Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Text and pics by Arto Lehtinen Marko Syrjala





When Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch left the ranks of Helloween, the duet didn’t start resting on their laurels - just going on to form a new power metal outfit fronted by the former Ark singer. This so called super power metal group went through their debut album material with a few Helloween tunes, ala "Sun Is Going Down" and "Changes", written by Grapow. The band did a very expected solid and routine set with a reliable and professional attitude and mentality without any bigger tricks or treats.

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Axenstar is previously an unknown Swedish combo more or less. However, the five piece delivered a solid set of traditional metal with obvious Helloween touches. They played most of the most of the tracks from their debut album Perpetual Twilight and concluded with the old Helloween track "Twilight Of The Gods" which was definitely not any odd way of concluding the set.

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This band is fronted by Jeff Scott Soto and Marcel Jacob - two ex-members from Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force band. Talisman seemed to be quite popular here in Sweden. They performed here two years ago and even released a live album called “Live at Sweden Rock Festival” recorded from that same show. Jeff Scott Soto is without any doubts the true leader of this band and appeared to be rather happy about the attention as he kept smiling constantly. It is obvious the entire band enjoys what they are doing, which was mirrored by the people definitely digging Talisman’s gig. Even though the stuff isn't the most commercial stuff, it could be categorized as basic hard rock done with high quality grip and style. It was really fantastic to hear the older material from their excellent self debut which worked damn along with the newer stuff and above all the old Yngwie gems, for example “I’ll See The Light” and “I’m A Viking” played as a encore. Great show from these Sweden hard rock royalties.

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Angra gave more progressive oriented power metal lessons from Brazil on Saturday, whereas another famous Brazilian metal outfit, Sepultura (whose career/music during the last few years is embarrassingly watered down), brought more extreme metal vibes to the festival concept. Sepultura has been slammed from various sides by the most hardcore fans due to awful albums done with Derrick Green. However, on stage the quartet are still able to prove that they are one of the hardest and tightest playing live bands giving 100%. The set consisted of both older classic material and newer material from Green’s era. The set was kicked off with a new opening track off from the new Roorback album and quite quickly ventured to a fistful of tracks selected from both Arise and Beneath The Remains. Even though the audience’s reaction didn’t reach any of the hottest climax, however, “Roots Bloody Roots” sounded massively heavy. To be honest, it wasn’t terrible!


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Y & T

“Another tired reunited old hard rock band from the 80’s, playing in the Sweden Rock festival” might be what most of the people were thinking when they heard the name Y&T. But they were definitely wrong!! After the opening intro "From the Moon" coming from the speakers, the band hit the stage. It was obvious that Y&T really were in top form for the gig. Dave Meniketti sang like an angel from the opening notes of “Meanstreak”. Phil Kennemore and the “new” guitarist John Nymann were all over the stage interacting and generally having great time. Whereas drummer Leonard Haze did quite a suitable job, but frankly he missed and was kinda lost with the faster material, especially "Meanstreak" and "Black Tiger", as it sounded like he wouldn’t have the power to beat because he messed up songs quite radically. The set was almost identical to the latest U.S. tour and was mostly a mix of their early eighties hits. The so called “newest” song titled “Eyes Of A Stranger” was from 1987's Contagious album. That’s a shame because they have a bunch of great songs and albums released after that album. Overall the band was in good form and Dave Meniketti was arguably the best guitarist on whole festival. Even though this band has been around since the early 70’s, this was their first ever performance in Sweden. Hopefully Y&T could be seen up here in Scandinavia before it's too late.


Set list
Intro: From The Moon
Mean Streak
Eyes Of A Stranger
Dirty Girl
Rescue Me
Barroom Boogie
Winds Of Change
25 Hours A Day
Summertime Girls
Game Playing Woman
I Believe In You
Hell Or High Water
Black Tiger

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Blind Guardian

To be honest, Blind Guardian’s incredible success in several European countries is definitely strange and goes beyond the normal comprehension because of the band’s stage image can be described as extremely boring and above all, an un-stylish live band compared to other power bands playing in the same sand pit, for example Rhapsody, who have paid a little bit more attention to their way of looking on the stage. Of course Hansi’s a bit overweight and a few number small tight pants and dirty bob hair style are the last things to be watched or photographed. The band’s set was tightly planned by going through the most essential tunes saving their set from the unavoidable fiasco. Blind Guardian’s material works bearably, but the stage image and charisma is without any doubt an unknown concept to the whole band indeed.

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Mörk Gryning

Mörk Grying can without any doubts be categorized to be under the black metal belt, but judging by their unmasked bearing on the stage it was kind of strange to perceive them as a real extreme black metal combo, due to the routine and even more like a standard hard rock image. Mork Gryning’s blackish assault worked surprising well and the sounds had been succeeded to reach the clear level. The band had just got a new album and introduced one new track off from it, but mainly focused on doing the older material from the previous released outputs.



Uriah Heep

Uriah Heep got a great response, especially when they started off the show with the legendary “Easy Livin’” tune, which was basically pretty weird way of starting a gig with the most well-known track which could have been expected to be played as an encore. The band was tight, technically strong and playing maybe better than ever - but unfortunately ran through the same old repertoire (like Motörhead). There’s nothing wrong with that actually, but if anyone has seen the band a couple of times in a row they would want some other songs in the set. But on the other hand there were a lot of people here who have not seen Uriah Heep on the stage for years, so it was a magical moment for them. The gig got a great ending by the wonderful "Lady In Black" tune.

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The sky was getting darker when black rain clouds started gathering around the festival area and once again the field was by now entirely packed from the front security wall to the furthest corner of the battle field. The opening intro was unleashed to be roaring from the monitors, and was followed by the opening track of the new Anthrax album, WE'VE COME FOR YOU ALL! The whole band appeared to be in the damn tight strike and shape, and above all - on FIRE! The vocalist Bush has turned out to be a godsend frontman for the band going all around the stage like a madman and so were other guys Ian and Bello being one of the wildest bassists on earth. In general, Anthrax put off one hell of intense old school metal thrashing performance. This was a most pleasant surprise and provided everyone with one of the most memorable ass kickings of this three day event. Several old school maniacs got what they were eager to hear: "Madhouse", "Indians", "Antisocial", and of course a whole bunch of new tracks. Even the gods of the weather blessed the gig by letting it rain like hell. Anthrax came and blew up every skeptical metal head to several pieces.

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Twisted Sister

There has been tremendous hype and rumor around Twisted Sister and their possible reunion during all these years, since the band was put on hiatus after the Love Is For Suckers album. When they finally decided to get back together after years of speculation and expectation, the feeling was almost like a religious event. Above all, their gig at the Sweden Rock festival was announced to be a world premier of the second coming. When the twisted sisters arrived at the stage at the 11.45 PM and kicked the most expected comeback off with "What You Don’t Know", the 15,000 metalheads in attendance went totally berserk! The front line of the security barrier was totally packed and it was a real godsend that anyone didn’t get injured as the pressure was massive. The reunited New York legends quite easily pulled the biggest attendance of the whole festival in front of the main stage. Even the gods of the weather remembered and welcomed Dee Snider’s colourful sisters back with the never ending rain cursed by Snider several times. After all the rain didn’t ruin the show that much, even though the monitors had to be protected from the water. The backdrop of the stage was based on well-known and recognizable elements picked up from the various TS album covers and especially the band’s costume were combinations of Stay Hungry and Come Out And Play clothes. To be honest, they looked very cool, especially Dee with the pink/black ripped clothes which he had on the front cover of Stay Hungry.

The TS set was one hell of a firework of old classic immortal tunes not including any bigger surprises, however. It is kind of interesting to pay attention to “the best of..” set consisting of the same repertoire as Dee’s solo band S.M.F did a few years ago. For obvious reasons the band boycotted the last and badly flopped Love Is For Suckers and even Leader Of The Pack had been dismissed from the set even though someone inquired earlier in the day in the press about that to which Mark The Animal literally shouted as an answer - "NO!"

Dee Snider is still a truly unique talent and a magnificent performer as well as having the great voice with everlasting energy and great interaction between him and the audience.

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Mark “The Animal” Mendoza was and still is a sort of showman along with tonight’s star - Dee. His bass playing looked very funny because he’s not actually playing the bass instead just beating the bass with his fist but somehow making it sound quite like solid playing. His outlook was really “impressive” - reminding the true “Animal” feeling.

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The drummer A.J. Pero was some sort of unstoppable force behind the drum kit keeping the show going on. He did a wonderful job, being in the right place here. Without his accurate drumming the whole comeback might have turned out to be a joke, as both the guitar players Eddie and Jay Jay were kinda lost and “less impressive” with their roles in handling their instruments. They were often in “trouble” and missed some notes and chords though those songs ain’t that difficult to play after all.

Twisted Sister ‘s world premier show was basically good but definitely not brilliant. To be honest, S.M.F's gig two years ago here was a way better than this.


Set list
What You Don´t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)
Like A Knife In The Back
Stay Hungry
Be Chrool To Your Scuel
Under The Blade
You Can´t Stop Rock N Roll
I Am (I´m Me)
The Fire Still Burns
Ride To Live (Live To Ride)
Shoot ´Em Down
We´re Not Gonna Take It
The Price
I Believe In Rock N Roll
Burn In Hell
I Wanna Rock
Come Out And Play

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The Sweden Rock festival was a damn success indeed, in terms of huge crowd, brilliantly organized schedule, no huge traffic jam, and nice and polite festival staff helping out people with their various problems. The whole spirit and mentality was relaxed and peaceful. People definitely got along with each other perfectly. It is obvious people are already waiting for the next Sweden Rock event to have the same kind of the metallic experience. Jättebra festival!!!