Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

SWEDEN ROCK - June 8-9th
Sölvesborg SWEDEN

Festival review by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjälä
All photos by Marko Syrjälä

The Sweden Rock festival celebrated it's tenth anniversary this year which isn’t that bad for a rock festival today.

There are a number of festivals arranged in several European countries every year, but very few festivals manage to capitalize on the same hard rock / underground offerings and use the same tough screening process method to pick up bands for a bill like the Sweden Rock festival. The focus is on Hard Rock, Traditional Metal and of course flourishing power metal. It is of course obvious that the organizers don’t want to run the risk of booking black/death/crossover and disgusting mallcore outfits to ruin the concept of the festival.

So here is a “brief” article of the festival with a lot of great great photos.

The First Day

The first artist I caught in action was Mr. Uli Jon Roth and of course all us hard rock fans should remember he played in Scorpions in the past. His gig was mainly based on the instrumental songs which was in my opinion an excellent way of starting the festival more in the relaxing spirit.

After Roth’s instrumental set I faced a difficult situation in choosing either Manny Charlton Band (Ex-Nazareth) or Ken Hensley Band (Ex-Uriah Heap). After all I ended up witnessing Manny’s band. His set was like a return back to the old Nazareth days and he did a bunch of classic tunes for instance “Hair of the Dog” and also some newer material.

Then it was time for Glenn Hughes. Glenn was once the bassplayer/singer of the legendary hard rock combo Deep Purple. He played many classic Purple songs like "Strormbringer" and "Keep On Moving". As far as his own stuff is concerned it was quite bluesy, even funk oriented. But it was nice to see him alive and in damn good shape.

The legendary vocalist of the last Accept, Udo Dirkscheiner conquered the stage with his own U.D.O. band. Unfortunately we had to miss most of the songs because W.A.S.P. had the public press conference at the same time. Perfect timing I'd say. Nothing new came up in the press conference to tell you about, apart from Chris Holmes’ departure from the band was the hot topic. In this case I can’t help but tell about one minor funny thing that happened in the press happening. Some Hungarian journalist smartly asked “What does W.A.S.P. mean - Is it something like We Are Satan’s People?!?” Blackie reacted to the question rapidly answering kinda sarcastically “We’re Ain’t Sure Pal” and everybody laughed.

After the press I had to run like a manic to the other side of the festival area to catch the rest of the set of U.D.O. and managed to hear a couple of songs from U.D.O.’s set. Despite being late I was lucky enough to hear encore tracks “Balls To The Wall” and “Fast As A Shark” I was kinda pissed off at missing the gig anyway. Although Udo Dirkschneider must be much more than 50 years old, he still seems to be in very good shape and rocks like hell, gotta remember he has suffered from a few heart attacks. The band itself was very “metal” and I got to shock you by telling all of you now that guitarist Stefan Kauffmann (ex Accept drummer) had shaved his head bald a couple of weeks earlier.. Arghh!

After the show I had a chance to meet Udo and interview him for Metal-Rules.com. He appeared to be a real gentleman in every aspect. While doing the interview with Udo I once again missed the most of the set of the Swedish power metal heroes HammerFall. Damn schedule!! However I saw something. HammerFall used a lot of pyro techniques on the stage and during one song some guy appeared on the stage swinging a huge hammer in his hand which definitely looked quite amusing. Of course their set included tunes from their latest album “Renegade.”

The long waited gig from my personal standpoint was definitely W.A.S.P. without any doubts. The show kicked off with “Helldorado” and followed by “Inside the Electric Circus” and “Chainsaw Charlie”. To my big surprise they did the only one tune off from their recent album “Unholy Terror” which was eccentric indeed as the album is excellent. All in all the set was great.

The whole band was in the fine form and of course in good shape, racing through a selection of their greatest songs - including surprisingly (as stated above!) the only one new song from their current "Unholy Terror" album - which was really strange. But instead of new songs we were treated by very rare choices from “The Idol” and “The Great Misconceptions Of Me” from their brilliant “Crimson Idol” album. Somewhere in the middle of the set the concert had to be stopped, when a few between barriers were almost broken and had to be temporarily mended. Afterwards I heard that the same thing would have happened during the HammerFall performance. W.A.S.P’s show included typical classic show tricks when Blackie concluded the set by pouring 'blood' out of a wineskin into his mouth. The absence of the inimitable Chris Holmes was noticeable, leaving Lawless the main character in W.A.S.P. but actually nobody was really longing for Chris to be honest. The set-list contained at least these following songs:

Inside The Electric Circus
Chainsaw Charlie
The Hellion
Wild Child
Let It Roar
The Idol
Sleeping In the Fire
L.O.V.E Machine
I Don’t Need No Doctor
The Great Misconceptions Of Me
Animal Fuck Like a Beast
Real Me
I Wanna Be Somebody

Gary Moore started to play after WASP but we decided to pass and to be honest ignore that show cos Moore has ignored all the great hard rock stuff and focused on doing mainly the blues stuff .

And that was just the first day...

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Uli Jon Roth

Glenn Hughes



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The Second Day

The next day started a little bit later for us than the first one. First of all I gotta admit having missed live performances by both Metallium and Nocturnal Rites. Sorry Guys!!!

So the first band for me on the second day was Pretty Maids from Denmark.. After the great success of their 80’s albums “Red Hot And Heavy”, “Future World” and “Jump The Gun” the band broke up in 1990. They reunited with an entire new line-up after a short break and they have done plenty of good records since then but like any other glam rock band, they have faced the same problem as the success has not been same as it used to be in the 80’s.

This was their first appearance in Sweden since 1992. The band played a nice collection of their classic songs like “Red Hot And Heavy”, “Rodeo” and “Rock The House” but also a couple of new ones from the last year’s brilliant “Carpe Diem” album. Pretty Maids may have a lot of catching up to do, but we have to be thankful they’re still playing and doing their stuff. They really deserve some more success in the future.

Grave Digger hit next on the stage. I only saw the first opening songs from what they played because I was kinda excited to see Dokken, I’m more into hard rock y’know. Diggers sounded good for me. They also introduced their new guitar player Manni Schmitt who years ago played in the legendary German hard rock band called Rage. Their set consisted of tracks from the latest album “Excalibur” and of course their classic tunes.

Grave Digger

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Nocturnal Rites

Pretty Maids
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Grave Digger


Dokken started their one and half hour set with “Erase The Slate” followed by “Kiss Of Death”. Their set mainly contained classic songs from the albums “Tooth And Nail” and “Under Lock And Key. John Norum (Ex- Europe, UFO etc., etc.) had replaced Reb Beach on the guitar in the festival. According to the discussion what I had with Dokken the temporary bass player named Mikke Dee and what I heard later various from various sources on the internet it seems that John Norum is a permanent member of Dokken now. Even now with only two original members present here they were definitely worth seeing. The band’s performance was over all pretty good even Don himself looked little sick in some point…How come I wonder? Here is the complete set list for that night in Sweden Rock:

Erase The Slate

Kiss Of Death

The Hunter

Into The Fire

Maddest Hatter, Too High To Fly

Breaking The Chains

Alone Again

It's Not Love

Tooth And Nail

In My Dreams

When Heaven Comes Down (encore)

Paris Is Burning (encore)

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The next band was Helloween. The last time I saw them was in an opening slot for Iron Maiden on the Virtual IX tour a couple of years ago. Helloween’s latest album “The Dark Ride” was one of the best metal albums released during the last year and of course their setlist contained many songs from that output.

The show set off with the intro of the new album and the crowd got crazy and was with them right from the beginning. The highlights of the show were once again tunes from Michael Kiske period like “Eagle Fly Free”, “Future World” and “I Want Out”. This was the first time ever I heard “I Want Out” sung by Andy Deris. Even though there is a huge and obvious difference between the voices of Michael and Andi, but in my opinion Andi did a really good job this time. They didn’t play any songs from albums “Master Of The Rings” or “Better Than Raw” which surprised me?!? After all this was a very satisfying night for both band and the crow. I even forgot to get to Dee Snider’s public press conference as I was so excited by Helloween’s show…

Here is the list of songs from that night (not in order):


Eagle Fly Free

The Dark Ride

Steel tormentor

Mr. Torture

Future World

I Want Out

Dr Stein

The Departed

Mirror Mirror

Escalation 666

I Live For Your Pain

How Many Tears

After the Helloween show there was the public press conference of Helloween, but for some bizarre reason only Uli Kusch and Roland Grapow showed up so it was quite a short session this time and nothing really shocking came out.

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So now it was the time for the grand finale, Mr. Twisted Sister - Dee Snider.

I saw his performance a couple of years ago in the Tavastia club, Finland. That gig still has a place in my heart as I found it one of the all time best club gigs I have ever seen and experienced. So this time it was time to see him on the real BIG stage. The night’s collection of great tunes leaned heavily towards “Stay Hungry” and other older TS albums but also some nice “surprises” were included which was very good. They performed two songs off from his latest “Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down” album and even one song from Dee’s Widowmaker period. The band consisted of : guitarists Tony Palmucci and Dan MacCafferty, former Widowmaker/Desperado bassplayer Mark Russel and drummer AJ Pedro who is really well known from his glory days in Twisted Sister. The whole band really rocked the place and Mr.Snider himself still had his ultimate energy left. Snider has never ever looked or sounded better than that night in the Sweden Rock festival.

Many bands/artists that once rocked hard have changed their style to whatever they believe the current trend is, but we are lucky enough to see guys like Dee Snider, who still does what he believes by himself, pure rock ’n roll.

The setlist for the evening was something like this (not in order):

What You Don’t Know
Kids Are Back
Stay Hungry
I Believe In Rock ’n Roll
Burn In Hell
Be Crue To You School
Come Out And Play
I Wanna Rock
Under The Blade
Leader Of The Pack
Isn’t It Time
We're Not Gonna Take It
Shoot ’Em Down
It’s Only Rock ’n Roll

This was a great festival in the beautiful landscape in the middle of the Swedish countryside. There wasn't any arrangement problems during the whole festival. The security things had been taken to another level - for example what they have been in previous years because of the tragic accidents at the Roskilde festival last year.

Also, the schedule was kind of tight in some points, but however it was handled in an excellent way.

But as for the bill of the Sweden Rock Festival, it felt like a dream come true for every 80’s hard rocker as the whole event was packed by legendary names and filled with a couple of traditional bands and also some newer bands with the more modern sound approach had been booked. If you dare to call yourself a 100% hard rock fan then you should not miss out on a festival like this by any means. Hopefully the organizers will be able to book a lot of interesting bands for next year’s bill....I truly hope so!

Dee Snider
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