EP review: Nordjevel “Fenriir”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Norwegian black metal band Nordjevel returns with a five-track EP, “Fenriir”. It is dark, cold, damp, stenchy, evil, sinister and wonderfully splendid. Evil will no doubt prevail in Norway.

Norwegian black metal is a tough subgenre to be in, not least if you’re from Norway, home to the infamous and chaotic second wave of black metal of the early 1990s. But that doesn’t scare Nordjevel. The Nordjevel members just walk onto the stage and deliver like there’s no tomorrow. While Nordjevel is a relatively new band, formed in 2015, the members (Doedsadmiral – vocals, Destructhor – guitar, Dominator – drums, Valla – guitar and DzeptiCunt – bass) have pedigree from playing with bands such as Morbid Angel, Cadaver, 1349, Myrkskog, Ragnarok, Dark Funeral, Netherbird and many more. It is a seasoned group of gentlemen of darkness with plenty of experience of extreme metal gigs and tours. It shows in Nordjevel’s exquisite and intense music. It is dark, cold, damp, stenchy, evil, sinister and wonderfully splendid. Evil will prevail in Norway. What we get on “Fenriir” is three magnificent new studio tracks plus a death metal cover and a live recording of “Det Ror og Ror”, recorded at the Brutal Assault festival in the Czech Republic in 2019. The five tracks are a nice mix of tracks in Norwegian and English. The ultra-fast “Gnawing the Bones” is my favourite track. While this is only a five-track EP, it is a great demonstration of the different sides to this band. They pretty much stay within the loosely defined parameters of black metal, although we do get a terrific over-the-top cover of American death metal band Possessed’s “Fallen Angel”. But within the black metal subgenre, Nordjevel shows us quite a bit of variety, including influences from the members’ previous bands. On the title track “Fenriir” we get some Nordic blackened folk metal touches while “Rovdyr” is more pure black metal. Most importantly, the band shows us that they stand shoulder to shoulder with Norway’s best black metal bands. A new full-length album is in the works and will hopefully be released before the end of the year.

Nordjevel’s EP “Fenriir” is out now via Indie Recordings.



Album review: Inhuman Architects “Paradoxus”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Portuguese deathcore band Inhuman Architects demonstrates some serious potential on its debut album.

Inhuman Architects is a hard-hitting deathcore band from Portugal. Formed in 2020, they were quickly signed by Australian label Vicious Instinct Records. Now the band’s debut album, “Paradoxus”, is ready for release. “Paradoxus” does not sound like a debut album. It sounds like a record by seasoned professionals. At times, the brutal, high-energy music of Inhuman Architects reminds me somewhat of one of my favourite bands, Aborted. Call it deathcore, brutal death metal or whatever you prefer. It is hard-hitting extreme metal and it is aggressively good. The band has seen several line-up changes in its early stages. Now the band consists of Fábio Infante (vocals), Fábio Azevedo (guitar), Susana Gamito (bass) and Marcus Reis (drums). Following the recording of the debut album, the band has added guitarist João Martins to the line-up. The terrific track “Nephilim” has already been released as a single and the album is full of equally good songs. “Nibiru’s Wrath” is a total mayhem of a song and I love it. Listening to it feels like being hit by a heavy-load truck! Boys and girls, I am confident that “Paradoxus” is the start of something great. The talent and commitment of this band will lead to even greater things in the coming years. But first things first. Do yourself a favour and buy the band’s debut album. Hopefully someone will spot the opportunity and do a tour package featuring Aborted and Inhuman Architects.

Inhuman Architects’ debut album “Paradoxus” will be released on 16th July via Vicious Instinct Records.


Album review: Sterbhaus “Necrostabbing at Göta Källare – Live in Stockholm”

Sterbhaus. Photo: Emily Vollertzen

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Timeless and unpolished thrashy heavy metal from Sweden’s Sterbhaus on new live album.

Formed in Stockholm in 2007, Swedish band Sterbhaus calls its music “metal deluxe – Swedish timeless blackened thrash/death”. Fair enough. The deluxe part of the description, I guess, is part of the band’s self-deprecating dark humour. This style of heavy metal is somewhat hard to define. It is heavy, gritty and raw. Uncompromising but less stenchy and sinister than some of the purer black or death metal bands. This is different in an interesting way. It comes across as a bunch of metalheads just wanting to play metal and not worrying about fitting into a subgenre or taking themselves too seriously. “Necrostabbing at Göta Källare – Live in Stockholm” is a recording of the album release show for “New Level of Malevolence” which took place on 17th October 2015. The Sterbhaus line-up that performed that show consisted of Marcus Hammarström (Elvira Madigan, Shining) on vocals and bass, Jimmy Ahovalli (Skitarg) on lead guitar, Simon Olovsson (Avslut) on guitar and Erik Röjås (Ondskapt, Netherbird) on drums. Seven of the live album’s nine tracks are from the “New Level of Malevolence” album. In addition, we get treated to the songs “Absolutely Do Not Die!” and “Ministry”, both from the 2012 album “Angels for Breakfast…and God for Lunch”. “Grudgeholder + Hatemonger” is a great song that is a tad bit more straightforward thrash metal than many of the other songs. It is also the best song on this live album. As is often the case with this band, they can’t just play this song in a straightforward manner. In the final part of the song, we get an amusing section with nonsense lyrics sung in Swedish. It’s all part of Sterbhaus being Sterbhaus. The album’s closing number, “Ministry”, is an obvious highlight with its ferociousness and speed. Similar to the album’s opening number, “Necrostabbing the Corpsefinder”, this song too is best described as a violent, pissed off and drooling dog attacking the listener. It is a perfect way to close this show and a great, unpolished live album.

Sterbhaus’ live album “Necrostabbing at Göta Källare – Live in Stockholm” will be released via Black Lodge Records on 9th July.



Album review: Gájanas “Čihkkojuvvon”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sublime Nordic ethno-prog rock from exquisite Finnish band Gájanas.

Gájanas plays Sámi ethno-progressive music. This is progressive folk rock music built around the Sámi culture of the northern parts of the Nordic countries. Gájanas comes from the Inari-Utsjoki area of northern Finland and half of the members of the band are from Sámi families. Gájanas consists of Hildá Länsman on vocals and yoik, Nicholas Francett on guitar, cello and vocals, Kevin Francett on drums and Erkki Feodoroff on bass. Hildá Länsman grew up with the ancient Sámi traditions of reindeer husbandry, handicraft and yoik. She is the real deal and it shines through in her ethereal yet powerful voice. She is a force of nature, a natural and seductive talent. Gájanas is an excellent band which should appeal to those of us that like progressive rock, folk music and even Nordic black metal. To be clear, Gájanas does not play black metal but many of the same melancholic and dark elements as well as the close connection to nature can be found here. The Sámi history is a dark and difficult one. There are many parallels in Sámi history to that of Native Americans and other aboriginal people in the world. The band name Gájanas is Sámi for “echo” and this band’s melting pot of original music certainly has a lot of echoes and influences. The opening track “Almmi dolat” (“Northern Lights”) sets the tone for the album. We are immediately brought into a world where prog rock and even echoes of bands such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden sit next to the ancient music of the Sámi people. The lyrics – all sung in Sámi – are melancholic and full of nature references, just like the music. The eight tracks on the album are rock solid. I love a killer eight-track album any day rather than a twelve-track album with a few fillers. The title track is an obvious highlight for me, but my favourite track is perhaps “Dollagaccat” (Sámi for “Hooves of Fire”) with its hypnotic music. “Diamántadulvvit” (“Floods of Diamonds”) is another snow-covered peak on this album. There is something very addictive about Gájanas’ music. The combination of ancient Sámi music with modern progressive rock is sublime. There are also terrific and sometimes hidden (the album title is Sámi for “hidden”) touches, twists and turns in the music. The terrific use of cello in the soundscape on the track “Hušša sisa” stands out.

Gájanas’ debut album “Čihkkojuvvon” is out now via Finnish label Bafe’s Factory.



Album review: Temple Balls “Pyromide”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Finnish rockers Temple Balls’ third album gives us melodic hard rock with balls.

Temple Balls is a melodic hard rock band from Finland. “Pyromide” is the band’s third full-length studio album since they debuted in 2017. The new album has been produced by H.E.A.T’s Jona Tee and we can certainly hear some echoes of the Swedish rockers’ melodies here. Like many of their fellow Nordic hard rock bands, Temple Balls is a band that has strong and catchy melodies. In “Pyromide”, Temple Balls – Arde Teronen on vocals, Jimi Välikangas on bass, Jiri Paavonaho and Niko Vuorela on guitars and Antti Hissa on drums – has put together a solid album. Compared to many other Nordic melodic hard rock bands, Temple Balls has a bit more grit and dirt to its music. It’s punchy. The music is somewhat less polished and that, boys and girls, is no bad thing. Squeaky clean can be very boring. The music isn’t exactly dangerous, but Temple Balls is a band with a certain attitude and they have the songs and skills to back that up. It’s like a Finnish Def Leppard with balls. The album is even and without any major dips. Standout tracks for me are “Thunder From The North”, “Long Ways, Log Lies”, “Bad, Bad, Bad”, “Unholy Night” (because of its fantastic guitar work), “You Better Run” and “Something To Die For”. Of course, there is also the obligatory power ballad, “If Only I Could”. The Japanese edition of the album comes with a bonus track in the form of an acoustic version of “You Better Run”. Temple Balls is a good band. Finland is a hard rock and heavy metal super power – across both extreme and melodic subgenres – and Temple Balls is a band that helps to support that position.

Temple Balls’ new album “Pyromide” is out now via Ward Records in Japan and Frontiers Music internationally.


Album review: Destinia “Tokyo Encounter”

 Destinia on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Etsuo Kawamura 

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Destinia’s “Metal Souls” line-up – uniting Japanese guitarist Nozomu Wakai with international rock stars Ronnie Romero, Marco Mendoza and Tommy Aldridge – performed for one night only in Tokyo in 2019. Now that evening is available for the world to hear on the new live release “Tokyo Encounter”.

On 21st January 2019, Destinia’s “Metal Souls” line-up performed live on stage for the first, and, so far, only time. The one-off gig at Tsutaya O-East in Shibuya, Tokyo was fabulous and great fun. It was a privilege for me to be at that very special gig. The combination of one of Japan’s best metal guitarists and an international band of seasoned rock musicians worked very well. Now that magic night is being served up for the whole world to experience on the new live release “Tokyo Encounter”. Guitarist Nozomu Wakai has in recent years made a name for himself as a exquisite guitar wizard here in Japan. Akira Takasaki of Loudness remains the undisputed king of Japanese metal guitar playing, but  Nozomu Wakai is certainly one of the best of the newer names to emerge in the Japanese metal scene. Wakai has done a few Destinia releases and he has also performed with Mari Hamada’s band and Paul Shortino Band (led by the legendary Quiet Riot and Rough Cutt vocalist Paul Shortino). He has appeared as a guest on stage with a few international acts visiting Japan, including Lords of Black and Graham Bonnet and Alcatrazz. This winter evening in Tokyo, Destinia had the same line-up as on the fab studio album “Metal Souls” which was released in 2018. The line-up featured Nozomu Wakai, vocalist Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, Lords of Black), drummer Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, Yngwie Malmsteen, Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers Band, Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy) and bassist Marco Mendoza (The Dead Daisies, Whitesnake, Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy, Black Star RidersBlue Murder). On the night, Destinia was also backed up by second guitarist Nobu Doi. The bulk of the new live release is made up of original Destinia material including terrific melodic metal songs such as “Metal Souls”, “Rain” and “Judgement Day”. We get a full Tommy Aldridge drum solo and that’s OK as he’s one of the few drummers capable of delivering a drum solo that doesn’t bore me. The tried and tested Mendoza-Aldridge rhythm section is, as expected, rock solid and when combined with Wakai’s guitar wizardry and the terrific voice of Ronnie Romero and great songs, the result is splendid. Highlights for me are “Promised Land”, “Raise Your Fist”, “Be a Hero” (on which Wakai really gets to shine with his guitar), “The End of Love” and “Ready for Rock”. The main CD has 14 tracks (including all the ten tracks from the “Metal Souls” album). There is also a four-track bonus CD which features the closing of the show that evening, four carefully chosen cover tracks: 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”. What a treat it is to be able to relive this fantastic evening through this new live release. It brings back terrific memories, especially now with not many gigs happening. I hope that this live release will lead to more live shows with Destinia. Destinia has great songs and no doubt the ability to write more songs of the same calibre. There is so much potential in this project and hopefully we will get to hear more of Destinia.

Destinia’s live album “Tokyo Encounter” will be released on 21st April via Ward Records. There will also be DVD and Blu-ray editions released.




EP review: Sea of Snakes “World on Fire”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sludge-tainted and doomy, heavy-but-slow-ish American haze rock from Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, California-based quartet Sea of Snakes has made its first release and it is very promising. The five-track debut EP, “World on Fire”, is filled with great music. At times it has some terrific Monster Magnet vibes (not least on the track “Let the Fire Burn”) but this EP is a melting pot of different styles, including some Corrosion of Conformity echoes. On “Ride the Line” and on other parts of the EP, we get served up some cool The Doors-sounding parts among the heaviness. If you like your music served heavy as fuck but mostly slow-ish, this haze hard rock band should appeal to you. There is excellent guitar wizardry by Jim McCloskey among all the smoke and the raw power of Tracy Steiger’s voice is very fitting. A very promising debut by a band to keep an eye on.

Sea of Snakes’ debut EP “World on Fire” is out now via Metal Assault Records.


Album review: Sabbatonero “L’Uomo Di Ferro” | A Tribute to Black Sabbath

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Venom Inc’s Tony Dolan has teamed up with Francesco Conte of Neromega to create Sabbatonero, an all-star charity project covering Black Sabbath songs. Great music by great artists for a great cause.

Tony Dolan and Tom Leaper of Hell Freezes Over on stage in Tokyo in 2018.
Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan told me some months back about Sabbatonero, his new Black Sabbath tribute project, I immediately knew that this was going to be special. It’s for a worthy cause (all funds raised go to Covid workers in Italy) and, as I suspected, the music on offer is world-class metal. The main Sabbatonero band consists of Tony Dolan (Venom Inc) on bass, Francesco Conte (Neromega, Spiritual Front) and Filippo Marcheggiani (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso) on guitars and Riccardo Spilli (Balletto di Bronzo) on drums. Sabbatonero’s album is filled with guest appearances by some of my favourite musicians in metal, including Marty Friedman, John Gallagher (Raven), Mantas (Venom Inc), Snowy Shaw (ex-Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Therion), Prika Amaral (Nervosa), Sonia Nusselder (Crypta) and Rasmus Bom Andersen (Diamond Head). The album’s title, “L’Uomo Di Ferro”, Italian for “Iron Man”, one of Sabbath’s best-known songs. But that song is not on this album. Apart from that, there are no real surprises when it comes to what songs have been chosen for this tribute album. My favourite tracks on the album are “Symptom of the Universe”, which beautifully combines a fab track with Rasmus Bom Andersen’s vocals and a splendid guitar solo by Marty Friedman, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” (with Steve Sylvester of Death SS, Mantas and Snowy Shaw), “NIB” with Tony Dolan himself on exquisite lead vocals and doing an excellent bass intro and “Heaven and Hell” with fab vocals by Tony D’Alessio (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso) and a guitar solo by Ken Andrews (Obituary). Also fab is “Killing Yourself to Live” which combines the vocal talents of Maksymina Kuzianik (ex-Setheist) and Mayara Puertas (Torture Squad) with Prika Amaral’s terrific guitar. “Paranoid” is beyond a standout track with possessed vocals by Necrodeath’s Flegias and Sonia Nusselder’s phenomenal guitar work. John Gallagher’s vocals on “Children of the Grave” are also noteworthy. I could go on and on. The guest list is long and also includes current and former members of acts such as Sacred Reich, Satyricon, Suffocation, Death, Testament, Helstar and more. Let’s hope that Sabbatonero next does a second album focused on Black Sabbath deep cuts. Or why not a “Live at Colosseum – Sabbatonero is Born Again”, a reinterpretation of Sabbath’s 1983 album “Born Again” (the one with Ian Gillan on vocals)?

Sabbatonero’s album “L’Uomo Di Ferro” will soon be available for streaming. The vinyl version will be released on 20th June and there will be a CD version via Time To Kill Records (release date to be confirmed).

Tony Dolan and Rasmus Bom Andersen will talk about Sabbatonero in episode three of the Roppongi Rocks Clubhouse Sessions on the Clubhouse audio app on Thursday 15th April. Event details here: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/event/m7Aw8EWx



Album review: Johan Kihlberg’s Impera “Spirit of Alchemy”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s world-leading position in melodic hard rock is showcased on a new Impera album featuring members from Europe, Nocturnal Rites, King Diamond and Lion’s Share.

Johan Kihlberg’s Impera was founded by drummer Johan Kihlberg in Stockholm, Sweden in 2011. “Spirit of Alchemy” is the band’s sixth album. Johan – who has done session work in backing bands for Vinnie Vincent, Bruce Kulick, John Corabi, Graham Bonnet and Brian Robertson – has gathered an impressive line-up of musicians to play with him on the album: Europe bassist John Levén, drummer Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Memento Mori, Therion, Dimmu Borgir, Dream Evil), vocalist Jonny Lindkvist (Nocturnal Rites) and guitarist Lars Chriss (Lion’s Share). There are also guest appearances by Kay Backlund (Lion’s Share) on keyboards, Mats Vassfjord (220 Volt) on bass and Pontus Egberg (King Diamond, Treat, Lion’s Share, The Poodles) on bass. Musically, this album lives somewhere in the valleys of 1980s Swedish melodic hard rock and power metal. It’s riff-happy but always melodic. “Lost Your Life to Rock’n’Roll” has echoes of Europe while “All About You” has some 220 Volt vibes. The song quality is very strong throughout the album and, obviously, with a band line-up like this, Impera delivers in the studio. Personal favourites on the album, in addition to the previously mentioned tracks, are “Read It and Weep”, “When Souls Collide” and “In Heaven”. All of them are melodic hard rock songs full of energy and heavy riffs. Johan Kihlberg has a passion for atmospheric film scores and we get treated to some of that on the instrumental track “Battle” and also on a “The Empire Strikes Back” medley which features as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of the album. Impera was scheduled as opening act for KISS in Sweden before the “End of the Road” tour came to a halt due to the global pandemic. Hopefully, Impera will get a second chance at opening for KISS once arena gigs will be possible again. This music needs to be performed live. In the meantime we will listen to this fab album of Swedish melodic hard rock.

Johan Kihlberg’s Impera “Spirit of Alchemy” will be released on 9th April via Rubicon Music in Japan and via Metalville internationally.



Album review: Evil Drive “Demons Within”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Another great metal album from Finland – Evil Drive releases its third studio album.

Founded in Finland in 2013, melodic death metal band Evil Drive debuted with the album “The Land of the Dead” in 2016. That was followed by the album “Ragemaker” in 2018 and now “Demons Within”, which is the band’s third album. Having had some line-up changes over the years, the Finnish band is now technically very skilled. I think that on this third album they have also evolved their song-writing skills and have created a great album. “In the End” is a slow ballad, but it is still heavy and with growls. However, most of the “Demons Within” album is classic melodic death metal with growls by Russian-Finnish vocalist Viktoria Viren. Viktoria’s husband Ville Viren co-founded the band with her and plays guitar. The rest of the current line-up consists of J-P Pusa (guitar), Matti Sorsa (bass) and Antti Tani (drums). Evil Drive reminds me of Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow-era (2000-2014). It is obvious that Arch Enemy has been a big influence on this band. But this is no copycat band. They may have a similar sound to Arch Enemy but they certainly are making something of their own, not least creating their own terrific songs. The album opens with the energetic “Payback” which sets the tone for the album. “We are One” is a standout track, the relentless “Bringer of Darkness” is crushing and so is the pummelling “Rising from the Revenge”. Love it.

Evil Drive’s album “Demons Within” will be released in Japan today via Spiritual Beast and internationally via Reaper Entertainment.