Album review: Inculter “Fatal Visions”

Inculter

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Norwegian band Inculter gives us a classic-sounding 1980s thrash metal assault on their terrific new studio album.

On the new album “Fatal Visions”, Norwegian band Inculter has created a perfect 1980s thrash metal sound, managing to remind us of both the American Bay Area school of thrash and the classic German take on thrash. The result is a terrific eight-track album. While paying tribute to those who walked before them on the thrash metal path, Inculter has taken the foundation offered to them and built their own music. The “Fatal Visions” album follows the 2013 EP “Stygian Deluge” and their debut full-length album “Persisting Devolution” from 2015. “Impending Doom” is an immediate favourite track of mine with its fast guitars and its pounding drums. The relentless pummelling on songs like “Endtime Winds”, “Towards the Unknown” and “Final Darkness” puts a smile on my face. Inculter’s music is brutal and raw and terrific but still with some great melodies. There is a glorious aggressiveness here which makes this fantastic. The music is dark with some blackened death metal influences as an overlay on the classic thrash metal. No doubt this song material will work a treat live on stage. This is some seriously tasty Scandinavian thrash metal. 

Inculter’s “Fatal Visions” is out now via Edged Circle Productions.

www.facebook.com/inculter

www.facebook.com/edgedcircleproductions

Gig review: Jake E Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel in Tokyo

Jake E Lee on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Legendary guitar wizard Jake E Lee makes a triumphant return to Tokyo with a show featuring Red Dragon Cartel, Badlands and Ozzy Osbourne songs.

Jake E Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel at Club Quattro, Shibuya, Tokyo on 17th April 2019 

Guitarist Jake E Lee has been loved by Japanese fans since the 1980s when he made a name for himself, first playing with Ozzy Osbourne and then with Badlands. The American guitarist’s Japanese ancestry probably explains part of it, but Japan loves mind-blowingly talented guitar heroes playing rock music.

Jake E Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Returning once again to Japan with his current band, Red Dragon Cartel, Lee has the crowd with him as soon as he walks onto the stage. The evening kicks off with “Wasted”, a great rocker from Red Dragon Cartel’s self-titled debut album from 2014, which is followed by “Havana” and “Punchclown” from the band’s second album, 2018’s “Patina”. The Cartel’s music is very much built on Jake E Lee’s pedigree of playing great blues-based hard rock. Jake not only shows us that his guitar magic is still there. He also shows us some fine dance moves throughout the show. Jake is, of course, the undisputed star. But he manages to shine without ever overdoing it. He’s not overshadowing the songs or his bandmates. The Cartel’s line-up consists of bassist Anthony Esposito (Ace Frehley, Lynch Mob), drummer Phil Varone (Saigon Kick, Skid Row, Vince Neil) and vocalist Darren James Smith (Harem Scarem).

The bulk of the set is made up of songs from the “Patina” album, with the song “Ink and Water” being the highlight. The amount of music in the show from the new album reminds us how good this album is. But there are also other goodies from earlier years: for the Badlands fans, the band offers us “3 Day Funk” and “High Wire” and for the Ozzy Osbourne fans there is “Spiders in the Night”. The band closes the show with the terrific “Feeder”. It is a very fitting end to the show as “Feeder” also has the best guitar solo of the night. It’s quite a finale to a great show.

Jake E Lee on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

www.facebook.com/reddragoncartel

www.reddragoncartel.com

Album review: Tronos “Celestial Mechanics”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

In Tronos, three of our absolute favourite people in the music industry – Shane Embury, Russ Russell and Dirk Verbeuren – offer us something very different and splendidly gorgeous. The result is atmospheric epicness! 

Tronos is perhaps giving us a glimpse of the dark, murky and warped world inside the brains of the two Brits Shane Embury (Napalm Death, Venomous Concept, Bent Sea, Lock Up, Brujeria) and Russ Russell (whose production credits include Napalm Death, Lock Up, The Haunted, Dimmu Borgir, At the Gates and much more). It’s like “Alice in Wonderland” meets “A Nightmare on Elm Street” with Freddy Krueger chasing poor Alice and killing the Mad Hatter in the process. It’s a twisted and dark mystical tour of an underworld under your skin or a space journey to a galaxy far, far away. Embury and Russell have worked together on many albums over the years, and in Tronos they have also brought in another brother who they know well, Megadeth drummer Dirk Verbeuren. 

The album opener, “Walking Among the Dead Things”, sets the tone for the album. It’s an epic piece of rather complex music clocking in at almost eight minutes. We get plenty of variations in the musical styles on the album’s ten tracks, but somehow they all fit in nicely together. Despite the many various musical influences used to create Tronos, there is not a weak moment on this album. I never get bored. With Embury, Russell and Verbeuren involved, obviously my expectations are sky high, but I didn’t expect this. It’s terrific and so different. Love it! Embury and Russell have spent years putting this album together. The wait has been worth it – the end result is stunning! Tronos’ music is multi-layered dreamy, doomy and epic ambient music. There are some hints of the band members’ more brutal and extreme musical roots, such as on parts of the great track “Birth Womb”. But this is very different and, for the most part, it is not brutal. There are so many variations and twists and turns here that the listener can make new discoveries every time the music is played. In Tronos, Embury is not playing bass, but rather opting to sing lead and play guitar. It shows a different side to this fantastic artist. The dreamy song “Voyeurs of Nature’s Tragedy” is a favourite of mine and the hauntingly doomy “Judas Cradle” is simply exquisite. On one of the album’s best tracks, “Premonition”, we get a fantastic guest appearance by Voivod vocalist Snake. Erica Nockalls (The Wonder Stuff, The Proclaimers) adds both terrific vocals and violin to some of the songs and other guest musicians appearing on the album are Billy Gould (Faith No More), Troy Sanders (Mastodon) and Dan Lilker (Nuclear Assault, Anthrax, Venomous Concept). The closing track on the album, Black Sabbath cover “Johnny Blade”, is one of its absolute highlights. This album is simply terrific! This is a beautiful avant-garde masterpiece!

Tronos’ album “Celestial Mechanics” will be released on 12th April via Century Media Records.

Tronos: Dirk Verbeuren, Shane Embury and Russ Russell. Photo: Gobinder Jhitta

www.facebook.com/tronos666

www.tronos666.com

Interview: Uriah Heep | “It’s all about the songs”

Phil Lanzon and Davey Rimmer of Uriah Heep backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

During classic British rockers Uriah Heep’s recent Japan tour, Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson had a chat with band members Phil Lanzon and Davey Rimmer backstage at Billboard Live in Roppongi, Tokyo.

50 years after its foundation in England in 1969, British rock band Uriah Heep is at the top of its game: still very actively touring the world and with a splendid new album, “Living the Dream”, released in 2018. The terrific current line-up of the band consists of founding guitarist Mick Box, vocalist Bernie Shaw, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, drummer Russell Gilbrook and bassist Davey Rimmer.

Heep’s return to Japan took the form of six special gigs at the two Billboard Live venues in Osaka and Tokyo, with the band performing sets at around 70 minutes each and doing two shows per night in front of a seated audience. “That’s the problem with Heep. It’s like 25 albums, so many songs, so many good songs and trying to keep everyone happy is always a nightmare. We try, but we would have to play for like four hours to keep everyone happy. 25 studio albums and 50 years of rock music, all the different eras of Heep,“ says bassist Davey Rimmer as we sit down backstage between two of the band’s sets at Billboard Live in Roppongi, Tokyo.

Davey Rimmer of Uriah Heep backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Rimmer is the newest member of Heep. “Yeah, it’s about six years now. I auditioned for Heep. At the time, Trevor Bolder, the amazing Trevor Bolder – The Spiders from Mars and Uriah Heep – amazing bass player, at the time he wasn’t too well. We found out that he sadly had cancer. As he went for treatment, Heep they just wanted a stand-in, because they had lots of gigs. Initially, I came in as a fill-in. As the months went by, very sadly Trevor passed away. For me, I just wanted to meet him, because I was hoping I would play with the band and then I get to have a jam with him. He’s an amazing player. I met his family, but sadly I never got to actually meet Trevor. That’s the thing with Heep, there are so many great bass players they’ve had. I always try to do justice to the… I don’t want to change them classic lines. I always try to keep close to what they played. It’s an honour for me to play in Trevor’s legacy of great bass playing, great songs. He was a great songwriter. He had everything. He was a great singer. The new album is called ‘Living the Dream’ and, for me, I am! Because I used to play all them songs in bars and my bedroom. I was a big rock fan when I was a kid!” says Rimmer with a big smile, clearly very happy to be a member of the veteran rock band he listened to when he grew up.

Phil Lanzon of Uriah Heep backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Keyboardist Phil Lanzon, who has been in the band since 1986, notes the difference between this Japan tour – with relatively short sets at around 70 minutes with a seated audience eating dinner – and the shows the band normally does. “It’s a very, very big difference. It’s very alien to us. We’re playing normally to standing audiences and festivals so you could imagine that there’s a complete contrast. But it’s really good because it’s something different. I really enjoy it and it’s fun!”

With a terrific new album out, do you ever feel like – sod all the old stuff, let’s just play the great new material? “The band is so established and playing the old classic Heep songs… Every time you play that song, somebody different in the audience, it’s a new face hearing that song and their communication to us, that is immediate. That’s the buzz! You play those old songs and you enjoy playing them because the feedback is incredible. That’s the reason for it. So, you can’t dismiss those songs, because everything would fall apart. You have to have a combination,” explains Lanzon and adds: “We did well to get three or four in there” as a reference to the ten-song setlist for the gig they had just finished which featured four new tracks.

Uriah Heep founder Mick Box and Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson backstage in Tokyo.

Rimmer continues: “We do try to mix it up, because I know it’s such a catalogue of songs. 25 albums, 50 years. We do try to keep everyone happy. It’s difficult. We’d be playing for four hours to keep everyone happy. But we do wanna play the classic stuff and we wanna play new stuff as well. We try to play it with enthusiasm and power and energy because that’s what we want off the crowd.” Uriah Heep now has a great and what seems like a stable line-up. In Heep’s early years there was turmoil with changing line-ups. “There was turmoil before, yeah,” says Lanzon and continues: “I think so. This is what we enjoy doing. You have to remember this is what we love doing and when you see those faces, that’s it!”

The band will mark reaching the 50-year mark since the band formed in England in 1969. One special show in Europe with three former band members joining the current line-up has already been announced and there will be more good stuff for the fans. Lanzon explains: “It’s an event we’re doing in the latter half of this year, with other members of the band. It’s a special one-off event. We’re planning on various touring in 2020 for the big 50 years launch if you like. There will be festivals, there will be tours, all celebrating the 50 years throughout next year. It hasn’t been planned yet, but we’re working on it.” And perhaps a 19th live album? “Maybe!” says Lanzon. Rimmer adds: “We did ‘Live at Koko’, about five years ago. So, we’re probably due for a new one!”

The band’s great recent material works very well live. “It does,” agrees Lanzon. “It does, because, we kind of look at… When we are writing new albums, we tend to look at what’s gone before as a blueprint for the next album. Not to copy, but to have the same energy, the same melodic kind of structure, lyrical structure and to make sure we can see it fit in with the old songs. It’s not like we’re deliberately making it like the old songs, we have that in mind. So, when you’re building something like that, and the song is working as a song, separate, then you know it’s going to work.”

I would describe the classic Heep sound as classic hard rock with a lot of keyboards and vocal harmonies. “That’s basically it, really, It is energy and power from all of the above, mixed together and that’s what you get! Haha!” says Lanzon and continues: “You have to look back to the past, even the late 60s into the early 70s, when all prog music was being born from all the influences that were happening in music. A feeling grew out of that into the rock that we have today. The roots are actually there of the music that various bands like ourselves are fitted into. That’s the genre that we seem to have been drawn to and that’s the way we have gone down.” Rimmer adds: “The massive Hammond, guitar, bass and drums and then you’ve got this powerful melody on top. At the end of the day, it’s all about the songs. The emotion of the lyrics and the song. For me, that’s what Heep is. You’ve got that powerful sound, but it’s all about the songs!” Lanzon continues: “I think you can almost pinpoint an era, again in the late 60s, which was Vanilla Fudge, who had that different power. It was the organ, the guitar and the vocals like you say. It was just like: Ah, I like the sound of that!”

Uriah Heep may have been going for 50 years, but it doesn’t seem they are about to retire anytime soon.

Phil Lanzon and Davey Rimmer of Uriah Heep backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

www.facebook.com/uriahheepofficial

www.uriah-heep.com

Interview: Marco Mendoza | Returning to Tokyo with “Viva La Rock” shows in May

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Former Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy bassist Marco Mendoza is rather busy with The Dead Daisies. But he still makes time for his exciting solo project, “Viva La Rock”, which he will bring to Japan in May.

Having been a wingman to David Coverdale, Scott Gorham, John Sykes and Ted Nugent, in his “Viva La Rock” solo project, bassist Marco Mendoza takes centre stage. When he recently was here in Tokyo for a performance with Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia, Roppongi Rocks had a cappuccino with him in Shinjuku to talk about his solo project which will tour Japan in May. We’re meeting a day after Marco’s “Metal Souls Live” performance with Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia, which also featured Ronnie Romero (Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow) and Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Ted Nugent). “We had a blast and I think the audience loved it, man! They really dug it. They sang all the songs!” It is obvious that Marco enjoys playing with the up-and-coming Japanese guitarist Nozomu Wakai. “He’s hungry and he’s very talented. I’m always into tapping into that energy. Being a little older myself…”

Marco Mendoza made a name for himself as a reliable bassist for Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Blue Murder and Ted Nugent. In recent years, The Dead Daisies has been his main gig, but he still has time for side projects. He has been performing in Japan with many bands and artists over the years. In May he will return as a solo artist and do two special club gigs in Tokyo.

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

When Marco performs with “Viva La Rock”, he does it with a powerful trio. The importance to Marco of establishing chemistry between the musicians is very clear and this is true both on stage and in the studio. “There’s chemistry and magic that happens when we play together. This is a part of the business I am not too keen on, the digital thing. Where’s the human factor?” asks Marco Mendoza about the current practice of musicians recording their parts of a song in their home studios rather than get together to create music together. “I was talking to Soren Andersen, who produced. I said, ‘Bro! If I do my next album, I gotta get in the studio with the cats and play.’” Marco also rejects the idea of recording at home. “The attempt at having a studio at home… I did it a couple of times and it just doesn’t work. Because when I get home, I want to be with my wife and my kids. Be a dad, be a husband. To try and work, when my kids were younger, you can’t. When I do work at home, I wait until everybody crashes.”

“When I’m with the bigger projects, if I have a little bit of time, I always keep myself busy, which is where my solo project comes from and other things. I am working with Neal Schon. Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie and Deen Castronovo in the Journey Through Time project. I’m really busy with The Daisies. That’s my first priority and there’s some cool stuff happening there. Very, very cool stuff. Between The Daisies, Neal Schon and my solo project ‘Viva La Rock’, I’m pretty busy.”

Marco Mendoza and Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson in Tokyo.

The Dead Daisies have been very active but the band is now on a short breather. “We’ve been touring constantly for the past four-five years. Four albums, one EP, a lot of tours with KISS, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company, to name a few. A lot of arena tours, festivals. We just did some things with Guns N’ Roses because of our connection there with Richard and Dizzy and Frank.” (GNR members Richard Fortus, Dizzy Reed and Frank Ferrer were previously playing with The Daisies). “It’s a lot of stuff. Whitesnake! We supported Whitesnake. That was so fun, man! We decided: we’ve done a lot of work, we need to just take a few steps back, make a strategic plan that’s going to elevate the project. I think we’re pretty established now. We’re on the map, we’re on the radar. Our fanbase has grown and we’re getting invited everywhere and so we could very easily keep going. But the idea is to elevate it to the next level, wherever that level is.”

As busy as Marco remains with all his bands and projects, it is obvious he is enjoying doing his solo stuff as well. The solo album “Viva La Rock” was released in 2018 by Mighty Music internationally and Ward Records in Japan. (Read Roppongi Rocks’ album review here.) A follow-up solo album is already being planned. “I have to do my second album at the end of this year!” says Marco with a big smile on his face. Unlike in most of his other musical endeavours, with “Viva La Rock”, Marco takes centre stage. “I think, not to blow smoke up my own butt, but I think the sign of a true artist, a true musician – I don’t like the rock star thing, I consider myself a musician – is to constantly push the creative thing. To constantly test yourself and not be afraid of failure, because those are your best lessons,” says Marco as he sips on his cappuccino.

Marco Mendoza in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Marco Mendoza will perform with his trio at Club Edge in Roppongi on Friday 17th May and at Shinseikai in Nishiazabu on Saturday 18th May. For more information and tickets: Metal Justice Tokyo Viva La Rock

www.facebook.com/marcomendozaofficial

www.facebook.com/marcomendozajapan

www.marcomendoza.com

 

Album review: Entombed “Clandestine Live”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Reunited Swedish death metal pioneers Entombed’s live version of its 1991 “Clandestine” album is nothing short of a brutal masterpiece. 

My expectations on the reformed/reunited Entombed’s new live release were sky high. After all, this is one of the best death metal bands of all time. Entombed were pioneers in the original Swedish death metal movement. Here they are performing one of their most classic albums in its entirety. I am very pleased that the band and this live album by far exceed those expectations. “Clandestine Live” is nothing short of a brutal masterpiece!

The band’s current line-up consists of Nicke Andersson (drums), Uffe Cederlund (guitar) and Alex Hellid (guitar) from the band’s original line-up that recorded the Tomas Skogsberg-produced “Clandestine” studio album in 1991. New members are Edvin Aftonfalk on bass and Robert Andersson on vocals, both formerly of Morbus Chron. “Clandestine Live” features all the nine songs from the studio album – “Living Dead”, “Sinners Bleed”, “Evilyn”, “Blessed Be”, “Stranger Aeons”, “Chaos Breed”, “Crawl”, “Severe Burns” and “Through the Colonnades” – plus “Left Hand Path”, the title song from the band’s 1990 debut album. It is brutal old-school death metal, yet beautifully melodic at times, in a haunted kind of way. While professionally recorded, this live album has captured the fantastically raw and brutal DIY sound that was an important ingredient in the death metal scene in the late 80s and early 90s. This live performance was recorded on 12th November 2016 in Sweden to mark the 25th anniversary of the studio album’s release. But it sounds as if it could have been recorded in 1991. That’s a good thing and probably what the band has tried to achieve here. The end result is splendid death metal awesomeness. Entombed rocks like it’s nobody’s business. Now the pressure is on for Entombed’s friends and rivals in Dismember to see what they can achieve when they reunite on stage later this year. The absolute highlights on this terrific live album include the exquisite songs “Chaos Breed”, “Crawl”, “Severe Burns”, “Stranger Aeons” and, of course, “Left Hand Path”.

Entombed’s “Clandestine Live” will be released on 17th May via Threeman Recordings.

Entombed. Photo: Anders Norrud

www.entombed.org

www.facebook.com/entombedclandestine

Album review: Suzi Quatro “No Control”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Suzi Quatro is back with a new studio album filled with grown-up rock’n’roll with plenty of blues and some glam rock hints. 46 years after her album debut, she is still in control of her career. 

American artist Suzi Quatro had her heyday back in the 1970s. She relocated to England in 1971 and released her first album as a solo artist in 1973. With “No Control”, her brand new album, she proves that she’s still got it. This is straightforward rock with hints of glam rock and plenty of blues rock. She undoubtedly influenced The Runaways and Girlschool and many other artists back in the day. Her voice still sounds great and on this album, she has backed up her vocal and playing skills with decent songs. The majority of the new songs have been written together with her son, Richard Tuckey. Most of the album consists of catchy grown-up rock’n’roll. The fantastic “Strings” is my favourite track. Other great songs here are “No Soul/No Control”, “Macho Man”, “Bass Line”, “Heavy Duty” and “Going Down Blues”. “Love Isn’t Fair” is a bit of a weird one. It’s not a bad song at all, but to me, it feels out of place as it sounds like some kind of Caribbean-flavoured pop song. I am not sure what the thinking was here. But the rest of the album is solid. I like this mature version of Suzi Quatro. She’s definitely in control.

Suzi Quatro’s new studio album “No Control” is out now via SPV/Steamhammer.

www.suziquatro.com

www.facebook.com/suziquatrorocks

Gig review: Uriah Heep rocks Roppongi

Uriah Heep on stage at Billboard Live in Roppongi. Photo: Yuma Totsuka

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

British classic hard rock band Uriah Heep was formed in 1969. 50 years later they’re better than ever and on stage at Billboard Live in Roppongi performing a terrific show.

Uriah Heep on stage at Billboard Live in Roppongi. Photo: Yuma Totsuka

Uriah Heep at Billboard Live, Roppongi, Tokyo on 20th March 2019 

With 50 years of gigs and 25 studio albums under their belts, British rockers Uriah Heep are better than ever. Founding guitarist Mick Box still leads the band. The current line-up also features Bernie Shaw on vocals, Phil Lanzon on keyboards, Russell Gilbrook on drums and Davey Rimmer on bass. It’s a terrific version of the band. The trademark Heep sound – classic melodic hard rock with plenty of keyboards and vocal harmonies – is done justice by these fine musicians. This is not least very apparent in the new material.

Mick Box of Uriah Heep on stage at Billboard Live in Roppongi. Photo: Yuma Totsuka

The 70-minute set offers us a terrific blend of classic Heep and some of the band’s newer material. The band’s latest studio album, 2018’s “Living the Dream”, is fantastic. In a short ten-song set we get to hear four songs from the new album: “Grazed by Heaven”, “Take Away My Soul”, “Waters Flowin’” and “Rocks in the Road”. But, of course, we also get some of the band’s classic songs from the 1970s: “Return to Fantasy”, “Rainbow Demon”, “Gypsy” and “Look at Yourself”. Billboard Live is a terrific venue for classic rock bands such as Uriah Heep. Because of the venue’s tiered, multi-level seating, everyone is close to the band and has a great view. 

Mick Box is smiling throughout the whole set. He is still a terrific guitarist and it is obvious he still loves it up on stage. Bernie Shaw has been singing with Heep since 1986 and he is a top frontman and vocalist. The band is tight and they give us some fantastic jamming. “Rocks in the Road” turns into an absolutely amazing jam and “Look at Yourself” is also turned into a world-class jam. A splendid version of “Gypsy” is an obvious highlight in a flawless set. The band finishes with classics “Lady in Black” (with the whole audience singing along) and “Easy Livin’”. With the 50th anniversary reached, it now feels as if this band can now aim for 100 years.

Mick Box and Davey Rimmer of Uriah Heep on stage at Billboard Live in Roppongi. Photo: Yuma Totsuka

www.facebook.com/uriahheepofficial

www.uriah-heep.com

Gig review: Marty Friedman up close and personal in Tokyo

Marty Friedman and Stefan Nilsson of Roppongi Rocks after the La Donna show.

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Marty Friedman continues with his series of special, one-off shows in Tokyo for his Japanese fans. It’s such a treat for Marty’s fans to see him up close and personal and performing music that is rarely performed by him in his usual shows.

Marty Friedman at La Donna, Harajuku, Tokyo on 15th March 2019

Having just completed a successful US tour, guitar hero Marty Friedman appears on stage in Tokyo with an almost completely different band where only fierce bassist Kiyoshi (an insanely talented bassist that Marty should always play with) remains. It’s not only the band that is different. The setlist is also vastly different. These special shows in Tokyo, Marty’s adopted home town, are very special to the die-hard Marty fans. At La Donna in Harajuku, the audience is seated at tables and served food and drinks during the performance. Having seen Marty return to his Hawaii, Cacophony and Megadeth heavy metal roots when he guested NWOBHM veterans Raven for two songs the night before (performing Raven classics “Fire Power and Wiped Out”), it is a big contrast to see him now perform calmer music. But that is Marty in a nutshell – he has so many sides to him as an artist and he keeps evolving. Fortunately for us here in Japan, we get to see Marty do things that fans in other parts of the world rarely, if ever, get to experience. For this splendid evening of emotional compositions, a celebration of the arrival of spring, he is backed not only by Kiyoshi on bass and a rhythm guitarist, a drummer and a keyboardist. He also makes great use of a violinist and cellist. This special show is labelled “Brilliant New Era” and Marty describes it as an “orchestral ballad concert”. That sums it up pretty well. He makes his guitar both weep and laugh. Marty’s guitar certainly has a soul and he makes it show the audience its emotions, both its sad and happier moments. The chemistry between him and the other musicians is terrific which allows Marty to focus on his guitar as he knows he has solid backing from the band. 

A couple of the evening’s absolute highlights include a great version of “Tears of an Angel” (with a splendid violin intro) from the 2008 album “Future Addict” and “For a Friend” from 2017’s “Wall of Sound” album. We obviously get to hear both “Yuki No Hana” and “Kaeri Taku Natta Yo”. “Thunder March” from 1988’s “Dragon’s Kiss” album is performed during the encore, but we also get some special deep cuts in this show. Marty is obviously a world-class guitarist, but he is much more than that. He knows how to entertain and charm a Japanese audience with the right mix of terrific music and self-deprecating jokes (all of the talking during the show is done in Japanese). After the show, Marty stays to chat with his fans and signs autographs. He knows what the Japanese fans want and he makes sure they get it. 

The next special Tokyo show with Marty is planned for early July. Date, venue and ticket details to be confirmed. 

www.facebook.com/martyfriedman.official

www.martyfriedman.com

Album review: Mötley Crüe “The Dirt – Soundtrack”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Mötley Crüe gives us a fantastic collection of old songs on this new movie soundtrack. But the new material falls short of expectations. 

This 18-song soundtrack to the forthcoming movie about the history of LA band Mötley Crüe contains a lot of great, sleazy LA hair metal of the best kind. From early favourites such as “Red Hot”, “Live Wire”, “Shout at the Devil” and “Looks That Kill”, to later – more commercial – mainstream songs such as “Home Sweet Home”, “Girls, Girls, Girls”, “Kickstart My Heart” and “Dr. Feelgood”, this is all fantastic stuff bringing back some great memories. Personally, I especially like the raw and less polished sound of the early recordings. I love the guitar sound Mick Mars had back then!

Nikki Sixx on stage in Japan in 2016. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

BUT, and that is a big but, this soundtrack also contains four newly recorded songs. The news that Mötley Crüe would be recording new music for this soundtrack got many fans excited. At the planning stage, it probably sounded like a great idea to include some new music to avoid this just being a greatest hits collection of songs that the fans already have. In reality, it doesn’t work as the new material isn’t very good. “The Dirt (Est. 1981)” – featuring a guest appearance by rapper Machine Gun Kelly (who plays Tommy Lee in the movie) – is a boring song where Mötley seems to be trying to combine its 80s sound with some contemporary touches. In the process, they seem to have lost their way. The result is confused and not good. The other two new songs, “Ride with the Devil” and “Crash and Burn”, follow the same pattern and it’s just boring music with none of the excitement that the band’s best work has. Then there’s the Madonna cover, “Like a Virgin”. Why on Earth have they decided to do this? It’s terrible. Maybe it is some kind of internal joke.

Let’s ignore the new material and focus on the good old stuff that made us like this band in the first place. Lucky us that we still have the old Mötley Crüe classics to bring back sweet memories of some great shows and parties in the 80s and early 90s. Long live the terrific and decadent legacy of Mötley Crüe!

Both the soundtrack and the movie “The Dirt” will be released on 22nd March.

www.facebook.com/motleycrue

www.motley.com