EP review: Camp Marshy “Black Soul, White Shoes & A Leather Jacket”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Camp Marshy is back with a punky party-rock EP. I love the simplicity and catchiness of this band.

Camp Marshy is the latest addition to a long line of catchy punk-rock bands from Sweden. On the band’s new six-track EP, the Camp Marshy boys’ music lives in a rundown neighbourhood not miles away from The Hives, The Ramones and Danko Jones. But this is a tad more gritty and dirty, a bit more countryside factory-floor and hey-the-weekend’s-here-let’s-party-and-get-laid. It’s good-fun party rock mixed with melodic punk rock. The music is related to the Swedish school of punk rock which is built upon high-energy poppy shout-along anthems, although Camp Marshy’s songs are sung in English rather than Swedish. The previously released single “Baby (Are You Ready For Some Fun?)” is an obvious favourite here. The rather Hives-like “Walk of Shame” is also terrific. I love the simplicity and catchiness of Camp Marshy. I want to see this band on stage at a rock club with a cold beer in my hand.

Camp Marshy’s EP “Black Soul, White Shoes & A Leather Jacket” is out now.


Album review: Naglfar “Cerecloth”

Kristoffer “Wrath” Olivius of Naglfar on stage in Tokyo in 2018. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Naglfar combines fierce black metal with melodic death metal touches on “Cerecloth”, its first studio album in eight years.

Sweden’s Naglfar emerged as part of a wave of legendary black metal bands in Scandinavia in the early 1990s. Formed in 1992, they debuted in 1995 with the album “Vittra”. The new album “Cerecloth” is its seventh full-length studio album. It is extreme metal music with great melodies and an epic atmosphere. They combine the best of old-style black metal with borrowed bits from melodic death metal. It is not miles away from the signature sound of fellow Swedes Dark Funeral. It was obviously no coincidence that the two bands from Sweden’s cold and dark north toured Japan together in 2018. Naglfar’s core trio consists of vocalist Kristoffer “Wrath” Olivius and guitarists Andreas Nilsson and Marcus Norman. The rhythm section has in recent years been populated by hired guns, both live and in the studio. The album opens with the fantastic title track “Cerecloth”. The band’s music immediately grabs hold of the listeners and never let us go. The splendid “Vortex of Negativity” is my highlight on the album. The track’s combination of relentless energy and constant pummelling is gloriously magnificent! Even a slower song like “Cry of the Serafim” still comes with plenty of heaviness and a sinister feeling. Make no mistake about it, Naglfar’s music is still about “the usual death and destruction” as the band puts it. This album is a solid effort from a terrific band.

Naglfar’s new album “Cerecloth” will be released on 8th May via Century Media Records.




Album review: Chugger “Of Man and Machine”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Chugger is back with a new album filled with groovy extreme metal.

Chugger calls itself a groove death metal band and on its new studio album “Of Man and Machine”, we get treated to a collection of modern and hard-hitting metal songs bursting with energy. Formed in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2012, it is obvious that they are influenced by 1990s metal – both the melodic death metal bands from the local Gothenburg Sound scene and American groove metal. They have used those influences as a foundation and then taken things further to create their own contemporary-sounding metal. Chugger comes across as an ugly and disturbed child born out-of-wedlock as a result of a drunken threesome between Machine Head, Lamb of God and At The Gates. Sort of. “Of Man and Machine” is the band’s second full-length studio album. Its back catalogue also includes an EP, a couple of singles and a digital live release. The new album has somewhat of a dystopian theme and there is also a decent attempt at being a shock rock band (which is also evident in the band’s visual style). The fierce and furious track “Turning Point” is a clear favourite of mine on this album. Other great tracks are “Flatline” (just listen to Larza Skjuttorp’s bass work on it!), “The Algorithm”, the fast, fierce and furious “Polaris” and the sinister “Beg, Burn, Fear”. Sweden has a proud tradition of great metal bands and Chugger is part of a terrific group of contemporary bands that keeps Sweden at the very forefront of modern metal. 

Chugger’s album “Of Man and Machine” is out now via WormHoleDeath Records.


Album review: Nightwish “Human. :||: Nature.”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Tuomas Holopainen and Nightwish are back with a splendid new double album. On “Human. :||: Nature.” the band continues on a journey further away from its metal roots. Here they dig deep into mythology and folklore and epic drama.

On its new album, Finland’s symphonic metal band Nightwish continues on its evolving musical journey by wandering further away from metal and deeper into mythology and folklore. This is a fantastically beautiful double album. It is a labour of love and a boundary-pushing exercise. I am pretty sure that bandleader Tuomas Holopainen is very pleased with the result on this new album, the band’s ninth studio album and its second with current lead vocalist Floor Jansen. I, too, am very happy with the result. I love this kind of epic drama. At times, it’s almost like a polite version of Cradle of Filth.

The main disc contains nine great songs while the second disc contains one very long but stunning song called “All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World” which has been subdivided into eight shorter pieces. The beautiful “Music” is a terrific song that combines some ABBA (!?) influences and dreamy ethnic vibes, while “Noise” is a more energetic and dramatic whirlwind of a song. A lot of this music is over the top with plenty of epic drama. Some of it is like Avantasia on Red Bull or a less camp Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical with attitude. Like a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings film score. Some parts, like the track “Harvest” for example with Troy Donockley on lead vocals, are very folksy. Is that good or bad? That depends on what you want. I think it is brilliant. But there is also some more “normal” symphonic metal-style Nightwish music here, such as the terrific track “Pan”. The focus on this album is on storytelling, fairytale soundscapes and dramatic musical arrangements, not least with the excellent use of choirs and different vocal styles by Floor Jansen, Troy Donockley and Marco Hietala. It’s very atmospheric and I dig it, but some of this music is a far cry from the metal music that some fans had hoped for. Perhaps this is Nightwish’s equivalent to the 1981 KISS concept album “The Elder”. Or is it an answer to The Who’s rock opera “Tommy”? Who knows? But for now, this is what Nightwish is here and now. It is beautifully brilliant. The combination of the epic music and the powerful voice of Floor Jansen is magical.

Nightwish’s double album “Human. :||: Nature.” will be released on 10th April via Nuclear Blast internationally and via Ward Records in Japan.



Album review: Testament “Titans of Creation”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Yes! The Bay Area heroes in Testament are back with an album that oozes uncompromising old-school thrash metal.

The Testament boys have been around long enough to know how thrash metal is done. Hell, they even helped create the Bay Area thrash scene which has been one of the centres of excellence for thrash metal. Testament’s new album “Titans of Creation” is its 13th studio album since the band was founded in the mid-80s. It is gloriously uncompromising. This is a classic old-school kind of thrash metal that doesn’t sound dated at all. It’s fast, furious, hard-hitting and shredding as much as it should. I love it. They are not trying to do something new here, just more of the same, what they are good at. Testament has always been one of the best thrash metal bands and that position is reinforced with this new album. In Alex Skolnick, they have a multitalented guitar wizard that no thrash metal band has matched since Marty Friedman left Megadeth two decades ago. In Chuck Billy, they have a powerful world-class thrash metal vocalist. In Eric Peterson, they have a terrific songwriter who in recent years has also stepped up as a fab guitarist. The band’s rhythm section – Steve Di Giorgio on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums – is one of the heaviest in the business. As a unit, the current version of Testament is rock solid thrash metal awesomeness. The album is so good and even that it is hard to point to songs that stand out, but some of my favourites include opener “Children of the Next Level”, “WW III”, “Night of the Witch” and the absolute highlight: the smashingly in-your-face track “Curse of Osiris”. Obviously, I expected the band to put out a great, headbanging-friendly album. But it still feels so good to hear them deliver and exceed expectations.

Testament’s new album “Titans of Creation” is out now via Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally.



Album review: Bonfire “Fistful of Fire”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

German melodic hard rock band Bonfire is back with a new studio album filled with 1980s-inspired music with riff-happy guitars, plenty of keyboards and great melodies.

Bonfire has built a solid reputation since the 1980s as one of Germany’s leading melodic hard rock bands. Guitarist Hans Ziller remains the bandleader and in the current line-up of the band, he is joined by Alexx Stahl (vocals), Frank Pané (guitar), Ronnie Parkes (bass) and André Hilgers (drums). This is a good and solid album. The song material and soundscape are very 1980s with riff-happy guitars, plenty of keyboards and great melodies. But as my expectations are high, I can’t help but feel that this could have been even better. There are some terrific 1980s-style melodic hard rock songs here. Highlights include the power ballad “When an Old Man Cries”, the energetic rockers “Gotta Get Away”, “Breaking Out” and “Riding the Blade” as well as the good-fun “The Devil Made Me Do It”. I absolutely love the little instrumental guitar piece “Fire Etude” and the dramatic instrumental mini-track “The Surge” serves as an excellent intro to “Gloryland” – the two tracks combined sound like something that Avantasia could have done. But to make this album really great, a couple of additional top-notch songs on the album would have been necessary. As expected, there are some hard rock clichés here, as is evident in song titles such as “Rock’n’Roll Survivors”, “The Devil Made Me Do It”, “Warrior” and “Fire and Ice”. But that is part of the attraction of German hard rock. A terrific alternative acoustic version of “When an Old Man Cries” closes the album.

Bonfire’s new album “Fistful of Fire” will be released on 3rd April via AFM Records.



EP review: Candlemass “The Pendulum”

Johan Längqvist of Candlemass on stage in Tokyo in 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish doom masters Candlemass return with an EP of unused tracks from the band’s “The Door to Doom” recording sessions. It is doomy awesomeness.

The Swedish gentlemen in Candlemass have, in my opinion, never released a bad record. Their back catalogue is rock solid and this new EP is no exception. The music on this EP is somewhat less obvious, immediate and accessible than last year’s full-length studio album, “The Door to Doom”, which saw the return of the band’s original vocalist Johan Längqvist. There is an explanation for this: the EP contains left-over material from the recordings of the last album. I get why Leif Edling and his mighty men of doom felt that they should release this music too and not let these recordings disappear into someone’s desk drawer. This is epic music. It sometimes requires the listener to focus and really pay attention. It’s a thinking person’s music. Some of it is instrumental (like the dreamy film soundtrack-sounding song “The Cold Room”) and even experimental, such as the fantastic little bass-only piece “Aftershock”. The tracks “Snakes of Goliath” and “Porcelain Skull” are the most accessible songs here. They are pure trademark Candlemass – combining doomy riffs, slow-ish doom and heaviness with powerful vocals. This EP contains some absolutely brilliant stuff! I love it. As always with Candlemass, the doomy guitars on this EP force their way into my ears and crawl down to my heart and lungs, fully backed up by the heaviness of the spine-rattling rhythm section. In addition to Längquist, Candlemass currently consists of its classic late 1980s/early 1990s line-up: Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson on guitars, band founder Leif Edling on bass and Jan Lindh on drums. They seem to be on a roll and I am loving their musical output.

Leif Edling of Candlemass on stage in Tokyo in 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Candlemass’ EP “The Pendulum” is out today via Napalm Records. A Japanese edition is being released by Marquee/Avalon.



Single review: Night “Feeling It Everywhere”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Swedish rock band Night releases a great new seven-inch vinyl single filled with classic rock and some hints of NWOBHM.

Swedish band Night has written two very catchy songs, “Feeling It Everywhere” and “Kings of the Night”, for this new seven-inch vinyl issue. Night started out as a hard rock band heavily influenced by NWOBHM but has evolved into more of a classic rock band with touches of melodic 70s hard rock. There are some echoes of NWOBHM still there, but for the most part, this is classic rock. Music-wise, Night lives in an international musical neighbourhood which is full of Swedish bands. They are perhaps so far one of the lesser-known bands in this heap, but that may soon change as they have proven with these new songs that they are among the very best. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like to describe this as the bastard son of fellow Swedish bands The Night Flight Orchestra and Enforcer. That’s how it sounds more or less. Night’s next full-length studio album is expected to be released later this year. In the meantime, this vinyl single will do just fine to keep us happy.

Night’s new seven-inch single will be released on 3rd April via The Sign Records.


EP review: Bombs of Hades “Phantom Bell”

Bombs of Hades. Photo: Susan Wicher

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Sweden’s Bombs of Hades, fronted by multitasking artist Jonas Stålhammar, return with a sensational EP filled with a punky and groovy prog-doom-death metal with a difference.

Sweden’s Bombs of Hades are back with a four-track EP that is nothing short of sensational. It has everything I love about heavy music: great riffs and fantastic melodies as well as attitude. The EP has a glorious underground feel to it but at the same time, it is world-class.

Bombs of Hades’ frontman Jonas Stålhammar is currently also a member of At The Gates, This Lurking Fear and God Macabre and is a former member of Crippled Black Phoenix and The Crown. In Bombs of Hades, where he sings lead and plays the guitar, he gets to be centre stage and deliver his vision of extreme music. Somehow Bombs of Hades manage to combine bits and pieces of death metal with progressive rock, some doom touches and they melt it all down into their own sound. The band’s music grooves like it’s nobody’s business. The production is awesome and really manages to capture the essence of this terrific band. I love it. There are lots of tiny details here and there, some of which it takes a few times to fully discover. My expectations were, of course, high for this EP, but I am blown away at the song-quality and delivery of the four songs featured here. We get two original songs in the form of the in-your-face epic opening of “Phantom Bell” and the equally terrific “Bridge of Sighs”. I can certainly hear some traces of both At The Gates and The Crown here but with a Bombs of Hades twist or two. The EP also treats us to two excellent cover songs: “Kamikaze”, originally recorded by terrific Japanese rockers Flower Travellin’ Band for their cult 1972 “Made in Japan” album, and “Lungs”, originally by American country-flavoured singer-songwriter Townes van Zandt. The choices of covers show us how broad, deep and excellent Jonas Stålhammar’s musical tastes are and it also demonstrates his awesome ability to take terrific songs from other genres and make them splendid Bombs of Hades songs. The highlight for me on the EP, in addition to the awesome title track, is the guitar work on “Lungs”, which is perhaps best described as some kind of weird and wonderful spaced-out guitar jam between Ace Frehley and Phil Campbell. This is as you can imagine a bit different from your normal Swedish death metal band. It’s intelligent death metal with a punk attitude, splendid guitars and terrific melodies.

Bombs of Hades originally formed in 2002 and in 2020 Bombs of Hades’ members are Stålhammar, drummer Magnus Forsberg and guitarist PO Söderback (both of Puffball fame) and Roger Iderman on bass.

Bombs of Hades’ EP “Phantom Bell” will be out on 17th April via Black Lodge Records.


Album review: Lucifer “Lucifer III”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Johanna Sadonis, Nicke Andersson and the rest of Lucifer are back with a third album that is pure magic.

Lucifer is a band that never disappoints me. They always deliver. Formed in Berlin in 2014, Lucifer has evolved to become a Swedish band fronted by a German vocalist. Lucifer’s new album, its third full-length studio album, is as good as I had hoped. Having collaborated with Cathedral’s Gaz Jennings on the first album, the band’s founder and leader Johanna Sadonis has in recent years formed a tight and creatively awesome relationship with Nicke Andersson (Entombed, The Hellacopters, Imperial State Electric). The couple married in 2018 and on this new album they continue their terrific musical partnership. In the current line-up of Lucifer, they are joined by Linus Björklund and Martin Nordin on guitars and Harald Göthblad on bass.

Lucifer’s third album is a continuation of 2018’s “Lucifer II” which was quite different from the debut album. Nicke Andersson’s influence is obvious. Nicke on his own is splendid and when you combine his talents with Johanna Sadonis’ qualities, you get magic. The Lucifer soundscape is dreamy, the doomy and a bit hazy with nods and hints to the rock of yesteryear. It is a wonderful mishmash of rock from the 70s while still sounding relevant here and now. “Lucifer III” is a bit less immediate and not as accessible as its predecessor, but that’s also why it’s even better. It isn’t music you just put on in the background while you’re washing dishes or doing the laundry. This is a fab rock music that demands – and deserves – your attention. By all means, you can have it on in the background while you’re grilling meat on the barbeque in the garden, but you risk screwing up the dinner. This is music you should ideally listen to in absolute darkness.

As often is the case when Nicke Andersson is involved, this is world-class music with heaps of playfulness and fun stuff in the mix. Song titles such as “Leather Demon”, “Coffin Fever”, “Flanked by Snakes” and “Cemetery Eyes” hint at the wordsmith qualities of Lucifer. Lucifer is a band that consists of educated musicians, people who know where their roots are and how you take such inspiration to create something new. Few people in the music industry are as clued up as Nicke. When I interviewed him here in Tokyo during Lucifer’s Japan visit last year, he summed up Lucifer’s sound as: “I think the easiest way, a kind of shortcut, is to say it’s a mix between Black Sabbath and Fleetwood Mac. Done!” He also noted that “there’s quite a bit of ABBA in Sabbath!” which sums up his analytical mind rather well. He knows his stuff, but at the same time, he lets playfulness be a central part of his music creation. Whatever led the paths of Nicke and Johanna to cross, we are forever grateful.

Lucifer on stage in Tokyo in 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Lucifer’s new album “Lucifer III” will be released on 20th March via Century Media Records. The Japanese version is being released by Trooper Entertainment.