Album review: The Rods “Brotherhood of Metal”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

American band The Rods, fronted by former Elf guitarist David “Rock” Feinstein, is back with a new studio album filled with classic metal.

Vocalist and guitarist David “Rock” Feinstein, a former member of Elf and cousin of Elf bandmate Ronnie James Dio, formed The Rods in 1980 with drummer Carl Canedy. Bassist Garry Bordonaro joined soon thereafter. Initially active in the 1980s, the band reunited in 2008 and has since been touring on and off. The Rods has also been recording new music since the reunion. The new “Brotherhood of Metal” album is the follow-up to 2011’s “Vengeance”. The new album opens with the anthem-like title track “Brotherhood of Metal” which no doubt will be a live favourite. The Rods’ music is firmly based in the classic metal of the 1980s. With song titles such as “Everybody’s Rockin’”, “Louder Than Loud”, “Tyrant King”, “Party All Night”, “Tonight We Ride”, “Hell on Earth” and “Evil in Me”, it is obvious that The Rods is a band that follows a well-established metal tradition when it comes to both music and lyrics. Although there is nothing revolutionary about The Rods’ music, many of their songs are easily recognisable as The Rods. Somehow they have managed to establish somewhat of a signature sound which is not just built on Feinstein’s voice. “The Devil Made Me Do It” is my favourite track on the album, a song that I also think will be great live. The song combines great rock with fantastic guitars and a shout-along chorus. Feelgood metal!  Overall this album is filled with good and fun classic metal music. Many of the album’s eleven songs will fit in nicely in the band’s live set. I hope they will make room for them among their classic songs from their 1980s albums. 

The Rods’ album “Brotherhood of Metal” will be released on 7th June via SPV/Steamhammer.

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Gig review: Graham Bonnet brings an exquisite new version of Alcatrazz to Japan

Graham Bonnet on stage in Tokyo with Alcatrazz. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Alcatrazz at Tsutaya O-East, Shibuya, Tokyo on 28th May 2019 

Graham Bonnet brings an exquisite new version of Alcatrazz to Japan and shows us all that he’s still got it. Blimey! What a great evening of world-class rock’n’roll.

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

Graham Bonnet, one of the best and most legendary voices in the history of rock, has always had a loyal audience here in Japan, even when things have been a bit quiet elsewhere. But in recent years he has a had somewhat of a career upswing and he has been a very frequent visitor to Japan with Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock, Michael Schenker Fest, Graham Bonnet Band and Alcatrazz. This week he’s back touring Japan with a reformed line-up of his classic band Alcatrazz. 

The 2019 version of Alcatrazz is splendid. Anchored by Mark Benquechea on drums and Beth-Ami Heavenstone on bass, there is a rock-solid foundation. Original member Jimmy Waldo is using his keyboard wizardry to create magic and Joe Stump quickly proves that he is a worthy lead guitarist (a band position previously filled by people like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai). The band’s live performance is world-class and topped by Graham Bonnet himself. His characteristic voice – which has been the voice of not only Alcatrazz but also bands such as Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Impellitteri and Blackthorne – is still there, 51 years after he had his first hit single. He still has his voice intact and he’s also an entertainer that gives us his all on stage.

Joe Stump on stage in Tokyo with Alcatrazz. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

This evening in Tokyo, the band performs almost the entire Alcatrazz debut album “No Parole from Rock’n’Roll” from 1983. They kick off with a high-energy version of the splendid “Too Young to Die…Too Drunk to Live”. Then we get “General Hospital”, “Jet to Jet”, “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, “Island in the Sun”, “Kree Nakoorie”, “Big Foot”, “Starcarr Lane” and “Suffer Me”. They only leave out the Yngwie Malmsteen instrumental “Incubus”.

Beth-Ami Heavenstone and Graham Bonnet on stage in Tokyo with Alcatrazz. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The second half of the show is a collection of some of the best bits of Bonnet’s long career where we get to hear Rainbow songs “All Night Long” and “Since You Been Gone”, Bonnet’s solo hit “Night Games”, MSG’s “Rock You to the Ground”, “Stand in Line” and “Leviathan” by Impellitteri, “We Won’t Be Forgotten” by Blackthorne and Graham Bonnet Band’s “Long Island Tea”. It shows how varied and terrific Bonnet’s back catalogue is.

Graham Bonnet on stage in Tokyo with Alcatrazz. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The encore consists of Graham Bonnet Band’s “Into the Night”, Rainbow classic “Lost in Hollywood” and Impellitteri’s “Goodnight and Goodbye”. It’s a great finish to a splendid evening which left no one in the audience unhappy. 

This was a world-class rock’n’roll show by a living legend who still delivers and who has a band to match his greatness. Alcatrazz will be back on stage in Tokyo on Friday with a different setlist, one more focused on the Rainbow album “Down to Earth”. Following the four-date Japan tour, the band will tour Australia and then Europe. There are also plans for recording a new Alcatrazz studio album. Log live Graham Bonnet!

Graham Bonnet on stage in Tokyo with Alcatrazz. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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Preview: サンダー/ Thunder to mark 30th anniversary with special shows in Japan

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Thunder will combine acoustic and electric sets to celebrate 30 years of rock at two special shows at Club Citta in Kawasaki in June. Thunder always deliver!

サンダー、結成30周年記念特別公演、日本初の2セット・ショー! Sit DownアコースティックとStand Upエレクトリックの盛りだくさん豪華2部構成! 6/8(土),9(日) CLUB CITTA’/川崎

On 8th and 9th June, British rockers Thunder will once again rock Club Citta in Kawasaki to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band’s formation. I first saw Thunder perform in 1997 and all these years later they are still one of the best British rock bands out there. Japanese fans have been lucky enough to see Thunder tour Japan several times, most recently at Club Citta in January 2018. Formed in 1989, the band released its debut album “Backstreet Symphony” in 1990. Thunder, a reliable rock band that always delivers, is a rock-solid and tight band with one of Britain’s best-ever vocalists. The band line-up is still Danny Bowes (vocals), Luke Morley (guitars/keyboards), Ben Matthews (guitars/keyboards), Chris Childs (bass) and former Magnum drummer Harry James.

1990年にアルバム『バックストリート・シンフォニー』でデビュー。 ルークのプロデュース能力と作詞作曲能力、ダニーの哀愁のある歌声と最終決定するセンス、個々の演奏能力とコーラスワークで人気を博している英国のグループ。特に詞とタイトルは、言葉の組み合わせが絶妙でリアリティ溢れる特色がある。 バンドのメンバー: ダニー・ボウズ (Vo), ルーク・モーリー (G), ベン・マシューズ (G), クリス・チャイルズ (B), ハリー・ジェイムズ (Ds).

The Club Citta shows will be two special shows called Sit Down/Stand Up. The “Sit Down” part is an acoustic set which is followed by a short interval and then a “Stand Up” set when the band will plug in their guitars and switch on the electricity. The setlists will be slightly different on the two days.

2019 6/8(),9() CLUB CITTA’/川崎
OPEN 17:00 / START 18:00
前売り 【全席指定】¥9,000(税込)

チケット/ Get your tickets here: www.clubcitta.co.jp/001/thunder-2019

(意訳)
♪~
ハロー、ハロー、~、私達はThunder です。イエス、そうです。 どれほど6月に来日できるのを、私達が楽しみにしているのか、クイックメッセージを贈りたいと思います。 とてもスペシャルなショーを2つ、皆さんのために演奏します。私達にとっては30周年記念になります。 そのショーはとても違ったタイプのショーになるのですよね?とっても違います、とっても違いますよ。どんな感じに違うの? まず、1セットはアコースティックで、もう1セットはジャンプ&ダウンのエレクトリックなショーになります。 すばらしいです!そして、ミュージック(曲)、は毎晩(何曲か)変えますので、2公演とも来る価値あり、だよ。そうですよね? イエース。サンキュー。うれしいですね。 シー・ユー・スーン。サンキュー・ベリーマッチ。バーイ!
~♪

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Gig review: Marco Mendoza “Viva La Rock” Japan Tour

Marco Mendoza on stage at Shinsekai, Tokyo on 18th May 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

The former Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy bassist Marco Mendoza returned to Japan as a solo artist and wowed his Japanese fans with a couple of terrific shows. Viva La Rock!

Marco Mendoza at Club Edge, Roppongi, Tokyo on 17th May 2019 and Shinsekai, Nishiazabu, Tokyo on 18th May 2019

Marco Mendoza on stage at Club Edge, Roppongi, Tokyo on 17th May 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Marco Mendoza has made a name for himself in the music industry, playing bass with artists such as Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, Blue Murder, Ted Nugent, Neal Schon, Nozomu Wakai’s Destinia, The Dead Daisies and many more. He has toured Japan many times, but this is the very first time he is performing in Japan as a solo artist. And what an introduction to the solo artist Marco Mendoza these Japanese shows were!

Marco Mendoza on stage at Club Edge, Roppongi, Tokyo on 17th May 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Mendoza, draped in a colourful feather boa, performs these shows with a splendid rock trio set-up: himself on lead vocals and bass, Conrado Pesinato (Out Of The Woods, ex-Graham Bonnet Band, Alcatrazz, Hardly Dangerous) on guitar and Kyle Hughes (Bumblefoot) on drums. English drummer Kyle Hughes has been touring internationally with Mendoza for the past year, but these Tokyo shows are the first-ever performances with Brazilian guitarist Conrado Pesinato as part of the trio. It works a treat. While it is the first time for Hughes to perform in Japan, Pesinato has already toured Japan a couple of times in the past with Graham Bonnet Band and Alcatrazz. 

Marco Mendoza and his trio on stage at Shinsekai, Tokyo on 18th May 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

During this Japan visit, Mendoza and his trio perform two terrific and intimate club gigs in Tokyo. They open both shows with the classic Cream song “Sunshine of Your Love”. The focus of the shows is on Mendoza’s solo material, not least from his most recent solo album, “Viva La Rock”, which was released in 2018. From this album, we get to hear “Sweetest Emotions”, “Hey Baby”, “Rocket Man” and the splendid title track. From Mendoza’s debut solo album, 2007’s “Live For Tomorrow”, we get “Look Out for the Boys” and “Your Touch”. But there are also other goodies in the setlist. The Thin Lizzy fans get to hear “Chinatown” and “Jailbreak” (with Hughes taking over lead vocals from Mendoza on the second song), while fans of The Dead Daisies get to hear that band’s best song, “Mexico”. We also get Neal Schon’s “Hole in My Pocket” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. On the second night, Mendoza also gives us a beautiful and emotional version of the Billie Holiday classic “God Bless the Child”. The shows are a well-balanced mix of Mendoza material, classics from some of the artists he’s played with and some of his own favourites. Both shows finish on a high with great versions of “Viva La Rock”. Mendoza is a world-class entertainer and audience participation is a big part of his shows. During both shows he several times leaves the stage in order to play his bass from the audience. He knows what the fans want and he makes sure they get it. These shows left all people present wanting more from Mendoza and his trio. We hope to see more of the terrific solo artist Marco Mendoza here in Japan. Viva La Rock!

Marco Mendoza on stage at Shinsekai, Tokyo on 18th May 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

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www.marcomendoza.com

Gig review: Metal Female Voices Fest Japan with Leaves’ Eyes and VUUR

Elina Siirala of Leaves’ Eyes on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

By Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks 

Headlined by European bands Leaves’ Eyes and VUUR, the first Japanese edition of Metal Female Voices Fest was a success.

Metal Female Voices Fest Japan with Leaves’ Eyes and Vuur at Shinjuku Blaze, Tokyo on 21st April 2019

Anneke van Giersbergen of VUUR on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

VUUR

When Dutch vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen finally makes it to Japan for the very first time in her career, she brings her amazing band VUUR to co-headline the first edition of Metal Female Voices Fest Japan, organised by Japanese promoter Evoken de Valhall Production. The first VUUR album, “In This Moment We Are Free – Cities”, released in 2017, was inspired by cities that have made a mark on Anneke’s life. The song chosen for opening VUUR’s set is “Rotterdam”. Although Anneke has been involved with many bands and projects over the years, she is best known as lead vocalist for The Gathering. That band’s song “On Most Surfaces” continues the show before it is time for “Berlin”, a heavy progressive song, with great guitars performed by Jord Otto and Ferry Duijsens. The Gentle Storm is another project which van Giersbergen and several other VUUR members have been involved with. “The Storm”, a song from that project, is also performed by VUUR during the current tour. During the song “London”, van Giersbergen gets down on her knees with her phone to film her fans and their spontaneous reactions while still singing, and when “Helsinki” is performed, her band gets to shine. Not least the amazing Johan van Stratum, the former Stream of Passion bassist, who catches all the attention with his powerful performance. It is not that easy to find a bassist with such quality. To close the short, yet awesome and fulfilling show, van Giersbergen chooses a classic The Gathering song called “Strange Machines”, which makes the audience go crazy not only for its heaviness but also for the strong performance of the singer. Anneke van Giersbergen is definitely one of a kind. She has influenced many artists during her career and caught the hearts of many persons who have had the chance to see her live. Apart from the technical quality of the whole band, it is undeniable the power of the passion and energy van Giersbergen puts into every word she sings that makes her show a spectacle for the ears, the eyes and the heart.

Anneke van Giersbergen of VUUR on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Leaves’ Eyes

As the festival’s co-headliner Leaves’ Eyes starts their show, we are met with what looks like four Japanese Vikings stepping onto the stage during the intro to “Sign of the Dragonhead”, the title song from their latest album which was released in 2018. What we immediately see is a band full of energy, giving their all to an audience as enthusiastic as the band. The first highlight is the performance of German musician Alexander Krull, the mastermind behind Leaves’ Eyes and the one responsible for the aggressive vocals and keyboards. The beautiful Finnish vocalist Elina Siirala has a sweet yet powerful classical voice. When Siirala joined Leaves’ Eyes in 2016, I was fearing that the band’s music would not be as great as before. But already with the first few notes, she proves to me and everyone else that I was terribly wrong. They continue the show with the fantastic “Across the Sea”, one of the band’s best-ever songs. Turning some years back in time, the songs “Take the Devil in Me” and “My Destiny”, both from the 2009 album “Njord”, offer us a couple of more amazing vocal performances by Siirala.

Elina Siirala of Leaves’ Eyes on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

Balancing the set with old and new songs, the most amazing moment is during “Farewell Proud Men” from their second album “Vinland Saga” from 2005. Here, Krull leaves the stage and everything is about Siirala giving a new face and voice to the songs from the band’s early days. Her classical voice combined with the heavy guitars of Thorsten Bauer gives the audience one of the most enchanting performances I have ever seen. It is now time to light the “Fires in the North” and all the attention goes to the drums of Joris Nijenhuis while the rest of the band march and guide the audience to the beating of the song. With “Riders on the Wind” there is undeniable chemistry within the whole band, especially between the singers. Siirala and Krull’s voices fit so perfectly together. It is amazing to see how Siirala’s voice seemingly grows on stage, sometimes reminding me of the force and power of Angela Gossow. Unfortunately, everything has to come to an end, but they could not do it better than with “Edge of Steel”. For the encore, the Vikings are back on stage, this time with their leader Krull, dressed up properly to perform “Blazing Waters”. It took 15 years for Leaves’ Eyes to finally perform in Japan, but after such an amazing show, with great response and a visible satisfaction of the band, we will probably see them in Japan again soon.

Elina Siirala of Leaves’ Eyes on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Caroline Misokane, Roppongi Rocks

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Video: Marco Mendoza “Viva La Rock” live in Tokyo

Video

Rock legend Marco Mendoza – of Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, The Dead Daisies, Ted Nugent, Blue Murder and Black Star Riders fame – performing a splendid version of “Viva La Rock” as an encore during his terrific Japan tour. Filmed at Shinsekai in Tokyo on Saturday 18th May 2019. Mendoza is backed up by Conrado Pesinato (Out Of The Woods, ex-Graham Bonnet Band, Alcatrazz, Hardly Dangerous) on guitar and Kyle Hughes (Bumblefoot) on drums.

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Album review: Dogface “From the End to the Beginning”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Sweden’s Dogface, with Mats Levén behind the microphone, calls it quits and marks the occasion with a terrific compilation album combining 1970s-style bluesy hard rock with 1980s-style AOR.

Dogface, a bit of a hidden Swedish gem not known to the masses, is a rock band that combines bluesy 1970s hard rock (think Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Rainbow) with the Swedish melodic hard rock of the 1980s. They top it all off with the terrific vocals of Mats Levén. The end result – great rock with some rather tasty Hammond organs among all the guitars – is great. Dogface was founded by Martin Kronlund in the late 1990s and they have released three studio albums since then. “From the End to the Beginning” is a 15-track compilation album meant to showcase the best of Dogface while at the same time mark the end of the band’s career as they have decided to call it quits. As many of you know, Mats Levén has some serious pedigree from acts such as Swedish Erotica, Treat, Candlemass, Krux, Yngwie Malmsteen, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and much more. His pipes are great at handling both the more British-style bluesy hard rock and the Swedish 80s melodic hard rock. The album’s full of songs where Levén gets to shine. “A Single Reason” is a very catchy song that puts Levén’s voice at the centre. It’s fantastic and very radio friendly. “Don’t” is another track that sounds like a radio hit. “I Will Be There” and “Alone Again” have plenty of Whitesnake echoes and so does quite a few of the songs on this album. But there’s some good variation here as well. ”Footsteps on the Moon” reminds me of some of the work Levén did with doom masters Candlemass. One of the best songs is “You’re Taking Me Down”, which was the first-ever song Levén recorded with the band. There seems to have been immediate personal and musical chemistry when Levén walked into the studio. Dogface never made it to the level of success the band members’ skills deserved. But if you are discovering this band now, at least here is a great collection of quality rock songs for you.

Dogface’s album “From the End to the Beginning” is out today via ScandiRock Records. 

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Album review: Extrema “Headbanging Forever”

Extrema. Photo: Annalisa Russo

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Italian thrash metal band Extrema returns with a new singer and a hard-hitting new album. 

Veteran Italian thrash metal band Extrema has opted to name its new album “Headbanging Forever”. It’s a suitable choice as continuous headbanging is what this is all about. Heavy guitar riffing which commands its listeners to headbang. With its feet firmly stuck in the old-school thrash metal mud, Extrema has built on that foundation and added some contemporary metal touches to make this thrash metal for 2019. The music is uncompromising, while at the same time, the band isn’t worrying too much about what it is expected of them. They just get on with it and play great metal music with various influences weaved into it. Guitarist Tommy Massara formed the band in Milan in the mid-1980s. Opening for Slayer on the Italian part of the “Reign in Blood” tour got the band some early attention. Massara is now the only remaining original member of the band and this new album introduces us to the new vocalist Tiziano “Titian” Spigno. “Borders of Fire” is a clear favourite song of mine on the album, which combines great guitars with a rhythm section behaving like a bulldozer and with Spigno’s rough-but-great vocals to top it all off. The fast “For the Loved and the Lost” is another highlight, while “Invisible” has somewhat of a great Machine Head vibe to it.

Extrema’s album “Headbanging Forever” is out now via Rockshots Records.

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Gig review: Europe in Kawasaki | A masterclass in melodic hard rock

Joey Tempest of Europe on stage at Club Citta in Kawasaki. Photo: Masayuki Noda

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Europe gives its Japanese fans a two-hour masterclass in melodic hard rock.

Europe at Club Citta, Kawasaki on 27th April 2019

40 years after its foundation in a Stockholm suburb in 1979, rock band Europe is better than ever. I have seen this band live many times since I first saw them perform in their native Sweden in the 1980s. They always deliver. However, this evening is above what I have seen before, not least because they are playing some rarely performed songs. The evening turns into a two-hour masterclass in melodic hard rock.

John Norum of Europe on stage at Club Citta in Kawasaki. Photo: Masayuki Noda

They open with the title track from the latest album, “Walk the Earth” and follow it with “The Siege” from the same album. They are off to a fabulous start and then give us old 80s favourite “Rock the Night” to really get the crowd going. The band is in rude health and they sound fantastic. The rhythm section – consisting of Ian Haugland on drums and bassist John Levén – is reliably rock-solid. Keyboardist Mic Michaeli gets to shine like a Swedish Jon Lord with some elaborate keyboard intros to several of the songs (not least with the splendid intro to “Sign of the Times”). The synth-pop keyboards of the 80s have matured into some proper organ playing. Guitarist John Norum is a quiet man but he communicates through his guitars. His guitar solos are terrific and more varied and emotional than before. We know he can play fast, but with age, it seems he now has realised it is not all about speed. Frontman Joey Tempest remains one of the best in the business. His voice has matured and become a bit huskier. It fits the current version of Europe perfectly. 

The setlist this evening is fabulous. Each of the band’s three evenings at Club Citta, they perform a different setlist. This evening we get some goodies from the band’s self-titled 1983 debut album and the 2004 comeback album “Start from the Dark” in addition to the big hits and some of the newer songs. It’s an evening dedicated to some special songs, some of them deep cuts not often performed by the band. From the debut album, we get to hear “In the Future to Come”, “Seven Doors Hotel”, “The King Will Return”, “Paradize Bay” and “Memories”. From the comeback album, we get “Got to Have Faith”, “Start from the Dark”, “Hero”, “Wake Up Call” and “Spirit of the Underdog”. In the 21-song setlist (plus a drum solo) there are also some other goodies, such as “Ninja”, “Carrie” and “Ready or Not”. 

The evening’s musical highlights for me are “Sign of the Times”, “Seven Doors Hotel”, “Start from the Dark” and “Wake Up Call”. The encore is predictable but no less world-class with “Superstitious”, “Cherokee” and, of course, “The Final Countdown”.

Europe, thank you for the lesson in how melodic hard rock should be done. Flawless.

Europe on stage at Club Citta in Kawasaki. Photo: Masayuki Noda

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Album review: Corrosive Sweden “Blood and Panic”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Corrosive Sweden has released a smashing new album filled with a modern Scandinavian mix of aggressive and melodic metal.

Corrosive Sweden’s music is a modern mix of many things – some classic Megadeth-sounding riffing, a touch of The Haunted’s aggression, a pinch of Amorphis’ melodic heaviness as well as melodic parts in the proud Swedish tradition. This melting pot of musical influences has resulted in an interesting signature sound for the band. There’s plenty of angst in Johan Bengtsson’s angry vocals. His voice fits the music very well. Formed in Hudiksvall, Sweden in 1997, the band’s debut album “Wanted” was released in 2006. Since then they have released a number of albums, but it is with this new album they are taking things to a new level. Lead guitarist Christer Ulander, who joined in 2000, seems to be a driving force for the band’s evolving and guitar-happy sound. The new album opens with the fantastic “Fire from a Gun”, which sets the tone and expectations for the whole album. The modern metal track “Parasite” shows that this is an ambitious band with some great songwriting skills. “Speed” and “Angry Me” are smashing tracks that show the potential of this band. They are clearly trying to do their own thing without worrying too much about how things are “supposed” to sound in order to fit into a specific sub-category.

Corrosive Sweden’s album “Blood and Panic” is out now via BMP Records. 

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www.corrosivesweden.se