Album review: Dynazty “The Dark Delight”

Nils Molin of Dynazty in Tokyo in February 2017. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dynazty is among the very best of what Swedish melodic hard rock has to offer. Now the band has released what is nothing short of a melodic hard rock masterpiece.

Melodic hard rock knockout! Dynazty’s new album “The Dark Delight” is sheer perfection from start to finish. If you like melodic hard rock with both proper melodies, guitars and energy, this is it. Dynazty has done it. I can just bow and say thank you for this masterclass in how it’s done. Formed in Sweden in 2008, Dynazty now consists of Nils Molin (vocals), Love Magnusson (guitar), George Egg (drums), Mikael Lavér (guitar) and Jonathan Olsson (bass). On the new album, the band has matured nicely and firmly found its own place. The album, the band’s seventh full-length studio album, opens with the knockout track “Presence of Mind”. It’s a wake-up call and it tells us that Dynazty is ready for the major league with this album which is so full of great music and creativeness. It continues with equally fab tracks “Paradise of the Architect” and “The Black” which has everything that a melodic hard rock song should have: energy, melody, catchiness, twists and turns, great vocals and a terrific combination of guitars and keyboards. The guitar intro to the track “The Man and the Elements” is phenomenal and it is only the start to a terrific song where Molin gets to showcase his voice. But this is first and foremost a guitar song which makes me think back to the glory days of Gary Moore. The obligatory power ballad on the album comes in the form of the track “Hologram”, but the focus on this album is more on songs with energy. The album is quite varied within the parameters of what is deemed melodic hard rock. Just listen to “The Road to Redemption” which nicely combines melodic hard rock with a more bluesy, singer-songwriter kind of vibe.

In addition to his day job fronting Dynazty, vocalist Nils Molin joined another Swedish band, Amaranthe, in 2017 as one of its trademark three vocalists. Amaranthe is no doubt a double-edged sword for Dynazty. It has brought new fans to Dynazty and it seems to have helped develop Molin’s voice to a more mature level. His voice sounds terrific on this album. In Amaranthe he shares vocal duties with two other lead vocalists, whereas in Dynazty he is the sole frontman and he gets to properly shine on every song. Amaranthe is a hard-touring band and Molin’s commitment there means that there is limited time for Dynazty tours. I don’t know what the thinking is in the two camps, but Dynazty needs to do more touring to take this to the next level. Now they have a ridiculously great new album to help them make it big as a band. But does Molin have the time to tour this album properly? I hope so. This album and this band deserve it.

Dynazty’s “The Dark Delight” will be released on 3rd April via AFM Records.

Single review: Conny Bloom “Med Charlie i Venedig”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

A limited-edition 12-inch vinyl combining the talents of Conny Bloom and Charlie Granberg? That is exactly what Record Store Day is all about! “Med Charlie i Venedig” is a whirlwind of a catchy party song.

Conny Bloom made a name for himself as the frontman of Swedish hard rock band Electric Boys and later as a guitarist for Finnish glam rockers Hanoi Rocks. He quickly established himself as one of Sweden’s few real rock stars. In 2020, he is still fronting Electric Boys but is balancing that with a solo career focused on songs sung in his native Swedish. It is music in a peculiar Swedish tradition of storytelling solo artists combining 60s and 70s-sounding rock with rootsy, bluesy and folksy American and British singer-songwriter influences to arrive at something great living in the hills that divide the valleys of rock and pop. For 2020’s Record Store Day, Conny Bloom has cooked up something special in a vinyl format. Charlie Granberg, frontman of Hellsingland Underground, features here in several ways: he was in the dream that inspired the title song, he has created the over-the-top artwork for the single cover and he’s guesting on the song as well. “Med Charlie i Venedig” is a whirlwind of a catchy party song. It’s a great and humorous song, perfectly positioned to become a future live favourite where the fans can shout along. The addition of a soul/funk-style brass section helps in making this song splendid. The lyrics are based on a dream Bloom had about being thrown in jail in Venice and watching his friend Charlie Granberg having the time of his life outside. The B-side, “Dags att vinna Wimbledon”, is a catchy guitar song about a winning attitude and leaving a lasting impression. It has a terrific guitar sound that makes it stand out together with that infectious catchiness.

Conny Bloom’s “Med Charlie i Venedig” is a limited-edition 12-inch vinyl that will be released by Target Records for Record Store Day on 18th April.

Album review: Stagman “Kejsarens nya kläder”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Seasoned Swedish rocker Stagman delivers the goods on latest singer-songwriter solo album.

Bosse Stagman – aka Zinny Zan, formerly frontman of glam rock bands Easy Action, Shotgun Messiah and Zan Clan – returns with the latest solo album in a trilogy of albums sung in his native Swedish. Stagman is nowadays a grown-up singer-songwriter in a very Swedish tradition but with some obvious American influences as well. There are dark and very Nordic melancholic vibes on some of the songs while other tracks are a bit more upbeat. Many of the lyrics are a personal social commentary from Stagman, a master storyteller. Based on his lyrics, it is rather obvious that Stagman is no fan of the current government in Sweden. He seems to have become a bit more political on this new album as compared to the lyrics on the two earlier albums. Musically, things have also evolved somewhat with a more varied soundscape, including some great instrumental additions such as the odd saxophone for example. While his recent solo material is far removed from his glam metal days, it is a result of Stagman growing older and more seasoned. He’s not a kid any more. But his old fans have also grown older and I imagine that many of them, like me, will dig this. Stagman remains a remarkable showman and entertainer. In his current incarnation as an artist, he has ditched the image and is just being himself. This is a very personal and naked solo album. “Ser ni eldarna”, a song that manages to be both emotional and catchy, is a clear favourite of mine. The album’s title track is also a fabulous song. Other tracks that stand out are “En mil i mina skor”, “Inga sånger kvar i mitt jukeboxhjärta” and “Resan som vi gjort”. Fans of Stagman’s past as a glam rocker will be pleased to note that Nalle Påhlsson and Björn Höglund, who both played with Easy Action, are featured on the album.  Skintrade guitarist Stefan Bergström is doing a phenomenal job with his guitar on many of the songs which makes this a bit different than your average singer-songwriter album.

Stagman’s album “Kejsarens nya kläder” is out digitally today and in physical formats on 27th March via GMR Music.

Gig review: Bullet and The Babes turn it up loud in Tokyo

Bullet on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish metal lords Bullet finally made it to Japan and on to a Tokyo stage. With Aussie rockers The Babes as special guests we get a fine and sweaty evening in the name of heavy metal and hard rock.

Dag Hell Hofer of Bullet on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Bullet and The Babes at Cyclone, Shibuya, Tokyo on 20th February 2020

The Babes on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Australian rockers The Babes started making some real Japanese fans when they last year toured Japan for the first time, including opening for Venom Inc and Girlschool in Tokyo. Since then, they have released a fab full-length studio album and done more touring. This evening in Shibuya, we get to hear a 40-minute set of the best of what the band has to offer, including some of my favourite tracks such as “Doghouse”, “Dive Bars & Muscle Cars”, “It Ain’t Easy” and “Got No Soul”. Siblings Moni Lashes on drums, Donna D on guitar and Corey Stone on bass are fronted by Joey Ryan who is really growing into a terrific frontman. This time, many people in the audience already know the songs and thus, it feels like much more than a “mere” opening act. The Babes is building a loyal and growing following of Japanese fans and it is starting to pay off. Adelaide’s finest will no doubt be back in Japan soon again.

Donna D of The Babes on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Heavy metal is alive which the evening’s headline act is living proof of. Sweden’s Bullet plays a fantastic kind of straightforward heavy metal. It combines the best of British metal – like Judas Priest, Raven and Saxon – and crossbreeds that with Accept-style German metal and some AC/DC vibes to arrive at the exquisite Bullet sound. It oozes 1980s heavy metal but somehow it doesn’t really feel retro. It feels like here and now. It is quite possibly timeless heavy metal built on love for proper heavy metal. The band members so clearly love heavy metal. They enjoy what they do and they are very classy entertainers.

Bullet on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The band is tight and they know all the classical heavy metal stage moves. But this is not an image kind of band. This is a bunch of fine heavy metal journeymen with a van full of great songs and the musical skills to play the songs as well. Lead vocalist Dag Hell Hofer is someone who stands out. Dressed in a plain black t-shirt and with studded wristbands on both arms, this man is the real deal. He has a very fitting metal voice which partly reminds me of legendary Accept and UDO singer Udo Dirkschneider. Guitarists Hampus Klang and Alexander Lyrbo duel perfectly throughout the show and they are backed up by a solid rhythm section consisting of drummer Gustav Hjortsjö and Gustav Hector on bass.

Gustav Hector and Dag Hell Hofer of Bullet on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

They kick off the show with “Speed and Attack”. The party has started and it never stops. It’s a non-stop heavy metal show and it is ridiculously good. The show includes terrific songs such as “Turn It Up Loud”, “Stay Wild”, “Riding High”, “Rolling Home” (perhaps the evening’s absolute highlight), “Storm of Blades”, “Dusk Til Dawn”, “Heading for the Top”, “Dust to Gold”, “Fuel the Fire”, “Highway Love” and more. The setlist leaves nothing to desire. It is flawless. They even manage to squeeze in a cover, the instrumental song “Dr. Phibes” by Angel Witch, and make it sound as if it were their own song. A very suitable choice as former Angel Witch drummer Hermien Jeriandu’Fort, who co-wrote the song, is in the audience this evening.

Hampus Klang of Bullet on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

This is metal done how metal should be done. This is what proper heavy metal is all about. You take the foundation of what is great about the genre and you add some of your own touches to it. You deliver it with a helluva show that demonstrates that you and the audience love the same thing. The Bullet boys close a fabulous evening with “Bite the Bullet”, their very own heavy metal anthem. What a night! What an incredible band! Bullet reminds me of why I am a metalhead. Thank you.

Hampus Klang and Alexander Lyrbo of Bullet on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Photo report: Dir En Grey European tour final in Paris

Dir En Grey on stage in Paris. Photo: Valentina Giacomini, Roppongi Rocks

When Japanese rockers Dir En Grey played the final show of their “This Way to Self-Destruction” European tour at Elysée Montmartre in Paris, France on 8th February, photographer Valentina Giacomini was there to document the show for Roppongi Rocks. Please click on the thumbnail images in the gallery below to view the photos.

Album review: Demons & Wizards “III”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

German-American band Demons & Wizards combines its Iced Earth and Blind Guardian roots with some excellent Uriah Heep vibes on its third album.

Demons & Wizards is the German-American band in which guitarist Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth fame and Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kürsch combine their talents to create terrific atmospheric metal music. Their day jobs certainly shine through here. The combination of the trademark Iced Earth guitars and songwriting with the classic Blind Guardian voice is sheer brilliance. “III” is the band’s third album and follows the self-titled debut album in 2000 and 2005’s “Touched by the Crimson King”. The band name was inspired by Uriah Heep and there is indeed a progressive rock and classic hard rock foundation here based on the classic Heep sound.

Demons & Wizards has an epic feeling on much of its music which is both very metal and rather melodic. This is a remarkably beautiful album that doesn’t disappoint. The very first song, the stunning “Diabolic”, sets the tone and the direction for the album. The album is rock solid with no weak songs at all. “Wolves in Winter”, “Final Warning”, “Universal Truth” and “Split” are among the highlights but there are no low points. “Timeless Spirit” is a terrific power ballad. “Children of Cain” is beyond epic in its 1970s glory. There is so much good stuff on this album that it feels like an epic overload. It’s a stunning album. This is the kind of classy album that is likely to age very well. It’s as if someone has taken the best hard rock of the 70s and brought it to 2020 for an update. It has a timeless feel to it. The classic rock voice, the splendid guitars, the songs and the awesomeness of it all. Wow! 

Demons & Wizards’ new album “III” is out today via Century Media Records.

Album review: H.E.A.T “H.E.A.T II”

Erik Grönwall of H.E.A.T on stage in Tokyo in 2018. Photo: Takumi Nakajima

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s H.E.A.T returns with a fabulous new album filled with melodic hard rock of the best kind. This is the band’s best album to date.

Sweden has perhaps produced more melodic hard rock bands per capita than any other country. Among the best of the current Swedish offering is no doubt H.E.A.T. Formed in the Stockholm suburb Upplands Väsby (home to Europe, Yngwie Malmsteen and Candlemass) in 2007, “H.E.A.T II” is the band’s sixth full-length studio album. A what a cracking album it is!

The album kicks off with the smoking high-energy track “Rock Your Body”. Like many of the other Swedish bands, H.E.A.T has great songs and great musicians. What really sets them apart from the pack is frontman Erik Grönwall. He has the voice, energy, attitude and fearless craziness to be a world-class frontman. He’s a proper entertainer who knows how to keep his audience engaged. It’s most evident on stage, but even in the studio, his quality shines through. Just listen to his voice in the intro to “We Are Gods”, a song which is the absolute highlight on this fab album. As part of a proud Swedish tradition, H.E.A.T delivers melodic hard rock filled with great guitars and wrapped in plenty of keyboards. Jona Tee on the keyboards is another of the band’s differentiators. His keyboards play a more prominent role in most of the songs than is usual for other melodic hard rock bands where they are more of a decoration. On a song like “Victory”, for example, we get an exquisite combination of keyboards and guitars. H.E.A.T is not a band afraid of pushing the boundaries. They are a melodic hard rock band, but throughout their career, they have included many different influences in their songs and they are good enough to get away it. Another highlight is the rocking track “One by One”, which no doubt will become a live favourite. “Nothing to Say” is the obligatory big power ballad of the album. Original guitarist Dave Dalone returned to the band a few years ago and his guitar work has matured and really is smoking on many of the songs here. The rhythm section – drummer Crash and bassist Jimmy Jay – is as steady as ever. “H.E.A.T II” is the band’s best album to date. Wow! They’ve done it.

H.E.A.T’s new album “H.E.A.T II” is out today in Japan via Marquee/Avalon and will be released internationally on 21st February via earMUSIC. H.E.A.T will tour Japan again in March.

Gig review: Nervosa kills the silence in Roppongi

Fernanda Lira of Nervosa on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

A fantastic Roppongi evening in the name of thrash metal with high-energy Brazilian trio Nervosa.

Nervosa and Valkyrie at Club Edge, Roppongi, Tokyo on 8th February 2020

Fernanda Lira of Nervosa on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

One of the more exciting bands in thrash metal in recent years has been the Brazilian trio Nervosa. They’ve been around for a decade, but it is more recently that they have started to become better known internationally. In 2019 they played at the legendary Rock in Rio festival and that created a lot of well-deserved attention for the band. This is the band’s first-ever Japan tour and during their visit, they are playing three separate shows in Tokyo, including this final sold-out night at Club Edge in Roppongi.

Nervosa on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The evening’s opening act is Osaka thrashers Valkyrie. They give us raw, straightforward old-school underground thrash metal. They do a good job of getting the thrash-loving crowd warmed up ahead of Nervosa’s much-anticipated show. Fronted by the fierce bassist/vocalist Fernanda Lira on bass and vocals, Nervosa also includes the band’s founder Prika Amaral on guitar and drummer Luana Dametto. This is one powerful metal trio. They are so full of energy and talent that they seem to bounce onto the stage as they kick off the first song. The band’s music is excellently aggressive in sharp contrast to how nice and humble the band’s members are. This is fierce thrash metal with attitude. They are fab musicians with a bag full of great songs and they know how to properly entertain their audience.

Fernanda Lira of Nervosa on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

They open with “Horrordome” and follow it with “Justice Be Done” and “Intolerance Means War”. What a start! The club is boiling and we get circle pits, stage diving and crowd surfing going from the start. The show continues with “Bleeding”, “Arrogance”, “Hostages”, “Enslave” and “Time of Death”. The setlist is flawless. We get a splendid version of “Guerra Santa”, a song performed in Portuguese which is an anti-religion song about bad deeds being carried out in the name of God. Then we get a couple of the show’s absolute highlights with the phenomenal songs “Kill the Silence” and “Raise Your Fist”. The high-energy, sweaty show continues with relentless energy through the songs “Vultures”, “Masked Betrayer”, “Fear, Violence and Massacre”, “Death!” and “Never Forget, Never Repeat”. They finish a terrific show with their very own thrash metal anthem “Into Moshpit”. The circle pits, stage diving and crowd surfing that have been ongoing during the whole show reach a peak. What a show! What a band! What an audience! This is how I like my Saturday nights in Roppongi! A big thank you to the promoter Metal Justice Tokyo who keeps bringing quality thrash metal acts to Japan. 

Prika Amaral of Nervosa on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

I am convinced that Nervosa will continue to climb higher and win ever more fans as they continue to tour and release new music. They are already planning for their next Japan tour as they had such a warm welcome on this first visit.

Fernanda Lira of Nervosa on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Gig review: Philip Anselmo revisits his Pantera past during Japan tour

Phil Anselmo on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Takumi Nakajima

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Commander Phil Anselmo lays waste to Tokyo with a fierce revisit of his Pantera back catalogue and the best of his work with The Illegals.

Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Takumi Nakajima

Extreme the Dojo with Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, King Parrot and Palm at Liquidroom, Ebisu, Tokyo on 28th January 2020

Phil Anselmo’s return to Japan is eagerly anticipated by his Japanese fans, not least because the Japan tour is billed as Anselmo “plays Pantera songs”. Fabulous local hardcore quartet Palm has seemingly relentless energy during their opening set. The band does a terrific job of warming up the audience with its uncompromising and hard-hitting music. They get circle pits going in the audience and it’s a splendid way to kick off this evening. They’re followed by Aussies King Parrot from Melbourne. They have a somewhat slow start but once they warm up, their self-deprecating humour and their peculiar brand of grinding thrash metal get the audience on their side.

Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Takumi Nakajima

Legend Phil Anselmo walks onto the stage like the commander he is. He is here to command his loyal Japanese metalheads. He and The Illegals kick off the show with the terrific song “Little Fucking Heroes”. They follow it with more songs from The Illegals, “Choosing Mental Illness”, “Bedridden”, “Photographic Taunts” and “Mixed Lunatic Results”. This initial part of the show is rounded off with “The Better” which Anselmo dedicates to former Corrosion of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin who unexpectedly passed away the day before.

Then it is time for Pantera overload. For me, it is a welcome reminder of the time when I saw Pantera, together with Annihilator, open for Judas Priest, 29 years earlier, in Stockholm, Sweden on 2nd February 1991 (although “Domination” is the only song played at the 1991 show which is also performed this evening in Tokyo). They start the Pantera section of the show with “Mouth for War” and follow that with “Becoming”, “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit”, “Strength Beyond Strength”, “Goddamn Electric”, “Walk”, “Domination” and “Hollow”. Anselmo finishes a fab evening with “A New Level” from Pantera’s 1992 “Vulgar Display of Power” album. What a great evening celebrating both Anselmo’s Pantera past and his present with The Illegals. Nostalgia is best done when it is combined with the present. Phil Anselmo is still alive, very much relevant and capable of creating fab new music. According to fan reports, the subsequent Anselmo shows in Nagoya and Osaka were even better than the terrific Tokyo show.

Phil Anselmo on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Takumi Nakajima

Album review: Anvil “Legal at Last”

Anvil. Photo: Rudy De Doncker

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Canadian heavy metal trio Anvil returns with a fab new album filled with straightforward metal.

Anvil is a metal band of the seasoned kind. They’ve been around the block a few times and have their boots on the ground. They are the kind of band who, like AC/DC and Raven, keep going no matter what. They do their own unique thing. They’ve hit a few bumps on the road and they get knocked about once in a while. But they ignore the trends and just keep going, just like they always have since they formed in Toronto in 1978. In today’s Anvil, founding members Steve “Lips” Kudlow on guitar and vocals and drummer Robb Reiner are joined by bassist Chris Robertson who has been in the band since 2014.

Anvil’s Robb Reiner with Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson in Tokyo in Nov 2019.

“Legal at Last” is the band’s eighteenth full-length album and the follow-up to 2018’s “Pounding the Pavement”. As I had hoped, it is an excellent and trend-ignoring heavy metal album. “Gasoline” is the album’s absolute highlight for me. It is a splendid old-school and riff-happy heavy metal track with a world-class guitar solo. Other great songs on this solid album include “Plastic in Paradise”, “Chemtrails” and “Bottom Line” as well as the catchy “Glass House” and the fun “Nabbed in Nebraska”. “Legal at Last” is a true return to form by Anvil. There are more than just a few hints and nods to the band’s classic early albums here, but without sounding dated. This is what I would refer to as proper heavy metal.

Anvil’s “Legal at Last” will be released on 14th February via AFM Records.