A year have passed since we last took our stuff and moved down to Sölvesborg and Sweden Rock for four days. To not visit the festival is not an option for me/us and this year it was 15 years since the first time I visited the place. To me Sweden Rock isn’t only about the music, it’s also four days of vacation, meeting up with friends you hardly see otherwise, partying and inhaling the positive atmosphere of the place that has been there from day one. And hopefully we get to see the sun as well. This year we sure did get great weather, it was more or less cloudless, hot and even the nights were warm – just the way I love it. Few things beat watching a great band in the sun while having a cold one in your hand. Or as in our case at times, sitting outside our cabin, blasting on music, talking and laughing and drinking when there were no band worth watching. Yes, folks, 2018 was indeed a killer festival by many standards.
Here’s a band that with their last album Who We Are (2016) went from a shrug of my shoulders to a “can’t wait to hear their new album”. Not because I thought that Vega sucked before that album, it was because I had never heard them before even though I had read about them many, many times. Why I sometimes just can’t be bothered with certain bands is something I’m still not clear about but I guess there are just too many records released each month within different genres that you need that little extra something that tells you to go for it – in Vega’s case it took a reviewer’s link to make me aware of what I had missed. Vega’s music is hardly original – it’s Melodic Rock and AOR – but Vega have put an effort in updating those genres, making their music relevant for the 2000’s which in turn has given them a sound of their own, even though influences aren’t that hard to spot. But most importantly, that album contained good songs – damn good songs – which over-shadows the importance of originality by miles. So let’s see if Vega could convince once more, then.
Ok, so here we go. I’m not down with Black Metal. At all. It’s not in my musical DNA. When I was a kid, Venom and Mercyful Fate said they played Black Metal and I dig them. But something happened in the early 90’s when Norwegian musicians took over the term. Their kind of Black Metal was a whole other beast and that’s what considered Black Metal by most people today – and that’s the Black Metal that I’m not down with. I’ve tried to listen to many of those bands but I can’t stand more than bits and pieces here and there, I just don’t get it. But something happened back in 2010 when Dimmu Borgir – another Norwegian Black Metal band that came from the 90’s – released their then new album Abrahadabra. I got that one. At first I only liked it but it grew on me pretty fast and over the years I have come to love it. A lot.
Nothing makes a true Metal crowd more hateful than a band that have made it big. I mean big as in huge. To true Metal soldiers, making it huge means that you’re a sell-out. They can still dig the band but only their first demo that they recorded on a tape recorder in the bass players mom’s kitchen. It’s even worse if said band is being played on the radio – modern Rock radio. That means they have hits and how true is a band that have hits? Nah, gotta hate ’em for that. When I was in my early 20’s, bands like Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister and Europe were given the middle-finger by Metal fans when they broke big. Sure, they were good before they made it but afterwards they were useless crap. How stupid!
Today it’s the same thing but the bands are different. One band I hear this garbage about all the time is Shinedown. Modern, soulless, hit-searching, sell-out Rock that only cares about one thing – hit singles and money! Again, how stupid! Shinedown is a huge band that even in the days of Spotify and illegal downloading sells millions of records and because of that, they’re not true. What a crock of shit. They sell millions because they’re a great band that writes awesome songs – and they’re still heavy and they rock. I have loved the band since I heard The Sound Of Madness (2008) and the follow-ups Amaryllis (2012) and Threat To Survival (2015) were just as brilliant. I have checked out their earlier releases more recently, but even though I liked them, neither of those have really been to my liking as their later givings.
Back in 2011, Lee Aaron made her come back as a Rock artist after years in the shade. A career as a jazz artist and motherhood put her o of the business for many, many years. It took the now 55-year-old, Ontario, Canada born, a few more years to get her shit together and finally release a new album – her first since 2004 – and when she did it wasn’t all ta half covers/half original one.hat great. Now it’s time for a follow-up, a follow-up that’s a half covers / half original one.
Kobra And The Lotus is a name that had passed me by for years. I read the name in music magazines every now and then but they were never a band I gave a fair shot. Until 2017, that is. That’s when I, by accident, stumbled over their video for the leading single of their last album Prevail I, “You Don’t Know”. The song was catchy yet heavy and to be honest, a quite obvious choice for a single for a Metal band and I was really taken by the greatness of the song and lead singer Kobra Paige’s fantastic voice, a voice that is both beautiful and full of aggression and attitude. I decided a review of that album was in order and decided I had to check out if the rest of the album was anything to write home about. It was. At first, Prevail was supposed to be a double album but their record company suggested that it might just be a bit much for people to digest so it was decided to make just one record at the time and save the second CD for a sequel – a sequel that we can gladly hold in our hands as I write this.
Sometimes it feels like we’re showered with new AOR and Melodic Rock bands / projects – at times it feels like there are too many of them. Not even back in the hey-day of this kind of music did we get so many new records by both old bands and newly started ones. And still we get to hear that this music is of no interest to anyone and that people just don’t buy albums any more. So why does new bands pop up all the time? And why do all those bands still put out physical CDs and vinyls if people don’t buy them? To be honest, even someone like me that really digs this kind of Rock music think that we’re on the verge of an AOR / Melodic Rock overkill here and sometimes when another record shows up in my mailbox it feels like I don’t really want to bother with them. But I do bother with them because even though there are bands that just falls of my map, there are also bands that totally kicks out the jam and tells me that there is still a lot of talent out there. And I just love an album by a new band that rocks my world.
It was only one year and a couple of months since Bo Stagman (aka known as Zinny Zan) released his debut album under the Stagman moniker where he sang in his native tongue for the first time ever – and now he’s already back with the the follow-up Moder Jord (Mother Earth) – it sure seems like he’s on a creative high right now. The fact that the album – Är Ni Kvar Där Ute (Are You Still Out There) – was sung in Swedish wasn’t only new for him, it was just as out there for his fans as well, so it’s understandable that he must have been nervous of how the record would be received. But he needn’t have worried at all, the album got shitloads of rave reviews and his fans seems to have embraced his new me totally. To be honest, I have never been that big on music sung in Swedish and I can probably count the artists that I like that sings in Swedish on one hand. I just don’t think it sounds right, for the most part.
My first encounter with Norwegian AOR queen Isabel Oversveen aka Issa was back in 2010 when she had just released her debut album Sign Of Angels. That album was a brilliant show of how to write catchy songs that was both smooth and slick but without losing their edge. Nothing new was brought under the sun but that was irrelevant because of the strength of the songs and the pure passion Issa showed – honest and real. Since then I have followed her career pretty closely and I have reviewed her every album since then and with four records under her belt, I can state that all of them have been good but while her last album of original tunes – Crossfire (2015) – was good it also showed traces of stagnation. With that I mean that it felt like Issa had taken her brand of AOR and Melodic Rock as far as she could and that it was time for her to maybe stretch out a bit more.
QFT stands for Quantum Field Theory. What that is, is a bit over my everyday skills to know about but it has something to do with physics. Google it if you want to know. But if you read the song titles below, it’s not a wild guess that QFT have got something to do with space. QFT is also a band which is the sole reason for me to be writing about QFT at all, see. This band is the brainchild of singer Linnea Vikström, daughter of Thomas Vikström with whom she shares vocal duties with in Therion and George Härnsten Egg, drummer in Dynazty (also in The Paralydium Project). With them they brought bass player Jonathan Olsson (Dynazty) and guitarist Mano Lewys (Violet Janine – he was also the touring guitarist in Dynazty for five minutes). Very little has been revealed about this project before the release of the album and even though I’ve googled the name, it’s pretty hard to find that much info about the band at all. So, I didn’t have one clue of what to expect musically when I let my teeth sink into the album for the first time.