/stoner rock).

This is a rather promising mini festival with a fab mix of unique heavy artists far removed from the mainstream. Come and join the weird and the wonderful at this celebration of uniqueness.

Get your tickets here: https://wardrecords.com/special/CHAOSASSAULT.php

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

Dynazty vocalist Nils Molin officially joins Amaranthe

Nils Molin backstage in Tokyo in February 2017 while on tour with Dynazty. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dynazty vocalist Nils Molin has become an official member of Amaranthe.

Hardly a surprise, but now Dynazty vocalist Nils Molin has officially joined Amaranthe. He joins the band as one of its three lead vocalists and replaces the band’s co-founder Jake E who departed the group earlier this year. Roppongi Rocks learnt already early this year of Amaranthe’s interest in Nils Molin’s services. When Molin was in Tokyo in February with Dynazty, he smiled when we mentioned Amaranthe to him (“we know that you know that we know”, kind of) but without revealing what was coming up.

Having earlier used Chris Adam from the band Smash Into Pieces as a stand in for Jake E, in March Amaranthe started using Nils Molin for gigs in Europe.

When Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd played in Japan with Gus G in March, she said of Molin who had then done his first few gigs with Amaranthe: “Nils is top of the list. We had fun with these gigs in Sweden. It was so much fun! He’s a cool and great guy. Thus it would be great to have him in the band. Exciting! It’s great with some new blood. He’s awesome. It sounded really great. His voice fits us really well. He can even reach the high octaves together with me. That was cool! We want him! We obviously would like to have him. We’ll see what happens. We’ll find out.” Now we have found out. Nils Molin is now a permanent member of Amaranthe. What remains unclear is his future with Dynazty. Officially it seems he will do both bands, but with the kind of schedule Amaranthe normally has, there is bound to be very little time left over for Dynazty.

www.facebook.com/amarantheband

www.amaranthe.se

Graham Bonnet Band reveals new guitarist

The new line-up of Graham Bonnet Band with new guitarist Joey Tafolla on the left.

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Graham Bonnet Band reveals Joey Tafolla as Conrado Pesinato’s replacement.

As previously reported by Roppongi Rocks, fab guitarist Conrado Pesinato recently left Graham Bonnet Band. While no official explanation has been given for Pesinato’s departure, today the band revealed who will replace him: Jag Panzer guitarist Joey Tafolla. Tafolla has released a number of solo albums via Shrapnel Records. Back in February, Tafolla was a guest with Graham Bonnet Band when they performed with Uli Jon Roth. Now he is the latest in a long row of phenomenal guitarists who have been creating terrific music with Graham Bonnet over the years.

Graham Bonnet and Conrado Pesinato in Tokyo in March 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

www.facebook.com/grahambonnetmusic

Former Amaranthe and In Flames members unite in CyHra

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Jake E and Jesper Strömblad launch CyHra | Record deal inked, debut album and world tour coming up.

Vocalist Jake E, who recently announced his departure from Amaranthe, has teamed up with guitarist Jesper Strömblad (ex-In Flames, HammerFall) to launch a new modern metal band called CyHra. The band has signed a record deal with Spinefarm Records/Universal.

For CyHra, Jake E and Jesper Strömblad have recruited former In Flames bassist Peter Iwers and drummer Alex Landenburg, who has played with Annihilator, Bonfire, Masterplan and Stratovarius, to complete the line-up.

Jake E on stage in Tokyo in September 2016 during the Helloween/Amaranthe tour. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The band is already working on its debut album, which is expected to be released later this year. Based on the great quality of early CyHra demo recordings I’ve heard, this new band will no doubt cause a stir and get attention from both Amaranthe and In Flames fans. This is modern and melodic metal bursting with energy. These four gentlemen have some serious pedigree, but I reckon the best is yet to come for them. Once the debut album is released sometime in the autumn, CyHra plans to do extensive international touring in support of the album.

www.cyhra.comwww.facebook.com/cyhraofficial