Album review: Elderblood “Achrony”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Elderblood has taken a turn to a more classic black metal sound on its third album.

Elderblood’s new album “Achrony” is the Ukrainian black metal band’s third studio album. The band was founded in Kharkiv, Ukraine in 2011 by Astargh. On its earlier albums, 2013’s “Son of the Morning” and 2016’s “Messiah”, Elderblood has played symphonic black metal. On the new album, “Achrony”, some of those tendencies are still there (listen to the beautiful drama on the track “Holy Plague”), but there has been a slight shift to a more straightforward black metal sound on this album. The ten-track album goes deep into humankind’s darkest holes. It’s a walk through the ashes of human decay. The epic hopelessness of “Soot” is a clear favourite on the album. Other standout tracks on a very even album include “The Great Fire of Sacrifice”, “Life Eternal”, “The One Who Has Not Yet Come” and “The New Testament” (the haunting chants!). This is a dark, sinister and haunting black metal album. If you like your metal served up evil, this album won’t disappoint.

Elderblood’s album “Achrony” is out now via Drakkar Productions.

EP review: Sodom “Bombenhagel”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German thrash metal legend Tom Angelripper and his Sodom are back with a fab new three-track EP.

Forty years since it was founded, German thrash metal band Sodom is as good as ever and still led from the front by Tom Angelripper. The “Bombenhagel” EP is everything we could have hoped for. The title track is a re-recording of an old classic Sodom song with the band’s current line-up. “Bombenhagel” originally appeared on Sodom’s 1987 album “Persecution Mania”. The original version contained a guest guitar solo by producer and studio engineer Harris Johns and, yes, he is back with another guitar solo for this great new version of the song. The other two songs on this EP, “Coup de Grace” and “Pestiferous Posse”, are brand new songs. “Coup de Grace” is my favourite track here because the way it kicks off with a runaway lead guitar, continues with heavy and hard-hitting thrash metal of the classic Sodom kind and finishes with an Angelripper scream. “Pestiferous Posse” is a splendid song that is also heavy-as-hell but it has some more tempo variations and slows down quite a bit in the middle. The current line-up of the band is the same as recorded last year’s full-length album “Genesis XIX”: Tom Angelripper on bass and vocals, Frank Blackfire and Yorck Segatz on guitars and Toni Merkel on drums. It is a very strong line-up, quite possibly the best-ever version of the band.

Sodom’s EP “Bombenhagel” will be released on 20th August via Steamhammer/SPV.

Album review: Imari Tones “Nabeshima”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Imari Tones gives us Japanese Christian alternative rock on a 24-track double album.

Japan is no stranger to the weird and wonderful, especially in the creative space. Imari Tones is a band that introduces itself like this: “Imari Tones is a Christian heavy metal band from Japan. Yes, you heard it right. Japan, metal, Jesus.” Well, religion is not my thing but Japanese weirdness very much is. Musically, there’s plenty of Japanese weirdness, a little bit of metal (such as on the track “Screaming Sin”), but Imari Tones is mostly alternative rock. The album contains songs in both Japanese and English and the song material varies quite a bit, both in style and quality. As this is a 24-track double album, it would have benefitted from being scaled down in size. It’s better to have a great 12-track album then a double album with too many fillers. “Atomic Jam” is pure weirdness and one of the best tracks on this album. Another weird and wonderful song is “Extravaganza”. “Passion” isn’t quirky but it’s a good song with some metal guitars and “Sakura Day” is a beautiful little track. I dig the quirky side of this band. Next time they should probably stop calling themselves a heavy metal band and instead do a five-track EP filled with quirky and weird Japanese alternative rock. They’re good at that.

Imari Tones’ double album “Nabeshima” is out now via Sliptrick Records.

Album review: Steignyr “The Legacy of Wyrd”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Folk metal from Barcelona: Steignyr takes its listeners on a mythical journey on its new album.

Steignyr’s music has been described as epic Celtic death metal and that is certainly one side of this European folk metal band. But this music goes beyond the limitations of the “Celtic” and “death metal” labels. Some of this is pure folk music, some of it is beautiful storytelling and then we have the folk metal combination, the extreme metal parts and much more. Call it what you like, it’s good music. Steignyr was founded by vocalist and guitarist Jon Thorgrimr Fjonirin in Barcelona in 2012. The band toured in Spain and recorded two EPs before it released its debut full-length album “Tales of a Forgotten Hero” in 2014. The new album, “The Legacy of Wyrd”, is the band’s fourth full-length album. Steignyr lives in a mythical world created by the combination of traditional European folk music and heavy metal with plenty of harsh growling vocals by Jon Thorgrimr Fjonirin mixed with the more angelic female voice of Kathonya. The storytelling folk music of the album’s title track is an obvious highlight with all its beauty. “The Rising of Death” gives us the aforementioned Celtic death metal and “Edevane” continues that journey. I like that Steignyr is not taking the easy and quick route with its music. Some of its songs are rather complex and less than immediate. The music grows once the listener pays proper attention to it. This is intelligent music that demands the listener’s attention. It’s not casual music and perhaps an acquired taste. “Immortal Family” is one such song that just keeps growing the more I listen to it. “Rhythm of Time” is another such song which reveals new details in its busy soundscape every time I listen. The combination of epic roughness and the beautiful background choir of “The Well of Ice” makes it one of my favourite tracks. The spoken word contributions by Sarah Owen and Sir Ian McKellen (“The Lord of the Rings”) on “Prologue” and “Epilogue” respectively, as well as the dialogue between Kit Harington and Peter Dinklage (both of “Game of Thrones” fame) on “The Coming of Aland”, are great ways to frame this music in a fantasy storytelling setting. It dramatically adds a dimension to this album.

Steignyr’s new album “The Legacy of Wyrd” is out now via Art Gates Records.

Album review: Danko Jones “Power Trio”

Danko Jones on stage in Sydney in September 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Canadian power trio Danko Jones hits us in the face with its tenth album.

The “Power Trio” album opens with “I Want Out” and the listener can immediately recognise Danko Jones’ trademark vocals and music. Danko Jones is not reinventing the wheel here. They have found their formula and they keep delivering world-class hard rock both in the studio and live on stage This is catchy hard rock with attitude. It is music made to be performed at sweaty, beer-soaked rock clubs or at rock festivals. It is music that should be the soundtrack to your pre-party at home. It is music to drink to, a soundtrack to your lovemaking or perhaps a substitute for sex that won’t happen. It’s that good. “Power Trio” is Danko’s tenth studio album. Vocalist and guitarist Danko Jones founded this power trio that bears his name together with bassist John Calabrese in 1996. Drummer Rich Knox is a later addition, having joined the band in 2013. Danko and his Canadian power trio are what rock’n’roll is all about, what it should be. It’s shaking and riffing. It’s rocking and rolling. It grabs you by the balls. This is a power trio up there with the best. The eleven tracks on the new album are high-energy and bursting with attitude. Danko has a way with words like few others in the music business. Danko’s storytelling is more in line with the best punk rockers and rappers than other hard rock artists. When those words are put to music and performed by Danko and his trio, we get hard rock heaven. My favourite tracks on the new album include “Good Lookin’”, “Saturday”, “Blue Jean Denim Jumpsuit”, “Get to You”, “Flaunt It”, “Dangerous Kiss”… Well, OK, the whole album fits into my list of favourite songs. The album very fittingly finishes with “Start the Show”, a track which features a guest appearance from another power trio, Motörhead’s Phil Campbell. As has been the case with earlier Danko songs such as “I’m in a Band” and “I Gotta Rock”, here Danko sings about his love for performing with his band in front of his fans. This year, rock fans celebrate a quarter of a century of fab Canadian hard rock by this explosive trio. And yet it feels like they are only getting started.

Danko Jones’ new album “Power Trio” will be released on 27th August via the Mate In Germany label.

EP review: Lorna Shore “…And I Return to Nothingness”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lorna Shore, a terrific extreme metal band from New Jersey, returns with a new vocalist and a great three-track EP.

This EP does not only have one of the best titles of the year, it also has fab music filled with coldness, sadness, darkness, fierceness, heaviness and, yes, nothingness. Lorna Shore was formed in 2010 in New Jersey. In its early days, the band played music which was somewhere in the metalcore and deathcore neighbourhood. Over the years the sound has evolved and wondered into black metal territory. Is it still deathcore? Maybe, but what is certain is that this is very good extreme metal. This is a band that is now sworn to the dark. There is no tuning around which is why they keep pushing ahead, deeper into the nothingness. It’s a scary yet beautiful journey into the valleys of death, the forests of despair and closer to the ultimate end. The track “Of the Abyss” is smashingly epic! The dramatic and haunting choral and keyboards arrangements in the background add a dimension to the song’s core mayhem. Atmospheric awesomeness! The other two tracks, “…And I Return to Nothingness” and “To the Hellfire”, are equally good and follow the same epic concept. If this band can take what they have on this three-track EP and deliver at the same level throughout a full-length album, then we have something really sinister brewing here. This EP is flawless decaying metal. The songwriting! The arrangements! The musicianship! The delivery! The whole bloody package is perfection. The current band line-up includes new vocalist Will Ramos (excellent harsh vocals with a tormented feel) as well as Adam De Micco (guitar), Austin Archey (drums) and Andrew O’Connor (guitar).

Lorna Shore’s EP “…And I Return to Nothingness” will be released on 13th August via Century Media Records.

EP review: Vaciø “Et Destituta Mortis”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Impressive debut EP from Spanish black metal band Vaciø.

“Et Destituta Mortis” is Vaciø’s debut EP. This Spanish band was formed in 2019 by A.84 (guitar and bass) and L.77 (vocals). On this EP, Diogo Mota of Gaerea has been brought in as a session drummer. On the EP’s three songs – “Two Moons (Between Phobos & Deimos)”, “Into the Jaws of Sobek” and “The Knowledge of the Void” – we get terrifically bleak black metal filled with feelings of hopelessness and nothingness. The EP was recorded during the summer of 2020, but make no mistake about it, the sun doesn’t shine where this music was created. This is damp darkness country and yet it is melodic in a black metal kind of way. It’s beautifully dark, fast, aggressive and heavy, filled with blast beats and tremolo picking. The band may be from Spain, but there are plenty of frozen Nordic influences here.

Vaciø’s EP “Et Destituta Mortis” is out now via Morbid Shrine Productions.

Album review: Hookers & Blow “Hookers & Blow”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dizzy Reed and Alex Grossi finally get the Hookers & Blow debut album done. It’s a good fun covers album with an excellent and eclectic mix of songs.

Hookers & Blow was formed in Los Angeles in 2003 by Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses and Alex Grossi of Quiet Riot as a fun side project. The band has since then been performing with many different guest musicians joining them on stage. Hookers & Blow is a band that is all about having a good time and entertaining people. It shows and spills over into the music on this album which is the band’s first. On this 12-track covers album we get to hear an eclectic mix of music. We get covers of songs by The Zombies, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Eddie Money, Body Count, Tom Petty, Blue Öyster Cult, The Beastie Boys and Elton John. The version of the Eddie Money track “Shakin’” is terrific. To cover the iconic “Ziggy Stardust” is very brave, but the Hookers pull it off. Blue Öyster Cult’s quirky “Godzilla” (featuring the LA-based Japanese Okai Sisters as guests) is the personal highlight for me. On the splendid Zeppelin cover “Trampled Foot” we get a guest appearance by the late Quiet Riot and W.A.S.P. drummer Frankie Banali who also appears on another Led Zep cover, “No Quarter”. The current Hookers & Blow line-up includes Dizzy Reed on vocals and keyboards, Alex Grossi on guitar, Mike Duda (W.A.S.P.) on bass, Johnny Kelly (Type O Negative, Danzig) on drums and vocalist Nadja Reed.

Hookers & Blow’s debut album is out now via Golden Robot Records.

Album review: Dee Snider “Leave a Scar”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dee Snider is rawer, more hard-hitting and less accommodating on his new album.

Dee Snider built up his stamina and perfected his style and on-stage persona during many years of doing local club gigs with Twisted Sister from the mid-70s. By the time Twisted Sister made it big in 1984, Dee and his bandmates were already seasoned which is why they, unlike some other bands making it big at that time, could deliver a proper stage show. Twisted Sister called it quits a few years ago, but Dee Snider soldiers on as a solo artist. On his new 12-track solo album, Dee continues the musical journey he has been on for some time now. It is less commercial than Twisted Sister’s big hits. I dig it. The new album is rawer, more hard-hitting and less accommodating than its predecessor, 2018’s “For the Love of Metal”. Don’t get me wrong, Dee’s music can be catchy as hell, but for the most part, this does not sound like music created with radio and MTV in mind (which probably was the case with Twisted Sister’s 80s hits). This is modern heavy metal built on a solid foundation of classic metal with Dee’s powerful voice at its heart. The songs are not as immediate as much of Dee’s earlier work. More importantly, it’s less predictable and bloody good. Stylistically it covers quite some ground – from catchy Twisted-like hair metal on “I Gotta Rock (Again)” via the metalcore of “In for the Kill” and the power ballad “Stand”, to the heavy brutality on “Time to Choose”, a song on which Cannibal Corpse’s vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher appears as a guest. Once again, Dee’s album has been produced by Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta. Dee’s band consists of Charlie Bellmore (guitar), Nick Bellmore (drums), Russell Pzütto (bass) and Nick Petrino (guitar).

Dee Snider’s album “Leave a Scar” is out on 30th July via Napalm Records.

Dee Snider

EP review: Graveyard Shifters “Head Turns First, Eyes Follow”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Finnish punk’n’roll on a new Graveyard Shifters EP.

This four-track EP from Graveyard Shifters, a punk’n’roll band from Finland, is good fun in a beers-and-hot dogs after work kind of way. The band formed in Kerava, Finland in 2013 and has since then done a handful of releases. “Fake It Till You Make It” is the EP’s strongest track. I especially like the very classy piano played during the high-energy chorus. Graveyard Shifters plays a mix of garage rock and punk with some heavy metal thrown in as well. Basically, this is a bunch of Finnish guys drinking beer and playing high-octane music created on a platform of sweat, energy and attitude. There are certainly some familiar musical hints here from the Michael Monroe-The Hellacopters-Backyard Babies crowd. The title track as well as the other tracks, “Whirlpool” and “Calm Down Before the Storm”, carry on in the same musical direction. It’s good stuff. Now, where’s my beer and can I have some mustard on that hot dog?

Graveyard Shifters’ EP “Head Turns First, Eyes Follow” will be released on 5th August.