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


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

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


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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Interview: Shane Embury, Napalm Death | “I can’t imagine doing anything else!”

Napalm Death’s Shane Embury on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson recently met with English music legend Shane Embury in Tokyo to talk about his 32 years in Napalm Death, the new Tronos album and family life in Birmingham with his Japanese wife and two young kids. His Napalm Death colleague Barney Greenway also sat in and added some thoughts to the conversation.

While his day job as the bassist and the longest-serving member of British grindcore legends Napalm Death keeps him busy, Shane Embury somehow finds time for a wide range of other bands and projects, including Tronos, Brujeria, Venomous Concept, Bent Sea, Lock Up and much more. Shane Embury seems to be a songwriter and artist who can’t sit still. He’s always working on something new.

Shane Embury and Barney of Napalm Death backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

The current line-up of Napalm Death – consisting of Barney Greenway on vocals, Shane Embury on bass, Danny Herrera on drums and live member John Cooke on guitar – is as busy as ever with seemingly relentless touring around the world. While not an original member (there are none left in the band – the last founding member left in 1986), it is now 32 years since Shane joined Napalm Death. “Well, probably. It is actually. 32 years, yeah, you’re right,” says Shane as we sit down in Napalm’s dressing room in Tokyo during their recent Japan tour. Do you ever get tired? “You get tired, but we’ve done it for so long, it’s what I’ve wanted to do. It becomes part of your everyday thinking in a way, which is good and bad, I suppose. I should ask my wife that question and see what she says about it. It becomes part of your DNA for want of a better word. I can’t imagine doing anything else! I love playing music, I love writing music. I joined because I used to hang with the guys anyway. It obviously goes onto other things. Because you meet other people and you create a network of friends around the world. There’s a lot of people I would never have been able to meet without being in the band. That’s very encouraging as well.”

Napalm Death’s Shane Embury on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Napalm Death never seems to stop touring. “We enjoy it. It does get tough like anything else. We all have lives outside of the band. It would be stupid to say, but of course, we make a living from it, but it’s not our sole goal. That’s just part of what we do. In the early days, it was never like that.” Napalm Death frontman Barney adds: “You’d be surprised, it’s actually structured pretty well. It looks as if we’re out all the time, but actually, it’s really well organised, so we get a lot of time that everybody needs. But we also put the work in.” The impression I have is that when Napalm goes on tour, there are gigs every day. “It looks like it, but it’s actually pretty reasonable,” says Barney while Shane adds: “It is intense. Some years have been pretty relentless.”

Shane has many musical projects and he has his own record label as well as many other commitments. Does Napalm Death always come first and the other things have to fit in around Napalm? “Napalm comes first!“ says Shane without hesitation. “I do things outside because I’m just obsessive, I suppose. Danny always said when I first met Buzz from Melvins and became good friends with him, because Buzz is quite an obsessive character: ‘You just keep busy because Buzz keeps you busy.’ Not necessarily. I like his ethic. I like the fact that he’s doing different things musically and I sort of like to do that too. And you meet people that you share a common thing with. But Napalm comes first. Sometimes things do clash, but very rarely. I try to keep on top of things with Marc at MAD who is our manager back in Europe. When I first started doing some of the other bands or they became, like Brujeria started to tour more, sometimes they would clash occasionally. But now with Brujeria things are a lot better because they can do stuff that doesn’t necessarily require me.”

Napalm Death’s Shane Embury on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

There was a tour a few years ago where Shane played in three of the four bands on the bill – Napalm Death, Brujeria and Lock Up. “That was kind of a freakish occurrence. That really came about because we were trying to structure one tour with another band, didn’t happen, and I was talking with the booking agent and they said we will try Brujeria as an idea. And it just so happened that the Lock Up album was coming out. So, it was like: should I, or shouldn’t I? I said yes. To me, it seemed logical, but at the same time, it’s a lot to do. That’s not something you want to do all the time.”

The last Napalm Death studio album, “Apex Predator – Easy Meat”, came out in 2015 and “Coded Smears and More Uncommon Slurs”, a terrific hour-and-a-half compilation album of rare bonus tracks and deep cuts, was released in 2018. Can we expect a new Napalm Death album anytime soon? “It’s in the works. Music and vocals are being recorded. Not sure when that will come out. It’s pretty much there as such. It needs a few sprinkles here and there. I don’t think it will come out this year. It might do, I don’t know. Probably next year, I’d imagine,“ says Shane. Barney adds: “Probably next year, I would’ve thought. But it could be this year. A lot of it depends on me. I just fucking need to get it finished, which I will do.” Shane remarks that “There’s no rush in a way,” before Barney continues: “The thing is, as you just mentioned with the compilation album, that was exactly the purpose of it, to give a stop gap, whilst we sort of… Although, of course, it’s valid in its own right. But it also serves as a bit of breathing space. People know there’s a new album coming out at some point, but it’s not stopped anybody from wanting to book the band. They’re booking us on the current album.”

The compilation album proved to be a real treat for many fans. “Unless you’re a diehard fan, you wouldn’t have heard a lot of those songs,“ says Shane. “When we were compiling it, it was interesting. We always like to do lots of songs. We always have done. We always put a lot of effort into the songs we do, they’re not like fillers. That’s why it gets really hard to choose. It’s interesting compiling cuts for the record, it’s almost like a new album because you’d forgotten some of it.” Barney adds: “I didn’t remember half the stuff that was on there.” Shane continues: “Vague recollection! That’s a good thing. A few people have said when they listen to it, it’s got that feel of it.”

Shane Embury and Barney backstage in Tokyo with Roppongi Rocks boss Stefan Nilsson. Photo: Aaron Hill, Eyehategod

Barney has some strong feelings about bands putting out compilations. “I’ve seen it from a lot of metal bands and this is really fucking annoying. They put like a compilation album out of songs that are not really hard to get and it’s like ten songs. Really? You’re really putting that out? Fuckin’ hell! Show some fuckin’ application! What we said when we went to do it, if we’re gonna do it, it’s gotta be fuckin’ worth it, you know? There’s no sense in doing that. When I saw the tracklist, I was like: where did all this stuff come from? Then it started to be worthwhile. And I think it’s such great artwork. I didn’t think we could top ‘Apex’, but this one is just as good in terms of being confrontational.” Shane adds: “You don’t get confrontational artwork so much anymore, I think,” before Barney continues: “I think you have to. We’re a confrontational band, so why wouldn’t your artwork be confrontational?”

Shane is a very productive songwriter who writes music for several bands and projects. Do you write music specifically for Napalm or do you just write music and then use it wherever it fits? “You write specifically for Napalm. Over the years, some of the slower, more experimental tracks were for nothing particular, but they came into Napalm as we were all looking in a similar direction, I guess. But overall, the mindset I tend to have musically for Napalm… Lock Up would be more death metal whereas Napalm, even though it’s experimental, it has a punkier core element, more bar core element. There might be some death metal, but there’s more a core thing going on with Napalm for me, Lock Up will be a bit more not like that and other things that I do… Venomous Concept tends to be more old-school punk, I suppose.”

Napalm Death’s Shane Embury on stage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

One of Shane’s most exciting recent projects is “Celestial Mechanics”, the debut album of Tronos, a terrific dark ambient project where Shane has worked with Russ Russell (whose production credits include Napalm Death, Lock Up, The Haunted, Dimmu Borgir, At the Gates and much more) and Dirk Verbeuren (Megadeth, Cadaver, Bent Sea). The album has guest appearances by the likes of Snake from Voivod, Faith No More’s Billy Gould and Mastodon’s Troy Sanders. While still dark and at times extreme, Tronos is very different from what we are used to hearing from Shane. It also stands out as Shane is not playing bass but rather playing guitar and singing. “The whole album is different. Every track is very different. It’s a small spark in me really. It took like seven years for us to put it together. Originally, what it was, me and Russ, we always talked about putting this thing together. Russ has been working with us for like 20 years now, live and producing. We share a lot of love for heavy stuff and mellow stuff. I always wanted to see if it would be possible to bring ultra-heaviness together with ultra-ambience. When we eventually did start, I thought it was going to become a bit more industrial, but Russell, he’s obsessed with Tom G. Warrior as I have been. We were starting doing riffs at first. It was a series of riffs. We sat there and I recorded it. Right, OK, let’s use this riff. Where do we might go next? And we built it and it grew from there. I didn’t want to play bass, because I was playing guitar. So, then Billy came in and did a couple and Troy came in. It kind of grew from there. We tried to find a vocalist for quite a while and they all said ‘Yeah, I’ll try some vocals’ and they never did. Then I ended up singing which is good. It’s a good experience really. It’s quite a varied album. It’s not one thing. It goes off in loads of different tangents. Erica Nockalls who plays in the band called The Wonder Stuff, she came in. Of course, Snake did come in and did a couple of vocal recordings. That was really good. That’s quite a big thing for me to do something on the same record as him. I’m over the moon with it really.”

Will Tronos ever perform live? “If we ever did anything live it would be something like a festival. We shall see. A touring thing would be impossible because of all the people involved. Russ and me also would like there to be visuals. Russ does a lot of graphic stuff. He’s also a tattoo artist now as well. He does projections. It would be quite a visual experience. The whole point would be to do something quite out there, really, once in a while. If people are interested at all. I don’t know, people might not like it. We’re very happy with it. We’ve started working on some new stuff. If we do another one, it will probably not take seven years, because now we’ve established a kind of formula.”

This year you remain busy touring with Napalm and other commitments. “Napalm is pretty busy, up until about the end of September, I believe. Brujeria and Venomous Concept are going on tour in May in Europe for three weeks. So, it’s pretty much busy up until September. After that, I am not quite sure what is happening.”

When he is not on tour, Shane spends time with his Japanese wife and two young kids at home in England. “Me and my wife just had a baby boy. So, that’s kind of the big thing really. More energy is consumed there. It’s all hands on deck now. I live in Birmingham. We thought about moving at one point, and that may still happen at one point, I don’t know. Now, after many, many years, she’s got a network of friends and Japanese women who are married to English people in the Midlands. She found out there are a few Japanese schools on weekends. Through that, she started to… Now she feels a lot happier because obviously, she has a network of friends. That really helps. It’s OK. I am not there half the time. We’re always away. She holds the fort pretty well. She grew up in the States, so her command of English is extremely good. She probably speaks better English than me. She’s always correcting me.”

Family and friends are clearly important parts of the Napalm Death story and Napalm are clearly very happy with its Japanese partners such as Hirokazu Nambu of tour promoter Smash and Tetsu Miyamoto at record label Trooper Entertainment. “Most people that work for us, started as friends,” explains Barney. “A lot of the stuff that is out there in the regular music industry was just fuckin’ chancers, just trying to swim in the pool. So, it’s good to be able to get people that you can trust. Trust is a big thing. A guy like Nambu, the Smash West guy, we’ve worked with Nambu since fuckin’ hell, since… Consistently we’ve worked with him, because when you find somebody and it’s going well… Yeah, OK, someone else may come along and offer you the fuckin’ world on a plate, but that’s not the point. The point is, you want sustainability, you want people that can, because without these people, in some countries, you’ve got no chance. They actually helped to keep you where you are. That’s part of the reason why Napalm comes to Japan every other year, it’s because of people like Nambu, Tetsu and even the techs. The guys work with us all the time. It’s trust. You can go to bed at night and not have to worry about if something is going to fuck you.”

Napalm Death remains quite possibly the best band in the world.

Shane Embury backstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks /

Album review: Grand Magus “Wolf God”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Swedish heavy metal trio Grand Magus’ ninth album is filled with muscle rock built on thunderous drums, doomy riffs and JB Christoffersson’s voice.

The Swedish metal band Grand Magus debuted in 2001 with a self-titled album. “Wolf God” is the band’s ninth full-length studio album and on it, the band continues to give us songs built on the band’s established formula of powerful and riff-happy heavy metal. Frontman JB Christoffersson is perhaps best known as the former singer for Spiritual Beggars and in Grand Magus, we also find Spiritual Beggars drummer Ludwig Witt and Fox Skinner on bass.

Lyrically, with song titles such as “Glory to the Brave”, “To Live and Die in Solitude”, “Dawn of Fire” and “Brother of the Storm”, the band roams in the same hunting grounds as Manowar and fellow Swedes Amon Amarth and Hammerfall. Musically those bands are also not miles away from Grand Magus, although Magus thankfully does not have the somewhat comical Viking/warrior image of those bands and there’s a tad bit more groove in this music. There are some doom influences here as well as old-school 70s hard rock. Thundering drums and doomy guitar riffs are topped off with JB’s voice. This is a hard rock trio with both muscles and brains playing battle music. The majestic “Spear Thrower” is the album’s highlight – kicking off with some fast guitars before JB’s voice takes control and leads from the front. “To Live and Die in Solitude” is a close second and “A Hall Clad in Gold” is also a contender. This is rather masculine music performed with power and skill. 

Grand Magus’ album “Wolf God” is out now via Ward Records in Japan and Nuclear Blast internationally.

Album review: Savage Messiah “Demons”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Modern British metal band Savage Messiah returns with a new album combining the proud British heavy metal tradition with contemporary melodic touches.

Britain’s Savage Messiah has created an interesting sound based on the proud British heavy metal tradition. With hints of NWOBHM and elements of thrash and speed metal, Savage Messiah still manages to sound distinctly contemporary, not least because of its modern-sounding melodic touch which can be heard on “Demons”, the band’s fifth full-length studio album since its formation in 2007. Frontman David Silver has a voice made for this type of modern metal. Combining Silver with Mira Slama on bass, David Hruska on guitar and Charly Carreton on drums, we get a fresh take on melodic metal. They somehow manage to enter that tricky space that has the potential for mainstream appeal while at the same time has a quality to it that makes the music interesting to more diehard metalheads. 

The album production on “Demons” sounds as great as it should when you have heavyweights David Castillo as a producer and Jens Bogren to mix the album. For the recording sessions, the band made use of drummers Dan Wilding (Carcass, Aborted, Heaven Shall Burn) and Ali Richardson (Bleed From Within, Sylosis). Most of the material for the album was written in the studio. People who can write this kind of high-quality music on the fly clearly have some serious talent. I absolutely love the guitars on “Down and Out”. Savage Messiah is a guitar band and throughout the album, we get some rather tasty guitar work. “The Lights Are Going Out” is almost a power ballad but thankfully with some added heaviness. My two favourite tracks on the album, “Heretic in the Modern World” and “Rise Then Fall”, are fast and modern songs. There is also a well-made cover of Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute” among the album’s eleven tracks.

Savage Messiah’s album “Demons” will be released on 10th May by Trooper Entertainment in Japan and on 17th May via Century Media Record internationally.

Album review: Kampfar “Ofidians Manifest”

Kampfar. Photo: Sebastian Ludvigsen

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 

Kampfar, one of the best extreme metal bands to ever come out of Scandinavia, is back with an epic new album.

The Norwegians in Kampfar always have a terrific atmospheric feeling to their majestically dark and epic songs. There is a foundation here built on black metal with some very Nordic touches to it. There are so many details to be uncovered in their songs that it never gets boring listening to them. Their deep Norwegian roots are not only present in the Norwegian lyrics. They also shine through in their music. Kampfar lives in a cold, windswept Norwegian underworld. But this is achieved with authenticity and not some added layer of faux Nordic folk/Viking theme that we sometimes see from other bands who think it’s a good idea to add some Nordic touches to their image.

Kampfar was founded in Fredrikstad, Norway in 1994. “Ofidians Manifest” is the band’s eighth full-length studio album. A typical Kampfar song combines heaviness, speed and brutality but there is always beauty in there as well. They don’t shy away from using tempo changes, including calm piano and acoustic guitar parts to make their songs even more dramatic due to the sharp contrasts within the songs. There’s also effective use of choral parts on some of the songs. “Ofidians Manifest” is like a beautiful and melancholic soundtrack to the end of the world. The characteristic voice of frontman Dolk is part of what makes Kampfar’s music instantly recognisable. His cold, coarse and powerful voice has Nordic written all over it. It is such a great fit for the music.

“Ofidians Manifest” features seven smashing tracks where the closing track “Det Sorte” is one of my immediate favourites with its epic combination of brutality and beautiful melodies. “Eremitt” is another splendid track on this album which does not have a weak moment on it. But perhaps “Skamløs!” a proper bulldozer song is the winner here. Incredible is the one word that nicely sums up the epic new Kampfar album. 

Kampfar’s album “Ofidians Manifest” is out now via Indie Recordings.