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.



Album review: Velvet Insane “Rock ‘N’ Roll Glitter Suit”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Glamtastic Swedish glitter rock and pop on new Velvet Insane album.

Velvet Insane is a good-fun Swedish glam rock band. On its new album, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Glitter Suit”, they bring the listener on a glamtastic musical journey into a valley filled with The Sweet, Marc Bolan & T. Rex and Slade. One of the album’s highlights is the handclap-filled track “Backstreet Liberace” where Nicke Andersson and Dregen appear as guests. It is no coincidence that the two The Hellacopters members appear here. Velvet Insane is essentially a less dangerous and poppier version of The Hellacopters. With more glitter and less grit. It is as if Elton John instead of Noddy Holder fronted Slade. Well, I guess that gets us Marc Bolan, kind of. Most songs are far from heavy but they are very good. With Velvet Insane, a good melody may take the band into pop land and that is OK. Good music is good music whether it is heavy or not. Some of the songs take us to back alleys filled with classic British rock like The Rolling Stones, but, overall, this album is more 70s than 60s and somehow these Swedish lads manage to deliver their music without sounding dated or even retro. The highlight for me, in addition to the terrific “Backstreet Liberace”, is glam rocker “Space Age DJ”. This terrific Swedish trio – Jonas Eriksson (vocals), Jesper Lindgren (guitar) and Ludvig Andersson Lindgren (bass) – is very entertaining. They make me happy.

Velvet Insane’s album “Rock ‘N’ Roll Glitter Suit” is out now via Wild Kingdom Records.


Album review: Amnessia Eterna “Malditos”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Proper thrash metal from Chile.

Amnessia Eterna from Chile plays thrash metal just the way I like it: straight up. No fancy sound effects or over-the-top guitar wankery. Just thrash metal. OK, there are a few slower songs on the album – such as the beautiful guitar instrumental “Desvanecidos” – which is a good way to give everyone a breather once in a while, but the rest of the tracks are punch-in-your-face-style thrash metal songs. “Malditos” is the band’s debut full-length album and it is a strong one. At first, it may seem a simple form of thrash, but it is rather refreshing with a band just here to play thrash metal. All the lyrics are in Spanish which further helps this band to stand out from the pack. While there are no bells or whistles here, it is well-crafted music. The album is also quite varied, but all within the traditional thrash metal borders. “Desquiciado Pecador” is perhaps the album’s top track – gloriously straightforward meat-and-potatoes thrash with some on-fire guitar work. Another favourite is “En busca del Poder” which is rather catchy in a thrash metal way. I also dig “Falso Predicador” which is slow-yet-heavy thrash metal. Overall, this is a splendid debut album with eleven good songs. This band – which consists of Camilo Sánchez (vocals and guitar), Rudy Pereira (guitar), Jairo Sepúlveda (drums) and Fernando Martínez (bass) – is off to a great start.

Amnessia Eterna’s album “Malditos” will be released on 30th July via Brutal Records.


Album review: Scarecrow “Splatterpunk”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Scarecrow takes us on a wild Finnish metalpunk ride on its new album.

Whenever bands or artists come from Finland, I know the chance that it will be music that will be appealing to me is quite high. I don’t know what it is – the dark forests, the lakes, the freezing winters, the saunas, something else – but there is something about Finland that makes its inhabitants create beautiful music, especially in the heavy metal and hard rock genre. Scarecrow is a band from Finland that takes us on a high-energy punk-o-metal carpet ride on the new album “Splatterpunk”. The band, which defines its music as metalpunk or metal horrorpunk, was formed in 2000. “Splatterpunk” is the band’s sixth full-length album. During their career they have also released no fewer than eleven EPs. The “Splatterpunk” album has 16 tracks, most of which are indeed metalpunk songs. It’s punk rock with metal guitar riffs and often with death metal-like harsh vocals. There are a few tracks, such as “Skull of Antichrist”, which are closer to extreme metal with a punk attitude. Metalpunk, punkmetal, punky metal, metallic punk… Well, it’s loud music played by Finns with energy, sweat, beer and attitude. It works. It’s good and I like it. For being a trio (Jack13 on vocals, Ruho on guitar and Lima on drums), they make a lot of enjoyable noise. The catchy “Nothing in the Mirror” is an obvious and immediate favourite and so are the fabulous tracks “What’s the Devil to Do”, “Master of Chaos” and “Nocturnal Bird”.

Scarecrow’s album “Splatterpunk” will be released on 6th August via 82 Records.


Album review: Kardinal X “The Revolution”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Kardinal X combines classic hard rock, NWOBHM and progressive metal on its debut album.

Kardinal X is a new band from London, England. Musically they live somewhere between classic hard rock, NWOBHM and progressive metal. This is very British hard rock. It’s a bit like a distant prog-loving Saxon cousin or a twisted step sister of Raven. Kardinal X is off to a promising start with this debut album. There are a few good tracks here, such as “Cult of XII”, “Heretic”, “The Plot” and “It Always Rains”. “Rivers of Blood” has a terrific old-school NWOBHM-esque chorus while “One More Trick” has a cheeky Raven feel to it. On the track “There Goes the Neighbourhood”, Kardinal X tries to sound American. Not a bad song but it comes across as a bit of a laugh, a parody thing. Not sure if that was the intention. I prefer my Kardinal X served as a proper British fry-up. With baked beans and all. Kardinal X has a great foundation here, built upon the shoulders of those who walked before them. They have an interesting sound, some good songs and potential to take this further.

Kardinal X’s debut album “The Revolution” is out now via Crowblind Records.



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