SWEDENROCK 2017: SATURDAY
Lionheart might not be a worldwide known name, but if you take a closer look and see who are the band members, then you surely want to know more about the band. Lionheart was formed in 1982 by guitarists Dennis Stratton (Iron Maiden) and Steve Mann (MSG, Eloy), bassist Rocky Newton (MSG, Wildfire) vocalist Jess Cox (Tygers of Pan Tang) and drummer Frank Noon (Def Leppard), who was later replaced by Clive Edwards (UFO, Wild Horses). The band released only one album, HOT TONIGHT, in 1984 before splitting yup two years later. Lionheart was reformed in 2016, and currently, the band is finishing its second album SECOND NATURE which will be out in the summer of 2017. The place was not packed when the band hit on stage and opened with new album track “Give Me the Light.” Next, the group went back to HOT TONIGHT album and performed the title track, “Wait for The Night” and “Die for Love.” The sound of the band is something between NWOBHM and AOR, and it fits perfectly on the festival like Swedenrock. It seemed that the guys had really good time on stage. Stratton and Mann did some excellent guitar work though the set and the rhythm section of Edwards and Newton were solid as a rock. The new vocalist Lee Small (Shy, Phenomena) did a good job too and worked hard, but maybe he was missing some stage charisma, to be honest. The set list was, of course, built upon HOT TONIGHT but the band also performed five tracks from the upcoming album. The new material sounded a bit heavier and more guitar oriented compared to the old stuff, which is a good thing only. Surprisingly the highlight of the show was the old McAuley-Schenker Group classic “Anytime.” The song is written by Steve Mann and McAuley, and to this day, it’s one of the biggest hits what Schenker Group ever had. The song sounded fantastic, and then even people who didn’t know Lionheart material came back to life. All in all, Lionheart did a solid performance, and it’s going to be interesting to hear the new album when it’s out in few weeks.
Candlemass of nowadays is like a wounded animal because Leif Edling is out, and Messiah Marcolin exited the band years ago. The current frontman, Mats Leven is definitely a fabulous singer with the splendid voice and great stage character for sure. But both the known voice and the heart have been ripped from the chest and therefore the band is more like a cover band of its own. Especially now when the second Candlemass Nightfall album was played entirely. Of course it sounded bombastic and the material definitely sounded ageless and stood up to the matter of time for sure. Besides the NIGHTFALL material, Candlemass did so called evergreen songs such as “Mirror, Mirror”, “Solitude”. However Candlemass still sounds like Candlemass even though they mostly focus and cover the 80’s stuff, which is without doubts the most respected and adored.
How many of you still remember when the Italian Rhapsody kind of hit the power metal fans by releasing LEGENDARY TALES back in 1997. The album was and still is awesome in every aspect for sure. When the band started getting more success, the band collapsed and was divided into two different camps; Rhapsody Of Fire and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. That was quite a messy Italian soap opera, to tell the truth. Apparently, some members of Rhapsody Of Fire wanted to bury the hatchet and go out with Luca Turilla. The most interesting thing as far as the line-up is concerned the keyboard player Alex Staropoli wasn’t involved in running his version of Rhapsody Of Fire with new members. Luca Turillli ran around the stage like a Duracell Bunny and how he even managed to touch strings while having that kind of ADHD symptom. However, Rhapsody sounded bombastic, powerful, but melodic. Fabio Lione has truly impressive and a recognizable voice with his Italian accent. The set was based on the material from the albums such LEGENDARY TALES and POWER OF THE DRAGONFLAME. It was a pity how things got messed up in the Rhapsody camp, and the unicorn of power metal is pretty much gone now.
Venom feat. Cronos with the back-up guys this time to avoid any confusion. Cronos’ Venom unleashed the black metal blitzkrieg on the main stage ten years ago. The volume had been turned to reach the maximum level, making the ears ring for the next days. Back to 2017 when Cronos’ Venom returned to spread the black metal hymns with the current back up forces. Even though Venom is known for the immortal cult songs from the heyday of the early 80’s, but instead the legendary three piece concentrated on having a lot of newer material from albums such as FALLEN ANGEL, FROM THE VERY DEPTHS. Of course these classic ones had been placed in the mid of the set. For obvious reasons the songs off from FROM THE VERY DEPTHS were strongly at present in the set. Playing “Satanachrist from the POSSESSED album was without any doubts a nice unexpected surprise as Venom has constantly avoided playing songs from that output. As for their gig, the band could have been a bit more brutal and had more energy filled playing and the feeling, the presence of the band was quite phlegmatic, missing the need rage and aggression. Cronos seemed to be enjoying being at the stage. Venom is meant to be sound evil and barbaric, but instead it was more a normal rock band not having those aspects.
Carcass made the first visit to Swedenrock app ten years when reuniting the nearly classic line-up. Ken Owen indeed sat behind the drum kit by performing a short solo. However ten years have passed by and Steer, and Walker has got a bit gray to their look, but the music still rules for sure. Carcass did an absolute strong performance with the best of the best kind of set. The set covered all the way from the debut album up till the latest studio output. Carcass sounded groove, yet brutal and still technical. Walker’s growling is still there and hasn’t lost any inch, as sounding quite reek of putrefaction. Carcass is killer act on the stage after these years. Hopefully, the band will be able to bring a new album out soon.
There is one sentence which describes Treat best, and it’s definitely “the masters of hook and choruses.” Although these Swedes have never make it big time outside of their home country, they have arranged a great number of excellent hard rock anthems during their 30 plus year career. The Treat show in Swedenrock had no perfect timing because In Flames was playing on the main stage at the same time but there was still a good number of crowd in the place. The band opened up with the title track of the latest Treat CD THE GHOST OF GRACELAND, and it was followed by 80’s classic “Ready for the Taking” and the previous COUP THE GRACE album hit single “Paper Tiger”. The band was literally on fire, and vocalist Robert Ernlund sounded fantastic. A special mention goes to the band’s latest addition, bassist Pontus Egberg (King Diamond, The Poodles), who did an excellent and super energetic performance on stage. It’s a fact that the guys in the band might not be that young or pretty anymore but musically they all nailed it perfectly. The medley of Treat’s 80’s hits was amazing although it would have been great to hear the full songs instead. However, Treat was brilliant, and it was a total pleasure to follow the band’s performance from start to finish.
In Flames divides the metal crowd to several different camps: The band is either worshiped by younger metal generation, disliked by the metal puritanism, ignored by the older heavy metal fans. But still, the band pulls the massive huge crowd today, bigger than Aerosmith’s. However, In Flames enjoys the tremendous following and success in their home country for sure. Seeing all these young metal fans in the frontline was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise, cos the average age for the attendance of Sweden Rock is between 40-50 years old. In Flames’ line-up has gone total turmoil during the past few years when long time members have stepped down. As for these new fellows, well it is kind of hard to judge them after playing them in the rank for a short time. At least the current drummer Joe Richard handled the duties in the truly professional way and a good replacement for Daniel Svensson. The latest addition was some programmer guy on the stage. Was it necessary to have to a programmer? Those Whoracle years are long gone and In Flames have stepped forward into the world of a bit annoying approach. Friden’s wannabe angst and desperate act on the mic looked quite entertaining, but also embarrassing. It has to be admired how In Flames have been capable of becoming such a gigantic name in the metal world, where the old, but dying dinosaurs, still tame the land. In Flames’ set was based on the material released after 2000, leaving the 90’s catalog to rest in the peace and gather the dust. In Flames still dominate the metal world for years to come, that’s sure. Why not, they appeal to the metal crowd all around the world.