KISS Expo coming to Japan in October

KISS Expo Tokyo 2016By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

KISS Expo is coming to Japan with KISS frontman Gene Simmons himself doing a special guest appearance.

KISS posing with Roppongi Rocks' Stefan Nilsson in Tokyo in 2015.

KISS posing with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson in Tokyo in 2015.

In October, the first ever official KISS exhibition in Japan will take place at the Laforet Museum in Tokyo’s Harajuku district.

For the past 43 years, KISS has combined melodic rock music with elaborate stage shows and outrageous costumes and make-up, partly influenced by Japanese culture, such as manga animation and kabuki theatre.

Ever since the early days of the band in the mid-70s, KISS has had a very loyal following here in Japan. Most recently the band completed a very successful Japan tour in 2015, including a sold-out gig at the massive Tokyo Dome.

KISS on stage at Tokyo Dome in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

KISS on stage at Tokyo Dome in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The KISS Expo Tokyo 2016 will offer all KISS fans a chance to see and experience some of the legendary costumes, instruments, personal memorabilia and collectables.

The temporary KISS exhibition will be open between 13th and 31st October. KISS founder and frontman Gene Simmons will make a special appearance on the opening day of the exhibition.

Tickets for the exhibition are on sale now. /

Megadeth names Dirk Verbeuren as its new full-time drummer

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dirk Verbeuren, one of my all-time favourite drummers, has been playing with Megadeth as a fill-in drummer on the ongoing “Dystopia” world tour. He has done very well and now Megadeth has offered him a permanent gig as the band’s new drummer. Thus, he will now leave Soilwork to work with Megadeth full time. It is not yet clear who will replace him in Soilwork.

A few months before Dirk Verbeuren joined Megadeth, I interviewed him and Soilwork’s mainman Björn “Speed” Strid here in Tokyo.

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Here’s what they had to say then about line-up changes in the band: “It is definitely tough sometimes. Being a touring band, you have to find somebody who fits in, especially personality wise and not just as a musician. It’s tricky but luckily we always seem to rebound,” explained Dirk. Speed continued: “We been lucky enough to have fresh new blood coming into the band that actually brought something to the table. Maybe from the outside it looks like there’s been a lot of line-up changes and maybe people think that ‘Björn must be really hard to work with because he’s the only one who has been there since the very start.’ I don’t know. It might look like a circus and a revolving door. But if you’re in the band…it’s been more natural.” “He’s not at all a difficult person to work with,” insisted Dirk. “I think it’s more just…life, you know?” Yes, now life (in the form of Dave Mustaine and his Megadeth) has turned up on Soilwork’s doorstep.

Björn “Speed” Strid and Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Björn “Speed” Strid and Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dirk Verbeuren, who joined Soilwork in 2004, is one of the best drummers in the extreme metal business. Apart from his Soilwork duties, the Belgian drummer now based in the US has played with acts such as Devin Townsend, Satyricon, Jeff Loomis, Aborted, Naglfar, Bent Sea, Scarve, Powermad, and many more. “When Dirk came in to the band he brought something new with the drums. He’s an extreme drummer but he also has that kind of unique groove to it even when he does blast beats for example. It is a lot more double kicks than compared to when Henry Ranta was in the band before. He definitely brought something new and fresh to the band,” said Speed of Dirk’s contribution to Soilwork’s sound. Now he needs to find Verbeuren’s replacement. Not an easy task. Soilwork has most recently used Bastian Thusgaard (The Arcane Order) as a stand-in drummer while Verbeuren has been playing with Megadeth.

Breaking news: Frigid Bich reunites after 30 years

Frigid Bich7

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Breaking news: A sensational Frigid Bich reunion is in the works.

For the first time in 30 years, the members of 80s New York metal band Frigid Bich have gotten together to play music again.

Frigid Bich, who were originally active from 1980 until 1986, wrote some great heavy metal anthems and is perhaps the best New York metal band to never make it big. During their active years, they didn’t even release any album, but they wrote classics such as “Tyrants of a Generation”, “The Kids are Gonna Fight”, “Metal on Denim on Leather”, “We Rule the Night”, “No Guts, No Glory”, “Call Us Robinhoods” and “Louder than Loud”.

Frigid Bich8

Well, the Frigid Bich story is about to get a new exciting chapter. A few weeks ago, the classic Frigid Bich line-up from 1983-86 – Joe Leonard (vocals), Henry Matthies (guitar), Michael Leonard (bass) and Chris Meyer (drums) – reunited for the first time in 30 years in a rehearsal room.

We contacted Joe Leonard who confirms the reunion rumours to Roppongi Rocks: “We ripped through the old set without missing a beat. Pretty amazing. I have some unfinished songs from yesteryear and kept my notebook. We worked on a new song called ‘The Enemy of My Enemy’. We are thinking of doing a Brooklyn show in November.”

Wait, there’s more: “I think that we will record the new track in the next few months along with formal recordings of many of the older tracks,” says Joe.

Maybe Frigid Bich will get a second chance at heavy metal success.

Read Roppongi Rocks’ recent article “Louder Than Loud: The Frigid Bich Story” here.

Howl From The Coffin: a new old-school Swedish death metal festival


By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Connoisseurs of old-school Swedish death metal have a great new outdoor festival to congregate at.



The Howl From The Coffin Festival, which will take place on Saturday 20th August, is a new intimate niche festival set in a leafy countryside amusement park just 45 minutes outside Stockholm, Sweden. It has a killer line-up of great Swedish death metal bands. The festival brings together legendary veteran bands like Grave, Centinex and Sorcery, with newer bands.

The festival line-up includes Grave, Centinex, Sorcery, Interment, LIK, Bombs of Hades, Coffin Creep, Morbid Illusion, Usurpress and more. Howl From The Coffin will also feature an art exhibition by Anu Bring (Art by Bring), Erik Rovanperä and TONK. For death metal connoisseurs of the vinyl collecting kind, there will also be vinyl merchants present to satisfy the demand.

Breaking news: Brian Stephenson (ex-Annihilator) joins Skull Fist for Asian tour

Brian Stephenson

Brian Stephenson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Breaking news: Canadian heavy metal band Skull Fist will use Brian Stephenson as a stand-in vocalist for Zach Slaughter during Asian tour.

Skull Fist vocalist Zach Slaughter has a problem with his voice and needs further surgery this summer. Brian Stephenson (Old James, ex-Annihilator) is the brother of former Skull Fist drummer Chris Stephenson (Old James, Cauldron, Enforcer). The Asian tour will take the band to India, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan. Zach Slaughter will still be performing on Skull Fist’s Asian tour but focusing on playing guitar until his voice has been fully restored. Slaughter’s surgery will also mean that the planned studio album, the band’s third, will be further delayed.

Breaking news: Bonfire and David Reece part ways


By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

BREAKING NEWS! German rockers Bonfire and David Reece (ex-Accept, Bangalore Choir) have parted ways. Reece sang on Bonfire’s last two albums and performed over 100 shows with the band. Reece will be replaced by Michael Borman who returns to Bonfire. Borman was Bonfire’s vocalist in 1993-94. Reece has recently launched RPG – Reece Percudani Group.

Hellsingland Underground reissues 2008 debut album with bonus track


Hellsingland Underground - early

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Our favourite Northern country rockers, Hellsingland Underground, are celebrating ten years as a band this summer by reissuing their self-titled 2008 debut album with a special bonus track.


Hellsingland Underground, who released their fourth album, “Understanding Gravity” earlier this year, will reissue “Hellsingland Underground” on Sound Pollution’s Wild Kingdom Records label on 29th July.

The “Hellsingland Underground” album was originally released on the band’s own label, Killed by Records and featured classic songs such as “Northern Country Boy”, “Child of Another Time”, “Ill Wind”, “Ljusnan Riverside Jam”, “Hard Falls” and “Lost in the Woods”. In addition to the original album’s ten tracks, on the reissue we get the previously unreleased “Making Music Hurts Too Much”, which was the first song the band ever wrote. /

Megadeth recruits drummer Dirk Verbeuren for American and European tours

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Megadeth mainman Dave Mustaine has recruited Soilwork‘s drummer Dirk Verbeuren as a stand-in for Chris Adler during some of the Megadeth’s shows in North America and Europe. With Adler busy with his other band Lam of God, he recommended Verbeuren to Mustaine as “probably one of the top three drummers in the world”.

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dirk Verbeuren in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dirk Verbeuren has been drumming with Soilwork since 2004 and has also played with many other artists, such as Devin Townsend, Satyricon, Jeff Loomis, Aborted, Naglfar, Bent Sea, Scarve and Powermad.

Megadeth released its latest terrific album, “Dystopia”, in January.

Read Roppongi Rocks’ recent interview with Dirk Verbeuren here.

Conny Bloom joins Hellsingland Underground for a one-off gig in Finland

Conny Bloom

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former Hanoi Rocks guitarist and Electric Boys frontman Conny Bloom will do a one-off guest appearance as guitarist with Northern rockers Hellsingland Underground. Yeah, that’s right.

In the Finnish archipelago, there is a small, local music festival called Fishbait Rock Festival which will take place on 17th-18th June where this great union will happen. And when wen we say “one-off” we actually mean it will happen twice in one day as Hellsingland Underground will also act as Bloom’s backing band for his solo gig at the same festival.


Other artists at this year’s festival include Heavy Tiger, Sator, Nicke & Dregen (from Backyard Babies) and The Hawkins.

Hellsingland Underground released its fourth album, the terrific “Understanding Gravity”, in April and Conny Bloom also released a new album, “Fullt Upp”, earlier this year. Get your dancing shoes on, there will be some groovy Northern rock coming Finland’s way.

Michael Schenker to return to Japan with Graham Bonnet

Michael Schenker Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Michael Schenker onstage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In June 2015, Michael Schenker reunited with his former MSG vocalist Graham Bonnet for the first time since the early 1980s when they toured Japan together with Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock and Graham Bonnet Band. The tour was a huge success. In August 2016, the two rock giants will again tour Japan together, this time as part of an MSG reunion billed as Michael Schenker Fest.

Graham Bonnet Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Graham Bonnet onstage in Tokyo in 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The Michael Schenker Fest line-up for the Japan tour features no less than three former MSG vocalists: Michael Schenker (guitar), Gary Barden (vocals), Graham Bonnet (vocals), Robin McAuley (vocals), Chris Glen (bass), Ted McKenna (drums) and Steve Mann (guitar/keyboards).

The Michael Schenker Fest Japan tour will consist of gigs in Osaka (23rd Aug), Tokyo (24th Aug) and Sapporo (26 Aug).