Album review: Siniestro “Vortexx”

Siniestro: The Machine (drums) and Commander (vocals and guitars). Photo: Jens Ryden

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish-Chilean blackened thrash metal with death metal and punk influences and a few surprising musical twists and turns.

The record label describes Siniestro as Swedish-Chilean blackened thrash metal. With such a description I know that, even before listening to a single song, I no doubt will find this duo’s album very interesting. The duo, formed in 2012, has a Northern European/South American fire-and-ice kind of dynamic to its music. Hot and cold and freaking furious. I love it. It’s angry yet melodic. It’s fast and heavy. It’s at times primitive yet often complicated and technical. A couple of the tracks are sung in Swedish. Those tracks, “Blod eld död” and “Den svartaste flamman och renaste hat”, are a bit different musically from the tracks sung in English. They sound like they have a fair bit of Swedish punk influences in them. “Vortexx”, the band’s second full-length album, is quite varied. It includes two instrumental pieces – “Hiisi” (an acoustic flamenco-style guitar piece) and “My Innermost Sun” (a piece seemingly played on a church organ) – which both further add to the variety of musical styles that Siniestro performs with excellence. “Escape by Death” is a splendid song that takes the band into a dense death metal forest. The hard-hitting tracks “One Last Bullet, One Last Ride” and “Buried in the Bog” are among my favourites on this terrific album. But the almost ten-minute long “Anti Human Commando” is the standout track for me. It’s an epic piece of music that has everything that I love about Siniestro: heaviness, speed, melodies, razor-sharp riffs, pissed-off vocals and plenty of raw and dirty energy.

Siniestro’s album “Vortexx” will be released on 14th May via Black Lodge Records.

Album review: Peter Hermansson “Second Glance”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

220 Volt drummer shows us he has more than drum sticks in his bag on a great solo album.

I saw Peter Hermansson live on stage for the first time in 1987. It was a show with one of my favourite bands, the Swedish melodic metal band 220 Volt, performing in front of a massive and enthusiastic festival audience in their hometown Östersund. Peter started drumming with 220 Volt before the band released its self-titled debut album in 1983. He is drumming in the current line-up of the band and has also played with John Norum and Talisman. Now we get to hear more of Peter when he releases his first full-length solo album. We already knew he is one of Sweden’s best rock drummers, but on this new album, we get to experience much more of this multitalented vocalist, musician and songwriter. Peter sings lead and drums on all songs on the album. He plays bass on a few tracks as well. We also get to hear his 220 Volt band mates Mats Karlsson and Mats Vassfjord perform. Other notable musicians guesting on this album include Nalle Påhlsson (Therion, Zan Clan, Treat, Easy Action), John Levén (Europe), Björn Englén (Quiet Riot, Yngwie Malmsteen) and Martin Thomander (Electric Boys). The album contains nine original tracks penned by Peter plus two covers, Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune” and Nick Ashford’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (which has also been covered by Humble Pie, W.A.S.P. and many more). The music on “Second Glance” is best described as melodic 70s/80s hard rock with blues touches, some more contemporary parts and a few ballads in the mix as well. Peter has a seasoned, grown-up rock voice that fits this music style very well. “Set Me Free” is a ballad with some terrific guitars by Christofer Ståhl (Talisman) while “Last Goodbye” is an emotional ballad. “Ain’t Gonna Crawl” is an excellent modern rock song performed by Peter and Mats Karlsson. “Hero’s End”, a splendid and energetic bluesy hard rock song, is one of the highlights on the album together with the tracks “Revolution”, “Movin’ On” and “Perfect World”.

Peter Hermansson’s solo album “Second Glance” will be released on 16th April via GMR Music.

Peter Hermansson Official Facebook page

Coming up: The Roppongi Rocks Clubhouse Sessions, Episode #2

Mack Suzuki

The Roppongi Rocks Clubhouse Sessions, Episode #2: The Inside Scoop on International Rock Stars Touring Japan with Mack Suzuki of UDO Artists

Friday 26th March at 8 pm Tokyo time / 11 am London time

Matt Ketchum, Kana Nagumo, Stefan Nilsson, Tony Dolan

Yay! Roppongi Rocks is back on Clubhouse for more sweaty rock talk on your iPhone. Join us on the Clubhouse iPhone audio app on Friday 26th March for an informal discussion about rock-star life on the road in Japan. Japanese music industry executive Mack Suzuki (of UDO Artists) has been working with many international and Japanese rock acts over the years. Join us for a casual and informal chat about what happens with rock stars on tour in Japan. The good, the bad and the ugly of the rock star tour life! British metal legend Tony Dolan of Venom Inc. will add some stories from his Japan tours. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson and Kana Nagumo will also be joined by Matt Ketchum of Kaala. What happens on tour, stays on tour. Or? Join us or forever live in fear of missing out. Audio only. Live only. No recording. Tune in or miss out. Sweaty rock talk on your iPhone.

Album review: Against Evil “End of the Line”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Indian band Against Evil releases its third album filled with great heavy metal.

Against Evil formed in India in 2014. They debuted with “Fatal Assault” in 2015 and followed that up with the album “All Hail the King” in 2018. 2019 saw them tour Europe on the back of the great feedback from the latest album. Now they’re back with their third album. So, how can I describe Against Evil’s music? The track “Out for Blood” (with Billy Sheehan guesting on it) sounds a bit like 1980s American radio metal/hair metal (think Ratt), but most of the album has a proper foundation in NWOBHM while also sounding contemporary. There are also hints of thrash metal and heavy-yet-melodic bands such as Queensrÿche, Manowar and Riot throughout the album. The band itself calls it “heavy metal with power and speed metal influence”. Overall this is a very good heavy metal album. “The Sound of Violence” is a beyond terrific track. Other strong ones include “Metal of Nothin’”, “War Hero”, “End of the Line”, “Sword of Power” and “Speed Demon”. There is some real metal potential in these Indian lads.

Against Evil’s album “End of the Line” will be released on 14th May via Doc Gator Records in Europe and independently the rest of the world.

Album review: White Void “Anti”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Borknagar, Ihsahn and Solefald members give us something refreshingly different on a new album from eclectic rock band White Void.

White Void is a new Norwegian band consisting of members with a wide range of musical experience and it shows in the band’s music. White Void could be the very definition of “melting pot”. It is a band whose members have backgrounds in Norwegian black metal, chiptune electronica, pop music and blues. The album “Anti” sounds exactly like that. And I love it. Vocalist Lars Nedland some will remember from avant-garde black metal band Solefald and progressive black metal band Borknagar. Tobias Solbakk is Ihsahn’s drummer. Bassist Vegard Kummen has a background in electronica while guitarist Eivind Marum is a bluesman. What does all this boil down to? White Void gives us hard-rock guitar riffs, new wave harmonies and blues-rock solos. On paper, it seems confused and misguided, but what my ears are fed by these Norwegian lads is terrific stuff. Some of it sounds like 70s hard rock with progressive touches. At the same time, it has plenty of early 80s pop hooks with blues-rock added as a bonus. My ears are confused but very happy. This kind of eclectic and experimenting yet melodic and accessible rock music is a terrific way forward for those that want music to evolve. I sense this is just the beginning of something even more epic. This band is on to something that many music fans with open minds and a flexible attitude to genres will dig. The exquisite track “The Shovel and the Cross” is a clear and immediate favourite of mine on a very interesting and somewhat unexpected dreamy yet quite dark eight-track album. It’s music created and performed by musicians that are curious and not afraid to go wherever the music takes them.

White Void’s album “Anti” is out today in Japan via Ward Records and internationally via Nuclear Blast.

Swedish death metal legend LG Petrov dead

LG Petrov (centre, holding the hammer) with Entombed A.D.

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish singer LG Petrov has died at the age of 49. The legendary death metal artist passed away on Sunday 7th March after having battled an incurable form of cancer since last year.

In his few years on Earth, LG Petrov managed to make a big impression. Already as a teenager, he was playing the drums with legendary cult act Morbid, which also featured future Mayhem vocalist Dead and Uffe Cederlund (later in Nihilist and Entombed). After Morbid, LG fronted Nihilist, a band that eventually morphed into Entombed. Entombed’s 1990 debut album “Left Hand Path” established them as one of the leading Scandinavian death metal acts. The band’s signature buzz-saw guitar sound combined with LG’s brutal vocals put them on the map. During his career, LG sang on an album with Comecon and was also a member of Firespawn. In 2014, he formed Entombed A.D. together with fellow ex-Entombed members Nico Elgstrand, Victor Brandt and Olle Dahlstedt.

RIP, LG Petrov.

Report: The Roppongi Rocks Clubhouse Sessions with Tony Dolan of Venom Inc

Stefan Nilsson and Tony Dolan backstage in Tokyo during Venom Inc’s 2018 Japan tour.

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The Roppongi Rocks Clubhouse Sessions, Episode #1: The Future of Heavy Metal with Tony Dolan of Venom Inc was a good-fun, intimate and relaxed discussion among metalheads. Here’s some of what you missed.

On Thursday 4th March, we had a ton of fun and plenty of laughs during the first edition of the Roppongi Rocks Clubhouse Sessions. Joining from London, England, British metal legend Tony Dolan (Venom Inc, Venom, Atomkraft, M-Pire of Evil) was as chatty as ever and shared some great stories and opinions in this up close and personal talk session. Here in Japan, Roppongi Rocks boss Stefan Nilsson, who moderated the intimate session, was joined by Matt Ketchum (goat-worthy guitarist of Retch and Worship Pain fame) who is one of the driving forces behind the Kaala crew that is active in the Japanese underground extreme scene. The speaker line-up was rounded off by Japanese music and entertainment industry executive Kana Nagumo.

The 70-minute discussion on the Clubhouse audio app covered a lot of ground. There were updates on the forthcoming second Venom Inc album and the creative process involved in writing and recording it. What it is like to be a metal trio with members spread out across England, Portugal and the US. What the future of international tours might look like. When can normal gigs be held again and will the audience still be there? How vital gigs are for actually selling physical records and band merchandise. How local Japanese underground bands are dealing with the pandemic and soldiering on, not least to help venues and other non-artists in the scene. The importance of new, and sometimes unexpected, musical collaborations and tributes, such as Venom Inc’s Mantas doing a The Dead Daisies cover and Tony Dolan doing a Black Sabbath tribute with members of Raven, Snowy Shaw, Marty Friedman and many more. The emergence of online performances and other virtual fan happenings during the pandemic and the likelihood that this trend is here to stay. We talked about evolving business models and sources of revenue for rock music and much more. We all agreed that we dearly miss the smell and atmosphere of sweaty and beer-soaked basement music venues, And we had a laugh about the perceived dangers of Elvis Presley’s hips and Tony’s missing hip (now safely replaced with a fake one).

Clubhouse is an interesting new platform for discussions. It is audio only, live only with no editing and no recording. If you don’t listen when it’s on, you miss out. The first Roppongi Rocks Clubhouse session was good fun. Thank you to all who participated. We will soon be back with details on the next edition of The Roppongi Rocks Clubhouse Sessions. Sweaty rock talk on your iPhone.

If you’re on Clubhouse and you’re insecure and suffering from fear of missing out (FOMO), you’d better follow @roppongirocks and never switch off your iPhone notifications.

Album review: Spain’s Angelus Apatrida combines modern and old-school thrash metal on its new album

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Angelus Apatrida gives us Spanish thrash metal on its seventh album.

Angelus Apatrida is a terrific thrash metal band from Spain. Founded more than two decades ago, their new self-titled album is their seventh full-length studio album since they debuted with “Evil Unleashed” in 2006. Having evolved and matured over the years, Angelus Apatrida, still consisting of Guillermo Izquierdo on vocals and guitar, Jose Izquierdo on bass, Victor Valera on drums and David Alvarez on guitar, is now a terrific thrash metal band up there with the best. The “Angelus Apatrida” album features ten brand new songs and kicks off with the relentless “Indoctrinate”. The lyrics on the album have been largely influenced by Spain’s recent troubles, both the shambolic political situation and the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The track “Through the Glass” is one of the album’s strongest with a serious Bay Area thrash metal feel to it. Spain is perhaps not as far away from California as one might think. The pummelling “Empire of Shame” is another favourite track of mine. It has splendid guitars and an angry attitude about it that appeals to me. “Into the Well” is terrific and the track’s vocals are partly kind of spoken rather than sung which keeps the song interesting. Some songs, like “The Age of Disinformation”, “Disposable Liberty” and “Bleed the Crown”, have a modern feel to them. The members of Angelus Apatrida have clearly been influenced by the 1980s Bay Area thrash metal scene, but they have used that influence and added their own bits. The result is terrific thrash metal that sounds modern and relevant without losing its roots. The band is experienced and knows how to deliver what its listeners want to hear. The Japanese edition comes with a bonus track: a great live recording of the Slayer cover “The Antichrist”.

Angelus Apatrida new album will be released in Japan on 5th March via Ward Records and has already been released internationally via Century Media Records.

Album review: The Impaler “A Fate Worse Than Death”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Australia’s The Impaler serves us a bowl of blackened death metal with a deathcore side dish on its new album.

I am not sure what’s driving this but recently Australia is delivering some terrific new acts in all kinds of different rock subgenres. The Impaler offers its listeners Australian extreme metal. There is a foundation of blackened death metal but the band mixes things up with influences from deathcore which adds a modern touch to the overall sound. It’s always heavy and brutal but the tempo and style of the songs range from fast and furious to doom-sludge slow. The music is stenchy, quite inaccessible, at times haunting, unappealing and very, very good. I love it. It’s like a soundtrack to an unwashed, stinky and sinister squirrel eating your face when you’ve fallen asleep in a back alley after too many beers and a dodgy kebab in your tummy. “A Fate Worse Than Death” contains seven tracks and is the follow-up to last year’s debut album “Death Cult”. The band consists of Shaun Van Looy on lead guitar, Lewis Ranford on rhythm guitar, Ben Van Looy on bass, Jammie Hubbard on drums and Jordan Scott on vocals. We also get guest appearances from Josh Hill of Cerement on “Hatred” and CJ McMahon of Thy Art Is Murder on “Mourn”, a very intense track that is one of the album’s best tracks. My favourite track is “Release” which has an eerie, swampy atmosphere about it.

The Impaler’s “A Fate Worse Than Death” is out now.