EP review: Mayhem “Atavistic Black Disorder / Kommando”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Mayhem goes punk as well as revisiting its classic Norwegian black metal sound on new EP.

Ever since Mayhem was formed in the mid-80s, the band has sought controversy. They placed themselves right at the centre of the Norwegian black metal scene’s chaos of church burnings and death in the early 1990s. They seemed to work hard at wanting to be seen as the most evil and over-the-top black metal band in the world. They succeeded and chaos followed. But among all the chaos, there was great music. While there was non-stop drama, Mayhem was never only about the drama. They used the drama to draw attention to their dark and sinister music. From the band’s early days, bassist Necrobutcher and drummer Hellhammer remain. Hungarian singer Attila Csihar originally sang for the band in the early 90s, including recording vocals for the band’s cult classic debut album “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”. He returned to the band in 2004 and remains its lead vocalist since then. He is an excellent extreme metal vocalist and very suitable for Mayhem. He combines evil and dark vocals with haunting operatic parts. Guitarists Teloch (ex-Gorgoroth, 1349) and Ghul (ex-Cradle of Filth) have been in the band for the past decade or so and between them they have written most of the band’s songs during this period. While always working in the dark shadows, Mayhem has never shied away from taking the band’s music into new territories. The “Atavistic Black Disorder / Kommando” EP not only has two names it also has two musical styles. It contains three trademark Mayhem black metal tracks and four punk rock covers. The black metal on the EP is a “back to the future” kind of evolution, a return to a sound that reminds me of the band’s debut album. It is excellent dark and sinister black metal. “Voces Ab Alta”, “Black Glass Communion” and “Everlasting Dying Flame” were recorded during the studio sessions for the 2019 album “Daemon”. “Voces” is previously unreleased while the other two songs have appeared as bonus tracks on some editions of that album. But just issuing something that is a continuation of their last album isn’t very Mayhem. That is why this EP also contains four punk rock covers. We get straightforward and excellent basement punk: Discharge’s “In Defence of Our Future” (featuring guest vocals from original Mayhem vocalist Messiah), Dead Kennedys’ “Hellnation” (with former Mayhem vocalist Maniac guesting), Rudimentary Peni’s “Only Death” and the Ramones’ “Commando”. Excellent stuff.

Mayhem at its best: paying respect to both their black metal and punk roots on the same EP. Dark and damp awesomeness!

Mayhem’s “Atavistic Black Disorder / Kommando” EP will be released on 9th July via Century Media Records.



Album review: At The Gates “The Nightmare of Being”

Jonas Stålhammar and Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates on stage in Tokyo in 2018.
Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish melodic death metal pioneers At The Gates push the boundaries on the new album.

Founded in 1990, At The Gates was one of the pioneering bands of the Gothenburg Sound of melodic death metal. The band shaped the sound of a whole subgenre of death metal and inspired extreme metal bands across the world. What do you do when you have a well-established signature sound that has been at the centre of an entire subgenre? Been there, done that. Well, if you’re At The Gates, when it’s time for your seventh studio album, you move on of course. Yes, fear not, the band’s signature sound is still there, including Tomas Lindberg’s characteristic voice. But – and this is a bloody big BUT – they are really pushing the boundaries on many of the songs on the new album. It’s a bit as if Frank Zappa had decided to play death metal. At The Gates always had a bit more darkness than its peers and also more progressive elements in its music, but this time the band is really going for it. “The Nightmare of Being” is death metal’s answer to The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club”. The band line-up is the same as on the last album, 2018’s “To Drink From the Night Itself”. In addition to Tomas, there is Martin Larsson and Jonas Stålhammar on guitars, Jonas Björler on bass and Adrian Erlandsson on drums. On the wonderful track “Garden of Cyprus”, the band goes full avant-garde prog/jazz rock meets death metal with freaking saxophones and all! This album is not what I expected but bloody hell, it is terrific! They have really taken some artistic freedom here and created something new. This was always an intense and creative band, but now we’re not only talking about breaking down borders, this time it is about refusing to recognise that there are borders. The result, to me, is unexpected but better than I could ever imagine. The track “The Fall into Time” is like a mini rock opera with everything from “normal” melodic death metal to experimental and jam-tastic prog metal crammed into six minutes and forty-five seconds. The music is exquisite. The track “Cosmic Pessimism” is fantastic. I had it on in the background as I was working on my laptop. At the end of the song, when I realised that I was still listening to the forthcoming At The Gates album, a big smile appeared across my face. The track reminds me somewhat of Behemoth frontman Nergal’s dark folk project Me and That Man. King Diamond guitarist Andy La Rocque was involved in the production of this fab album and he also contributed a smashing guitar solo on the track “Spectre of Extinction”. Long live At The Gates and the band’s refusal to conform. Obviously, I love their old-school Gothenburg sound from the early days of the band. But this partly new direction on the new album takes this to a whole new level. There is so much good and unexpected stuff on “The Nightmare of Being”. You should buy it and experience it for yourself. You are worth it. You deserve it. It’s fucking awesome.

At The Gates’ album “The Nightmare of Being” will be released on 2nd July via Century Media Records.

Jonas Björler of At The Gates on stage in Tokyo in 2018. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks



Album review: Assault “In Aevum Et Illustrata”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Singaporean melodic death metal at its best on Assault’s new album.

Assault is a terrific melodic death metal band from Singapore. The band was formed in 2006 and “In Aevum Et Illustrata” is the band’s third release following the 2011 EP “The Exceptions of the Rebellions” and 2017’s full-length album “The Fallen Reich”. This band has something that too many melodic death metal bands lack, a terrific singer. The band’s founder and lead vocalist Clarence Chong has the chops to belt out his fierce but still melodic vocals. He has aggression, power and a massive pinch of “pissed-offness”. But he is singing, even when growling. He is not just randomly screaming like so many others do. Clarence’s vocals are a perfect fit for Assault’s music. In Assault, he is joined by Matt Noah and Hanesh Manoharan on guitars, Syazani Syazwan on bass and Mitch Goon on drums. Musically they’re great, they have very good songs and the production is spot on. From the album’s horror movie-like instrumental intro and throughout the album, there is an atmospheric feel to the production in a theatrical King Diamond kind of way. This is melodic death metal the way it is meant to be – aggressive, full of energy, dramatic and yet with splendid melodies. It is a rock solid album. I love it. The splendid track “1788” has a furious chorus, some great sound effects and soundbites and is topped off with a exquisite guitar solo by former Mors Principium Est guitarist Andy Gillion. Other splendid tracks include “Oration of Lies”, “MDCCLXXVI: Novus Ordo Seclorum” (beautiful instrumentation and variety in style), “Age of Enlightenment”, “Minerva” (sheer aggression), “Orders of the Bavarian” (the guitars!) and “The Awakening”. What a band! What an album! Singaporean awesomeness!

Assault’s album “In Aevum Et Illustrata” is out now via Eastbreath Records.



Album review: Lacuna Coil “Live from the Apocalypse”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

A live performance recorded in front of nobody? Lacuna Coil pulls it off. This is a terrific live album.

Modern Italian metal band Lacuna Coil’s contemporary sound where pop melodies sit comfortably on the same couch as growling mayhem, isn’t for everyone. They don’t care what you think metal should sound like. They do their own thing and they are very good at it. On this 16-track live release we get some splendid music performed by a band of musicians on top of their game. I saw them live here in Japan in 2016 and on this live album we get an equally impressive show. This is a band confident in themselves and their abilities. In the past decade or so, there has been a wave of bands combining heaviness with catchy melodies. Some pull it off, others fall on their asses. Lacuna Coil is one of the best of these bands. Formed in Milan in 1994, Lacuna Coil’s easily recognisable signature sound is based on heavy guitar riffs, dreamy keyboards and the combination of Cristina Scabbia’s beautiful voice and Andrea Ferro’s growls. Powerful, dreamy, modern, hard-hitting and contrasting. It’s all there in Lacuna Coil’s music. In addition to vocalists Cristina and Andrea, the band consists of Diego Cavallotti (guitar), Marco Coti Zelati (bass, keyboards, guitar) and Richard Meiz (drums). This live release is a great testimony to what this band is capable of. Lacuna Coil, unlike some other bands, is not a studio product that can’t be performed live. This is not the band’s first live release, but it is by far its best. It was recorded live in their hometown of Milan in September 2020, but there were no fans present. This was a pandemic-era live stream enjoyed by fans around the world but with no one at the venue. A live album recorded without an audience is weird, yes, but the band pulls it off. Performing in front of an empty venue with no audience reaction to feed off must be hard. On that evening in Milan, the band performed its 2019 album “Black Anima” in its entirety, all 14 songs, including “Black Feathers, “Through the Flames” and “Black Dried Up Heart” that were bonus tracks on some editions of the original album. The album also features a live version of the track “Bad Things” (the original studio version was released as an Amazon exclusive) and we get a second version of the terrific track “Save Me”. The splendid so-called “Apocalypse Version” of “Save Me” is performed as a piano ballad (with Silvia Zanaboni guesting behind the piano). The piano provides a terrific frame to Cristina Scabbia’s voice. The studio album “Black Anima” was great, but this live version is so much better. A great live album recorded in front of no audience whatsoever, who would’ve thought?

Lacuna Coil “Live from the Apocalypse” is out today via Century Media Records.



Album review: Mad Invasion “Edge of the World”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Mad Invasion combines classic 70s hard rock with 80s melodic hard rock and modern influences on its debut album.

Mad Invasion may be a name new to many music fans, but in this band, we find some seasoned musicians. Mad Invasion consists of Pete Sandberg (Alien, Madison) on vocals, Björn Dahlberg on guitar, Hal Marabel (Bad Habit) on guitar and keyboards, Mats Jeppsson (Raise Cain) on bass and Mats Bergentz (Silver Mountain, Syron Vanes) on drums. The music on the band’s ten-track debut album “Edge of the World” follows a proud Swedish tradition of melodic hard rock, although Mad Invasion has a bit more traditional 70s hard rock in its music than some of the other bands in the genre. This band has managed to establish a signature sound that is somewhat different – and better – than the typical melodic hard rock sound where it is often hard to distinguish between different bands. They all sound the same. Mad Invasion manages to avoid that. The result of their classic 70s hard rock/80s melodic hard rock combo is great and the contemporary seasoning they have added on top makes it different in a great way. Most songs on the album manage to include all those three distinct musical elements. “Walking in the Shadows” is terrifically catchy and an immediate favourite, not least due to the heavy-yet-slow guitars. “Devil’s Calling” will be released as the first single from the album and it is an obvious choice. The title track “Edge of the World” is one of the strongest tracks on the album and another stand-out track for me is “Scream’n Shout” because of its drive and energy. “Crazy & Wild” has a splendid combination of heavy guitar riffs, 80s keyboards and an addictive chorus. Overall, I think this band will go down well with fans of melodic Swedish hard rock, because this is both great and different from the pack.

Mad Invasion’s debut album “Edge of the World” will be released on 24th September. The first single “Devil’s Calling” will be released on 25th June. Pre-order the album here: www.linktr.ee/madinvasion


Album review: Motörhead “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” deluxe box set

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The best-ever live album gets released in an expanded 71-song deluxe box set format! It doesn’t get any better than this! This is gold for both casual Motörhead fans and devoted Motörhead archaeologists.

Motörhead’s live album “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” was released four decades ago and it has never been equalled. How can one possibly improve the best live album to ever be released? Well, adding a shit load of extra material and release it in a mega box set is one way to do it and that is what BMG is doing. “No Sleep” is getting a special box set release with no fewer than 71 songs! If you, like me, consider this album, originally released in 1981 via Bronze Records, as the best-ever live album, the sixty bonus tracks that are included in this box set are a terrific gift to mankind. This is gold for both casual Motörhead fans and devoted Motörhead archaeologists. This is a fab opportunity not only to hear what was arguably the band’s best-ever line-up at the peak of their creative abilities. It is also a historical document that gives some fantastic insights into where the band was at in 1980 and 1981. The band line-up for this tour was Lemmy Kilmister on bass and vocals, Fast Eddie Clarke on guitar and Philthy Animal Taylor on drums. With all members of that powerful line-up now dead, this is a terrific way to remember how good they were as a live act at that specific point in their career. They had a magnificent combination of great songs, terrific performances by fab musicians and an excellent raw energy. Motörhead was a band that always delivered throughout the years and the different line-ups, but 1980-81 was certainly one of the band’s absolute peaks. One of the best-ever hard rock bands recorded live when they were at their absolute best!

Despite name-dropping the legendary London venue Hammersmith in the album title, Motörhead didn’t play there on the “Short Sharp Pain in the Neck” tour. The original live album (which reached number one on the UK album chart) consisted of eleven tracks, most of which were recorded during shows in Newcastle and Leeds on 28th-30th March 1981 (the exception being “Iron Horse/Born to Lose” which was recorded at an unspecified location in 1980). The original live LP included two songs from their 1977 self-titled debut album (“Iron Horse/Born to Lose” and “Motörhead”), five songs from 1979’s “Overkill” (the title track plus “Stay Clean”, “Capricorn”, “No Class” and “Metropolis”), the title track from 1979’s “Bomber” and three songs from 1980’s “Ace of Spades” (the title track plus “(We Are) The Road Crew” and “The Hammer”). In addition to the songs from the original live album (here presented in remastered versions), this terrific 71-track box set offers us a couple of bonus tracks from earlier CD reissues (“Over the Top” and “Train Kept A-Rolling”) as well as the full two Newcastle shows and the Leeds show from that 1981 tour of the UK. There are also three terrific songs recorded during a soundcheck in Newcastle: “Stay Clean”, “Limb from Limb” and “Iron Horse”. Among the bonus material we get raw versions of the songs “Shoot You in the Back”, “Jailbait”, “Leaving Here” (a cover song that was the band’s debut single in 1977), “Fire, Fire”, “Too Late, Too Late”, “Bite the Bullet” and “The Chase Is Better Than the Catch”.

They were Motörhead. They played rock’n’roll. Don’t forget them.

Motörhead’s four-CD deluxe box set “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” will be released on 25th June via BMG. The deluxe edition includes a 28-page book, poster, plectrum, tour pass, ticket, flyer and badge. Alternative 3-LP and 2-CD editions feature the new remastered songs from “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith and the full Newcastle show from 30th March 1981.


The Official Motörhead website

EP review: Death Reich “Death Camp”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Death Reich gives us old-school meat-and-potatoes death metal with plenty of aggression and energy.

Death Reich is a death metal band from Uddevalla, Sweden. On the “Death Camp” EP, the band’s first official release, we get two very good original songs, the title track “Death Camp” and “Hunger”. We also get the Metallica cover “Fight Fire with Fire”. Turning Metallica’s thrash metal into death metal works fine (the Swedish lads manage to put their own spin on it), but, personally, I much prefer Death Reich’s own songs, especially the splendid “Hunger”. Death Reich plays fast, furious and uncompromising death metal. It’s old-school meat-and-potatoes death metal with plenty of aggression and energy. There’s nothing polished or modern about this stenchy music. It has a terrific underground feel to it which brings me back to the late 1980s and early 90s when Sweden had a terrific local death metal scene. Death Reich consists of Jonas Blom (drums), Johnny Lehto (vocals), Christer Bergqvist (guitar), Robert Babic (guitar) and Robert Axelsson (bass). These five bearded men are part of what seems like a very promising emerging wave of newer Swedish bands playing old-school death metal. There is hope for a bleak, stenchy and aggressive future!

Death Reich’s EP “Death Camp” will be released via Non Serviam Records on 16th July.


Album review: Social Disorder “Love 2 Be Hated”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish multi-instrumentalist Anders “LA” Rönnblom teams up with Tracii Guns, Rudy Sarzo, Snowy Shaw and other stars in new classic hard rock project Social Disorder.

Swedish musician Anders “LA” Rönnblom has launched a new project called Social Disorder. The multi-instrumentalist plays guitar, bass and piano on the project’s debut album “Love 2 Be Hated” and is the project’s main songwriter. Among the many musicians contributing are guitarists Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) and Jeff Duncan (Armored Saint), bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio), Dave Stone (Rainbow) on keyboards and fellow Swede Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate) on drums. The ten-track album kicks off with “Windy Road”, a slow and solid track that is somewhat of a power ballad with a dramatic side to it. Rönnblom insists that “Love 2 Be Hated” is not a concept album (although most of the lyrics on the album are a journey through the difficult parts of his life), but the opening track has all the hallmarks of the beginning of a concept album. “Dreaming” is a powerful melodic hard rock song. Very catchy, full of energy and with great guitars. The title track “Love 2 Be Hated” is another terrific track and “Raise a Glass” has excellent Jon Lord-like keyboard wizardry (as does many of the songs on the album). “Sail Away” is an epic piece of music and perhaps the peak of the album. It’s slow-paced bluesy hard rock somewhere between Rainbow and Whitesnake. “Down on My Knees” is great blues rock and “Out of Love” is very Whitesnake-y. “The One” is a piano ballad which no doubt will have its raving fans, but I prefer the heavier side of Social Disorder. The album closes with the amusing instrumental track “Wings of Serenity” where we get some instrument worshipping and wankery, but it’s still a very enjoyable track. The two things that stand out for me on this album, in addition to the solid musicianship (which is expected considering the players involved), are the splendid songwriting skills of Anders “LA” Rönnblom and the excellent voice of Thomas Nordin, a Swedish vocalist that I have never previously heard of. Who is he? Where has he been hiding? I want to hear more of him.

Social Disorder’s album “Love 2 Be Hated” will be released on 18th June via AFM Records.


Album review: Unflesh “Inhumation”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

New album from a blackened melodic death metal trio from New Hampshire.

Unflesh is a blackened melodic death metal trio from New Hampshire, USA. “Inhumation” is the band’s second album and follows their 2018 debut “Savior”. For this new album, band founder Ryan Beevers (guitar and vocals) has recruited new members Orion Hubbard on bass and Jeff Saltzman on drums. What we get here is soul-eating melodic death metal delivered with aggression and darkness. The basements of old New Hampshire houses can be rather damp. That smelly dampness shines through in the music of Unflesh. Good tracks like “Renounce Flesh and Blood”, “Amongst Horrors Must I Dwell”, “The Sepulchral Depths” and “Dehumanized Legion” demonstrate what these three gentlemen of darkness are capable of. Whatever has happened between these three men down in that basement (what happens in a New Hampshire basement stays in that New Hampshire basement), sweet extreme music is the result. Unflesh nicely combines technical and atmospheric parts with runaway freight-train meat-and-potatoes kind of death metal. It is underground music and it is beautiful music in its own smelly, extreme and dark way.

Unflesh’s new album “Inhumation” is out now.


Album review: The Vicious Head Society “Extinction Level Event”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Exquisite prog metal on new The Vicious Head Society album by Irishman Graham Keane.

“Extinction Level Event” is the second album by The Vicious Head Society, a progressive metal project by Irish musician Graham Keane. The Vicious Head Society debuted in 2017 with the album “Abject Tomorrow”. The follow up “Extinction Level Event” is a concept album about the end of the world. Well, cheer up, we’re not dead yet. And until the world ends, we can listen to this magnificent prog metal album. What we get is a modern-sounding progressive metal album with influences from all over the place. On a track like “Judgement” (clocking in at over ten minutes), death metal style growling sits next to some Oriental-inspired instrumental parts. Two of the album’s nine tracks are instrumental. On this new album, Graham (on guitar and keyboards) has the help of some fine musicians, such as Nathan Maxx (lead vocals), Klemen Markelj (drums), Pat Byrne of Irish prog rockers Hedfuzy (bass), Matheus Manente (bass), Nahuel Ramos (keyboards), Andy Ennis of Overoth (growls) and violinist Shelley Weiss. Australian guitarist Chris Brooks guests with some insane guitar work on the track “YP138”, one of the peaks of the album. What makes this an exquisite prog metal album is the combination of skilled musicians, excellent songwriting, a modern production and great musical variety. The album never gets boring. There are twists and turns as well as mood and tempo changes throughout this musical journey to the end of the world. And unlike some other prog metal acts, The Vicious Head Society keeps over-the-top musical wankery out of its music.

The Vicious Head Society’s new album “Extinction Level Event” is out now via Hostile Media.