Sweden Rock Festival 2014 became the year of early gigs for me. There was a must-see band at 12 o’clock everyday this year and while some might stress that 12 o’clock is noon and not early at all, you have to calculate with the fact that there are after parties that lasts for quite a while at our home away from home. Luckily enough, there are only a 10 minute walk from our little house to the festival area and that means that I could sleep in late. But no matter what, this gig was not to be missed. As everybody who’s into melodic rock knows, Talisman is really no more and this is not a permanent reunion, just a way for the members Jeff Scott Soto (vocals), Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall, guitars, played on one Talisman record and took this gig when Fredrik Åkesson (Opeth) had to turn it down) and Jamie Borger (Treat, Last Autumn’s Dream, drums) to pay tribute to their friend and bass player Marcel Jacob who so sadly ended his own life five years ago. To handle bass duties the band chose the phenomenal Johan Niemann (Evergrey, ex-Therion) and like Jeff Scott Soto said, he was their first and only choice and the one who could pull this off. And it was a huge crowd that had resisted their hangovers to come and pay their respects to one of Sweden’s finest musicians. Marcel was a sweet guy and a world-class bass player and song writer and when Jeff introduced Marcel with a big picture on the TV screen, SRF went completely quiet and you could hear a needle drop and I can guarantee that there were lots of lumps in throats at that moment. Musically, I must say that Talisman 2014 is as hot as ever. The opening of “Break Your Chains” from the debut and the funky and heavily Red Hot Chili Peppers influenced “Colour My XTC” that went right into “Fabricated War” just like it does on the Humanimal album, was very intense and so brilliant. However, it wasn’t that fun to state that Jeff had some voice issues and sometimes he sounded really sour, but luckily enough that had sorted itself out when the fourth song, their this-should-have-been-a-hit “Mysterious (This Time It’s Serious)” had ended and after that Jeff sounded just as good has he always does. “Tears In The Sky” from their most anonymous album Life isn’t a favourite and it was beer time so I could listen to the song in the background while helping myself with a cold one and be back in time for the surprise of the concert, “Sorry” from Cats And Dogs, a ballad that is pretty cheesy, but I have always loved that one, so I gave it my thumbs up. That song turned into “Just Between Us”, their ballad who was almost a big hit for them back in the day. “If U Would Only Be My Friend”, their pop song that should have been a chart climber but never was, followed and it’s always great to hear live. Then came the covers, the big reason this gig didn’t get more than a 8/10. Yes, Talisman has made really good covers of Madonna’s “Frozen” and Seal’s “Crazy” and they are both on Talisman records, and yes, they were really good here as well, but the fact is, with limited time to play and a treasure chest full of brilliant tunes, to play the covers is completely unnecessary, in my opinion. But things went back to normal when they ended the set with “Dangerous” and Talisman’s only big hit “I’ll Be Waiting” and we must have sung that chorus so loud it was heard overseas. “Standin’ On Fire” was the encore and it ended a really great way to start the day. The funny thing was that even though this gig was based on the tragic event that is Marcel’s suicide, it didn’t affect the atmosphere. I guess we all decided to rock out and have real good time in tribute to “Marre”. As I said, this is not a reunion, only a tribute, but Talisman were so good today that part of me wishes that the guys would start playing together again, but maybe under a different name. Well, well. Marcel Jacob, rest in peace wherever you are and if you did see this, I hope you had as a good time as the rest of us had. You are so very missed!
One of the most obscure bookings this year has to be Q5. I remember as a kid, me and some of my friends worshipped their debut album Steel The Light from 1984, a true heavy metal classic, but even back then, not many rockers knew who they were and that case still remains to this day. The band called it quits after the follow up, the commercial and completely worthless pop album When The Mirror Cracks totally bombed and rightfully so. And since then, I haven’t heard a word about this band until now. Well, apart from the fact that their guitar player Floyd Rose was the inventor of the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo System, one of the most well-known guitar systems in the world. I might add that Rose is not involved in this reunion – I guess after that invention, he really doesn’t need the money, the guy has to be set for life. Anyway, the fact that Q5 were booked was a really nice surprise as I didn’t have a clue that they were still gigging around. Although, one of my main concerns were if singer Scott Palmerton (aka Jonathan K.) would be able to hit the very high notes that were sung on their debut album. After all, it was 30 years ago since the album was released and Scott has to be in his fifties today. The band looked genuinely happy and excited to play Sweden Rock this Friday mid day and it was a surprisingly big crowd that showed up for their gig. Apparently, Q5 aren’t as obscure as one might have thought. And the band sounded good, in fact, they sounded really good. There are no doubts that the band had prepared well for this and when it came to Palmerton’s voice, there was no much at all to complain about. Sure, 30 years has passed and the strength of his voice wasn’t exactly as it was back in the day and there had been some tuning down to help him out, but for the most of the show, everything sounded just fine. Fact is, a lot of it sounded great. Song-wise, Steel The Light was the album that had most features, of course and even though a song like “When The Mirror Cracks” sounded good without all the synthesizers and drum machines, it’s still not that great a song. It wasn’t hard to notice the difference when those songs were played and when they got to the classics. Of course, all of them were played – “Missing In Action”, “Steel The Light”, “Pull The Trigger”, “Lonely Lady”, “Rock On”, “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady” – and as an old fan I couldn’t help but to smile big time. So, another thanks goes out to Sweden Rock for this because without them, I probably never would have got to see Q5 live.
Norwegian melodic hard rockers TNT have reunited with their American singer Tony Harnell again. Yes, again, because this is the third time this band reunites. When grunge came running in the mid-nineties, TNT split, but reunited in 1997 and released a couple of records that didn’t sell and the band took a break from recording until 2004, but in 2006 Harnell decided to split and was replaced by former Shy vocalist Tony Mills. The band recorded two horrible records and one ok one, but Mills decided to leave in 2013 and another reunion with Harnell was around the corner. This year it’s 25 years since their biggest album Intuition was released and that, of course, calls for a celebration. Said and done, reunion fixed and a tour where on many occasions said album was played in its entirety. A minor setback, though was that original bass player Morty Black wouldn’t want to be a part of it – he hadn’t played with the band since 2004 – but the other three guys, Harnell, guitarist Ronni Le Tekro and drummer Diesel Dahl, were there together with long time bassist Victor Borge. I have only seen TNT on one occasion before, at SRF back in 2004 and I thought they were really good then, but lots have happened since then and it’s been ten years, so who knew what their set would be like. But I had been warned. TNT were playing Stockholm Rocks with Gus G, Marty Friedman and H.E.A.T. and I heard rumours that Harnell’s voice were more or less shot and that it was hurtful to listen to him sing. I also heard that LeTekro was nonchalant in his playing and therefore the gig didn’t exactly convince. So, I was both curious, excited and a bit scared to watch this. Scared because I have always loved TNT and I would hate it if they blew. The opening was leaving me a bit cold though. “Invisible Noise” and “She Needed Me” from 2004’s My Religion might be good songs but that album wasn’t a huge seller and to open up with two pretty unknown songs might be brave, but in all honesty, I don’t think they pulled it off all the way. However, it felt nice to state that both Harnell and LeTekro sounded really good and when third song “As Far As The Eye Can See” from Tell No Tales kicked in, a new spark was lit, a spark that made it through “My Religion” right into the brilliant “Tonight I’m Falling”. Not even a solo spot from LeTekro could bore us, much for the fact that LeTekro is far from boring and when the ballad “End Of The Line” hit us, all that was missing was a bit of darkness and lighters in the air. “Intuition” is a killer song that is even better live and “Caught Between The Tigers” fits just like a glove. Their 1992 album Realized Fantasies is a real underrated album and “Downhill Racer” is a great song, but unfortunately it got totally lost here. However the biggest response this afternoon was given to their first single “Seven Seas” from their very uneven debut album Knights Of The New Thunder. The crowd’s singing was almost deafening. “Forever Shine On”, one of my favourites from Intuition, went down like a storm and even though finishing with a ballad, the brilliant “Northern Lights”, is a brave move it actually worked. Of course, no TNT concert is complete without their biggest hit ever – “10 000 Lovers (In One)” made us rock like crazy. After the unfortunate gig at Stockholm Rocks, TNT had learned their lesson and therefore tuned down one step, to make things easier for Harnell and even though the highest notes were a bit difficult, it feels really good to state that he got through the gig great. Let’s hope that TNT will stay together for real after this tour. They are too a great rock band to dissolve once more.
I have seen W.A.S.P. live numerous times by now, but something in me always gets excited whenever they are booked for a tour or a festival. I’m a W.A.S.P.-fan and I have been since their first album. But they haven’t always been great. Their 90’s that kicked off with the dreadful K.F.D. was anything but fun and they kept on releasing records that went from mediocre to useless and it wasn’t until 2007 and the album Dominator that W.A.S.P. got their shit together for real. This is the third time I see them with their current line-up, their most long-lived so far. Bassist Mike Duda has been Blackie Lawless’ right hand since 1997, guitarist Doug Blair has been in the band three times, once in 1992, then again in 2001 and finally in 2006 he joined together with drummer Mike Dupke and they have been in the band since then. Blackie and his boys has been accused more times than I can remember for using backing tracks and even doing more or less playback shows. I can’t really speculate on how much truth that lies in that, but that there have been tapes isn’t even under discussion, because it has. However, if Lawless is lip synching then he does a damn good job doing so, because it looks and sounds pretty damn real to these ears. And eyes! And that’s what matters – that it sounds good. W.A.S.P. opens up like fist in the gut with “On Your Knees” / “The Torture Never Stops” from their debut and everything sounds really, really good. Blackie might be an old geezer (he is born in 1956 and that makes him 58 in November) but his raspy voice is still intact and he can still sing like a motherf**ker. Blackie Lawless is one of my favourite singers – what an underrated vocalist he is. The brilliant cover of The Who’s “The Real Me” (from The Headless Children) follows and it works like a charm live and when “L.O.V.E. Machine” kicks in, there’s nothing left to do but to surrender. This bloody awesome, folks. For some reason, Blackie has got it in his mind that “Crazy” from their latest album Babylon is some kind of fan-favourite because he insists on playing it at every gig. Thing is, it’s not a bad song, but it is kind of forgettable. Besides, the song is nothing but a re-written version of “Wild Child”. The intro is so alike “Wild Child” that most of the people who were standing where I stood, actually thought that it was “Wild Child”. Let me tell ya, things calmed down a great deal when people realised it wasn’t “Wild Child” at all. But “Wild Child” were played right after “Crazy” and there are miles between the songs quality wise. In my opinion, “Wild Child” is the best W.A.S.P. song and judged by the reaction the song was given, it sure looked like most people agreed with me on that one. They followed it with one of my all time favourite ballads, the fantastic “Sleeping (In The Fire)” and every time I hear that song live it strikes me just how soulful Blackie’s voice is. This is also Doug Blair’s turn to shine – and shine he does. He’s such a fantastic guitar player and his solo never gets boring because it’s all about feel, passion and soul. What an underrated player. After the solo the song turns in to “Forever Free”, another brilliant Blackie-ballad. “I Wanna Be Somebody” ends act 1 and it feels kinda weird that W.A.S.P.’S biggest hit is played so early in the set. But it sure does its job and gets the huge crowd going like crazy. Act 2 starts with the Crimson Idol set which stats with “The Titanic Overture” that goes right into “The Crimson Idol Medley” that consists of “The Invisible Boy”, “I Am One” and “The Gypsy Meets The Boy”. First “The Idol” and then “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)” finishes the killer set. The Dominator killer track “Heaven’s Hung In Black” is first encore – what a brilliant song – before the whole shebang ends with “Blind In Texas”, a fantastic drinking song. But this gig must have gotten the weirdest ending ever. Some fuse blew right at the end of “Blind In Texas” and everything went dead quiet and the band walked off the stage. The audience looked at each other baffled – was this part of the show or did the fuse actually blow? Sure looks like it did. But it takes nothing away from the fact that W.A.S.P. once again delivered the goods – even though there are shitloads of songs that you wanna hear that they didn’t play. Also, this line up might not be W.A.S.P.’s most well-known one and compared to the original, these guys might come across as pretty anonymous, but musically, there has never been a better and more tight edition of the band. Hopefully, this will be the line-up Blackie will use until the band is no more. The only thing I have to complain about is that Blackie has become one of those new-born christians and therefor not only refuse to sing the cursing in “Chainsaw Charlie” (it means a lot to that lyric, as a matter of fact) and that he refuses to play one of his biggest hits and best songs “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)”. Have your faith, Blackie, I’m happy if you are, but your audience deserves to hear that song. But apart from that, W.A.S.P. pretty much nails this!
The Black Sabbath reunion was one of the most anticipated reunions of all time. The fact that they had decided on releasing a new album put sky-high expectations on the band. With every Ozzy-fronted Sabbath except Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die being classics, the band had a helluva lot to live up to and an album that was just good, wouldn’t even be close to cutting it. Sadly, the news that Bill Ward, a drummer almost as important for the classic Sabbath sound as John Bonham was to Led Zeppelin, quickly reached the surface and stupid business decisions made him bail out, so a 100 % reunion, this is not. But luckily their album 13 proved to be a real killer, with the guys knowing they have a brand that is their own. The decision to make a true Sabbath album and looking back at their old records, not moving an inch outside the box, proved to be an accurate one. Also, Rage Against The Machine / Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk made a brilliant job replacing Ward on the record. Fact is, he did such a great job, I actually forgot it wasn’t Bill Ward who played on the album. Why he isn’t on the tour is anyone’s guess. Next up, touring: Would they cut it as a live act? They sure did as Heaven & Hell with Ronnie James Dio at the mike and Vinny Appice on the drum stool. But much has happened since those days and Ozzy Osbourne certainly is no Dio. There was a lot of talk of Ozzy having vocal problems ever since the tour began and how much strength does Tony Iommi have left, trying to beat cancer? Now, Black Sabbath are one of the biggest bookings in Sweden Rock’s history and of course, the pressure on the band must be of astronomical proportions. I haven’t seen the band since their 1998 tour so to say that I was excited about this must be the understatement of the year. To tell the truth, I’m not sure just how objective I am when it comes to Sabbath because just to be able to see Iommi, Ozzy and Geezer Butler on the same stage gave me goosebumps. The “War Pigs” intro riff made scream “YEEEEAAAAAHH!!!!” loud and clear and all of a sudden I was 15 again. They won by the first chord and I was helpless. “Into The Void” (a favourite of mine!) and the fantastic “Snowblind” followed and I was in a musical high. The first new song of the evening, “Age Of Reason”, got a great reception from the HUGE crowd. In my book, that song should be counted as a modern classic. Love that song. “Black Sabbath” sounds as scary as it always have and “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” proves that Sabbath aren’t interested in doing a Kiss and play a predictable set. Thumbs up! Also, touring drummer Tommy Clufetos (ex- Rob Zombie and also in Ozzy’s solo band) did a remarkable job behind the kit. Not only does he sound so alike Bill Ward that it’s scary, he also look the part these days with long straight hair, big beard, bandana and playing bare chested. “N.I.B.” is still preceded by a shorter Butler bass solo and song always goes down like charm live and “Fairies Wear Boots” is still one of the best Sabbath songs out there. “Rat Salad” is a weird choice to play and even though it’s cool that they are brave enough to include such an obscure number, I must say that there are many, many better Sabbath songs out there to be played. “Iron Man” may be a bit trite these days, it is Sabbath’s “Smoke On The Water”, but it has to be played and on an evening like this, I love the song to death. “God Is Dead”, another new killer song fits perfectly in the set and sounds great before the magnificent “Children Of The Grave” ends the show. Well, of course, there is an encore to be played and when I hear the “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” riff starts to sound over the fields of SRF I’m in heaven. Too bad it was just the opening riff, because it quickly turns into “Paranoid”. Fool, fool. There goes one point, guys! I know, of course, that the song isn’t played anymore because it’s too hard for Ozzy to sing, but the tease was unnecessary and as for “Paranoid”, I know it has to be played, but I am dead tired of it so the none playing of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” became a bit of an anti-climax for me. I’m sorry, “Paranoid” is their “Smoke On The Water”, not “Iron Man”! On the other hand, I knew that “Paranoid” would be played so I really can’t say anything about it. I’m really glad that I got to see Black Sabbath again before they end their career and I’m really glad that their gig was one of SRF’s best this year.
Review of Black Sabbath’s 13 here:
I have seen Therion live once before, back in 2005 at Sweden Rock Festival. Back then, I have just started to listen to the band and I didn’t know any of their songs. Thing is, Therion’s old albums aren’t up my alley one bit and the first album(s) I got into were the Sirius B / Lemuria records from 2004 and even those aren’t brilliant all the way through, in my book. No, I became a fan with the amazing Gothic Kabbalah double album from 2007 and I still hold that one as their best album by far. When the follow up, Sitra Ahra came out, the whole band except band leader and guitarist Christoffer Johnson and singer Snowy Shaw had been changed. Even though the album wasn’t as brilliant as Gothic Kabbalah, it’s still a killer album but it sure got a mixed reception from both fans and critics and let’s not talk about their latest album, Les Fleurs Du Mal (Flowers Of Evil in French), an album full of French chansons and pop songs, THAT album got a mixed reception, to say the least. I was sceptic in the beginning but it has grown on me and I actually think it’s really good. Just like Avantasia last year, Therion got to play AFTER the headliners of the day, Black Sabbath. This is weird, I think, because to me, if you finish a festival, you’re the headliners, no matter how big your band is or which stage you play on. I had really looked forward to this gig because it would be the first time I’d get to see the band with their latest line-up. Also changed hade been made just prior to this gig as well. Singer Snowy Shaw has been gone for a while, but now one of the female lead singers had decided to leave, the awesome Lori Lewis, which was a bummer. But it was clear that from the opening of “The Rise Of Sodom And Gomorrah” to the ending “To Mega Therion”, Therion had decided to leave nothing to coincidence when it came to this gig. The sound, the lights, the performances – everything had to be tight – and so it was. “Son Of The Sun” and “Hellequin”, two songs that I actually know, fit like a glove and judging by the reception they got, they made no mistakes there. Their really early death metal years were, thank God, left behind this evening, but there was too many songs I didn’t know which takes the edge of things a bit, but it didn’t really matter much as there wasn’t any of the songs that I though were bad this night. “Kali Yuga, Pt 3” however, I did know and it was really cool to hear that one live as it is a favourite of mine and “Lemuria” was cool to hear again. It was ages since I played that album. But best of all this night was “Sons Of The Staves Of Time”, one of my all time Therion favourites. It was really cool to hear lead singer Thomas Vikström do that one when you’re used to hear Mats Levén’s voice on it. Thomas did it great. This night was also the time to introduce Lori Lewis’ replacement, Sandra Laureano. From what I heard tonight, Laureano is a killer replacement who won’t disappoint any Therion fan out there. Thomas Vikström’s daughter Linnea has to be mentioned as well. Not only has she an amazing voice, as a front woman she was very impressive as well, acting out like she was born on a stage. That one’s a keeper, guys. Bass player Nalley Påhlsson and drummer Johan Koleberg has been playing together forever in different bands and knows each other inside out which means Therion’s rhythm section is total world-class. Even though I didn’t know many of the songs played here tonight, Therion was a great way to end another great day.
Therion album reviews here: