Album review: Betrayal “Disorder Remains”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German band Betrayal gives us old-school death metal with blackened thrash and tech and prog bits. The resulting sick stew is very good.

German death metal band Betrayal, founded in 2005, has released its second studio album. If uncompromising stenchy and damp technical death metal is your thing, you’ll love this. The band released the “Of Lust and Loss” in 2007 but the debut full-length studio album “Infinite Circles” didn’t arrive until 2016. In 2021 and with a new album done, the band’s boots are firmly stuck in the smelly mud of old-school meat-and-potatoes death metal with added thrashy parts as well as technical and progressive bits and pieces (as can be heard on the majestic tracks “War” and “Dooming Diversions” for example) and there’s some blackened drama in the mix as well. The resulting sick stew is very good. “Devouring Nothingness” is the most death metal song title on the “Disorder Remains” album and it is also one of the best tracks. “Chaos Reigns” is actually the least chaotic track on the album but it is terrific in its own delicate way. “Insanity”, a blackened thrash metal track with some doom sprinkling on top and some unexpected flamenco guitar in the middle, is my top choice. What a terrific song! “Greed and Oblivion” is another splendid track of organised chaos on a rather even album. The band’s current line-up consists of Manuel Komander (drums), Alex Burkl (guitar and vocals), Basti Kraus (lead guitar) and Phil Valenta (bass).

Betrayal’s album “Disorder Remains” is out now via Rising Nemesis Records.

Album review: Sator “Basement Noise”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish garage rockers Sator’s terrific “Basement Noise” album from 2006 is being reissued.

Perhaps best described as garage rock with a punk attitude, Sator is a fab Swedish rock band with a cult following since the 1980s. The band was formed in 1981 as Sator Codex before shortening the band name in 1987. I was lucky enough to see them perform live a number of times back in the day with the highlight being their show on the main stage at Hultsfredsfestivalen in Sweden in 1991. Culturally and attitude wise, Sator has a close connection to The Ramones. Musically, while not identical, they are certainly lurking about in the same neighbourhood. On the track “Escape from Pigvalley Beach”, Sator walks into a rockabilly and surf rock territory similar to when The Ramones took punk rock to meet The Beach Boys on “Rockaway Beach”. On this album we also get the terrific but sad track “Goodbye Joey”, which was written as a tribute to Joey Ramone. A track like “No!” could easily have been a The Hives song. On many of the other tracks (such as “So Dressed Up”, “Water on a Drowning Man”, “You Ain’t to Me”, “You’re Out of My Hands” and “Things You Don’t”) we get straightforward signature Sator garage rock. No matter the musical genre, Sator always has great melodies and a sweaty energy to its music. Sator – Chips Kiesbye (lead vocals and guitar), Kent Norberg (lead vocals and guitar), Hans Gäfvert (keyboards), Heikki Kiviaho (bass) and Mikael Solén (drums) – originally released “Basement Noise”, the band’s seventh studio album, in 2006 on the band’s own label Planet of Noise. This reissue on Wild Kingdom Records in CD, LP and digital formats, is the first time the album will be available on vinyl. The album was produced by Chips Kiesbye and Henryk Lipp and recorded at Music-A-Matic Studios in Gothenburg. As a producer Chips has worked with artists such as The Hellacopters, Psychotic Youth, The Nomads, Millencolin, Michael Monroe, Sahara Hotnights and many more. One can certainly hear cross-influences between many of Chips’ productions including on the “Basement Noise” album.

Sator’s album “Basement Noise” will be released on 11th June via Wild Kingdom Records.

Album review: Stormwind “Legacy Live”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish power metal band Stormwind’s Sweden Rock Festival performance from 2003 is being reissued in an excellent remastered version.

Black Lodge Records has a terrific treat in store for fans of European-style melodic power metal – a reissue of one of Swedish power metal’s finest live moments: Stormwind’s performance at Sweden Rock Festival in 2003. “Legacy Live” features a live recording originally released in 2004, and here being presented in a remastered version. Stormwind was a neoclassical melodic power metal band that released a number of studio albums during the 1996-2003 period. In 2003 when this recording was made, Stormwind’s founder and guitarist Thomas Wolf had assembled a Stormwind line-up with some great pedigree: lead singer Thomas Vikström (Therion, Candlemass), Joakim Brodén (Sabaton) on keyboards, David Wallin (Hammerfall, Pain) on drums and Andreas Passmark (Royal Hunt, Eclipse, Narnia) on bass. This reissue has been remastered by Magnus Lindberg at Redmount Studios. The “Legacy Live” reissue follows recent reissues of three of the band’s studio albums: “Resurrection”, “Reflections” and “Rising Symphony”. The “Legacy Live” album features some great live versions of Stormwind’s original songs from its studio albums. The album kicks off with the excellent “Touch the Flames”. It’s melodic, bombastic and very good. Obvious highlights on this terrific album include great live versions of “Samuraj”, “Strangers from the Sea” and “Excalibur”. But the winner is no doubt the track “Ship of Salvation”, a fast and melodic power metal song with splendid guitars and over-the-top vocals. The CD version comes with three interesting instrumental studio tracks as bonus material: “Tears of Passion”, “Satyricon” and “Miramar”.

Stormwind’s live album “Legacy Live” will be released on 11th June via Black Lodge Records. A Japanese edition will be released on 23rd June via Bickee Music.

Interview: Gary Shea talks about the next chapter of Alcatrazz

Gary Shea in Kawasaki, Japan in 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Roppongi Rocks checks in with Gary Shea about the new Alcatrazz album that will be released later this year. It’s a great chat about a new sense of unity in the band, the musical direction and upcoming tours as well as an unexpected collaboration between Gary and Dimmu Borgir’s Stian Thoresen.

Since the band was founded in 1983, Alcatrazz has seen many different line-ups. Among its past members are Graham Bonnet, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. The band’s most recent album, “Born Innocent”, was released last year and now co-founders Gary Shea (bass) and Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) are working on a new album that is planned for release later this year. In the current line-up of Alcatrazz, Gary and Jimmy are joined by drummer Mark Benquechea, guitarist Joe Stump and lead vocalist Doogie White.

Based on the yet-to-be finalised recordings I have heard, Alcatrazz seems to be moving into hard rock and power metal territory. Is this a deliberate move or is it just coming out that way? “I’ve been playing heavy music all my life since the 1960s when I first heard The Who play ‘My Generation’. I knew then that I wanted to play powerful rock music. Alcatrazz has always been a heavy band of thunder, keyboards, guitars and vocals. It`s true that we have gone up a notch now that we are in the 2020s. It all seems natural in our progression of making music.”

Your new vocalist Doogie White has terrific pedigree from Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker, etc. and he sounds fantastic on these new songs. Was he an obvious choice for Alcatrazz when you needed to find a new vocalist? “Yes. At this point in time, we all know each other from years ago and Doogie was our first choice. He has an amazing voice and tremendous credentials over the years. It’s also a plus that we are all thinking the same as to the style of music we play and how we want to go about touring the world.”

How big of an influence is Doogie on the musical direction? Is he participating in the songwriting? “Doogie’s direction is spot on for what we want to do as I was saying. He has written the majority of the lyrics and we love them. Great melodies and themes perfect for the Alcatrazz style. We can’t wait to get out and play them live. Our manager, Giles Lavery, is an excellent singer in his own right and wrote a few song lyrics as well. We have a great team and a new sense of unity.”

On the new track “Guardian Angel”, Nigel Glockler from Saxon is guesting on drums. How did this come about? Can we expect any other guest appearances on the album? “Again, we have all known Nigel for years. Mark ran into some difficulty rebuilding his house during the pandemic shutdown and couldn’t record his drums with the tight schedule we had. We asked Nigel if he would like to guest on a couple of tracks. He said yes, turning in a stunning performance. Life is too short and it’s a joy to play with this group of great musicians.”

You have a joint tour with Girlschool later on this year in the UK. Pandemic aside, once normal touring can resume, does Alcatrazz want to be touring a lot or will you be more selective with your travel in the future? “We hope to tour everywhere we can as we have fans around the world that would like to see us. Some for the first time. We had to cancel last year’s two dozen European summer shows due to the pandemic lockdown. We want to re-book those shows as well as many new ones.”

With last year’s very strong “Born Innocent” album and a new one coming out later this year, how will you balance newer material with some of the obvious Alcatrazz classics when you put together setlists? “It will be tough to make a setlist but we feel we will have a great combination of classic material from the early years and what we are up to now. We will be playing hard so there won’t be much down time. Everyone should go to our Facebook page (, like the page and let us know what you would like to hear!”

How does playing with current Alcatrazz drummer Mark Benquechea compare to when you and Jan Uvena made up the original rhythm section in Alcatrazz? “That`s a great question. Both of them are stellar and I have loved working with both of them. They have much in common such as great time keepers and cool drum fills. Jan had a cool jazzy swing to his playing and Mark is much more powerful. The core of the band is the bass and the drums driving everything. They both have cool fills which, to me, makes more drama going into a new part. The beauty of both is that they use their abilities with taste, not overplaying. The bass and drums are like the two pedals on a bicycle. If you lose one, you’re not going very far quickly. If you are synchronised you are in harmony and you glide along with ease, smiling.”

At a first glance, current lead guitarist Joe Stump is quite similar in style to Yngwie Malmsteen, Alcatrazz’s original lead guitarist. What do you feel are the differences between these two guitarists? “Both Joe and Yngwie are avid Ritchie Blackmore fans. What we have now, is that Joe plays to the song. Joe is very easy to work with and we don’t have some of the drama we had in the beginning. Also, Joe knows where the best deli food is in every city worldwide. His hotel room rivals most Italian markets. Where are you guys going after the show? Joe’s room!”

With Jimmy Waldo and you now busy with Alcatrazz, is there any time for your other joint groups, New England and Rock Island Orchestra, in the near future? “There will always be a big part of mine and Jimmy’s hearts in New England. The band plays periodically and at this time nothing is scheduled. I have just done a recording with Stian Thoresen from Norway. He has Vinnie Appice and Bruce Kulick among others playing with him on his new project. We plan on being super busy with Alcatrazz but there will always be room to squeeze other music in going forward. We look forward to playing our new music for all of our wonderful friends in Japan and beyond. Disturb the peace and keep rockin’!”

Gary Shea on stage with Alcatrazz in Tokyo in March 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Album review: Insistent “Disease”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Prague’s Insistent serves up crusty grindcore with death metal riffs on new album.

Insistent is a grindcore band that was formed in the Czech Republic in 2017 and consists of Daniel Weiss (guitar), Jiří Vošahlík (vocals), Petr Lukš (bass) and Přemysl Pláteník (drums). They already have “Serenity of Suffering” (a 2018 split EP with БУТ) and the 2019 album “Suspect” below their belts. The new “Disease” album, thirteen tracks in twenty-one and a half minutes, is fast and furious. This is crushingly intense and high-energy music. It’s pissed-off and intense grindcore with some death metal guitar riffs here and there. It sounds as if it was created in a dark, damp and stinky Prague basement. The sun doesn’t shine where this music comes from. At a length of 45 seconds, the terrific “Bad Blood” is more Napalm Death than Napalm Death. The slightly longer track “Lords of Chaos” is another highlight on an excellent and stenchy album. “Last Farewell” is also an immediate favourite but the brilliant “Friendly Fire” (44 seconds) is no doubt the winner. It’s pure chaos. “Wolf Cult” is different by being a bit more experimental and clocks in at a (in grindcore terms) massive four minutes and thirteen seconds.

Insistent’s album “Disease” will be released digitally and on CD on 13th June via L’inphantile Collective. A vinyl version will be released on 13th September.

Album review: Flotsam and Jetsam “Blood in the Water”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Flotsam and Jetsam gives us the best kind of American thrash metal on its 14th album.

American thrash metal band Flotsam and Jetsam was founded in Phoenix, Arizona in the early 1980s and the band released its debut album “Doomsday for the Deceiver” in 1986. It was also that year that I discovered them. What could have been a devastating and fatal blow to the band – Metallica recruiting Flotsam bass player Jason Newsted just as things were starting to take off – actually meant that tens of thousands of metalheads around the world discovered Flotsam. 35 years later and Flotsam is better than ever. The Flotsam boys are in fine form on the new album. They are not messing around and they are not taking no for an answer. They are here to perform for you, whether you like it or not. But if you listen to this album’s twelve tracks, you will discover a terrific thrash metal album. Over the years they have developed their own brand of thrash metal. The foundation is thrash but there are smoking speed metal guitars here and there, plenty of traditional heavy metal influences and great melodies that get stuck in your head. At times throughout their career, they have had a somewhat progressive experimental side to them. We get some of that on the terrific album closer “Seven Seconds ‘til the End of the World”. “Blood in the Water” is the band’s fourteenth album and it is one of its best. The catchy single “Burn the Sky” is terrific as is the whole album. “Brace for Impact” and “Reaggression” are both gloriously fast in an in-your-face thrash metal way but with tempo changes used for dramatic effect. “Cry for the Dead” is a terrifically emotional rollercoaster of a song. “The Walls” is straight-up heavy metal and has exquisite guitar work while “The Wicked Hour” is the album’s finest piece which combines old-school thrash elements with a modern feel and a catchy chorus. The current line-up of the band consists of Eric “AK” Knutson (vocals), Steve Conley (guitar), Michael Gilbert (guitar), Bill Bodily (bass) and Ken K Mary (drums).

Flotsam and Jetsam’s new album “Blood in the Water” is out now via AFM Records.

Album review: Crypta “Echoes of the Soul”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former Nervosa members Fernanda Lira and Luana Dametto have teamed up with guitarists Sonia Anubis and Tainá Bergamaschi in the fierce new death metal band Crypta.

In 2020, not long after their successful Japan tour, vocalist and bassist Fernanda Lira and drummer Luana Dametto suddenly left Brazilian thrash metal trio Nervosa. Fernanda and Luana had decided to fully focus on Crypta, a death metal band they had started to work on in 2019. In Crypta’s line-up we find Sonia Anubis, a Dutch guitarist who also plays in Cobra Spell and formerly with Burning Witches, and Tainá Bergamaschi, a Brazilian guitarist who has played with folk metal band Hagbard. Now the band’s debut album “Echoes of the Soul” is about to be released. What it sounds like? Wow! Fernanda and Luana have brought the fierceness and energy of Nervosa’s thrash metal with them into the world of death metal. In Crypta, this excellent and in-your-face fierceness has been combined with the fine guitar work by Sonia and Tainá to give us a terrific debut album. This is so good it hurts! Fernanda’s characteristic voice is perfect for this kind of relentless, punishing music. Love it! “Death Aracana” is among the standout tracks. We can hear old-school death metal influences from the likes of Morbid Angel’s 1989 masterpiece “Altars of Madness” but presented here in a contemporary, hard-hitting format. The guitars borrow a lot from more traditional heavy metal and there are also influences from black metal and other extreme music forms throughout the album. All this adds up to Crypta being fresh and interesting rather than just trying to copy old-school death metal bands that have walked before them. While Crypta has a rock solid foundation in old-school death metal, they bring a lot more to our ears. Their take on death metal is fresh, excellent and no doubt this is only the beginning for a terrific new band. Other terrific tracks on the album include “Shadow Within”, “Starvation”, “Under the Black Wings”, “Dark Night of the Soul” and “From the Ashes”. There is not a weak second on the album. This quartet has found a signature sound, they are fab musicians, have one of the genre’s best lead vocalists and the songwriting skills to deliver a complete package. When I heard about the plans for Crypta’s debut album, I immediately had high hopes. Now, with the album about to be released, my expectations have been exceeded. These fierce ladies of death have arrived on the death metal scene and they are here to stay.

Crypta’s “Echoes of the Soul” will be released on 11th June via Napalm Records.

EP review: Dirkschneider & The Old Gang “Arising”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The voice of metal Udo Dirkschneider is back with some of his old Accept and U.D.O. band members in a new project.

Udo Dirkschneider’s characteristic voice is one of the most recognised in the history of heavy metal. His voice has been anchored in your brain through countless recordings and tours globally with the bands Accept, U.D.O. and Dirkschneider. In this new project called Dirkschneider & The Old Gang, Udo has reunited with two of his old Accept band members, bassist Peter Baltes and guitarist Stefan Kaufmann. Stefan, who played drums in Accept, later became a producer and guitarist for the band U.D.O. Dirkschneider & The Old Gang also features guitarist Mathias Dieth (Sinner, U.D.O.), Udo’s son Sven Dirkschneider (U.D.O., Dirkschneider, Saxon) on drums and Manuela Bibert on vocals. On the EP’s three tracks – “Face of a Stranger”, “Every Heart is Burning” and “Where the Angels Fly” – we get quality grown-up melodic metal. It is less dangerous, not as fierce and slower than the classic Accept and U.D.O. music. It is still good and it is obvious that this gang is enjoying playing together again. Udo’s voice is still there and works well with this music. Udo shares vocal duties with Manuela Bibert (what a great find!) and Peter Baltes in this project. The male/female voice combination on the songs makes it less predictable and more interesting. This music won’t scare anyone, but it has enough musical references to Udo’s and the other members’ past to make it enjoyable. It is part nostalgia but in the form of new songs. It is feelgood, sing-along music that can work well at festivals in front of old and new fans. “Where the Angels Fly” is my favourite track due to its great guitars and melody, its delicately slow start and effective build-up to the more dramatic chorus.

Dirkschneider & The Old Gang’s EP “Arising” will be released on 27th August in 12” vinyl, CD and digital formats via AFM Records.

Album review: Die Krupps “Songs from the Dark Side of Heaven”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German industrial/metal crossover band Die Krupps hits us in the face with their keyboards and a covers album.

Since 1980, Jürgen Engler, Ralf Dörper and their various band members in German band Die Krupps have been creating a weird and wonderful music which has evolved into a combination of industrial and metal music with plenty of synthesizers. They call it electro metal. Now they are back with a new album of covers of some of their favourite songs by other artists. As always with Die Krupps, this new album comes with a twist. Die Kruppsifying old hits wasn’t enough. They decided to also bring in a few unexpected guests to perform with the band, for example Ross the Boss (of The Dictators and Manowar fame) turns up on a terrific version of The Stranglers’ “No More Heroes” while Jyrki 69 of The 69 Eyes joins them for an attack on The Neon Judgement’s “Chinese Black”. The best song on the album is perhaps Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” with James Williamson of The Stooges as guest. Devo’s “Whip It” also turns out very well. Killing Joke’s Big Paul Ferguson appears on Gang of Four’s “To Hell with Poverty!”. To cover Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” is brave but Die Krupps pulls it off.

In the current line-up of the band, founders Jürgen and Ralf are joined by Marcel Zürcher (guitar and keyboards), Nils Finkeisen (guitar) and Paul Keller (drums). As a side note, metalheads may recall that Exodus and Heathen guitarist Lee Altus was a member of Die Krupps in the 1990s.

Die Krupps’ album “Songs from the Dark Side of Heaven” is out now via Oblivion/SPV.