SWEDEN ROCK 2018 Festival

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The Finnish Metal-Rules.com made their annual visit to Sweden Rock. Metal-Rules.com has covered Sweden Rock since 2001. The 2018 line up once again presented a wide range of metal and hard rock. 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 ten years always being sold out. This year was no exception as the fest was sold out because of Iron Maiden, the farewell tour of Ozzy Osbourne, and of course Judas Priest. There were a many of other great bands and musicians from different eras to see as well. The weather was tremendously hot during the whole event. It has become quite obvious for us to give an in depth article of several bands performing at Sweden Rock to all the readers out there. Unfortunately, we are not able to cover every bloody band, but hopefully you will have a pleasant reading experience… Rock on!

Article and pics by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala


WEDNESDAY

BRIAN DOWNEY’S ALIVE AND DANGEROUS

Wednesday was a kind of warm-up day for the festival, but there were a couple of interesting bands to check out. The former Thin Lizzy drummer has a new group called Brian Downey’s Alive and Dangerous. The band is actually a tribute band to Thin Lizzy and it played the band’s best- known songs including “Jailbreak”, “Cowboy Song”, “Emerald” and “Boys Are Back in Town”. The vocalist Matt Wilson had a huge afro-hair, quite a similar to Phil Lynott’s, and his voice was close enough to make the songs sound pretty much like the originals. It was great to see Mr. Downey behind the kit after a long battle with serious health issues. Downey’s unique way of drumming was one of the key elements of the classic Lizzy sound, and his playing is still fantastic. A cover band is just a cover band, but Alive and Dangerous were a good fit for this festival and it’s always great to hear these classic songs when they are played the right way.

 

F.K.U.

Swedish thrash metal has never been that highly appreciated amongst metal fans. Even though there have been quite a few thrash bands coming from Sweden, they don’t attain legendary status. F.K.U stands for the new wave of the Swedish thrash scene, but they have a more tongue-in-cheek attitude what comes to their approach. As the whole band has dressed up as Freddy Kreuger lookalikes with a dress code and having weird looking warpaint. F.K.U’s thrash was basically funny to listen to, even though most of the songs were quite unimpressive. The band did the shortened version of S.O.D’s Freddy Kreuger by playing the opening riff and “Evildead” by Death. However, the four-piece definitely enjoyed playing on the tent stage.

THE QUIREBOYS

The Quireboys were a very last minute addition for the festival line-up after The Quill was forced to cancel several shows because of recent health issues of vocalist Magnus Ekwall. The British quartet has performed here several times before and enjoy such a good following in Sweden. The Quireboys are great “good-time party” rock ’n roll band, and their shows are always fun to watch. Lead vocalist Spike is the commander on the stage and when the band played such songs as “Sex Party”, “7 O’Clock” or “Mona Lisa Smiled”, it was almost impossible not to like the band and “join the party”. Great show by a great band.

CYHRA

Cyhra is basically a Swedish all-star metal/rock band consisting of ex-members of In Flames and Amaranthe. The debut gig by Cyhra was carried out in Helsinki for some eccentric reason, to which a few people had crawled in to see. The word seems to have been spread and some fame has been gained, therefore seeing them at Sweden Rock wasn’t any surprise. Cyhra’s music is kind of modern metal with melodic riffs and effects. As a matter of fact, the former In Flames bassist Ivar was involved in Cyhra, until he dismissed the band. The former Amaranthe frontman Jake E . definitely has a great voice fitting to the approach of Cyhra. Honestly, Cyhra is still in the process to find the exact style of their own. When Cyhra manages to get all the things worked out and rolling, they will definitely get catapulted to success for sure.

SUFFOCATION

The longtime death metal veterans Suffocation made their first visit to Sweden Rock by performing at the tent stage. Suffocation was one of the very few extreme acts booked to Sweden Rock and therefore the crowd wasn’t the main target for them, unfortunately. When Suffocation crushes on the stage, they sound truly brutal and skilled and extremely sharp. For some reason, the sound was quite unbalanced and a bit cacophonic. The death grunts by the Disgorge guy couldn’t be heard that well as the volume of his voice was quite low, getting dominated by guitar. However, the combo offered a brutalized set of old school US death metal for over one hour, but as stated earlier, the crowd wasn’t that thrilled and didn’t show any kind of ultimate excitement.

BULLET

The Swedish band Bullet was an entirely new band for me. For some reason, I’ve never heard about the band before, and somehow I thought that they were kind of the same league as bands like The Poodles or Eclipse, but I was deadly wrong. Since the thunderous opening riff of “Speed and Attack,” it was clear that Bullet is all about classic heavy metal in the vein of 80’s Judas Priest and Accept. It’s a fact vocalist Hell Hofer sounds A LOT like Udo Dirkschneider, the bassist looked like Peter Baltes in the distance and the guitarists were like clones of the classic Priest duo. There are a lot of “Spinal Tappish” things about Bullet but the band sounded great, and they have lots of good songs. Need to check ‘em out now!

 

HARDCORE SUPERSTAR

Swedish sleaze/hard rockers Hardcore Superstar were rightly the headliners of the first festival day. The band has found steady popularity throughout its 20+ year career, and they’re nowadays one of the most successful groups of its genre in Europe. Hardcore Superstar made its worldwide breakthrough with their self-titled album in 2005, and the single “We Don’t Celebrate Sundays” is still the band’s most popular song to date. However, they’ve released five albums after the self-titled. Musically, the trend has gone downhill one album after another. Especially HCSS (2015), was a major let down and it also failed commercially in many countries. Hopefully things will change with the next album YOU CAN’T KILL MY ROCK’N ROLL, which will arrive at stores next September. However, now it’s time to check how the band is doing on stage in the year 2018.

The show opened with self-titled album track “Kick on The Upperclass”, and it was followed by NEW song “Electric Rider” and the title track of DREAMING IN A CASKET. At least, there was plenty of action on stage. The band, especially the vocalist Jocke Berg, were raging on stage like maniacs. There was a punk attitude on the air. “We’re here to SHOW YOU how WE are doing it!”. The new song was ok. Nothing special, but ok. The atmosphere raised very high when the band next hit to “My Good Reputation” and “Sadistic Girls”. These songs are true party anthems. And so, the show continued. The list was a great selection of songs from all the band’s eras. It was great that a few tracks were also included from the band’s early albums. The upcoming album was present with a couple of songs. As mentioned, “Electric Rider” was ok, “Baboom”… uh. No, and “Have A Mercy on Me” was stylistically pretty close to early albums (ok). Out of these four, maybe “Bring the House Down” was the best for my taste. Well… I haven’t heard the album yet, so this “review“, is based only about what I saw and heard in Sweden Rock. Can’t wait to listen to the whole album soon. How about the other stuff then? The band was on high-energy throughout the show and the new stage setup, with all those crosses etc., looked cool. That’s the theme of the new album, right? The band didn’t disappoint; they never do that. The setlist was great, there were enough oldies and all the hits were there. It’s good to test new songs in a live situation before the actual tour starts. Hardcore Superstar were really good, as always, so I’m hoping to see them again soon once the album is out and the new tour begins. Grattis!

THURSDAY

BUCKCHERRY

The US hard rockers Buckcherry have gone through several big changes since the band split with the guitarist and founding member Keith Nelson and long-time drummer Xavier Muriel in May of 2017. In fact, vocalist Todd Joshua is currently the only remaining member of the band’s original line-up. But it didn’t seem to matter because from the opening song “Ridin’”, it was clear that Buckcherry is still as energetic and as good sounding as ever. The band’s shows have always been built around Joshua, and he’s definitely a great frontman. He knows how to handle the crowd. Bassist Kelly Lemieux was also a strong character on stage, and his endless headbanging raised the band’s energy level on the top through the performance. The setlist was good and included songs from the band’s whole career. The definite highlight was the classic “Lit Up”, but there were no dull moments in the show. There was a lot of speculation on if and how the band would carry on without its key songwriter, Nelson, but based on this performance, there’s still plenty of life left in this animal. But how the band will work in the studio, it remains to be seen…

 

IN THIS MOMENT

Sweden Rock has booked more and more modern metal/rock combos. One of them is In This Moment which has gained a large fanbase and following. Above all the front lady Maria Brink has become a new age icon. The band successfully mixes gothic and metalcore elements as the albums have sold really well. In This Moment brought a massive stage construction and show elements. The stage had been built to look some kind of altar or church, where the vocalist lady Maria Brink performed with different costumes and clothes. The whole thing looked like some Lady Gaga performance with a metal approach. Frankly, the metal crowd didn’t seem to either like or dislike the style that In This Moment stands for. In the genre to which they want to be labelled, they did very well at Sweden Rock.

NAZARETH

The Scottish rockers Nazareth are no strangers in Sweden Rock Festival, but now they did the first performance here with the new vocalist Carl Sentence. The bassist Pete Agnew is the only remaining member from the original band, so it is obvious that many people are a bit skeptical about the current line-up – is it still Nazareth or is it more or less a cover band? The band opened with “Silver Dollar Forger”, and it sounded just brilliant. Maybe the audience was a bit “freeze” at first but when Nazareth next played the rarely played “Miss Misery”, and the classics “Razamanaz” and “This Flight Tonight”, the ice was melting and the crowd accepted the band. The fact is that Carl Sentence is a hell of a singer and, compared to the last couple of performances I saw from the original Nazareth vocalist Dan McCafferty; it can be stated that Sentence brings in a whole new breath of life for this band. Is it still Nazareth then? Not necessary, but they are still a good sounding band. It would be interesting to hear what this line-up could do in a studio together. Maybe I’ll give my final judgment after that.

 

HELLOWEEN

Every metal fan is aware of the massive on-going Pumpkins United tour of Helloween, being a dream-come-true for all the old school Helloween fans. It could cynically be said the Helloween fellows have started collecting the funds for their pension life after Helloween. However, the name of the game is that Helloween does the old classics with both Andi Deris and Michael Kiske sharing the vocal duties. Helloween definitely attracted a huge audience as the whole area of the second stage was overcrowded as moving was quite impossible. The band’s set was quite a routine one featuring these essential songs such as “I Want Out”, “I’m Alive” and of course Kai Hansen’s medley of the early material.  The songs, ” Waiting for the Thunder”, “If I could Fly” from Deris’ sounded bombastic. The chemistry between the two singers worked well on stage and Kiske appeared to be more emancipated than on the gig in Helsinki. The whole 90-minute set was like taking a time capsule and return to the late 80’s when Helloween released both the KEEPER albums.

DARK ELEMENT

Dark Element is a new band and a kind of “supergroup” fronted by ex-Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon and the former Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen. The band released its self-titled debut on last November, but this was their first live performance. In advance, I had only heard the singles “The Ghost and the Reaper” and “My Sweet Mystery” so it wasn’t that easy to follow the whole show, but I tried my best. It was great to see Anette back in action and singing metal again. She was looking good and sang strongly for the entire show. The band played with high energy and the playing war super tight. The only thing I would like to change is the following. Dark Element played only songs from their debut album, and it made the show a bit dull at times. In my opinion, they should have added some songs from their collective pasts to mix the set a little bit and make it more interesting. However, this was more than a promising debut show from the band, and I’ll keep on following how the things develop with Dark Element.​

 

 

ROTTING CHRIST

The Greek black metallers Rotting Christ have always divided extreme metal worshippers into different camps over the years. One fact can’t be denied, Rotting Christ is and has always been a great live band. Each time the four-piece gets on stage to bring the Hellenic metal, they sound tight and raw. So did they at Sweden Rock. The band’s uncompromising style is so dominating, powerful and bombastic as Rotting Christ literally burst the stage during their 60 minute set.

BODY COUNT Featuring ICE-T

Body Count led by Ice-T was re-activated a few years back and have released two awesome and highly praised albums by now. Body Count used to stir the US society with the controversial songs such as CopKiller in the early 90’s. Years have passed by and now BodyCount has stirred the European metal crowd with the intensive performance. The gig was kicked off by the cover song of Slayer “Raining the Blood”. At this point, the audience should have started insane looking pits. But no, instead the crowd was standing and starring at Body Count at the stage. Apparently, Ice-T wasn’t that enthusiastic about the poor reaction and started whipping verbally. After all, there was some kind of pit going on. Body Count’s hybrid mix of thrash, punk, and rap sounds like a violent combination of all of them. When the lyrics are based on the realities of the gang world, so Ice-T and company definitely know what to offer at gigs. That could be witnessed when a guy with a hooded mask and a shotgun in his hand.  BodyCount’s set featured a lot of older stuff and of course newer songs.  The wildest reaction broke out when CopKiller literally crushed the Swedish crowd. Looking forward to seeing them again.

GLENN HUGHES

Glenn Hughes is a LEGEND –  in capital letters – and needs no much introduction here. But let’s put something here in brief regardless. The man is currently a solo artist and a member of the supergroup Black Country Communion. His career started with English rock band Trapeze followed by a successful stint as a bassist/vocalist for Deep Purple. During his three-year time with the group, they released albums BURN, STORMBRINGER and COME TASTE THE BAND. Later on, Hughes worked with Black Sabbath and on numerous projects including HTP, Phenomena and California Breed.

The current Glenn Hughes tour runs under the name “Classic Deep Purple Live”. And as the name tells, this time “The Voice of Rock” performs Purple classics. “Stormbringer” opened the set with a storm and sounded just fantastic. More rarely heard gems followed when the band next headed into “Might Just Take Your Life” and “Sail Away”. It’s almost breath-taking how great the 66-year Hughes still sounds. He can still deliver all the highest notes and sounds just incredible. The next played “Mistreated” was a perfect example of that. Just amazing! The worst part of the show was that the setlist wasn’t too long. All in all, it was only eight songs AND, for God’s sake, why it included such worn-out songs as “Highway Star” and “Smoke on the Water”. There is plenty of Hughes’ Deep Purple era material which would have been great to hear instead, for example, “You Fool No One” or “Lady Luck”. Besides those minor little things, the show was close to excellent. There’s not enough praise for Glenn but the whole band, especially the guitarist Soren Anderssen, sounded tremendous and tight through the show. This performance was definitely one of the highlights of the whole festival.

 

ROSE TATTOO

Australian rockers Rose Tattoo performed last time Sweden Rock in 2001. A lot of things have changed since then, including the loss of three members, and various other changes. The band was completely renewed in August of 2017 when the vocalist Angry Andersson put together a brand new line-up of Rose Tattoo including the former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans and Bob Spencer (the Angels). The band opened up with the debut album classic “One of the Boys” and followed by “Man About Town” and “Assault and Brewery”. Angry Andersson might be 70 years old, but it doesn’t show on stage. He does have incredible charisma, and his voice is still loud and strong. Angry is one of the very few “original” bad boys left on the rock scene and its great to see guys like him still doing it after all these years. It’s obvious that Rose Tattoo is Angry’s band and the rest of the guys stayed more in the background. It was also great to see Mark Evans back in action. Although he’s been active in the music scene since his exit from AC/DC in 1976, I never had a chance to see him live until now. It seemed that he’s living a great time and enjoys being on the stage with Rose Tattoo. The band haven’t released new music since 2007 album BLOOD BROTHERS, so the setlist was a typical best-of set including the biggest hits: “Rock ’n Roll Outlaw”, “Nice Boys” and “Bad Boy for Love”. BLOOD BROTHERS was recently reissued, so band also made a couple of tracks from the album. Well, after all the changes, Rose Tattoo is still a great live band with strong songs. Does we need to say much more?

 

IRON MAIDEN

The organization of Sweden Rock has dreamt of having Iron Maiden to headline Sweden Rock for a decade. Even though several legendary hard rock / heavy metal bands have performed at Sweden Rock more than once, but Iron Maiden made their debut visit at Sweden Rock now. The obvious reason for this, when LiveNation brought a lion share of stocks in Sweden Rock and ended up having the magnificent role as a new owner. Therefore the price of Iron Maiden got changed quite radically. Those who have seen Iron Maiden on this on-going tour, are supposed to know how Maiden looked and sounded. But those how skipped this tour have missed something unique and great. “Aces High” was the Kickstarter and was followed by “Where Eagles Dare” and “2 Minutes To Midnight”. Bruce Dickinson addressed the audience during the show recalling his solo band gig back in 2002. It was tremendous great to hear a couple of songs from the Blaze Bayley era such as “Sign Of The Cross” which is a really awesome and bombastic song. Dickinson ran all around the stage with the cross in his hand. Later he burnt the whole cross during “Flight Of Icarus”. Iron Maiden’s gig was a piece of evidence of how a great show should be carried out. The whole show had been well-planned and coordinated. For example when Eddie came out and how it had a sword battle with Dickinson, when the pyros went off, how a Spitfire was moved above the band. The whole gig was a tremendous heavy metal celebration from the beginning to the end. Iron Maiden definitely wipes the floor with several bands and musicians even thought the middle of the members is above 60. This on-going tour just reconfirms that Iron Maiden is one of the tightest and finest heavy metal bands out there.​

KREATOR

Kreator had been scheduled to play after Iron Maiden. To be honest, that slot was and looked quite unpleasant as thousands of people were passing by the second stage where Kreator was meant to thrash out. It definitely crossed people’s mind if there is gonna be anyone to stay for Kreator. After all, the turnout was really good for Kreator, as the German thrash veterans pulled a huge crowd. Kreator has invested and put a lot of effort into the stage construction. There was a lot of pyrotechnics and especially several big and small screens, placed at the stage, creating a stadium rock atmosphere. Was this planned especially for Sweden Rock, as the darkness brought its own vibe to the show. This kind of concept wouldn’t work in the daytime. During their 90 minutes, Kreator offered a wide range of songs mostly picked up from the newer albums. Basically, the whole setlist was exactly the same that they have been doing during the past year. Frankly, it should be renewed by adding some other songs.  Kreator sounded splendid and tight as a German metal machine. Seeing them in a daytime may be quite boring after the Sweden Rock performance.

FRIDAY

 

VIXEN

At last, the US all-female hard rock band Vixen was invited to perform in Sweden Rock. There was once a version of the band which featured only one original member, guitarist Jan Kuehnemund, and they played here in 2005. However, the current group; vocalist Janet Gardner, bassist Share Ross and drummer Roxy Petrucci are together three out of four members of the classic Vixen line-up. Kuehnemund sadly passed away in 2015, and she is now replaced by newcomer Britt Lightning. It’s been 27 years since Vixen last time toured in Europe and I remember seeing them support Deep Purple in 1991. Time flies by, so it was going to be interesting to hear how the band is nowadays.

The band opened up with “Rev It Up” followed by “How Much Love” and rarely played “One Night Alone”. Janet Gardner sounded great. Despite the recent health issues, she sang great and was quite active on stage for the show. Bassist Share Ross was convincing with her bass playing. She also had a chance to show her lead vocal skills when the band did a good version of the old Ray Charles classic “I Don’t Need No Doctor”. The Vixen show was good and entertaining, but I wasn’t sure about playing two covers when you only have one hour playing time? Also, it’s not the band’s fault, but it wasn’t the best time to get on stage at 12:00 AM. However, it was great to see the band in good spirits, and hopefully, there will be new Vixen music and more tours coming soon.

 

MADAM X 

The one-album wonder Madam X  made a visit to Sweden Rock a few years ago and offered a really entertaining show and performance, even the bassist managed to get his arm hurt and was bleeding to death…Just kidding…. Madam X had all kinds of plans to conquer the world and release a second album. After all, the second album saw the light of day, but the band hasn’t been seen on the European soil after that Sweden Rock show. That is, until the 2018 Madam X return to Sweden Rock. The four-piece rocked hard and offered a great show. Even though Madam X was restless and wild, but the craziest and the most restless vibe had been calmed down since the debut Sweden Rock gig. Even the lunatic bass player didn’t smash his arm and start bleeding. Although Madam X did a professional gig and offered a live experience for the audience, but they didn’t manage to top their debut show at Sweden Rock.

BERNIE TORME

The former Gillan, Desperado and Ozzy guitarist Bernie Torme performed the first time in Swedenrock. A veteran guitarist has made a long career and recently he announced that he’s going to slow down touring after the following autumn. So, it maybe now is the very last chance to witness the 65-year-old Irish man in action, at least outside of the UK. Torme’s set was heavily based on his newer solo material but, maybe because of the farewell tour plans, he also played a couple of songs from his past which he hasn’t played after the early 80’s. The old Gillan classics “No Easy Way,” “Trouble” and ”New Orleans” sound like they would always have been a part of the set. Torme’s hair might be grey today, he still has a plenty of energy and vitality left on the stage. The man still sings great and he truly loves to play his guitar. So, if this year is going to be the very last chapter of his career, then there’s nothing more to say but thank you for all these years, Bernie!

 

THE DARKNESS

To be honest, I’ve never been able to think of the Darkness as a serious band. It’s partly because of the Justin Hawkins’s ridiculously high vocals and partly because of their way to dress on stage. This time I tried to put those things aside and concentrate on following the band from a different perspective, how they actually play and how the songs sound live. But it was hard to take the Darkness seriously after seeing Hawkins new stage clothing. His golden jockstraps and overall stage presence was something so outrageous that the Spinal Tap moment was there again. But to be honest,  the band sounded quite good. Playing was sharp, and there was lots of energy on stage. I don’t recognize their newer stuff, but the songs from the first two albums worked out great. “One Way Ticket” was the highlight for me. This band should drop off the stupid, “funny”, things and concentrate more on the real stuff. Then they could be taken more seriously.

DARK FUNERAL

It ain’t that easy for a black metal to play under the red hot burning sun with the normal black metal gear and then all the pyros were going off. There must be a “hotter than hell” feeling for the Swedish black metal warriors on stage.  These aspects didn’t prevent from Lord Ahriman’s crew to bring the black metal over Sweden Rock. The Band exorcised the audience by playing an hour set of the pure evilness. The current vocalist Heljarmadr took care of all the songs professionally, despite the technical failures in the mic. The Funerals pulled the set through despite the heat inferno without slowing down. The band didn’t offer so-called surprises and focused on nailing the crowd to the cross.

STONE SOUR

Corey Taylor, a modern day renaissance artist, has been touring with Stone Sour at a number of European festivals. Meanwhile, Slipknot is on a hold and working on new material, therefore Stone Sour always gets activated. The band presents a more modern day hard rock approach than the groove/brutal/whatever metal that wants to be called. The opening intro being the famous Blues Brothers tune welcomed the band on stage and was immediately followed by “Whiplash Pants” off the recent album HYDROGRAD. The whole band was like got having an adrenaline strike as running all around the stage. Above all Corey Taylor is one heck of a showman, and he was encouraging the crowd to go wild and he was moving on stage from another side of the stage to the other all the time His voice is a huge large covering the harsh style to the soft melodic delivery. His charisma left the rest of the band to stand in the shadow. As for the setlist consisting of 12 songs picked up from the five albums, such as “Absolute Zero”, “Knievel Has Landed”. Hey Editor-in-chief, it would be about time to civilized yourself by listening to Stone Sour, as their stuff sounds splendid.

PESTILENCE

Pestilence, guided by Patrick Mameli being the surviving member from the early 90’s line-up, released the excellent HADEON album. Pestilence is known for the early days material than the most current ones. It wasn’t that big unexpected surprise Pestilence’s set mainly consisted of the old school stuff.  Even though the line-up has undergone several changes, but  Mameli has found skilled and talented musicians to execute his Pestilence music. However, the four-piece pounded the death metal stuff tightly and perfectly. Especially the current drummer deserves to have extra kudos for being a real tight and fabulous stickman behind the battery. After all, it was a nice flashback to the heyday era of death metal of the late 80’s and the early 90’s.

HEAVY LOAD 

Sweden Rock kept advertising the return of the first ever Swedish heavy metal HEAVY LOAD and perform at the fest for the first time after the break-up during the whole spring. Heavy Load released three full –length albums back in the day and managed to gain the real cult following. That following could be witnessed when the whole area of the second main stage was fully packed with thousands and thousands of people. As far as the line-up is concerned, the Walhquist brothers were definitely involved in the reunited Heavy Load line-up, so was the bassist Torbjörn Ragnesjö. Even though the band hasn’t been on stage for over 30 years, they just wiped the dust off from their shoulder and offered a real nostalgia trip back to the early days of the Swedish heavy metal. Heavy Load did a 90 minute set by playing all in all 19 songs. Those songs definitely sounded timeless with the catchy riff. The Viking inspirited songs definitely have the magical touch because all those songs were definitely well received and appreciated by the massive crowd. The vocalist/guitarist Ragne Wahlquist moved on stage from the side to the side whereas other members basically remained nearby the monitors and concentrated on playing.  Apparently, the band was totally blown away by the reception. It was, however, a real relief as well as a bit odd to see the younger generation in the front, who weren’t even born when Heavy Load went on hiatus.

OZZY OSBOURNE

It wasn’t a big surprise to anyone when the legendary Ozzy Osbourne announced earlier this year that the current world tour would be his last. It’s true that Ozzy has tried to retire several times before. The first “No More Tours” was announced already in the year 1991, but the fact is also the actual final tour is getting closer year by year. Another, not that surprising, announcement was the return of Ozzy’s long-time collaborator and axeman, Zakk Wylde. And, he’s been seriously missed on the previous Ozzy tours. For me, he’s the best guitarist that Ozzy has had since the tragic death of the legendary Randy Rhoads. Zakk is back, but the rest of the band is the same that was used during the last few tours. The show opened impressively with “Bark at the Moon”. The giant stage looked amazing, and the massive screens worked out great. As always, Ozzy did his famous “duck walk” across the stage and singing the best he could. And actually, he did sound pretty good through the set. I’ve heard much worse singing from his on the past tours. The set continued with old Ozzy favourites. “Mr.Crowley”, “I Don’t Know”, “Suicide Solution” were all heard, and there was a couple of Sabbath classics on the set as well. I don’t know, but I would have left the Sabbath stuff out and replace those with Ozzy songs. There’s a plenty of good stuff Ozzy never plays!

The biggest problem with Ozzy shows has been, for a long time, that everyone knows in advance which songs are going to be played. It’s always the same classics, the same Sabbath songs and a set of NO MORE TEARS songs. I understand that the album is Ozzy’s best-selling record to date, but is it really necessary to hear “Road to Nowhere” and “I Don’t Wanna Change the World” at every single show? If you want to get surprised, then don’t go to see Ozzy, that’s my advice. There will be no surprises there. So, for a change, it was refreshing to watch Wylde’s overlong guitar solo which included a medley of rarely played Ozzy songs. One can only imagine how great it would have been to hear the songs “Miracle Man”, “Crazy Babies” and “Perry Mason” performed by the full band. But it won’t happen, and everyone needs to accept it. Zakk Wylde was overall in fantastic shape, and he was the principal performer on the stage. Without his presence and super energetic performance, the show would have been entirely different to follow. The rest of the band did good, professional work but they were quite invisible behind the main twosome. As a whole, the Ozzy Osbourne band performance was really good. It was not great, but it was probably better than what most people expected in advance. Ozzy’s vocals were on the spot and the stage show looked great. Wylde was just amazing, and there was nothing wrong with the rest of the band either. A weak setlist and the lack of any changes or surprises drops down the points a bit. However, if this was the last time I saw Ozzy, it can be said that he went out of highest level still.

SATURDAY

PAIN

The last day of the fest could be started out along with Pain’s industrial meets techno meets metal. In wake of Pain’s metallic dance beats could be enjoyed under the burning sun. Peter Tägtgren’s Pain has and enjoys a incredible huge success and following in Sweden. These songs such as On And On, End Of Line were the perfect choice for the festival crowd to enjoy.

STEELHEART

US hard rockers Steelheart performed now for the second time at a Sweden Rock festival. Last year the band released the album THROUGH WORLDS OF STARDUST, which is their first album in nine years. Fronted by vocalist extraordinaire Miljenko Matijevic, the band has gone through numerous line-up changes. Currently, Matijevic is the only remaining original member. The rest of the band consist of a long-time drummer Mark Humbert and the newcomers, guitarist Joe Pessia and bassist Marten Andersen (ex- Lizzy Borden, George Lynch).

Steelheart’s self-titled album (1990) is the band’s most successful album to date, but the funny thing is that Matijevic’s best-known songs are from the soundtrack of the cult movie ROCKSTAR. There’s a fictional band called Steel Dragon on the film and “their songs” are included on the soundtrack. (Steel Dragon members include Zakk Wylde and Jeff Pilson). So, it wasn’t surprising that Steelheart opened their show with a pair of Steel Dragon songs. “Blood Pollution” and “Livin’ the Life” sounded good and it was easy to see that ROCKSTAR is well known amongst the Sweden Rock audience. The show had a great start but to be honest, as a whole, the band’s performance was a bit dull. Milijenko’s vocals are still amazing, the band played great, but it felt that Steelheart doesn’t have enough good material to keep the thing going for a full 60-minute show. Maybe this would work better on smaller, more intimate venue, but the show we saw here, it left the audience a bit cold.

 

LACUNA COIL

Lacuna Coil went thru line-up changes when the drummer and the bassist left the band. However, the main core of Lacuna Coil consisting of Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro has kept guiding the band thru these years. The Italian gothic metallers had all the keys in their hands to make the international breakthrough, but obviously, it never got materialized as the band seems to have reached the peak of their  success. The Italian gothic metallers, being on the second stage, opened the 60 minute set with “Our Truth” from the great KARMACODE album. The set contained songs picked up from several albums including the latest DELIRIUM album. Cristina Scabbia still looks great though having her hair blond colored and of course sounded great. However, the band did a quite routine set. Instead, it has to be pointed out the whole band had put a nice effort to the look and masks as they looked creepy and great. Obviously, the drummer must have borrowed something for his mask from Death SS ?

STRATOVARIUS

It’s great to see that the Finnish power metal quintet Stratovarius has managed to climb back to the higher levels of success. The band was more or less lost after the split with the founding member and primary songwriter Timo Tolkki in 2008. The process was complicated and took several years to finish. During the process, the band also lost its long-time members; bassist Jari Kainulainen and drummer Jorg Michael, so the situation was really challenging. But fortunately, the things have settled down and the current line-up has been stable over five years already. Although the band opened with the classic “Forever Free”, it didn’t rely on old material only. In fact, the set-list was almost half new, and half old, including two songs from the latest NEMESIS album (2015). Vocalist Timo Kotipelto and bassist Lauri Porra are the most active members on stage, whereas Tolkki’s replacement, Matias Kupainen, stays more in the background. Jens Johanssen always has his own “little fun stuff” going on behind the keyboards, and drummer Rolf Pilve keeps the beat pounding. All in all, the group sounds really professional, and they were very enjoyable to follow through the entire show. The former Nightwish vocalist joined the band onstage during the encores. And it was, I don’t know how to put it right, but let’s say that at least, it sounded really interesting. (After the festival, it was announced that Tarja and Stratovarius are working on a co-headline tour which will happen at the end of the year). Heja Finland!

 

YES featuring AWR

There’s no denying that Yes is one of the most important bands in the prog, or progressive, rock history. The band has sold millions of albums, they have performed everywhere in the world and they have legions of fans. But I’m not one of those. I never understand the band or their music, but now I decided to give them a try when I heard that this time the line-up would include three former members of classic Yes. Technically, the band who now played in Sweden Rock is not Yes. It’s a band called Yes featuring ARW. The latter part of the name come from the names Jon Andersson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman. The “real” Yes band is currently on tour with other line-up so this is a classic situation, where the band has split into two camps and both versions are touring at the same time. However, as said, I’m not a fan of Yes, any versions, but I decided to check them out. Well, there’s not much to say, really. Jon Anderson’s over the high vocals sounded as irritating as I remembered from the past, but he managed still to sang almost all the highest notes ever. That was positive, I think. Guitarist Rabin looked like has had too many plastic surgeries, at least it looked that from a distance. (just kidding) And Rick Wakeman… Let’s say that he had the most personal dressing, out of all artists performing at the festival this year. I wonder what his son Adam, who play’s now with Ozzy, thinks about his dad looking like that? However, he is a legend and he can wear whatever he wants, and that’s it. The band played a lot of early Yes stuff, especially from FRAGILE, but also Rabin’s debut Yes album 90135 (1983). Some would say, it was a dream come true. “I saw the best of set performed by the best line-up of Yes!” I can’t say if it was it or it was not? Anyway, the Yes featuring AWR offered an interesting time-travel and nostalgia trip to the 70’s and early 80’s, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

GIRLSCHOOL

The British female rock pioneers Girlschool reached a respectable forty-year milestone in their career. The band has gone through many ups and downs, but they have always survived. The current line-up consists of three original members: vocalist/guitarist Kim McAuliffe, drummer Denise Duford, and bassist Enid Williams. The band is completed by guitarist Jackie Chambers who has played with Girlschool since 2000. It’s the anniversary year, and the band played a great career-spanning set of songs. The primary focus was on the early albums like DEMOLITION and HIT & RUN but also as a whole the set list was covering the most eras of the band. McAuliffe was, and the rest of the band were in good spirits. It is no wonder why the band has often been called the female version of Motörhead. Girlschool is still great, high-spirited group playing raw rock ’n roll at its best.

PRIMORDIAL

Primordial definitely has a loyal fanbase of  metal fans around Europe. The band is known for giving a fabulous performance and above all the frontman A.A. Nemtheanga knows how to capture and spellbind the audience with a mesmerizing performance. His glance definitely drills into the depths with each gaze. The celtic metal with the darkest grim metal influences, and with a bit of the black metal elements, was like bringing the dismal atmosphere over the Sweden Rock festival.

DESTRUCTION

Destruction’s previous visit at Sweden Rock was a quite tragic comedic thing, as playing at noon for a handful of people was a less pleasant slot for the German thrash legends.  Fortunately, Destruction had a more reasonable slot for their second visit, as the trio unleashed the set of the old school thrash at 9.00 pm. The set basically consisted of the material from the 80’s releases and a couple of songs from the post-reunion era such as “The Butcher Strikes Back”. Whereas “Nailed To The Cross” was dedicated to the late Ralph Santolla. Destruction proved to be in vicious condition. The hired gun behind the drum Randy Black gave the more extra boost to the playing for the whole trio.

TARJA

It was interesting to see another ex- Nightwish vocalist to perform at the same festival in two days. Anette Olsson’s band Dark Element was such a nice new band, with all new material but Tarja has been making her solo career a long time already, and she has a great number of albums in her belt already. So, it was going to be fun to see and compare these two ladies to each other. Well, first of all, Tarja looked just fantastic. Her stage presence is nowadays entirely different compared to her Nightwish days when she was mostly just standing on stage with not much communication with the audience. What we have now, is a headbanging metal lady who was wearing tight leather clothes and who flirted with the band and the audience through the whole show. That’s serious progress, but then we have the other side of the coin, the music. Unfortunately, Tarja’s solo material is really weak. It’s so forcibly made that I almost felt sorry for Tarja. She was trying so hard, but with songs she has now, it won’t help. There was a giant difference when she performed a medley of Nightwish tunes including; “Tutankhamne”, “Ever Dream”, “The Riddler” and “Slaying the Dreamer”. Hopefully, Tarja will find better writing partners in the future because she has the look and the voice! So, Anette’s new band won this round.

 

JUDAS PRIEST

Both Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne were stone hard headliners, but so was Judas Priest. Apparently, Judas Priest was definitely under the more close loop among the metal and rock audience, because of Tipton’s absence and Andy Sneap as a replacement. The most recent Priest album FIREPOWER has turned out to be an ultimate success and highly praised by both the metal press and the metal fans around the world. The on-going tour has been doing great, as places have been packed and reviews have been glamorous.  As far as their gig at Swedenrock is concerned, It can be summed it up in the simplest way; an amazing heavy metal gig. The 90 minute of the pure heavy metal triumph was opened up by the opening song of “Firepower” and was immediately followed by a number of classic Priest songs such as “Grinder”, “Sinner” and “The Ripper”. The setlist was basically a real firework of the most known and classic Judas Priest songs. The highly praised FIREPOWER album also got some room with three songs. Besides the self-titled song, also “Rising From The Ruins” and “Lighting Strike” were performed. Instead, a  couple of traditional songs such as “Electric Eyes” had been dropped from the set, which was about time, to be honest. Having “Tyrant”, “Saints In Hell” included, was definitely welcomed choices, bringing new aspects in setlists in order to keep the interest of the crowd up. As Tipton had to step aside, most of the solos such as “Painkiller” were handled by Richie Faulkner, whereas Andy Sneap basically focused on doing the rhythm parts. Faulker had been given more and more space on stage as his performance was astonishing. Andy Sneap has got more and more involved in the Judas  Priest world. When he did the first shows with the band, he seemed to be kind of lost on stage, but now his playing and performance along with Haflord and Faulker worked together as a unit. Rob Halford’s voice was, to be honest, incredible. He used to struggle with his voice a few years back, but nowadays his marvelous voice sounds at the peak!  Halford didn’t have any problem or struggle to handle for example the hardest screaming parts of “Painkiller”. The most emotional moment was experienced when Glenn Tipton arrived on the stage. The response of the crowd was overwhelming and Tipton seemed to be really touched when he was thanking the audience. Judas Priest did the encore set with the three guitars, consisting of “Metal Gods”, “Breaking The Law, and “Living After Midnight” before leaving the stage for the last time. Was this last performance by Judas Priest at Sweden Rock? Frankly, no-one knows, only time will show that.

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