Slash and Axl Rose back together in Guns N’ Roses

Slash - Tokyo Feb 2015

By Stefan Nilsson

Earlier today Slash and Axl Rose performed together for the first time since 1993 when the reformed Guns N’ Roses did a club gig at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California.

From Guns’ classic 80s line-up Axl Rose and Slash were joined by bassist Duff McKagan. The rest of the new line-up of GNR consists of keyboardist Dizzy Reed, guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer, all long-time members of the band but not original members. They also had a new member in keyboardist Melissa Reese.

Tour dates have been announced for the US, Canada and Mexico. No word yet if the rest of the world will get to experience the GNR reunion.

www.gunsnroses.com / www.facebook.com/gunsnroses

(Slash photographed in Tokyo in 2015 by Stefan Nilsson)

Motörhead’s Lemmy dead at 70

Lemmy

By Stefan Nilsson

Lemmy, Motörhead’s founder and leader and the most iconic rock star in the world, has died earlier today at the age of 70 after a short battle with an extremely aggressive form of cancer.

Having initially made a name for himself with the band Hawkwind, in 1975 Lemmy went on to form Motörhead, the loudest band in the world. In their forty-year career, the band released twenty-three studio albums (the latest, “Bad Magic” was released earlier this year) and many live albums, compilations, EPs and singles. But it was the constant touring that Motörhead was all about. Their impact on heavy metal was fundamental – without Motörhead there would have been no New Wave of British Heavy Metal, no thrash metal, no speed metal.Motorheadselftitled

Over the years I had a few chances to experience Motörhead live, both here in Japan and in Europe. They were always great, always same old Motörhead. However, my biggest memory is from when I once, during my many years of living in London, bumped into Lemmy by the bar at The Goat Tavern, a pub on High Street Kensington. He was dressed up in his usual gear – there never was any difference between Lemmy’s onstage persona and his private life. He didn’t have stage clothes. It goes without saying that he had a busty blonde girl less than half his age on his arm and pint of beer in his hand. As one does when one meets the God of Rock, I nodded in respect and smiled. Lemmy never faked it, he lived his life as a true rock star.

Cheers for the music and leadership, Lemmy. Rock’n’roll will never be the same without you. “We are Motörhead. We play rock’n’roll. Don’t forget us!” There is no risk of that, Lemmy.

www.facebook.com/officialmotorheadwww.imotorhead.com

motorhead%20ladies

Japanese Assault Fest

Enforcer Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Enforcer – Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson

Japanese Assault Fest, organised by Japanese record label and concert organiser Spiritual Beast, was, as expected, great fun: a mini festival with a bunch of Japanese and international bands putting on a great weekend of heavy metal.

The headlining international acts – Enforcer from Sweden, Diemonds from Canada and Suicidal Angels from Greece – played two days in a row supported by different Japanese bands as opening acts.

Priya Panda of Diemonds - Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Priya Panda of Diemonds – Photo: Stefan Nilsson

For Canadian Diemonds, fronted by the fierce Priya Panda, these gigs are their first ever in Japan. Formed in 2006, they released their latest album, “Never Wanna Die”, a few months ago. Following some last-minute delays, the band arrived late in Japan and were almost forced to cancel their gigs. Luckily things got sorted out and the band was fired up and ready to put on a great show for their Japanese fans. This evening Diemonds’ set is crammed full of straightforward, down and dirty hard rock’n’roll with a punk-rock attitude. My kinda thing. Love it. Great stuff.

Japanese Solitude (with Spiritual Beast’s Akira Sugiuchi on vocals) does a solid job of entertaining the audience with their thrash-inspired heavy metal.

Solitude - Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Solitude – Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Suicidal Angels, Greece’s finest thrash metal band, who also did their first-ever Japan gigs, does a fine job of playing for Japan’s metal heads with their heavy riffs. The Greek boys play a very fast and aggressive set that gets the audience going with a circle pit.

Suicidal Angels - Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Suicidal Angels – Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The festival’s main act, Enforcer, was back in Japan for a third time. The last time they played the big Loud Park festival in 2013 where they won over many fans. Tonight at Japanese Assault Fest we get Enforcer at their best. They are touring with a stand-in guitarist but that doesn’t show. This is a tight heavy metal band that gives us what we came for: great, straightforward heavy metal of the best kind.

Enforcer - Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Enforcer – Photo: Stefan Nilsson

On stage Enforcer reminds me visually a lot of Evil Invaders. Musically there is a difference – Evil Invaders is more speed metal whereas Enforcer is good old heavy metal. Enforcer’s music is fast and heavy but also very, very catchy. Enforcer’s band leader Olof Wikstrand wears a WASP t-shirt on stage for this gig. It all makes sense. He also somewhat looks like Chris Holmes did back in his WASP days. Enforcer is musically related to the best bits of 80s heavy metal. Not the AOR rubbish stuff, I am talking about the quality stuff – ranging from the best of British heavy metal like Iron Maiden and Motorhead, to Americans WASP – with a focus on the faster side of classic heavy metal.

Enforcer - Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Enforcer – Photo: Stefan Nilsson

This evening we get a 75-minute set with all the best bits of what Enforcer is all about. It’s about a hardworking band on stage who love what they do. And the audience loves it. It’s an energetic heavy metal show. We get a fantastic KISS cover (“I Stole Your Love”) and, of course, Misfits‘ “I Turned Into a Martian”. But most of all we get a big chunk of music from the band’s latest album, “From Beyond” (including the magnificent “From Beyond” and “Undying Evil”), as well as the best of their earlier work. As an encore we get both “Evil Attacker” and “Take Me Out of This Nightmare” before they finish a terrific gig with “Midnight Vice”. Tokyo conquered – again.

Enforcer - Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Enforcer – Photo: Stefan Nilsson

A big thank you to the Spiritual Beast team for bringing some great bands to Japan and for showcasing Japanese bands. In the audience at Japanese Assault Fest there are plenty of well-known faces from local Japanese heavy metal bands. People socialise and hang out in the bar area sharing drinks with the members of the bands between the gigs. I look forward to more Japanese Assault Fests.

www.spiritual-beast.com www.facebook.com/spiritualbeast

Dregen is back with a new Backyard Babies album and tour

Dregen in Tokyo, Oct 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dregen in Tokyo, Oct 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson

After a five-year break, Backyard Babies are back. They have a new album out and touring the world yet again. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson caught up with guitarist and singer Dregen backstage at the Loud Park festival in Japan.

In March 2010 Backyard Babies finished off their 20th anniversary tour with a few gigs in Japan and then they went on an extended break. Now they’re back in full force. A new album is out and a summer tour of European festivals has been completed. While in Japan for a few days, their schedule is full: they’re playing the major Loud Park festival, they’re doing a signing session for fans, they’re recording a new music video for the track “Bloody Tears” and there’s a lot of promotional work. “It never gets busier than in Japan. They really cram things into the schedule. I don’t even have a second off,” says Dregen as we meet backstage at Saitama Super Arena where the Loud Park festival takes place.

Dregen in Tokyo, Oct 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dregen in Tokyo, Oct 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

With Backyard Babies now back together after a five-year break, is it “same old” and “business as usual” or do you feel it’s different this time? “The great thing with this band is that it actually is ‘same old’. The break we had was a musical break. To make great music it is really important to put in a 100% effort. But sometimes you need to make it 101% to make it work. We were really exhausted before the break,” explains Dregen.

During the break the band members got the time to work on various musical projects. Dregen toured both as a member of Michael Monroe’s band and as a solo artist. He also released a great solo album and wrote an autobiography. In addition to musical projects, the members had time to pay attention to their private lives. “A lot of everyday stuff came into our lives, things that we had avoided or didn’t have time for as we were constantly out on tour. We are somewhat late bloomers – when we were 35 or 40 years old we bought houses and apartments, became parents, got married, a lot of that kind of stuff,” says Dregen.

Backyard Babies performing in Tokyo, Nov 2008. Photo: Stefan NIlsson

Backyard Babies performing in Tokyo, Nov 2008. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

In 2014 Dregen played some solo gigs in Japan which kept some Backyard Babies fans satisfied while waiting for the band to reunite. “We are extremely eager” says Dregen about the band playing together again. “It’s so much fun playing with Backyard Babies again. We’ve started talking about the next album and that kind of stuff, the future. At the same time, my solo thing wasn’t like ‘been there, done that, won’t do it again.’ I’m hooked. I think we’re in a great position now with Backyard Babies as some kind of mothership. I think I’ll do another solo album at some stage. I like to do both. As a singer you are sort of married to the mic, you have to stand there. As a guitarist I have more freedom to move around,” explains Dregen his different roles as a solo artist and as a guitarist in a band.

Backyard Babies have toured Japan many times and Dregen has also toured here with Michael Monroe and as a solo artist. Japan is special to him. “It might be unfair to other countries, but Japan is somehow the only place where, when I land at Narita airport, I get that first-time feeling with butterflies in my stomach. I think it is great to go to Hamburg to play and Madrid too, But I’ve been there so many times. Japan is very special to Backyard. In all other countries, including the US, we first came there and played for 25 people and a dog. Then we came back and played for 50 people and you build up an audience from the ground. But in Japan, already when we came here for the first time in 1998, the gigs were sold out. The only country where Backyard has had instant success. I only have great memories from Japan,” says Dregen with a big smile.

Now Dregen is considering taking his relationship with Japan to the next level. “I actually have some plans. This is just inside my head so far, but I am considering to come here for a longer period sometime and perhaps even record some music here in Japan. There are almost no Westerners who have done that,” explains Dregen.

Dregen in Tokyo, March 2010. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dregen in Tokyo, March 2010. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dregen rarely stands still when his on stage and he is seldom away from the stage for any longer period of time. Sometimes he plays small local clubs in his native Sweden and sometimes he’s on a mega stage like the one he’s performing on this day in Tokyo. “I think these big shows are fantastic but I also like the smaller stages. For me, a stage is a stage. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local gig in rural Sweden or if it’s Saitama Super Arena. The stage is there to be performed on!” declares Dregen. “This is the last gig on these gigantic stages. We’ve been out playing festivals with lots of big audiences. Now I am ready to go and play the clubs again. Then I’ll get tired of that and start wanting to do summer festivals again.”

With Backyard Babies reunited again, a new album out (“Four by Four”) and some touring happening, what’s next? “We’ve got a European tour during November and then we kick off a Scandinavian tour in January-February. We will do Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Then in the spring it is not impossible we’ll come back here to Japan for a club tour. And South America and the US. Then we’ve got festivals again. The last gigs we’ll do with Backyard Babies for the ‘Four by Four’ album will be festivals in 2016. I think one will have to travel to Scandinavia to see us perform. We’re not going to go all over Europe again. It will probably be smaller festivals. Then we will start working on new music and I’m thinking about another solo album. We’ve got a lot of things to do,” says Dregen. “I don’t know if it is some kind of midlife crisis, but I’m really excited about doing new music!”

Dregen in Tokyo, Oct 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Dregen in Tokyo, Oct 2015. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

A few hours after our interview, Dregen performs with Backyard Babies on the main stage at the Loud Park festival, a gig they kick off with “Thirteen of Nothing” from the new album “Four by Four”.

 

Backyard Babies – band members

Nicke Borg – vocals, guitar

Dregen – guitar, vocals

Johan Blomquist – bass

Peder Carlsson – drums

 

Studio albums

Diesel & Power (1994)

Total 13 (1998)

Making Enemies Is Good (2001)

Stockholm Syndrome (2003)

People Like People Like People Like Us (2006)

Backyard Babies (2008)

Four by Four (2015)

www.dregen.se / www.facebook.com/dregenofficial

www.backyardbabies.com / www.facebook.com/backyardbabies

Hotter than hell: the H.E.A.T is on in Tokyo

H.E.A.T on stage in Tokyo Photo: Hiroyuki Yoshihama

H.E.A.T on stage in Tokyo
Photo: Hiroyuki Yoshihama

By Stefan Nilsson

As Swedish melodic rockers H.E.A.T returned to Japan for the first time in six years, they gave their Japanese fans an almost two-hour long set of smoking melodic hard rock in Shibuya on 17th September.

As I enter the venue I immediately spot a few Europe band shirts in the audience – which makes a lot of sense as the two bands are not just from the same town, there are more than a few hints of Europe in H.E.A.T’s music. As could be heard on H.E.A.T’s recent “Live in London” album, H.E.A.T is a band that is a lot rockier and heavier live than in the studio.

H.E.A.T on stage in Tokyo Photo: Hiroyuki Yoshihama

H.E.A.T on stage in Tokyo
Photo: Hiroyuki Yoshihama

This evening in Tokyo, when the band plays to a packed club in Shibuya, marks the final gig on their “Touring Down the Walls” tour that has kept the band on the road since they released their latest album “Tearing Down the Walls” in April 2014.

The band kicks off the Tokyo gig with a smoking “Point of No Return” followed by “A Shot at Redemption”. The crowd loves it and the band loves the crowd loving them. It quickly turns into a love fest and great rock party with an energetic band that gets more energy from a crowd who adores them.

H.E.A.T has great songs and they’re a tight band. But more than anything else, the have a great singer and front man. Vocalist Erik Grönwall has a great, rather unique voice with a distinctive rough edge that gives H.E.A.T a rockier tone than they had in the early years prior to Grönwall joining the band in 2010. Grönwall is not only a great vocalist, he’s also a born front man and his enthusiasm seems to rub off on the rest of the band. Together they seem to have a lot of fun on stage. Apart from a few slower songs in the set, the band keeps rocking out on the stage like there is no tomorrow. Grönwall’s only 27 years old and wasn’t even born when Joey Tempest and the boys in Europe released “The Final Countdown” in 1986. But, oh boy, he’s one of the best front men to have emerged on the Nordic rock scene in many years.

H.E.A.T on stage in Tokyo Photo: Hiroyuki Yoshihama

H.E.A.T on stage in Tokyo
Photo: Hiroyuki Yoshihama

He made himself a name as a solo artist prior to joining H.E.A.T five years ago. That Grönwall should join an established band when he was already successful on his own wasn’t an obvious choice. Neither was it an obvious move for H.E.A.T to recruit a well-known solo artist as its new singer. But that unholy union has really paid off for both the band and the vocalist. They make each other much better and as a result the world gets better rock music. Now let’s hope that they will bring some of this energy into the studio and that we will get to experience the same rockier H.E.A.T on the next studio album.

Set list – H.E.A.T – Tsutaya O-West, Shibuya, Tokyo – 17th September 2015

  1. Point of No Return
  2. A Shot at Redemption
  3. Better Off Alone
  4. Heartbreaker
  5. It’s All About Tonight
  6. Inferno
  7. The Wreckoning
  8. Tearing Down the Walls
  9. Mannequin Show
  10. Late Night Lady
  11. Beg Beg Beg
  12. All the Nights
  13. Downtown
  14. Enemy in Me
  15. Emergency

Encore:

  1. Breaking the Silence
  2. There for You
  3. 1,000 Miles
  4. Living on the Run
  5. Laughing at Tomorrow
  6. Johnny B. Goode

 

H.E.A.T – band members

Erik Grönwall – vocals

Eric Rivers – guitars

Jona Tee – keyboards

Jimmy Jay – bass

Crash – drums

www.heatsweden.com / www.facebook.com/heatsweden

Loudness celebrating 30th anniversary of “Thunder in the East”

Akira Takasaki of Loudness Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Akira Takasaki of Loudness
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson

Japanese rockers Loudness have been rocking for well over three decades and this year it is thirty years since their Max Norman-produced international breakthrough album “Thunder in the East” hit the record stores (that’s where we bought music back in the 80s). Loudness celebrates its iconic album with a special 30th anniversary tour across Japan and the US.

As their sold-out Japan tour hit Tokyo on Monday 7th September, the band is in a great mood and puts on a terrific show for their fans.

It is guitar god Akira Takasaki and vocalist Minoru Niihara who get most attention when it comes to Loudness. But the band has four members and the rhythm section – bassist Masayoshi Yamashita and drummer Masayuki “Ampan” Suzuki – is this evening as tight as ever and their groove is what gives Loudness the rock-solid foundation upon which the artists Takasaki and Niihara paint the Loudness picture. Niihara’s unique rock voice is still intact after all these years while Takasaki makes love to his guitars on stage and creates musical magic in the process.

Minoru Niihara of Loudness Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Minoru Niihara of Loudness
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The first part of the evening consists of the band playing the “Thunder in the East” album in its entirety, from the opening with “Crazy Nights” straight through to “Never Change Your Mind”. It is great to see that this album, unlike many other rock albums from the 80s, hasn’t aged badly and still stands as a great rock album. It is quite fascinating to be at gig where the entire audience not only knows all the songs but they also know in which order they will be played. Loudness makes this a fun experience by putting on wigs and stage clothes with animal prints in bright colours in order to take us all back to how heavy metal looked in 1985.

Following a short break, during which the audience gets treated to a documentary of the band’s early years leading up to their international breakthrough, the band jumps back on stage. In the second part of the evening’s gig we get a best-of set which kicks off with “In the Mirror” and closes with one of the band’s most classic songs, “S.D.I.” The second part mainly consists of old favourites but we also get “Mortality” and “The Sun Will Rise Again” from the band’s latest studio album which was released last year.

This is a night built on nostalgia and Loudness’ loyal fans love it. But Loudness is not just a nostalgia act. They are a better band now than they were back in the 80s. They always deliver a great show with both old favourites and new great material. This evening they did just that and gave the fans some 80s nostalgia as well. Great band, top stuff, loads of fun.

Akira Takasaki of Loudness Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Akira Takasaki of Loudness
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Set list – Loudness – Thunder in the East 30th Anniversary Tour – Shibuya Public Hall, Tokyo, Japan, 7th September 2015

Part 1: “Thunder in the East” set

  1. Crazy Nights
  2. Like Hell
  3. Heavy Chains
  4. Get Away
  5. We Could Be Together
  6. Run For Your Life
  7. Clockwork Toy
  8. No Way Out
  9. The Lines Are Down
  10. Never Change Your Mind

Part 2:

  1. In the Mirror
  2. Crazy Doctor
  3. Shadows of War (Ashes in the Sky)
  4. Dream Fantasy
  5. In My Dreams
  6. The Sun Will Rise Again
  7. Mortality
  8. S.D.I.

http://loudnessjp.com

Evil Invaders and Unleash The Archers destroy Tokyo

Evil Invaders Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Evil Invaders
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson

On Sunday 23rd August, Japanese record company and promoter Spiritual Beast turned the Koenji High club in Tokyo into a great celebration of heavy metal with Belgian speed metal kings Evil Invaders and Canadian heavy metal band Unleash The Archers performing for their Japanese fans.

Hell Freezes Over Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Hell Freezes Over
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Hell Freezes Over

The evening kicks off with opening act Hell Freezes Over, a local Tokyo thrash metal band. They’re a new band formed in 2013 who gives us some old-school Bay Area thrash metal with a touch of the heavier side of British heavy metal. This band is all about the 80s despite the fact that all band members were born in the 1990s. The band looks the part too: like a mix of Kirk Hammett, Cliff Burton and Chuck Billy in the 80s. This evening they give us a great set of thrash metal and that we get a cover of Exodus‘ “Bonded by Blood” doesn’t come as a surprise. It fits nicely in what this band is all about. Hell Freezes Over does a great job of warming up the crowd this evening.

Unleash The Archers Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Unleash The Archers
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Unleash The Archers

Canadian heavy metal band Unleash The Archers follows. This is absolutely great heavy metal that lives somewhere near power metal land with frequent visits to England’s NWOBHM. There is also some death metal growling in the mix and a bit of proper German heavy metal in there as well. It works a treat. Warlock’s Doro Pesch obviously

Unleash The Archers Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Unleash The Archers
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

comes to mind, but Unleash The Archers front woman Brittney Slayes is a better singer than Doro. Musically, lyrically and visually there are also some strong echoes of Manowar which is certainly not a bad thing. Unleash The Archers is a solid band but it is the vocalist Brittney Slayes that stands out and makes this special. She has the voice of a metal goddess and she has a stage presence to match it. She is extraordinary and quite a bit more than what you’d normally find in a heavy metal band. There is something special about the sound of her voice. She can belt out great heavy metal anthems and, for the sake of the future of heavy metal, I hope she does. Having released a couple of albums independently, they earlier this year released the “Time Stands Still” album on Napalm Records. If Unleash The Archers continues to develop on its current path it won’t be long before they will join a bigger league, playing to bigger audiences around the world. This evening Brittney and the rest of the band are in a great mood and they deliver

Unleash The Archers Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Unleash The Archers
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

an energy-filled and rocking heavy-metal set made up of the band’s best songs. They start their set with the guitar-chasing heavy “Frozen Steel” followed by “Hail of the Tide” and keep delivering until a very strong finish with “Tonight We Ride” and “General of the Dark Army”. I have no doubt that this band will be back in Japan and continue to win over new fans.

Unleash The Archers Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Unleash The Archers
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Evil Invaders Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Evil Invaders
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Evil Invaders

The evening’s headliner is Belgian speed metal kings Evil Invaders. The band gets onto stage and kicks off a frenetic speed metal set with “Fast, Loud ‘n’ Rude” and they never

Evil Invaders Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Evil Invaders
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

slow down. This is fast and technical speed metal. This is furious speed metal so fast that I think even Yngwie Malmsteen would scratch his head and wonder how they do it. There’s a hint of Overkill in there without sounding old. While the band’s sound is firmly based in 1980s speed metal, they still manage to make it sound fresh, new and relevant. The vocalist sings in a high-pitched voice that goes perfectly with the music. In addition to their own great songs (including the fabulous “Pulses of Pleasure” and “Stairway to Insanity”) they give us two great covers, “Fabulous Disaster” (Exodus) and Exciter’s “Violence and Force”. Evil Invaders is a band that is a pure celebration of fast and furious speed metal. They’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here – just give great, and very fast, heavy metal to the world. It works.

Evil Invaders Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Evil Invaders
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

www.evilinvaders.be / www.unleashthearchers.com / www.hfo-web.tumblr.com

Evil Invaders Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Evil Invaders
Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Destiny: old-school Gothenburg metal

Living Dead s 1400 1400By Stefan Nilsson

Destiny, the veteran lords of dark metal from Gothenburg, are back in full swing and have two albums in the making.

In the early 1990s, melodic death metal bands like In Flames, At the Gates and Dark Tranquillity put Swedish west coast town Gothenburg firmly on the heavy metal map with the emergence of the legendary Gothenburg Sound. But heavy metal existed in Gothenburg long before that. Among the veterans from Gothenburg’s 1980s metal scene that are still active today are Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee (ex-King Diamond, Don Dokken), Andy LaRocque (King Diamond) and the lords of dark metal, Destiny – one of Sweden’s first proper heavy metal bands.

The Gothenburg Sound explosion in the 1990s didn’t really have any impact on Destiny. “We had already established our sound and band identity before that. But perhaps some international fans got interested in Destiny because we are from Gothenburg,” says Destiny’s band leader Stefan Björnshög.

Formed in 1982, Destiny released its debut album “Beyond All Sense” in 1985. A few years later, in 1988, I went to one of their gigs and was immediately drawn to Destiny’s dark metal. They were very different to the hair metal bands of the day. They didn’t use hairspray, they wore black rather than pink or green and they sounded the way they looked. I loved it.

The band kept touring and released more albums, but in recent years we haven’t heard much from Destiny. Earlier this year they released a great new track, “Living Dead”, and a video to go with it. When the press release landed in my inbox it brought back great memories. I decided to have a chat with Stefan Björnshög about Destiny’s career and what we can expect from the band in the coming years.

”It is rather difficult to describe our music other than ’dark rock’. In many reviews it is mentioned that it is difficult to put us into a specific category. From the very beginning it was very important to me that the music was complicated and interesting, not just hard-hitting rock. Nowadays I think it is equally important that it has some kind of groove, which I think we have managed to achieve more and more. We don’t want to make the same album twice. That’s why our albums sound quite different when compared to each other. But they still have a distinct Destiny sound and style,” explains Björnshög.

Destiny Photo: Lillian Christiansson

Destiny
Photo: Lillian Christiansson

Destiny is indeed a band that is difficult to put a label on. There are echoes of NWOBHM and at times it sounds power metal-ish. There’s some Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne in there, a pinch of doom, a hint of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate (former King Diamond guitarist Floyd Constantin was a member of Destiny for a few years), some thrash metal guitar shredding, some old German Accept-vibes and a lot of other stuff. It’s Destiny and they call what they do dark metal.

”Personally i listened to Black Sabbath, Rush and many of the bands that were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. But it was also Mercyful Fate and American bands such as Savatage and Metal Church that influenced us. The whole idea behind dark metal, as we called it, was that the music should be suggestive and interesting in a similar way to music scores in films, but still be heavy metal. The band wearing all black clothes was an idea that came from our then guitarist Magnus Österman. At that time there weren’t many bands in Sweden that dressed in black. Thus we did something different and stood out from the rest.”

Destiny has been around for 33 years. What are the career highlights so far? ”That we are still around. Hahaha!! Jokes aside, to open for Savatage is hard to beat. Also when we played with In Flames in 1999 and the tour we did with Tony Martin (of Black Sabbath fame) in 2006 are highlights. Our creative process when we write new music is always a highlight as well as any gig we do where we get a positive response from the audience.”

The band’s line-up has seen some changes over the years. The current line-up seems rather strong and it’ll be interesting to see what they can do both live and in the studio. ”Already when we released the second album ’Atomic Winter’ I was the only remaining original member in the band,” says Björnshög. ”It’s difficult to know how long a line-up will last. Several of our earlier line-ups have lasted longer than many contemporary bands. We are about to enter our 34th year and thus I guess it’s not so surprising that we have had some member changes over the years. When one can’t live off music alone there are many other things that come into the equation. Sometimes people have to opt out of being in a band because of their day jobs or family commitments. However, over the years, as far as I can remember, we have only ever fired one person. Everyone else has left for various reasons. I am still on good terms with all ex-members, so we have not had any splits on bad terms. Everybody who has played in Destiny has contributed something. In the current line-up we have Jonas Heidgert (Dragonland) on vocals who joined us in 2012. He’ll sing on both the two forthcoming albums. Guitarist Michael Åberg (ex-Nostradameus) joined us already back in 2005. Drummer Kane Svantesson was originally a member of Destiny in 1994-1997. He plays drums on ‘The Undiscovered Country’ (1998). He rejoined the band in 2013. And I’ve been here since 1982. I am not aware of anyone planning to leave but we are likely to expand the line-up with a keyboard player or another guitarist.”

Derek Riggs' cover art for "Atomic Winter"

Derek Riggs’ cover art for “Atomic Winter”

When it was time to release Destiny’s second album, “Atomic Winter”, in 1988 they managed to get legendary artist Derek Riggs, famous for making many of Iron Maiden’s classic album covers, to agree to do the cover art. “We weren’t really satisfied with the cover for ‘Beyond All Sense’. We wanted to have a more powerful cover for ‘Atomic Winter’. I contacted Rodney Matthews but he didn’t seem to like our lyrics. Earlier we had sent a demo to Rod Smallwood’s management company and I still had their contact details. I called up and got to talk to some secretary. I told her I wanted to talk to Derek Riggs because he was going to make an album cover for us. I must have sounded rather convincing because she gave me his details. When I called Riggs the first thing he said was ‘How did you get my number?’ I told him and then asked him if he would consider doing our next album cover. He asked me to send him some music and lyrics before he would make up his mind. After a while he came back to me and said he wanted to do the cover. We discussed how we wanted the cover and then he sent a couple of drafts that I approved. In 1990 I visited him in London and I asked him what it was that made him to agree to do the cover. He said he liked the name Destiny. It made him curious and when he then liked both the music and the lyrics it was easy for him to say yes. During my visit he gave me the original artwork as a gift. To this day it still hangs framed on my wall. The idea was that Derek would also do the cover for ‘Nothing Left to Fear’ but unfortunately the record company Active didn’t want to pay what he asked. I still have the drafts for the proposed cover artwork,” says Björnshög proudly.

What’s next on the agenda for Destiny? “The plan is to release our much-delayed anniversary album ‘Climate Change’ later this year. We have recorded 14 songs of which five are old Destiny songs from the 80s that have never before been released on any record. Håkan Ring, who sang on our debut album, has written new lyrics for the old songs as we have lost the original lyrics. We have, however, tried to retain as much as possible of the original ideas behind the songs. For one of the songs we only had a very rough recording of half the song from a rehearsal. I thus had to write some new music that we added to the old bits in order to get a complete song. That was a lot of fun. I am really pleased with how the new versions of these old songs, who have only been performed live a few times in the 80s, turned out. I have always thought that these songs were too good not to be released on record. The other nine songs are re-recordings of songs from Destiny’s albums,” explains Björnshög.

“Climate Change” features a number of guest appearances, including session drummer Adde Larsson and German guitarist Veith Offenbächer (Dawn of Destiny) as well as a number of former Destiny members such as Carl Dahlberg, Roger Christiansson, John Prodén, Håkan Ring, Knut Hassel and Anders Fagerstrand.Destiny Climate Change“We are planning to release a new full-length album with nine or ten new songs sometime in 2016. That album will be called ‘Global Warming’ and we have been recording it since 2007. It has taken a long time to complete mainly due to the fact that it took us a few years to find a suitably good singer after Kristoffer Göbel left Destiny, but also because my fiancée passed away in 2012,” explains Björnshög. Therese Hanserot was not only Stefan Björnshög’s fiancée, she was also Destiny’s original vocalist who sang on their very first demo.

“But now we are ready for a comeback. All band members are keen on playing live so we hope to get up on stage as soon as possible. Hopefully we can start with some club gigs and then some festival gigs in 2016. But first we need to finish the last recordings and release the ‘Climate Change’ album. We have also received some offers to release our entire back catalogue as limited special editions on CD but nothing has been decided on this yet.”

Destiny’s dark metal is alive and well and it seems we will get a lot more of it.

 

Destiny – the band

Stefan Björnshög – bass

Jonas Heidgert – vocals

Michael Åberg – guitar

Kane Svantesson – drums

 

The albums

Beyond All Sense (1985)

Atomic Winter (1988)

Nothing Left to Fear (1991)

The Undiscovered Country (1998)

Future of the Past (2004)

Beyond All Sense 2005 (2005)

 

www.destinymetal.se / www.facebook.com/destinymetal

Hellsingland Underground – moving above ground with forthcoming album

Hellsingland Underground - on tour in Sweden July 2015

Hellsingland Underground – on tour in Sweden July 2015

By Stefan Nilsson

Over the past week I’ve been listening to some of the rough and yet to be finished recording sessions for Swedish rockers Hellsingland Underground’s forthcoming album.

My expectations for this album are of course sky high, but I am pleased to say that, based on what I am hearing so far, this is shaping up very nicely indeed. I have only listened to eight songs from the recording sessions and none of them are yet complete. Apparently the band recorded a total of fourteen songs during their main recording sessions. The new songs are very, very promising. I think that the band’s fourth full-length album, due out later this autumn, may very well take Hellsingland Underground above ground.

Hellsingland Underground’s established sound (Southern-ish rock with a truck load of Nordic melancholy, Thin Lizzy-style guitars and heaps of pop hooks) is obviously still there but the songwriting has developed and we get a great mix of different influences infused into the good old Nordic gloom-drenched rock that we love. We get both rockier stuff and some fine ballads. The lyrics are as always great little stories on their own and when paired with great tunes they’re terrific. As Graham Bonnet Band’s bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone put it when she heard Hellsingland Underground for the first time: “I love a good story and even better when it’s set to good music.” Constant changes in tempo and styles make this music that keeps the listener paying attention because you never know what comes next. The band has grown up but still has the energy to deliver. Simply great stuff.

The working titles on the eight new songs I’ve heard are “Earth’s Gonna Shake”, “The Day Is Ruined”, “The War Is Over”, “Reincarnated The Same As I Ever Was”, “How Lonely It Must Be Being You”, “You Saved Me”, “Dizzy Jonsson & The Rovers” and “Golden Haze”. It still remains to be seen which finished tracks end up on the album. But it is clear that the band has enough great new music to release a bloody terrific album in the coming months.

Who knows where this will end once all the recordings have been completed and the album’s been properly mixed? Hellsingland Underground: soon in a record store and on a stage near you.

 

Hellsingland Underground – the band

Charlie Granberg – vocals and harmonica

Mats Olsson – guitar

Peter Henriksson – guitar

Martin Karlsson – bass

Thomas Pettersson – piano/keyboards

Patrik Jansson – drums

 

The albums

Hellsingland Underground (2008)

Madness & Grace (2010)

Evil Will Prevail (2012)

www.hellsinglandunderground.com