Album review: The Dead Daisies “Locked and Loaded – The Covers Album”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

New album of classic rock covers by The Dead Daisies.

Rock veteran collective The Dead Daisies is, after a few very busy years with multiple album releases and constant touring, on a bit of a break. They are filling part of the gap by releasing a compilation album featuring cover songs they have recorded and played in recent years. The album’s highlights include “Fortunate Son”, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s era-defining anthem of dissent from 1969, as well as cool live versions of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” and Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. We also get covers of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, The Beatles, Howlin’ Wolf, The Who, The Rolling Stones and Neil Young. The Daisies has always been a band that is all about feelgood music and meat-and-potatoes rock’n’roll. Music to get a party started. They write terrific original material but have always made a point of also playing well-chosen covers. The Daisies has had a rotating line-up of music veterans coming and going with Aussie guitarist David Lowy the only constant. On this compilation, we can hear John Corabi, Doug Aldrich, Jackie Barnes, Deen Castronovo, Richard Fortus, Marco Mendoza, Dizzy Reed, Jon Stevens and Brian Tichy people with some serious pedigree from Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, Thin Lizzy, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Guns N’ Roses, Dio, Foreigner, Journey and much more. Just like this band is always a joy to see and hear, this album of covers, too, puts me in a good mood. It will do just fine until we get to hear some news about what’s next for the Daisies. 

The Dead Daisies’ “Locked and Loaded The Covers Album” will be released on 23rd August via Spitfire Music.

www.facebook.com/thedeaddaisies

www.thedeaddaisies.com

Album review: Riot “Live in Japan 2018”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

American metal band Riot’s love story with Japan continues with a new live release and upcoming Japan shows.

Riot has a long and proud tradition as one of the best American heavy metal bands. They have also had a great relationship with their Japanese fans and they always seem to come up with great things for the Japanese fans. In 2018 they toured Japan twice. This year we get a new Japanese live release (the band’s third) as well as two special shows in Kawasaki in October.

Riot, founded in New York in 1975, has seen its line-up evolve continuously over the years. Leading the current line-up of Riot (or Riot V as the band is now called outside of Japan) are guitarist Mike Flyntz and bassist Don Van Stavern who both joined the band in the 1980s. They are joined by Frank Gilchriest on drums, Nick Lee on guitar and vocalist Todd Michael Hall. While the band has no original members left, the current members deliver and are worthy of carrying on with the band name. Most importantly, they play the back catalogue very well, but they are also creating great new music in the Riot tradition, such as the terrific 2018 studio album “Armor of Light”.

This double live album, “Live in Japan 2018”, recorded at Club Citta in Kawasaki in March 2018, gives us all the good stuff from throughout the band’s long career. In 1990, the band recorded the live album “Riot in Japan – Live!!” and in 1998 they recorded “Shine On” during a Japan tour. Only Mike Flyntz was part of those earlier live albums and the setlist is very different on this new live album. Of course, we get some of the obvious classics, including “Thundersteel”, “Warrior” (with LoudnessMasayoshi Yamashita as a guest) and “Swords and Tequila”. But we also get fab newer songs such as “Messiah”, “Armor of Light”, “Ride Hard Live Free”, “Fall from the Sky”, “Take Me Back”, “Metal Warrior” and “Land of the Rising Sun”. The 23-track live release is a great showcase of Riot’s past and present. It’s a great band that is still relevant and still delivering at a top-level.

Riot’s “Live in Japan 2018”, released both as a live album and a live DVD/Blu-ray, is out now in Japan via Ward Records and internationally via AFM Records. On 5th and 6th October, Riot will be back at Club Citta for two special shows to celebrate the release of the new live release. Get your concert tickets here: www.clubcitta.co.jp/001/riot-2019/

Here’s Roppongi Rocks live review of one of the two Japan shows in March 2018: https://roppongirocks.com/2018/03/17/gig-review-riot-celebrates-30-years-of-thundersteel-at-club-citta/

www.facebook.com/riotrockcity

www.areyoureadytoriot.com

Album review: Attentat “Punkhjärta”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Swedish punk rock veterans Attentat are back with a great new album. “Punkhjärta” continues a proud Swedish tradition of power pop-infused shout-along punk rock.

Veteran punk rock band Attentat formed in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1978 and released their debut album “Tatuerade tårar” in 1981. They were one of the leading bands in the original Swedish punk rock scene along with bands such as Ebba Grön, Asta Kask and KSMB. Vocalist Mats Jönsson, guitarist Magnus ”Paddan” Rydman and bassist Cristian ”Crippa” Odin have all been in the band since the late 70s. In the current line-up, they are joined by newer additions Patrik Kruse on guitar and Dennis “Larry” Staaf on drums. The new album “Punkhjärta” (Swedish for “punk heart”) is a terrific take on punk rock of the Swedish kind that was established in the late 70s and early 80s. It is somewhat angry punk rock but with plenty of pop influences and great melodic touches. It’s music with attitude made to sing along to, with lyrics based on everyday observations. The lyrics are all in Swedish as was almost always the case with the early Swedish punk bands. The band’s lyrics are quite simple but they work a treat as they are also very direct. On the new album, we get to hear the Attentat that we got to know and like back in the day. Sure, they are older, perhaps somewhat wiser, and they now sound a bit more mature. But that’s OK. They’re not teenagers any more and neither am I. The standout track for me is the terrifically weird and wonderful “Pissa på”. I love the contrasts and tempo changes and the terrific chorus. “Vad får jag” is another great, but more direct, track in the proud Swedish tradition of shout-along punk rock and power pop, while the emotional and depressing love song “Esmeralda” plays out with a supermarket as a backdrop. What a welcome surprise to see that Attentat is still a very relevant band and one that can still entertain us! 

Attentat’s new album “Punkhjärta” will be released on 23rd August via Busy Bee Production.

www.facebook.com/attentatgbg

www.attentat.nu

Album review: Destruction “Born to Perish”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

German thrash metal band Destruction is once again a quartet. 35 years after their first demo cassette they are as good as ever. “Born to Perish” is world-class thrash metal.

Destruction plays hard-hitting and punishing thrash metal of the German kind. This is world-class thrash metal with deep roots in the 1980s thrash metal scene but with a contemporary sound. The band is still fronted by Mike Sifringer (guitar) and Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer (bass and vocals) who co-founded the band in 1982. They released their first demo cassette “Bestial Invasion of Hell” in 1984 and their debut studio album “Infernal Overkill” in 1985. The band was early on firmly established as one of Germany’s leading thrash metal bands and they have remained at the forefront of German metal. So, what’s new this time? Terrific Canadian drummer Randy Black (Primal Fear, Annihilator, W.A.S.P.) joined the band during last year’s tour. He’s an animal on the drum stool and a perfect match for Destruction. The band is also no longer a trio – they’re once again a quartet since they added Swiss guitarist Damir Eskic. The new line-up is all we could ever hope for. It’s solid, punishing and tighter than tight.

Having seen Schmier and Mike perform live with Randy in Tokyo last year, my expectations on the new studio album were sky-high. The addition of a second guitarist got me even more excited. I am very glad that the band lives up to and even exceeds my expectations. The song titles are in line what we have come to expect from Destruction: “Born to Perish”, “Inspired by Death”, “Betrayal”, “Rotten”, “Filthy Wealth”, “Butchered for Life”, “Tyrants of the Netherworld”, “We Breed Evil”, “Fatal Flight 17” and “Ratcatcher”. Musical highlights on this new album include the terrific title track as well as “Inspired by Death”, “Betrayal”, “Rotten” and “Filthy Wealth”. Most of the songs are gloriously fast and furious. It seems that Black and Eskic have given their German friends an international vitamin injection. “Butchered for Life” is a bit different – starting off as a sinister kind of ballad before exploding into chaos, then calming down again for a guitar solo and then yoyoing back and forth between different styles. It’s a bit different but very good. Destruction delivers crushingly good stuff on this new album. Today’s Destruction is a terrific version of the band and the new songs are up there with the band’s classics.

Destruction’s album “Born to Perish” will be released on 9th August via Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally.

www.facebook.com/destruction

www.destruction.de

Album review: HammerFall “Dominion”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Swedish heavy metal band HammerFall is back with “Dominion”, its eleventh studio album. This band is still all about good-fun and bombastic shout-along melodic heavy metal.

“Dominion” is HammerFall’s eleventh studio album since the band was formed in 1993 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Guitarist Oscar Dronjak is the only original member left in the band. Early line-ups of the band featured members from In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. Frontman Joacim Cans has been in the band for 23 years now and has sung on all of its albums. The current line-up also features Fredrik Larsson (Evergrey) on bass, Pontus Norgren (Talisman, The Poodles, Zan Clan, Great King Rat, Jeff Scott Soto) on guitar and David Wallin (Pain) on drums.

After all these years, HammerFall has a well-established signature sound which is melodic heavy metal with plenty of power metal and NWOBHM influences. HammerFall plays melodic, high-energy metal. At times it’s bombastic and often humorous. But this band is for real and they are on a heavy metal mission. The new “Dominion” album is more of the same music that we have heard before. They are not reinventing themselves here, but no one wants them to do that anyway. If you like your metal based on the classic 80s metal sound and with plenty of shout-along anthems and plenty of opportunities to play air guitar, this is for you. The track “We Make Sweden Rock” is both fun and terrific at the same time. This is good-fun metal with plenty of echoes of the 1980s but without sounding retro. This is a band that knows what its mission is and the band members are very good at what they do. “Second to One” is a great power ballad complete with emotional vocals, piano and a fine guitar solo. But it is with heavy metal songs such as “Scars of a Generation” and “Dead by Dawn” – with terrific metal guitar riffing – that HammerFall shows us its best side in my opinion. Song titles such as “Battleworn”, “Bloodline”, “Chain of Command”, “Dominion”, “One Against the World” and “Never Forgive, Never Forget” are part of a long and proud tradition of heavy metal lyrics. We Make Sweden Rock indeed. Japan too.

HammerFall’s new album “Dominion” will be released on 16th August in Japan via Ward Records and internationally via Napalm Records. On 15th September, they will perform in Tokyo.

www.hammerfall.net

www.facebook.com/hammerfall

Album review: Hellsingland Underground “A Hundred Years Is Nothing”

Hellsingland Underground. Photo: Emmy Åhström

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Hellsingland Underground is back with the band’s fifth studio album. This time with a more mature and bigger soundscape with lots and lots of keyboards and piano mixed in with the guitars and Charlie Granberg’s terrific storytelling. The end result is magic.

Known as a terrific and high-energy live band, Hellsingland Underground has always also delivered in the studio. They released their self-titled debut album in 2008 and all their five studio albums are great. Having started off with a combination of Swedish melancholic folk-rock and Southern Americana rock, the band’s sound has evolved on every album. Nowadays they seem to have few if any, musical limits. “A Hundred Years Is Nothing” is the follow-up to 2016’s “Understanding Gravity” and here we can hear the band creating great music without worrying about fitting into any specific genre. The band’s current line-up consists of Charlie Granberg (vocals), Peter Henriksson (guitar), Jerry Ask (guitar), Thomas Pettersson (keyboards and piano), Martin Karlsson (bass) and Patrik Jansson (drums and percussion).

I could write about the band’s evolved soundscape where David Bowie now seems to have moved into Neil Young’s garage right next to John Belushi, Joey Ramone, Ray Manzarek and Jon Lord…and Scott Gorham’s guitars still standing there. 

I could write about the smart and beautiful use of various forms of piano, organs and keyboards by what is essentially a guitar band.

I could write about how frontman Charlie Granberg has lifted the band with his production of this set of exquisite new songs. It’s a very cool production where a more mature Hellsingland Underground emerges, with no musical limits. There is a great atmosphere to the songs that without being rushed get some space to breathe. Somehow, the songs still manage to retain that excellent raw energy that drives the band. The main focus remains on the songs that live in a wide musical range stretching from dusty rock via pop and bluesy country rock to I don’t know what. 

I could write about how the background vocals of new guitarist Jerry Ask have added a great dimension to the atmosphere of the songs. 

I could write about very diverse new songs such as “Carnival Beyond the Hills”, “Strangelands”, “Pig Farm”, “Elephant”, “Rainbow’s Gold”, “The Blessing and the Curse” and “Bloodlines”.

I could write about the splendid “Criminal Summer”, one of the most beautiful and best songs of the year so far (The piano! The guitars! The genius “tarararara-oolalalala-ratatatata” vocals!).

I could write about how I grew up in the same neighbourhood as frontman Charlie Granberg and how, in the 1980s, we played in the same rehearsal studio. (Well, “studio” might be too fancy a word to describe the shabby rehearsal space in the attic of the by-then closed-down Fenix cinema in Ljusdal, Hellsingland.) He was a heavy metal drummer back then, but It was always obvious to me that this was a driven man who would choose his own path and make a success of it.

But no. I am not going to do that. I am just going to sit here, with a big smile across my face and enjoy the masterpiece that “A Hundred Years Is Nothing” is. The music speaks for itself. I love this band. You should too.

Hellsingland Underground’s new album “A Hundred Years Is Nothing” will be released on 30th August via Wild Kingdom/Sound Pollution Distribution. 

www.facebook.com/hellsinglandunderground

www.hellsinglandunderground.com

Album review: Neuroticos “Kill for God”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Brazilian-Japanese death metal band Neuroticos is finally releasing its debut full-length studio album some 15 years after forming. The wait has been worth it. This is one crushing metal album without compromises.

Formed in Hiroshima, Japan in 2004, Neuroticos is led by Brazilian brothers Bruno Dias Matsuda (vocals) and Kleber Dias Matsuda (guitar) and also consists of Jumpei Nakamura on bass and Yuichi Ishiguro on drums. I have seen them perform live in Tokyo a number of times and have always been impressed with their crushing delivery of this terrific kind of underground death metal. Neuroticos’ music is always brutal, crushing and without compromises. If you like your metal extreme and hard-hitting, this is a band for you. Neuroticos plays a version of metal firmly based on old-school death metal, but without sounding dated. This is not retro music. This is here and now. They have created their own music based on Brazil’s proud tradition of extreme metal. “Kill for God”, the band’s first full-length album, opens with some haunting church bells and some splendid heavy guitar riffs before the mayhem kicks off. The title track is among the album’s best tracks. It’s like being hit in the face with a metal bar and then dragged behind a getaway car. Fantastic! “Blinded by War” is another favourite track. But “Pray Until You Die” is the stand-out track on this album for me. It immediately knocks you to the ground, helps you up on your feet again, only to kick you to the ground again. Brutal! Overall “Kill for God” is a splendid album and Neuroticos is among the best of the many interesting metal bands in Japan today.

Neuroticos’ album “Kill for God” will be released on 16th June. To mark the release of the album, the band will tour Japan during July with shows in Hiroshima, Osaka, Tokyo, Sendai, Nagano, Nagoya and Sapporo. 

www.facebook.com/neuroticos.official

www.neuroticos.com

EP review: The Babes “It Ain’t Easy”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Aussie rock band The Babes has a great EP out and will tour Japan this month.

“It Ain’t Easy” is a four-track EP that is a great introduction to The Babes, a good-fun rock band based in Adelaide, Australia. It’s a family business: three of the four members are siblings and their dad is their manager. Of the four great tracks on the EP, my favourite is the terrific “Ride It”, a rock song with a punk attitude. The band has opened for artists such as Ace Frehley, Hardcore Superstar, Cherie Currie and Sebastian Bach, which should give you a hint of what type of music this is. This is meat-and-potatoes rock’n’roll made to entertain. It’s straightforward party music, nothing too deep. Bring out the beers and turn up the volume. The Babes are here to give you a good time. The EP closes with “Always Ridin’” a hair metal power ballad that is a soundtrack to get laid to. They call their music “underdog rock”, but that will have to change soon as these Aussies are now winners. Live on stage these songs will be great at getting a crowd going. The band has already toured the US and extensively at home in Australia. Now they’re taking on Japan.

The Babes will play in Tokyo on Sunday 23rd June as one of the opening acts for Girlschool and Venom Inc, and will also do gigs in Tachikawa and Kyoto as well as an in-store appearance in Osaka. 

www.thebabesrock.com

www.facebook.com/thebabesrock

Single review: Dambusters “All the Way to Your Heart”

Dambusters. Photo: Lori Bockelken

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

With pedigree from Cactus, Quiet Riot, Dee Snider and Noisy Mama, American band Dambusters play straightforward, but groovy, rock’n’roll. Their first single is out today.

Freddy Villano is one of the nicest guys in American rock and also a rock-solid bassist. Having made a name for himself in the early part of his career with Quiet Riot and Dee Snider’s Widowmaker, more recently he has been releasing music with American Mafia and now with Dambusters. “All the Way to Your Heart”, the band’s first digital single, is an unpolished gem of a song. The production is raw and straightforward, no fancy stuff. And that is a good thing. This kind of music is best served straight-up and raw. Should this be repackaged in some overproduced, fancy and shiny format, it wouldn’t work. Now, as a straightforward rock song performed more or less live in the studio, it sounds great. In Dambusters, Villano has teamed up with guitarist Jimmy Gumina (Noisy Mama), drummer Vic Pullen (Larry Mitchell, Francis Dunnery) and a guest appearance by vocalist Jimmy Kunes (Cactus, Savoy Brown). Having also heard some more yet unreleased songs from the same studio sessions, it is obvious that the Dambusters boys have something interesting going on here. There is pedigree, know-how and also chemistry. This is blues-based hard rock performed by a bunch of seasoned rockers. It’s good stuff.

Dambusters’ single “All the Way to Your Heart” is out today.

www.facebook.com/dambustersbandofficial

Album review: Xentrix “Bury the Pain”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

British band Xentrix is back with a new line-up and a terrific album of excellent thrash metal.

British thrash metal band Xentrix may not be known to the masses, but they formed already back in 1985. They are perhaps best known for their tongue-in-cheek thrash metal version of the “Ghostbusters” theme song. But gimmicks aside, it is very evident on their new album “Bury the Pain” that this is a quality thrash metal band. They have both the musical skills and the songs to be real contenders. Xentrix’s music is firmly rooted in old-school thrash metal, but they do not sound dated at all. They have brought the classic thrash metal sound with them to here and now. 

New vocalist Jay Walsh’s voice reminds me a lot about how Dee Snider sounds on his latest album, 2018’s “For the Love of Metal”. The more I listen to Xentrix I realise that the music is also not miles away from the songs on Snider’s album. Just listen to the fantastic song “There Will Be Consequences” and it oozes Dee Snider. It’s as if someone has listened to Snider’s album and decided to do a thrash metal version of it. I don’t know if that is the case, I guess not, but the result is terrific. This is a hard-hitting thrash metal album with terrific guitars, great melodies and a vocalist that does this music justice. Bassist Chris Shires is another newcomer in the band which also includes Kristian Havard on guitar and Dennis Gasser on drums. The hard-hitting “Bleeding Out” is the highlight of the album, but there are also many more great tracks on this terrific album. In fact, there are no weak songs at all. This solid and modern thrash metal album has been produced by Judas Priest’s Andy Sneap. I dig it.

Xentrix’s album “Bury the Pain” will be released on 7th June by Listenable Records. The Japanese edition will be released by Spiritual Beast on 17th July with a bonus track. 

www.facebook.com/xentrixmetal

www.xentrix.co.uk