SWEDEN ROCK 2019

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SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL

Solvesborg, Sweden 5-8 June 2019

REPORT AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ AND ARTO LEHTINEN

Once again, it is time for the annual march to Sweden Rock.  This is the 18th time in a row that the Finnish Metal Rules team made an invasion to the mighty Sweden Rock festival. Approximately 80  bands had been booked that turned out to be nothing but an utter blast from the beginning to the end! The bill of the 2019 festival covered extreme metal to classic rock with stuff such as Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow to Slayer and of course everything between. There was at least something for everyone who attended the festival. As a tradition, the whole festival was once again sold out when approximately 40,000 people arrived every day. The festival has always had tremendous luck with weather every year. Once again the gods and goddesses of the weather had given their blessing for this rocking metallic heaven on the earth with an extremely hot and sunny weekend that burned red the skin of several festival visitors. As mentioned in the first sentence, this is the 18th time in a row when the Sweden Rock festival has been featured on the site Metal-Rules.com, so it is quite logical for us to give an in-depth article of several bands performing. However, we are not able to cover every goddamn bloody band, but hopefully, you will have a pleasant reading experience… Enjoy!!!


WEDNESDAY

OZ

The legendary OZ has undergone tremendous changes in their line-up during the past few years.  The longtime singer Ape De Martini has pulled out of the band’s activate to focus on the family life. A new and young singer has been recruited to take over the vocals. The original drummer Mark Ruffneck is the one and only sole surviving member left from the heyday of OZ. If Ruff had started a new band, no-one would have been interested in checking out. The OZ name is a brand, drawing the old school metal fans as that could be seen at Sweden Rock. The renewed OZ did a nice set featuring both old and new songs in the right balance. As for these old songs such as “Fire In The Brain”, Black Candles” and of course “Turn The Cross Upside Down” were the essential in the set-list whereas newer songs like “Dominator” and “Bone Crusher” sounded good, fitting to the set along with these classic ones more than well.

DEMON

Demon stood for the traditional New Wave Of The British Heavy Metal. Unfortunately, this old school genre has received less room at Sweden Rock within years. However, Demon has visited the festival several times in the past. As a matter of fact, Demon was already supposed to call it quits in 2003. Frankly, why quit the band, when there is still demand and interest left?! The gig was kicked off by “Night Of The Demon,” and in general, the whole set consisted of older material from the early ’80s. The frontman Hill had put some effort into his performance as paint, and a gown covered his face and head. Demon sounded surprisingly good. These old classic Demon songs were aged well, but the band still sounded good and catchy. Hill won’t terminate Demon for years, even though the glorious years are long gone, there are still people willing to listen to NWOBHM bands.

KRISIUN

The Brazilian death metal squad Krisiun is known for brutal, savage death metal. The trio doesn’t show any mercy on the stage. Krisiun did precisely what they are known for at Sweden Rock. The 60-minute set was a pure death metal assault at its best. The singer/bassist appeared to be extremely grateful to the audience for coming down to dig the Brazilian death metal. Being grateful was quite wise as the audience at the Sweden Rock fest is more eager to dig traditional metal and hard rock. The death trio covered a wide range of albums by picking up one of two songs from them. To conclude the 60-minute lesson of the brutal Brazilian death metal, Krisiun did the Motorhead classic “Ace Of Spades.”

JOE LYNN TURNER

It must not be easy to be in Joe Lynn Turner’s shoes. After years of speculation and rumors, Turner didn’t get his old job back as Rainbow vocalist, although he was pretty sure it was going to happen. But maybe it was as Ritchie Blackmore stated; “Everybody else knows that he will not get the gig, but Joe himself.” However, things went how it went, and life goes on. Turner is a successful solo artist on his own, and he’s been actively touring and releasing albums since the band disbanded in 1984. Turner is not in Rainbow anymore, but he sure loves to play his former band songs. The show opened up with “Death Alley Driver,” followed by “Power” and “Street of Dreams.” The fourth song was a little bit surprisingly “Deja-Vu,” which Turner recorded with Swedish guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen back in 1988 (Odyssey). The rest of the set included more Rainbow, another Yngwie track, and “King of Dreams,” a song from Turner’s Deep Purple album “Slaves and Masters” (1991). Joe Lynn Turner is now 67 years old, but he can still sing like in the early days. He’s a good entertainer and offered us a good selection of songs what other bands barely play anymore. However, Turner has been playing this same set for decades. It would have been great to hear at least a couple of songs from his solo career, or at something from his numerous project bands including Sunstorm, Brazen Abbott, and HTP. Maybe someday, or then not?

Death Alley Driver
Power
Street of Dreams
Déjà Vu
Difficult to Cure
I Surrender
King of Dreams
Can’t Let You Go
Spotlight Kid
Rising Force
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
Jealous Lover

DEATH ANGEL

The mighty Bay Area thrash metallers Death Angel have just released the brand new 9th album titled HUMANICIDE proving that the angels are not slowing down. The five-piece testified to be one hell of a tight and vital group on the stage.  The band hammered down each song one by one with the intensive and raging performance. The bassist was reminiscent of Cliff Burton because of his playing style as well as the way of looking with the more hippie look. The set consisted of songs taken from the previous EVIL DIVIDE album and of course the new one from the upcoming output. Old school thrash metal is interested out there if they did any songs off from the debut album. They did such as: “Vocavicous Souls.” Death Angel isn’t getting rusty or calling it a day. Their performance testified the thrash metal machine of these Bay Area thrash metal veterans is definitely well oiled.

SKID ROW

The classic line-up of Skid Row disbanded in 1995, and since then the band has undergone several changes. Drummers have come and gone, and ZP Theart is the third vocalist in the group in four years. Despite all this, the band has managed to continue, and remain successful around the world. Skid Row has performed Sweden Rock twice before and based on the size of the crowd; they’re still a vital act. The band opened with a crushing version of “Slave to the Grind,” and it was superb, powerful, and a perfect opener, followed by “Sweet Little Sister.” At this point, I noticed that the second guitarist Snake Sabo was missing in action and he was now replaced by Ryan Cook (Gene Simmons band, Ace Frehley, ex-Hair of the Dog). There was no reason given for Snake’s absence, but hopefully, he’ll be soon back in action. The former Dragonforce/Tank vocalist ZP Theart is a good singer, and he’s probably the closest thing to Sebastian Bach, the band has had in its ranks. ZP’s voice range is very close to his early predecessor, and even the highest notes and screams were now heard the way those should be heard. If you listened to a song like “I Remember You” without knowing who was singing, you could quickly think it was Bach behind the mic. Excellent job, ZP!  Skid Row show was highly energetic and entertaining, but to be honest, this thing has been seen and heard many times before already. The band has been around since 1986, but they’re still stuck on the songs from their first two albums. Those albums were released thirty years ago, and except for “Ghost” and “We Are the Damned,” the rest of the set was built on the first two album tracks. Some would say that Skid Row lives in the past, they’re just repeating itself, and they’re all about nostalgia, and I’m pretty much thinking the same way. Hopefully, the upcoming album will change that thing.

Slave to the Grind
Sweet Little Sister
Get the Fuck Out
Big Guns
18 and Life
Piece of Me
Livin’ on a Chain Gang
Ghost
Psycho Therapy
I Remember You
Monkey Business
Makin’ a Mess
We Are the Damned
In a Darkened Room
Youth Gone Wild

 

 

THURSDAY

POWERWOLF

The German/ Romanian power metal sensation been catapulted into another level of success as playing at the second stage was a piece of evidence of how popular Powerwolf is at the moment among metal fans. The band’s image of vampires and werewolves is basically catching and definitely tempting. The vocalist, Attila Dorn’s dark-voiced, created its own vibe in the soundworld of Powerwolf. The vampyrian power metallers haven’t rested on their laurels as they have eight albums under their belt by now. Therefore the set had a lot of songs picked up from several albums. Songs were based on the werewolf or vampyre theme in a way or another. For example, “Killer With The Cross,” “Army Of The Night” etc. and the list goes on. Even though Dorn kept dominating at the stage, it was quite weird and fun when the keyboard player ran all around the stage as a furious rabid wolf!

 

KROKUS

Swiss veteran rockers Krokus announced recently its farewell tour which luckily included also a show at Sweden Rock festival. This was the fourth time the band performs here, and they’ve always been more than welcome addition to the line-up. Krokus opened up with a pair of its biggest songs “Headhunter” and “Long Stick Goes Boom,” followed by another oldie “American Woman.” Vocalist Marc Storace is still a strong vocalist, and he’s the one who moves on stage and keeps things alive, whereas the rest of the band concentrates on playing their instruments. Age is shown, but the band still sounds tight, and Krokus rocked, as always. The setlist was a safe selection of the old hits and a couple of newer tracks. The only surprise was that “Screaming in the Night” was not included, and that was a bit disappointing. How about dropping a cover of “Rockin’ in the Free World,” and playing that one instead? It’s been six years since I last time saw the band live, and not much has changed since then. Maybe the intensity and energy level was not the same anymore, but if this is the farewell of Krokus, it was a dignified and perfect way to say “Adios Amigos” to the fans.

Headhunter
Long Stick Goes Boom / Pinball Wizard
American Woman
Rock ‘n’ Roll Tonight
Winning Man
Hellraiser
Hoodoo Woman
Fire
Rockin’ in the Free World
Bedside Radio
Easy Rocker
Live for the Action
Heatstrokes

LUCIFER

Johanna Sardonis started Lucifer after The Oath fell apart. Rise Above released the debut Lucifer album. The line-up didn’t last that much as it fell apart. Until Nicke Andersson stepped in the picture, things started rolling. The renewed Lucifer has been gigging quite a lot and managed to gain more following. Having got the slot on the third stage wasn’t any surprise as they pulled a nice amount of people.  “Faux Pharaoh” was the opening song, immediately followed by “Eyes In The Sky” and the video track “Dreamer.” Johanna Sardonis, dressed in the white clothes, looked like a pale death rider. Even the backdrop of a graveyard looked as fitted to the whole Lucifer concept. Andersson’s assertive and tight playing was awe-inspiring to follow. Lucifer’s music sounded fabulous beautiful and harmony.

ARCH ENEMY

Oh well, the double booking when Arch Enemy and Lucifer started the sets of their own at the same time. As for Arch Enemy, they have succeeded in increasing their following tremendously when Alissa White-Gluz joined the band.  The whole area of the second stage, aka Rock Stage, was packed by thousands of people willing to see Arch Enemy. “The World Is Yours” opened the about one hour set, was followed by “Ravenous” from the Angela Gossow era. However, Alissa White-Gluz was a phenomenal performer, giving her heart and soul to the ultimate performance on the stage. It was a pleasure to follow and watch how she growled and on the other hand, handled the more normal sounding. She is a real powerhouse and has an excellent stage charisma.

The World Is Yours
Ravenous
Stolen Life
War Eternal
My Apocalypse
You Will Know My Name
Under Black Flags, We March
Dead Eyes See No Future
The Eagle Flies Alone
First Day in Hell
Saturnine
As the Pages Burn
No Gods, No Masters
We Will Rise
Nemesis

 

AMON AMARTH

It is incredible to figure out how big Amon Amarth became during these two decades. These Viking metallers were one of the performers of the main stage. The slot was well deserved after working for years, touring the world and increasing the fanbase album by album. Amon Amarth had invested on the visual side for the stage; bombs, fire and of course hilarious looking Viking battles. The drum set had been placed into a Viking helmet. Obviously, the vocalist, Johan Hegg, was thrilled about the sea of the people following Amon Amarth’s performance as he kept staring at the Sweden Rock rock audience for a while with a big smile on his face. The most recent album BESERKER had just seen the light of day in the eve of Sweden Rock, promoting that album was timed well as three songs got played from the release. In general Amon Amarth’s set was a pure Viking metal at its best, offering the known tunes from several albums such as “Guardians Of Asgaard,” “Twilight Of The Thundergod.” Amon Amarth did a splendid gig and definitely gained more fans for the band.

 

DEADLAND RITUAL

I’m sure that Deadland Ritual doesn’t ring a bell for too many, but the names behind the band are familiar for everyone who ever have followed the scene. The legendary Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler, Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens, and the former Guns N Roses drummer Matt Sorum playing together is both great and a bit strange at the same time because they have very different backgrounds. But an exciting project this is indeed. The band is completed by vocalist Franky Perez, who’s best known as his stint with Finnish Cello-based rock band Apocalyptica. The group was formed in 2018, and to this date, they have only released two singles, so it was going to interesting what the set list would include? Well, the question was soon answered when the band opened up with Black Sabbath classic “Symptom of the Universe.” It was great to see Butler back in action. He enjoyed being on stage, and fingers moved as fast as always. It was also interesting to hear Stevens playing heavier stuff. And he played such cool “Iommi” solos. “Neon Knights” was another great Sabbath gem on set, at it also included “Sweet Leaf” and “War Pigs.” Sorum’s past was present with Velvet Revolver track “Slither,” and Stevens with “Rebel Yell.” To be honest, it was quite unreal to see and hear Butler playing a Billy Idol song on stage, but it worked out great. The band also played four original songs, which unfortunately sounded quite dull and bland, to be honest. Maybe the reason for that is standing behind the mic stand? Don’t get me wrong. Perez is a professional and decent vocalist, but compared to the other guys in the band, he’s not on the same level. Not even close. I don’t get it. If you form a supergroup like this, why you don’t then hire a vocalist, who’s on the same league as the others? Now this band feels more or less like a tribute band to present each of its members past, but who knows what the future holds if the group stays together longer.

Symptom of the Universe
Dimas
Neon Knights
City of Night
Slither
Dead Before Sunrise
Sweet Leaf
Rebel Yell
Down in Flames
War Pigs

 

DEF LEPPARD

If I’m right, this is the third time Def Leppard has headlined this festival. The band is one of the most successful British bands ever, and it seems that there’s no end in sight. It’s interesting that although the band doesn’t release new music too often anymore, there’s been only two new studio albums in the past ten years, the band is still continually touring and playing for sold out crowds around the world. The theme of this tour is straightforward: “The Best of Def Leppard.” Does it mean that we are going to hear all the classic hits and then some, probably yes?

The band hit the stage at 10:20 PM and opened up with “Rocket,” and continued the hit parade with “Animal.” It’s easy to understand the secret of Def Leppard’s success. The band’s sound is always close to perfect, and their vocal harmonies and catchy melodies are easy to adopt, no matter if you like this kind of “pop metal” or not. As expected, ”Hysteria” album hit singles had the most significant role in the set list, altogether six songs. But also, well presented were “High ‘n Dry” and “Pyromania” with three tracks played each. There were no surprises on the set list. Def Leppard plays it safe, which of course works for most of the crowds. But someone like me, who has seen the band several times, it’s getting a bit boring, to be honest. The bare-bones of the Def Leppard set is 90% always the same. The stage show was quite simple. There were three massive screens used with different animations and vintage videos running. It was simple, but it worked. It was great that the late guitarist Steve Clark was shown a lot in the videos, especially during “Photograph.” About the band itself, they sounded superb. The guitarist duo of Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen played great solos one after another; they even improvised a bit every then and now. Vocalist Joe Elliott and bassist Rick Savage were the main showmen on the stage. Elliott fronted the orchestra with style, whereas Savage posed to cameras in any possible position as possible through the show. That guy is a real rockstar supreme. The biggest applause was still received by drummer Rick Allen, whose history and the way how he was fighting back to the band after the serious car accident is known by all Def Leppard fans. This was a superb show by one of the all-time greatest hard rock band ever. There’s one more thing I need to say. It’s been a while since Def Leppard has released anything remarkable, so, hopefully, the band will focus next on writing, and brings this significant and positive energy to the next album as well.

Rocket
Animal
Let It Go
Foolin’
When Love & Hate Collide
Let’s Get Rocked
Armageddon It
Rock On
Two Steps Behind
Man Enough
Love Bites
Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
Switch 625
Hysteria
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Rock of Ages
Photograph

SLAYER

Slayer has visited Sweden Rock a couple of times, but to be honest, their playing slots have been quite awkward. Playing in the daylight didn’t do justice for Slayer. Until now, Slayer being on the farewell festival run had, at last, got the perfect timing and slot to say goodbye to the Swedish crowd. Playing at midnight in the darkened Swedish landscape created the ideal environment for lights and all the pyro. The thrash kings swarmed songs one by one with a brutal assault for 90 minutes. Of course, the setlist had been built to cover these known Slayer tunes such as “War Ensemble”, “Dead Skin Mask”, and surprisingly one only song from the latest studio effort. The rapid furious “Dittohead” had been dropped from the set. Even though Slayer sounded tight and splendid, the Swedish crowd was quite tired as there were no pits, etc. Tom Araya seemed to have got younger and looked to be in fine shape. Gary Holt’s playing is tight and precise. King was in his spot, focusing on playing. Anyway, Slayer was savage, how we fans are used to hearing and seeing them. The world will be pretty much be duller and empty when the thrash metal legends decide to call it a day…permanently.

Repentless
Evil Has No Boundaries
World Painted Blood
Postmortem
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Gemini
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Chemical Warfare
Payback
Temptation
Born of Fire
Seasons in the Abyss
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death

FRIDAY

EASY ACTION

Well, the obvious question is, who needs Easy Action reunion in the year 2019? The band made its previous reunion attempt here in Sweden Rock with the original vocalist Zinny Zan in 2006, which was such a catastrophic gig in every way. And in the end, it didn’t lead to anywhere. However, here they are again, but this time with another line-up. Tommy Nilsson, who replaced Zinny Zan in 1985 is back behind the mic, and also returning is guitarist Chris Lind. And of course, the man behind the whole project is the former Europe guitarist Kee Marcello. The theme of this reunion show is the second studio album “That Makes One,” which the band promised to perform in its entirety. The show opened up with “Code to Your Heart,” followed by “Partners in Crime” and “Love Reaction.” Tommy Nilsson sounded great. Those who don’t know, he is a very successful solo artist in Sweden, but his music is pretty much different from the material he sang tonight. Speaking of the songs, to be honest, a couple of “That Makes One” songs sounded very outdated and bland, whereas the heavier stuff worked fine. The show would have been much better if the band had played a mix of the first album and “That Makes One.” At least “We Go Rocking” should have been in the set. However, maybe this was just a one-off thing with this setup. This show was a way more successful compared to the 2006 performance, and if the band continues doing more shows, things will develop more for sure.

Code to Your Heart
Partners in Crime
Love Reaction
Talk of the Town
Only You Can Teach Me How
Eye for an Eye
In the Middle of Nowhere
One in a Million
Rosie
Talk, Talk, Talk
Teachers Do It With Class
Round Round Round

MAGNUM

The British hard rock / progressive rock veterans Magnum are back with their lineup. The band, which now consists of the founding members Bob Catley (vocals) and guitarist Tony Clarkin, longtime bassist Al Barrow, and the latest additions; drummer Lee Morris (ex-Paradise Lost), and keyboardist Rick Benton. The renewed band opened with “Wild Swan,” followed by a pair of newer tracks “Sacred Blood (Divine Lies), and the title track of the latest album “Lost on the Road to Eternity.” Although Magnum has gone through several changes, they still sound pretty much the same, and I’m positively saying this. There’s still plenty of power left on Catley’s voice, and the band sounds very tight unit. The only negative thing was this; the band should have played longer. Maybe next time?

Wild Swan
Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies
Lost on the Road to Eternity
Crazy Old Mothers
How Far Jerusalem
All England’s Eyes
Vigilante
Don’t Wake the Lion (Too Old to Die Young)
Sacred Hour

 

AXEL RUDI PELL

The German guitar virtuoso Axel Rudi Pell has been a regular name on the roster of Sweden Rock for years. The man has released heaps of albums, but none of them has become a so-called classic. The Pell band pulled a nice and quite guaranteed set, but Pell himself seemed to have extra worries about the technique. Obviously, the guitar didn’t work out as hoped and expected and this pissed the German guitarist off. The 60-minute set consisted of 10 songs picked from several albums. The opening song “The Wild And The Young” sounded quite unbalanced and so did the second one because of Pell’s guitar problems. However,  this was nice and s pretty solid gig after all.

JAG PANZER

The longtime US power/heavy metal pioneer Jag Panzer never rose to big league success; instead, the more loyal and fanatical underground metal bangers have supported the band over these years. That could be seen at Sweden Rock, as the group seemed to be entirely unfamiliar to the crowd because there weren’t that many people. Where were all the trad metal fans and bangers ?! Watching ZZTop ?! Nah. Well, the metal quintet offered a real pleasant set of the catchy and great songs from their long career. Three songs had been chosen from the debut album AMPLE DESTRUCTION as well as from the latest opus DEVIANT CHORD. Vocalist Harry Conklin is criminally one of the more underrated metal vocalists out there. His voice was in fine shape, and he sounded absolutely fabulous. In general, seeing Jag Panzer live for the first time was like a spiritual experience. It was a shame that the full crowd didn’t understand the quality at all.

 

CANDLEMASS

Finally, yes, finally… Candlemass with the original singer Johan Längquist released one hell of a great album titled THE DOOR TO DOOM. Johan Längquist has time-to-time done some shows here and there with Candlemass within these years. Until now he is the official singer for Candlemass even though he did all the vocals for the mighty EPICUS DOOMICUS METALLICUS album.  As far as the Swedenrock gig is concerned, the set included several songs from the Messiah Marcolin era; “Bewitched,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Dark Reflections” and of course the debut album “Crystal Ball,” “Solitude,” “Under the Oak.” It can’t help to point out that the primus motor of Candlemass Leif Edling’s outlook was quite odd and different compared to the early day; long beard, of course, greyed hair and bizarre hat. However, Candlemass sounded absolutely doomy and bombastic. The new songs, like “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” along with the old classic ones, was a perfect combination. Candlemass is always such a great live band.

The Well of Souls
Dark Reflections
Mirror Mirror
Astorolus – The Great Octopus
A Sorcerer’s Pledge
Under the Oak
Bewitched
Crystal Ball
Dark Are the Veils of Death
Black Trinity
Solitude

BATUSHKA

Batushka has been in the headlines because of line-up hassles and all kinds of legal issues around it. The current Batushka version led by the vocalist has been booked to several European fests. The mainstream audience seemed not to be aware of the raging ownership dispute as the whole tent was packed. The band’s visual side was really impressive. It looked as the local Orthodox church would have been raided and reconstructed to have the more satanic orthodox gimmick. The show was terrific; frankly, all these ritual aspects were well planned and coordinated.

KISS

The legendary U.S. band KISS are currently in the middle of their Farewell tour, titled “End of the Road,” and this will be the band’s last performance, not maybe in Sweden, but here at the Sweden Rock Festival for sure. Many attendees still remember the previous show the band played in 2013. It was full of technical difficulties, Paul Stanley’s voice was in bad shape, and not even the mighty “Spider” – stage couldn’t save the performance. The fans were disappointed and for a reason. But maybe this time would be different? The reviews from the current tour have been positive, and many fans say that the band is now in better shape than ages. The KISS show opened the familiar way. Dark rumblings and red lights filled the arena. Then, after the legendary intro; “Alright Sweden rock! You Wanted the Best. You Got the Best. The Hottest band in the World, KISS!!!” the massive curtain fell away to the opening notes of “Detroit Rock City,” revealing Stanley, Simmons, and Thayer descending from above on three suspended platforms. Tons of pyro, lasers, sparks were used before the band reached the stage and finished the song, followed by “Shout It Out Loud, and “Deuce.” From there on, the show continued as any other KISS show. “The Demon” breathed fire and spit blood; “Starchild” flew across the audience to play a couple of songs from the separate platform; “Spaceman” shot rackets with his guitar, and “The Catman’s” drum set rose to heights during the drum solo. The setlist included all the classics from “Detroit Rock City” and “Lick It Up” to “Black Diamond.” The band also played the crowd favorites like “I Love It Loud,” “Love Gun,” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” This time the band didn’t forget their European fans, and they also played a couple of songs from the band’s 80’s era. “Heaven’s on Fire,” and especially the second encore, “Crazy, Crazy Nights,” got an outstanding response from the crowd. The encores also included their hit ballad “Beth,” featuring Eric Singer playing piano, and their set-closing signature hit “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

Altogether, the set included twenty songs including material from each era of the band, excluding the ’90s, which was very unfortunate. Neither the setlist or the show hardly included any surprises to us long-time fans, who have seen the band many times before. The new platforms looked cool, and there were some significant video effects used during Gene’s blood spitting, and Eric’s piano thing was new, but otherwise, this was basically just a replica of any other KISS shows I’ve seen since the reunion tour (1996). However, it was great to see that there were lots of youngsters, and older “KISS virgins,” in the audience who had never seen the band live before. I’m sure that these people enjoyed a lot to follow the classic KISS show elements and highlights, and a lot of flames and fireworks. What was the very positive thing was that the band now sounded fresh and powerful. There was no sight of tiredness in sight. One can only imagine how tough it must be someone like Gene Simmons to make though over 100 -minute show, in the middle of all that pyro, with the massive stage costumes on. It’s good to remember that he’s already 69 years old! Much-maligned Paul Stanley’s voice was in such a good shape as well, at least compared to the previous visit. There’s been a lot of speculation about the band using some backing tapes on this tour, but based on this show, nothing can’t be said for 100% sure about it. The bottom line is that the man now sounded pretty good through the set.

KISS played it a bit safe, but they are still a very entertaining and vital band. They have nothing to prove for anyone, but I’m sure that this show did leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth. This performance was a rock ‘n roll circus at its best.

Detroit Rock City
Shout It Out Loud
Deuce
Say Yeah
I Love It Loud
Heaven’s on Fire
War Machine
Lick It Up
Calling Dr. Love
100,000 Years
Cold Gin
God of Thunder
Psycho Circus
Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
Love Gun
I Was Made for Lovin’ You
Black Diamond
Beth
Crazy Crazy Nights
Rock and Roll All Nite

 

 

SATURDAY

STYX

US rockers Styx returned to Sweden Rock after an eight-year break. Although the band has released its first studio album, “The Mission” (2017), not much has changed since the previous visit. Styx performed a typical “Best of” -set, including their biggest hits from the ’70s, two new songs, but the most fun part of the set was that they now finally played “Mr. Roboto.” I have seen Styx here twice before, but this was the first time when the band performed this classic gem in Sweden. Also, the band’s version of Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” worked great. Styx is 100% professional band, and musically the band members are still on top of their game. Welcome back any day!

Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Lady
Rockin’ the Paradise
Radio Silence
Miss America
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Too Much Time on My Hands
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
Come Sail Away
Mr. Roboto
Renegade

 

PETE WAY BAND

Pete Way is a legend. The man has made a fantastic career starting from the late ’60s, first with UFO, later on with Waysted, Michael Schenker and also briefly with Ozzy Osbourne and Fastway. Pete Way has made a lot, but he’s also been in headlines because of his serious drug and alcohol addiction. Decades of had partying caused him serious health problems, and it eventually forced him out of the picture for a long time. He was forced to quit Ufo in 2009, and since then Way has been more or less out of music business except for a couple of guest appearances every then and now. In 2017, Way released his autobiography “A Fast Ride Out of Here,” where he openly tells his addictions and other things in life. He’s also been working on a new solo album, which should arrive later this year. The album has been in works for several years now, and it will feature a special appearance by Slash among others. Pete Way Band is a new band, which also features the onetime Ufo members Laurence Archer and Clive Edwards. The group started touring just a couple of days before Sweden Rock, so it was going to be interesting what is the shape and state of Pete Way in 2019. The band took the stage at 02:50 PM and opened up with The Plot band track “You and Me.” It was surprising song choice, but also exciting because these songs you don’t hear too often. But what shocking, at least for me, was that Pete didn’t play bass himself. He was only singing, and that was something I didn’t expect to see. What the heck, he’s a bass legend, not a lead singer, at least in my little world. Well, there’s sure a good reason for this, but it felt strange to see him not playing bass on his own songs. A couple of more obscure songs followed. “Narcotics,” and “Fooled Again” are Pete’s solo songs which almost nobody seemed to recognize. The further the show went, it felt more and more strange to see him not playing bass especially, when Way’s vocals sounded more like mumbling but actual singing. The band played a couple of Ufo classics: “Shoot Shoot,” “Too Hot To Handle,” “Doctor Doctor,” Waysted’s “Heaven Tonight,” and a few covers including Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ’n Roll” and The Rolling Stone’s “Paint It, Black.” When the show was over, I wasn’t sure if it was good or not. Of course, I enjoyed the songs, and the band played great, but let’s say that this was a confusing experience. It was something that I couldn’t expect from Pete Way. The bass legend.

 

UFO

There’s no denying that UFO is one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time. The British legend has continued its career over 50 years, and currently, the group is in the middle of its farewell tour titled “The Last Order.” Ironically, the band lost its long-time guitarist/keyboardist Paul Raymond tragically just a couple of months ago, and the rest of the tour was understandably almost canceled. But the band decided to continue. They asked the former Ufo member Neil Carter to join the band, and finish the remaining tour dates. It must not have been easy decision to make to carry on without Paul, who was with the group more or less like forty years, but I’m happy they choose this option, and I had an opportunity the see the legend on stage one more time. Vocalist Phil Mogg turns 71 this year, and it is his decision to quit the band after this tour. A man has had a fantastic career, so he has deserved his retirement and to do other things. Mogg might ride in the sun soon, but he still has these shows to do before that. “Mother Mary” opened the show, and it was followed by “We Belong the Night,” and “Venus.” Mogg was literally on fire. He has decided to do his very best on this tour, and this was easily one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him. He was singing great, and continuously joking between songs. Also, a couple of pints of beer seemed to taste for the old man. The second star of the stage was Neil Carter. It shows that he was passionate about being back on stage. I remember seeing him last time in action in 2010 when he was a member of Gary Moore’s band. He only had a couple of weeks to rehearse with the group, but it sounded and looked like he has always been there. It was also great that the set-list included a couple of songs from his era with the band, whereas the other songs were a typical “best of” Ufo tracks. The rest of the group; Vinnie Moore on guitar, Rob De Luca on bass, and Andy Parker on drums, played tightly with no breaks on and sounded great. The former Ufo bassist and founding member Pete Way performed his own set just before Ufo on the next stage. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who was expecting him to make a special appearance with his old band, but it never happened. That was a bit disappointing, but there’s a reason why it didn’t happen for sure. However, despite its age, Ufo still plays like an unstoppable machine. It’s unfortunate to see them go and they will be sorely missed.

Mother Mary
We Belong to the Night
Venus
Lights Out
Only You Can Rock Me
Cherry
Love to Love
Makin’ Moves
Too Hot to Handle
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor
Shoot Shoot

DEMONS AND WIZARDS

The power metal supergroup, if that moniker can be used in this case, consisting of members of Iced Earth and Blind Guardian, had been waited amongst the die-hard power metal fans for a year. Now it happened, and the audience were thankful. Demons’ gig was basically “the best of” set consisting of songs from Demons as well as Iced Earth and Blind Guardian. As for those cover tunes, Schaffer and Kusch did a couple of Iced Earth tunes: “I Died for You” and “Burning Times,” Blind Guardian’s songs ”Valhalla” and ”Welcome To Dying.” If Demons And Wizards did a lot of songs of their own from both the albums.  Was it once in life experience to see Demons and Wizards? Maybe, but let’s hope the third album will see the light of day.

Chant
Rites of Passage
Heaven Denies
Poor Man’s Crusade
Crimson King
Burning Times(Iced Earth cover)
Welcome to Dying(Blind Guardian cover)
The Gunslinger
Terror Train
I Died for You(Iced Earth cover)
Valhalla(Blind Guardian cover)
Tear Down the Wall
My Last Sunrise
Blood on My Hands
Fiddler on the Green

MYRATH 

The Blazing desert metal from Tunisia was the next in the line on the tent stage. Myrath has been increasing the success album by album. The latest output, titled “Shehili” has smashed the boundaries and gains more and more following. As far as the show is concerned, it had elements from the oriental culture. As there were dancers, magic tricks and huge fire show.  The music of Myrath can be described as a mix of progressive metal/rock with the obvious influences from their own culture.

SAXON

Sadly, Motöhead is not with us anymore, but luckily, we still have Saxon keeping up the original spirit of NWOBHM. I don’t know how many times the band has performed in Swedenrock, but it must close to ten already. But what the heck? Saxon fits for this festival like a glove. Although the band now performed in the middle of the day without its trademark eagle, and there was no pyro or other effects, the group was still as brilliant as always. Biff Byford leads his troops with style, and his vocals are in top form. The setlist was a typical Saxon setlist including the mandatory classics: “Wheels of Steel,” “Princess of the Night”, “747 (Strangers in the Night)” and “Denim and Leather,” but also a couple of less played gems like “Broken Heroes”, “Sacrifice”, and “Dogs of War” were included. One of the highlights was “They Played Rock ‘n Roll,” which was, of course, dedicated to Lemmy. All in all, the band played songs from twelve different Saxon albums, and that’s something that very few other groups rarely do these days. NWOBHM is still alive and well. Cheers!

Wheels of Steel
Strong Arm of the Law
Denim and Leather
Sacrifice
Battering Ram
Thunderbolt
And the Bands Played On
Broken Heroes
They Played Rock and Roll
Power and the Glory
Dogs of War
Solid Ball of Rock
Backs to the Wall
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Dallas 1 PM
Crusader
Motorcycle Man
Heavy Metal Thunder
Princess of the Night

UNLEASHED 

Annihilator canceled at the very minute their Sweden Rock appearance and was replaced by the Swedish death metal veterans Unleashed. Obviously, traditional old school Swedish death metal was not highly appreciated among the festival attendance as there weren’t that many people digging Unleashed. However, the four-piece hammered down their classic songs. Unleashed sounded like Unleashed usually does; tight, simple, and precise. If Unleashed didn’t have the audience enough, instead Hammerfall had an incredibly huge audience, it looked like everyone was there following Joacim Cans and the company.

RAINBOW

If somebody had said to me that Rainbow would headline Sweden Rock in 2019, I would have just laughed at him/her. At that time, the idea of Blackmore playing hard rock again felt just impossible; it was something that would never happen. But I was wrong again. The hell seems to freeze quite often on these days. Rainbow’s long-awaited return started two years ago with a couple of shows in Germany and the UK. The reviews were very mixed. Some said that the shows were just horrible, and it would have been better if they never happened, whereas the other said that no matter what, but Ritchie is still Ritchie. The new band got loads of negative feedback, and that’s at least partly because the fans were expecting to see more the former Rainbow members in the line-up. However, the new vocalist Ronnie Romero has widely been accepted by the fans, and that’s a positive thing.

I had a pleasure to witness Rainbow last year in Helsinki, where the band played in front of 14 000 fans in Helsinki. I thought the show was ok, not great, but not bad either, and Ronnie was just as good as expected. Maybe the band wasn’t as tight as needed, and the maestro himself was lost at times, but as a whole, it was an enjoyable experience. However, now it is time to recheck the shape of the band, and it is going to be interesting for sure.

The legendary intro “Over the Rainbow” started, and soon the man in black hit stage and started to play the opening riff of “Spotlight Kid.” Ronnie Romero sang handsome and looked cool with his longer hair. He starts to have a look at a real rock singer, which is a positive thing only. “I Surrender,” and “Mistreated” followed, so far this was precisely the same songs in the same order as last year in Finland. To my pleasant surprise, the band sounded much tighter now. Maybe the negative feedback, but also lot’s of more played shows together, have tightened the band sound to be more compact. Song tempos didn’t slow down as it did often last year, and the whole band was much more active than before. Especially bassist Bob Nouveau proved to be a real showman and a great vocalist too. Ritchie Blackmore is Ritchie Blackmore. He has some better days and some worse ones. This day was so good, and most of the time he played the classic riffs and solo’s the way those are meant to be played. If he was sometimes in trouble, Jens Johanssen always helps him out with his keyboards. That cooperation worked great through the set.

As a whole, this show was a way better than the one I saw Finland last year. The band sounded much better, Ritchie played better, and the whole thing seemed more like a band instead of a bunch of musicians just standing on stage. The setlist was a big let down because it was the same as last year: no surprises, no additions, no nothing. There’s a rumor saying that Rainbow will release a brand new studio album at the end of this year. We’ll see if it happens, and if it does, what the band will do next? Ritchie is already 74 years old, so there’s not much time left. At least we can hope that the setlist will change a bit on next tour, or does it?

Spotlight Kid
I Surrender
Mistreated
Since You Been Gone
Man on the Silver Mountain
Perfect Strangers
Black Night
Difficult to Cure
All Night Long
Stargazer
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
Burn
Smoke on the Water

MYRATH’s second gig

Rainbow was already on overtime; meanwhile, more and more people started gathering close to the second stage to wait for Behemoth’s polished blackened/death metal. Presumably, Negral and his comrades were already desperately waiting to get on stage… BUT…. when taking a glance at the backdrop as it looked quite eccentric and those keyboards… Wait a sec… When Rainbow had finally finished the gig, a couple of MC guys rushed to the stage and announced Behemoth’s gear was in the area, but the guys got stuck in Frankfurt – so the gig was canceled. Instead, a replacement had been discovered and booked; Myrath. Believe it or not. The Tunisian Blazing Desert Metallers (well symphonic metal with the oriental influences) stepped in to replace Behemoth. In this point, the audience could have booed them off the stage. Instead, the audience welcomed the band with huge cheering. Myrath’s gig was basically a replica of their show earlier in the same day. A bigger stage and better lights gave more room for all kinds of magic tricks, dancers and huge fire show. If these guys and their background forces play cards right, the road to the success is open for sure.