SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL 2017
Once again, the Finnish Metal-Rules.com two-man team made their annual road trip to Sweden Rock. The 2017 lineup presented a wide range of metal and hard rock as usual. Over 70 bands offered one hell of an experience for the attendees during the four-day festival. Sweden Rock has been successful during the past twenty years, always being sold out as it was again this year. However, it took a bit longer until all the tickets were gone this year. It has become quite logical for us to give an in-depth report on several bands performing at Sweden Rock to all the readers out there. It was an enormous pleasure to testify Scorpions, Venom, Ratt, Warlock, Running Wild, and a whole lot more. Unfortunately, we are not able to cover every bloody band, but hopefully, you will have a pleasant reading experience… Stay hard, True As Steel.
The three-piece Grand Magus is a pile of real heavy metal ladled influences from the ancient northern culture. The band needs no gimmicks. They just rely upon the mighty sounds created by the guitar, bass, and drums and, of course, the voice by JB Christoffersson. His strong and even recognizable delivery crowns the metallic tone of Grand Magus. Grand Magus’ un-commercial hard rock meets old-school heavy metal could be a bit too heavy for some, but the songs have catchy riffs. It is a pity they haven’t got the chance to gain the larger following even though they deserve it. The gig at Swedenrock showed and proved Grand Magus is truly an awesome live band.
In January, Canadian hard rockers Helix were invited to Sweden Rock to replace Y&T, who unfortunately had to cancel their appearance at the festival. Fronted by Brian Vollmer, Helix last performed at Sweden Rock way back in 2005, so it was great to see them again after a twelve-year absence. The band has released 13 studio albums, including the latest BASTARDS OF THE BLUES (2014), and they have been more or less active since their formation in 1974. Helix has gone through several line-up changes, and nowadays, Vollmer is the only remaining member remaining from the original band. The band enjoyed such a big success in Sweden in the mid 80’s so it wasn’t surprising that the band opened up with their biggest hit from that era. The title track of LONG WAY TO HEAVEN received a good response, and so did the other Helix classics like: “Wild in the Streets,” “Heavy Metal Love,” and “Deep Cuts the Knife.” Unfortunately, the newer material didn’t match the quality of these older gems, so the show became a bit boring at times. Vollmer did a decent job and worked hard through the whole performance, but besides him and drummer Greg Hinz, the band sounded and looked very average. It was good to see Helix again, and the band has several great songs, but if we are truly honest, the show was a bit boring as a whole.
Myrkur has indeed got mixed reactions and feedback amongst the die-hard black metal maniacs. Frankly, that isn’t a big surprise when looking at Myrkur’s background and how it got kickstarted. Leaving those aspects in the background, Myrkur’s show sounded tempting and fascinating. The front lady Amalie Bruun’s grim-sounding black metal vocal style sounded…well, eerie, and her pure singing was kind of vivid and ethereal. She used double microphones for different vocals. Why? There had to be a sort of effect mixed to the second mic to have the eerie sounding growling. Above all, her angelic voices were chilling and raised the hair up as it sounded truly creepy. Most of the songs on the set were off from the debut album M.The show was concluded by the new song “Två konungabarn” off from the forthcoming second album, it was based on the nyckelharpa playing with the North European folk music.
The long-run German metal veterans Grave Digger hit the stage when the sky cracked and started pouring rain. The Grave Digger clans didn’t mind and offered a pure old school set of the true metal. Chris Boltendalh’s may have grayed, but his classic raspy voice still sounds dominating and convincing. Within the hour, the German metallers did all in all twelve songs from eight albums. The newer songs such as “Healed By Metal” present the pure Grave Digger sound and fit into the set along with the old gems such as “Witch-Hunter” or “Heavy Metal Breakdown” concluding the set. Instead, the long stretched version of “Rebellion” was truly boring – why they couldn’t hammer the song with the simpler and bang-that-head approach? However, Chris Boltendalh deserves tremendous kudos for guiding Grave Digger thru these years even though never having reached the bigger success.
BLACK STAR RIDERS
Wednesday’s headliners were Black Star Riders. As most know, they’re a band rising from the ashes of the latest incarnation of the legendary Thin Lizzy. Although the band still occasionally performs under its old name, Black Star Riders have been around for more than five years. They have put out three studio albums, including HEAVY FIRE, which was released last February. You can’t help thinking that the band is a kind of supergroup when the line-up includes Lizzy guitar legend Scott Gorham, former The Almighty vocalist/guitarist Ricky Warwick, guitarist Damon Johnson (Alice Cooper), bassist Robbie Crane (Ratt, Vince Neil, etc.) and drummer Chad Szeliga (Black Label Society, etc.). But fortunately, this band is not about the names of the group but about the music itself. The band’s material is overall strong, and although they have their history, they’re not afraid to rely on their newer material. Especially HEAVY FIRE tracks “When The Night Comes In” and “Testify or Say Goodbye” rocked hard, and so did most of the older songs like “Bound For Glory.” The ghost of Lizzy was present only with two tracks. And of course, you can’t go wrong with such classics as “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Whiskey In The Jar.” Warwick is truly a great frontman, and the band sounded fantastic. There’s not much more what you can ask.