One of the reasons I wanted to attend this festival was the appearance of Shotgun. As a big fan of Shotgun Messiah, I was not about to miss the last ever gig by this tribute act. When Shotgun Messiah’s now classic self titled debut album turned 25 years old last year, a celebration was more or less mandatory. Sadly enough, founder members and main songwriters Harry K Cody (guitar) and Tim Skold (bass) didn’t think this was of any importance to participate and it sure looked like they thought a reunion tour was redundant. Luckily enough, original members, singer Zinny Zan and drummer Stixx weren’t about to see this celebration go forlorn. Equally luckily, there are still musicians out there that still are such huge fanboys that they will go out of their way to make a thing like this happen. Zinny Zan’s Zan Clan band-mate, guitarist and songwriter Chris Laney – who turned bass player for this project – was the one who set this celebration into motion and got the ball rolling. He brought in his Laney’s Legion bandmate and Danger Danger guitar virtuoso Rob Marcello – another big Shotgun Messiah fan – to the project and the four guys got work. They decided to drop 50% of the name as there were only 50% of the original band participating – great move! I have seen them play once before and the totally blew me away – if I closed my eyes, it could might as well be the original band playing. It was clear that they had gone out of their way to make sure this sounded exactly like it was supposed to sound – there was no way in hell the name Shotgun Messiah would be bedraggled by this. When it came to this gig, their final gig at a festival, true party mood was to be expected and party mood we got. As the sun was shining, these four happy campers took the stage with “Squeezin Teazin” and it was clear that the boys had a fabulous time – and that feeling was contagious. This gig was all about fun and smiles, but in no way were they about to fall short on quality. As a Shotgun Messiah-fan, this was heaven. I never got to see the original line-up – or any other line-up, for that matter – play live, so these shows were real important for me. It’s really impressing to hear how well Marcello has learned Harry K’s sc-sc-sc-screaming guitar (sic!) and he not only plays his solos and rhythms note by note, he also sounds exactly the same. Also, with a singer like Zinny Zan, you can’t really go wrong. Sure, the guy is hardly Pavarotti, but who cares, he’s hardly Vince Neil neither and with so much charisma and attitude, the guy is more or less the perfect frontman. That said, I really need to state that he’s never off-key – which is kinda impressing as he tends to run a marathon on stage. The whole debut album was played and when the band said their final goodbye with “Don’t Care Bout Nothin”, I was filled with joy, but at the same time it felt a bit empty. I mean, this was really it. I wonder how the boys felt about it afterwards. Parts of me wants this project to go on as a new band, keep giging and releasing new music, but I also realise things could go terribly wrong by doing so. HUGE thanks to the guys for making this happen and for giving me and my peers a chance to experience these classics once more. Hail!
It was only a month and a half since I last saw Pretty Maids in action. The played Sweden Rock Festival and if you have read my reviews of said festival on this site, you know I thought they were bloody amazing. That makes for some pretty high expectations on my part, but to tell you the truth, I was never even worried that they would disappoint me. It was never case of if they were gonna be great, it was only a case of how great they were gonna be. I have seen them four times before and they have always delivered the goods. And that’s what they did this day as well – and then some! Just like at SRF they kicked off the set with the brilliant “Mother Of All Lies” from their last album, the awesome Motherland. But luckily enough, the guys had decided not to just copy that set list, but to change a few songs and add a few as well. This makes the whole experience more interesting and fun – both for us and for them, I assume. “Psycho Time Bomb Planet Earth” from both Scream and their recent album of re-recordings Louder Than Ever, kicks in and even though that song was never a huge favourite of mine, it’s a total live killer. “We Came To Rock” from Future World made a welcome return to their live set and two newies, “Sad To See You Suffer” and “My Soul To Take”, both very melodic and on the border to pop, was given a big thumbs up from the audience before the old classic “Yellow Rain” rocked the living daylight out of us. “Walk Away”, also from 1994’s Scream, might seem like an odd choice, but the poppy half ballad really hits home and gets a nice singing back from the crowd. “Nuclear Boomerang” from their latest album sure is a good song, but I’m not that sure that it is familiar enough for the crowd, judging by the reactions from the audience, but “I.N.V.U.” sure is. The song from the album many sees as Pretty Maids’ big come back album Pandemonium (I beg to differ as in my book, Pretty Maids has never made a bad album) gets a big cheer and so does the new track “I See Ghosts” as well. I believe the latter will stay in their set for quite some time as it got a really great response both this evening and at SRF. The John Sykes cover “Please Don’t Leave Me” (co-written by Philip Lynott) has turned out to be one of Pretty Maids’ must-play songs, but even though I think it’s a good song, I think that it is slightly overrated and there are plenty better songs in their catalogue. I’m not that sure that anybody would really care if they leave it out from time to time, to be honest. It still it fits well in the set and it gets us singing out loud back to brilliant frontman and singer Ronnie Atkins. A song that should stay in their set forever, though, is “Little Drops Of Heaven”. The Pandemonium half-ballad is one of their best songs ever and a real melodic rock gem and judging by the reactions from the crowd, I’m certainly not alone in thinking that. “Back To Back” from their debut long-player Red Hot And Heavy is a true metal classic and can never be left out of their set – a song loved by every Pretty Maids fan out there. It was a long time since I got to hear the band’s 1987 almost-big-hit “Love Games” from their most classic album Future World, so a big thanks to the band for playing that one tonight. It’s really beyond me that that song never topped the charts back in the day. It’s a brilliant little pearl of a pop song that was perfect for the charts back in 1987. The band finished the set with – of course – “Future World”, their most classic song ever. The song is such a gem with the perfect riff, one of those rare tunes that just by listening to the opening riff, it takes you back to where you first heard it. I remember the exact spot, how things smelled and how everybody looked and what we were talking about – amazing. Once again, Pretty Maids has rocked me right into next week and they keep on impressing me by their stunning performances. It seems like it doesn’t matter which musicians Atkins and his guitar playing song writing partner Ken Hammer brings into the band, the band kills every time. That said, the line-up they have today with Bassist Rene Shades, drummer Alan Tschicaja and keyboardist Morten Sandager must be their tightest one to date. This was easily one of the best gigs at this festival.
As a non-fan of this band, Candlemass anno 2014 are a joy to watch. I will never claim that Candlemass aren’t a good band, it’s just that their doomy metal has never been my case of beer and one big reason for that is that I always thought that their most famous singer Messiah Marcolin annoyed the hell out of me. His voice made it impossible for me to go through an album with Candlemass and therefore I never gave them the time of day. It wasn’t until he was out of the band and was replaced by then ex – Talk of The Town vocalist Thomas Vikström, now in Therion, and their underrated album Chapter VI that I managed to give them a fair shot. As a funny note I kinda need to point out that current Candlemass singer Mats Levén was once the singer for Therion… Anyway, that album was a bit more commercial than their earlier releases and maybe that was what appealed to me. Fast forward to a sunny day in 2008 down at Sweden Rock Festival and Candlemass was playing the main stage fronted by singer Robert Lowe. I wasn’t supposed to watch their gig, I was just passing by when I stopped to listen for a while – and I was blown away. It was there and then that I discovered that Candlemass had lots more than met my ear before. It got me interested in the band and as for now I hold their two current albums, Death Magic Doom (2008) and Psalms For The Dead (2012) as their best efforts to date. That’s why it’s a bit sad that they now are out playing farewell tours and farewell gigs and that Candlemass has said to call it quits later on. After witnessing their headline gig at Sweden Rock Festival last year – the first time I saw them with their new singer Mats Levén – it struck me that Candlemass has never sounded better and that putting the band to rest now is insane. I’m also curious of why Levén hasn’t been recruited as their singer ages ago as he has been singing on founder / bassist / song writer Leif Edling’s demos forever. This night’s gig only proved furthermore that Candlemass has shitloads left to offer. You simply can’t split this band up without, at least, recording one studio album with Levén at the mike. Because if I can be turned into a fan, then anyone can and I didn’t hear one single disappointed voice that was raised after this gig. Unfortunately, there wasn’t the same huge crowd that Pretty Maids had earlier on, which kinda reveals that their music might be a bit to narrow for the broader Swedish audience. A shame, because I’m sure, if they only are given the chance, I think many non-fans would surprised by just how good Candlemass are today. Real old stuff like opener “Mirror, Mirror”, “Bewitched”, “Under The Oak”, “A Cry From The Crypt”, “Dark Reflections” and “At The Gallows End” were given new life and even though the doom, gloom and darkness are still present there is something more catchy and groovy with those songs now and the Lowe-fronted “Emperor Of The Void” and “Psalms Of The Dead” are both given a kick in the butt. Not to put a shadow over Lowe, but Levén is superior to him both as a frontman and as a singer. A brilliant gig by a brilliant band finished the first day of Väsby Rock and let’s all keep our fingers crossed that Candlemass will keep going. What we saw tonight was a band on fire, not a band singing on its last verses. I have no problems with you going back on your word, this time, Leif. I don’t think anyone has.