Album review: The Rods “Brotherhood of Metal”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

American band The Rods, fronted by former Elf guitarist David “Rock” Feinstein, is back with a new studio album filled with classic metal.

Vocalist and guitarist David “Rock” Feinstein, a former member of Elf and cousin of Elf bandmate Ronnie James Dio, formed The Rods in 1980 with drummer Carl Canedy. Bassist Garry Bordonaro joined soon thereafter. Initially active in the 1980s, the band reunited in 2008 and has since been touring on and off. The Rods has also been recording new music since the reunion. The new “Brotherhood of Metal” album is the follow-up to 2011’s “Vengeance”. The new album opens with the anthem-like title track “Brotherhood of Metal” which no doubt will be a live favourite. The Rods’ music is firmly based in the classic metal of the 1980s. With song titles such as “Everybody’s Rockin’”, “Louder Than Loud”, “Tyrant King”, “Party All Night”, “Tonight We Ride”, “Hell on Earth” and “Evil in Me”, it is obvious that The Rods is a band that follows a well-established metal tradition when it comes to both music and lyrics. Although there is nothing revolutionary about The Rods’ music, many of their songs are easily recognisable as The Rods. Somehow they have managed to establish somewhat of a signature sound which is not just built on Feinstein’s voice. “The Devil Made Me Do It” is my favourite track on the album, a song that I also think will be great live. The song combines great rock with fantastic guitars and a shout-along chorus. Feelgood metal!  Overall this album is filled with good and fun classic metal music. Many of the album’s eleven songs will fit in nicely in the band’s live set. I hope they will make room for them among their classic songs from their 1980s albums. 

The Rods’ album “Brotherhood of Metal” will be released on 7th June via SPV/Steamhammer.

Album review: Dogface “From the End to the Beginning”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Sweden’s Dogface, with Mats Levén behind the microphone, calls it quits and marks the occasion with a terrific compilation album combining 1970s-style bluesy hard rock with 1980s-style AOR.

Dogface, a bit of a hidden Swedish gem not known to the masses, is a rock band that combines bluesy 1970s hard rock (think Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Rainbow) with the Swedish melodic hard rock of the 1980s. They top it all off with the terrific vocals of Mats Levén. The end result – great rock with some rather tasty Hammond organs among all the guitars – is great. Dogface was founded by Martin Kronlund in the late 1990s and they have released three studio albums since then. “From the End to the Beginning” is a 15-track compilation album meant to showcase the best of Dogface while at the same time mark the end of the band’s career as they have decided to call it quits. As many of you know, Mats Levén has some serious pedigree from acts such as Swedish Erotica, Treat, Candlemass, Krux, Yngwie Malmsteen, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and much more. His pipes are great at handling both the more British-style bluesy hard rock and the Swedish 80s melodic hard rock. The album’s full of songs where Levén gets to shine. “A Single Reason” is a very catchy song that puts Levén’s voice at the centre. It’s fantastic and very radio friendly. “Don’t” is another track that sounds like a radio hit. “I Will Be There” and “Alone Again” have plenty of Whitesnake echoes and so does quite a few of the songs on this album. But there’s some good variation here as well. ”Footsteps on the Moon” reminds me of some of the work Levén did with doom masters Candlemass. One of the best songs is “You’re Taking Me Down”, which was the first-ever song Levén recorded with the band. There seems to have been immediate personal and musical chemistry when Levén walked into the studio. Dogface never made it to the level of success the band members’ skills deserved. But if you are discovering this band now, at least here is a great collection of quality rock songs for you.

Dogface’s album “From the End to the Beginning” is out today via ScandiRock Records.

Album review: Extrema “Headbanging Forever”

Extrema. Photo: Annalisa Russo

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Italian thrash metal band Extrema returns with a new singer and a hard-hitting new album. 

Veteran Italian thrash metal band Extrema has opted to name its new album “Headbanging Forever”. It’s a suitable choice as continuous headbanging is what this is all about. Heavy guitar riffing which commands its listeners to headbang. With its feet firmly stuck in the old-school thrash metal mud, Extrema has built on that foundation and added some contemporary metal touches to make this thrash metal for 2019. The music is uncompromising, while at the same time, the band isn’t worrying too much about what it is expected of them. They just get on with it and play great metal music with various influences weaved into it. Guitarist Tommy Massara formed the band in Milan in the mid-1980s. Opening for Slayer on the Italian part of the “Reign in Blood” tour got the band some early attention. Massara is now the only remaining original member of the band and this new album introduces us to the new vocalist Tiziano “Titian” Spigno. “Borders of Fire” is a clear favourite song of mine on the album, which combines great guitars with a rhythm section behaving like a bulldozer and with Spigno’s rough-but-great vocals to top it all off. The fast “For the Loved and the Lost” is another highlight, while “Invisible” has somewhat of a great Machine Head vibe to it.

Extrema’s album “Headbanging Forever” is out now via Rockshots Records.

Album review: Corrosive Sweden “Blood and Panic”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Corrosive Sweden has released a smashing new album filled with a modern Scandinavian mix of aggressive and melodic metal.

Corrosive Sweden’s music is a modern mix of many things – some classic Megadeth-sounding riffing, a touch of The Haunted’s aggression, a pinch of Amorphis’ melodic heaviness as well as melodic parts in the proud Swedish tradition. This melting pot of musical influences has resulted in an interesting signature sound for the band. There’s plenty of angst in Johan Bengtsson’s angry vocals. His voice fits the music very well. Formed in Hudiksvall, Sweden in 1997, the band’s debut album “Wanted” was released in 2006. Since then they have released a number of albums, but it is with this new album they are taking things to a new level. Lead guitarist Christer Ulander, who joined in 2000, seems to be a driving force for the band’s evolving and guitar-happy sound. The new album opens with the fantastic “Fire from a Gun”, which sets the tone and expectations for the whole album. The modern metal track “Parasite” shows that this is an ambitious band with some great songwriting skills. “Speed” and “Angry Me” are smashing tracks that show the potential of this band. They are clearly trying to do their own thing without worrying too much about how things are “supposed” to sound in order to fit into a specific sub-category.

Corrosive Sweden’s album “Blood and Panic” is out now via BMP Records.

Album review: Grand Magus “Wolf God”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Swedish heavy metal trio Grand Magus’ ninth album is filled with muscle rock built on thunderous drums, doomy riffs and JB Christoffersson’s voice.

The Swedish metal band Grand Magus debuted in 2001 with a self-titled album. “Wolf God” is the band’s ninth full-length studio album and on it, the band continues to give us songs built on the band’s established formula of powerful and riff-happy heavy metal. Frontman JB Christoffersson is perhaps best known as the former singer for Spiritual Beggars and in Grand Magus, we also find Spiritual Beggars drummer Ludwig Witt and Fox Skinner on bass.

Lyrically, with song titles such as “Glory to the Brave”, “To Live and Die in Solitude”, “Dawn of Fire” and “Brother of the Storm”, the band roams in the same hunting grounds as Manowar and fellow Swedes Amon Amarth and Hammerfall. Musically those bands are also not miles away from Grand Magus, although Magus thankfully does not have the somewhat comical Viking/warrior image of those bands and there’s a tad bit more groove in this music. There are some doom influences here as well as old-school 70s hard rock. Thundering drums and doomy guitar riffs are topped off with JB’s voice. This is a hard rock trio with both muscles and brains playing battle music. The majestic “Spear Thrower” is the album’s highlight – kicking off with some fast guitars before JB’s voice takes control and leads from the front. “To Live and Die in Solitude” is a close second and “A Hall Clad in Gold” is also a contender. This is rather masculine music performed with power and skill. 

Grand Magus’ album “Wolf God” is out now via Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally.

Album review: Savage Messiah “Demons”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Modern British metal band Savage Messiah returns with a new album combining the proud British heavy metal tradition with contemporary melodic touches.

Britain’s Savage Messiah has created an interesting sound based on the proud British heavy metal tradition. With hints of NWOBHM and elements of thrash and speed metal, Savage Messiah still manages to sound distinctly contemporary, not least because of its modern-sounding melodic touch which can be heard on “Demons”, the band’s fifth full-length studio album since its formation in 2007. Frontman David Silver has a voice made for this type of modern metal. Combining Silver with Mira Slama on bass, David Hruska on guitar and Charly Carreton on drums, we get a fresh take on melodic metal. They somehow manage to enter that tricky space that has the potential for mainstream appeal while at the same time has a quality to it that makes the music interesting to more diehard metalheads. 

The album production on “Demons” sounds as great as it should when you have heavyweights David Castillo as a producer and Jens Bogren to mix the album. For the recording sessions, the band made use of drummers Dan Wilding (Carcass, Aborted, Heaven Shall Burn) and Ali Richardson (Bleed From Within, Sylosis). Most of the material for the album was written in the studio. People who can write this kind of high-quality music on the fly clearly have some serious talent. I absolutely love the guitars on “Down and Out”. Savage Messiah is a guitar band and throughout the album, we get some rather tasty guitar work. “The Lights Are Going Out” is almost a power ballad but thankfully with some added heaviness. My two favourite tracks on the album, “Heretic in the Modern World” and “Rise Then Fall”, are fast and modern songs. There is also a well-made cover of Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute” among the album’s eleven tracks.

Savage Messiah’s album “Demons” will be released on 10th May by Trooper Entertainment in Japan and on 17th May via Century Media Record internationally.

Album review: Kampfar “Ofidians Manifest”

Kampfar. Photo: Sebastian Ludvigsen

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Kampfar, one of the best extreme metal bands to ever come out of Scandinavia, is back with an epic new album.

The Norwegians in Kampfar always have a terrific atmospheric feeling to their majestically dark and epic songs. There is a foundation here built on black metal with some very Nordic touches to it. There are so many details to be uncovered in their songs that it never gets boring listening to them. Their deep Norwegian roots are not only present in the Norwegian lyrics. They also shine through in their music. Kampfar lives in a cold, windswept Norwegian underworld. But this is achieved with authenticity and not some added layer of faux Nordic folk/Viking theme that we sometimes see from other bands who think it’s a good idea to add some Nordic touches to their image.

Kampfar was founded in Fredrikstad, Norway in 1994. “Ofidians Manifest” is the band’s eighth full-length studio album. A typical Kampfar song combines heaviness, speed and brutality but there is always beauty in there as well. They don’t shy away from using tempo changes, including calm piano and acoustic guitar parts to make their songs even more dramatic due to the sharp contrasts within the songs. There’s also effective use of choral parts on some of the songs. “Ofidians Manifest” is like a beautiful and melancholic soundtrack to the end of the world. The characteristic voice of frontman Dolk is part of what makes Kampfar’s music instantly recognisable. His cold, coarse and powerful voice has Nordic written all over it. It is such a great fit for the music.

“Ofidians Manifest” features seven smashing tracks where the closing track “Det Sorte” is one of my immediate favourites with its epic combination of brutality and beautiful melodies. “Eremitt” is another splendid track on this album which does not have a weak moment on it. But perhaps “Skamløs!” a proper bulldozer song is the winner here. Incredible is the one word that nicely sums up the epic new Kampfar album. 

Kampfar’s album “Ofidians Manifest” is out now via Indie Recordings.

Album review: Whitesnake “Flesh & Blood”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

David Coverdale returns with “Flesh & Blood”, Whitesnake’s 13th studio album. He has a bag full of new songs and Tommy Aldridge, Reb Beach, Joel Hoekstra, Michael Devin and Michele Luppi backing him up.

The only constant in Whitesnake is the founder and frontman David Coverdale, who founded the band in 1978 after he left Deep Purple. Since then, he has had a lot of musicians come and go as members of Whitesnake. Among the more well-known former members are Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Cozy Powell, Don Airey, Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody, Adrian Vandenberg, John Sykes, Vivian Campbell, Neil Murray, Steve Vai, Doug Aldrich, Marco Mendoza and Rudy Sarzo. But they are all part of Whitesnake’s rich history. Make no mistake about it, Whitesnake is still very much alive. In the current line-up, we find legendary drummer Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy, Blue Murder, Ted Nugent), who first joined the band in the 1980s, as well as guitarists Reb Beach (Winger, Dokken, Alice Cooper) and Joel Hoekstra (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Night Ranger, Cher), bassist Michael Devin (Lynch Mob) and keyboardist Michele Luppi (Secret Sphere, Vision Divine). Coverdale knows how to attract world-class musicians that can back up his Whitesnake vision. The current line-up is no exception. As was the case with some of the earlier line-ups, Coverdale has taken advantage of his band members’ songwriting skills. Great songs and a great band topped off with Coverdale’s voice which is still very much intact.

Style wise we get a bit of everything on “Flesh & Blood”, Whitesnake’s 13th studio album and its 13 original tracks – from blues-rock reminding us of the band’s early days, via the kind of melodic hair metal and power ballads that we heard on the “1987” album, to more mature rock. “Flesh & Blood” is essentially a radio-friendly grown-up rock album.

The album opens with “Good To See You Again”, a typical Whitesnake take on melodic hard rock. “Shut Up & Kiss Me” is good fun and the song is backed up by a recently released video with some hints of the classic Whitesnake videos from the MTV era of the late 80s. Blues rocker “Trouble is Your Middle Name” is a standout track and so is another bluesy hard rock song called “Get Up”. The title track “Flesh & Blood” is another great one which has some serious groove. “Heart of Stone”, which has Coverdale almost talking his way through the verses, is a splendid song. “Well I Never” is a modern take on Whitesnake’s classic sound – but with quite a different approach to the song delivery – and it works great. The ballad “After All” is a terrific singer-songwriter type of song with some Beatles vibes and quite different from the music that Whitesnake would normally do. The massive rocker “Sands of Time” is my favourite track on the album, not least because of the fine guitar work. Some editions of the album also include the fabulous bonus tracks “Can’t Do Right for Doing Wrong” and “If I Can’t Have You”, two tracks that fans should not miss. The Japanese edition comes with an alternative mix of “After All” as a bonus track. 

Whitesnake’s album “Flesh & Blood” will be released on 10th May via Ward Records in Japan and Frontiers Music internationally.

Album review: Enforcer “Zenith”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish band Enforcer is back a fabulous melodic heavy metal album which is a bit more varied than its earlier efforts. 

I love pretty much everything about Swedish metal band Enforcer. The band is a terrific modern take on classic 1980s heavy metal – fast guitars, great melodies and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Now they are back with their fifth full-length studio album, “Zenith”. With song titles such as “Die for the Devil”, “One Thousand Years of Darkness”, “Thunder and Hell”, “Forever We Worship the Dark” and “Ode to Death”, Enforcer walks in a well-established heavy metal tradition. But make no mistake about it, this is more Mötley Crüe, Raven, W.A.S.P. and Anvil than the more sinister corners of the heavy metal world. There is nothing scary about Enforcer. Enforcer’s frontman Olof Wikstrand has a great way of borrowing from the past, mainly from 80s metal, and using that foundation to create terrific new music. The result is stunning. Some people lazily refer to this as “retro”. Nonsense! Olof is using a foundation built on the past, but his focus is on creating timeless heavy metal. On this new album, we do see Enforcer walk into some new territories., something which will no doubt see some old fans question the direction. So what? “Zenith” is a smashing metal album. I love everything about it. We get the established Enforcer sound on many of the songs (such as “Searching for You” and “The End of the Universe”), but we also get some new twists and turns with some real diversity in musical style. “Regrets” is an exquisite piano ballad, Enforcer’s answer to Mötley’s “Home Sweet Home”. “Ode to Death” kicks off with an acoustic guitar and, stylistically, it has a few hints of Metallica’s “One”. “Sail On” has a foundation that sounds more 1970s than 1980s. “Breaker of the Chains” and “Thunder and Hell” might be the best songs on this terrific eleven-track album.

Enforcer’s “Zenith” is out today via Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally.

Album review: Zephyra “Fall. Rise. Conquer.”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Sweden’s Zephyra serves up a mix of melodic and brutal metal on a new album which also gives us a couple of songs in Swedish and a brave Metallica cover.

Swedish band Zephyra is back with a new album called ”Fall. Rise. Conquer.” The band released its debut album, “Mental Absolution”, in 2014. When they released their second album, “As The World Collapses”, in 2016, I wrote in my review that “Some of what Zephyra does reminds me of Battle Beast and other things remind me somewhat of Amaranthe, although this album is much less polished. Zephyra is perhaps Amaranthe’s unwashed cousins from the countryside.” That still holds true today. But with this new album, they have become more personal, more unique and much more diverse. The opening track, “Dreams Denied”, sets the tone for the new album, the band’s third full-length studio album. It is a great showcase for all that this band is about. They continue to play modern, melodic yet hard-hitting metal with liberal use of keyboards. Kind of a cross-breed of melodic death metal and industrial influences and a few nods to pop as well. Vocalist Åsa Netterbrant‘s voice is at the centre of the band’s sound and her mix of clean singing with some brutal growls fits the band’s music well. Two of the best songs on the album are sung in the band’s native Swedish. The Swedish songs – “Fånge i Frihet” and “Svart Smärta” – are terrific with their perfect balance between brutality, great melodies in the proud Swedish pop music tradition and the added novelty of the Swedish lyrics. There’s also a cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”. That is a very risky move, but Zephyra pulls it off. They manage to stay respectfully true to the original song while at the same time making it a track that fits nicely in with the Zephyra sound. 

Zephyra’s album “Fall. Rise. Conquer.” Is out now.