It feels like a million years ago since I last saw Thunder live but it was actually at SRF back in 2007 (yes, I missed them in 2013) and they were great then. I became a huge Thunder fan when they released their debut album Backstreet Symphony in 1990 and I really thought they would be one of the greats of rock and roll in the near future. But since the quality of their records only dipped, record after another and I kind of lost interest in the band. That said, I didn’t think their records were bad, they just weren’t good enough except for the follow-up Laughing On Judgement Day (1992). The band split up in 1999 only to resurrect four years later – only to split up again in 2008. They did a couple of really good albums during their second run and in 2007 they sounded like a band far from splitting up. But they resurrected for a third in 2015 and has since then released two albums – Wonder Days (2015) and Rip It Up (2017) – that without a doubt are their best since the debut. So them getting booked to this years festival was hardly a surprise and it was a clear no-brainer that I would be in the audience when they played.
The band kicked off the set with “Wonder Days” and it stood clear that Thunder were still capable of a damn fine groove. It also felt like many of the punters were very familiar with it and it went down really well. The same thing can be said of “The Enemy Inside” from the latest album – Thunder were here to show everybody that they can still rock out and give everyone a real good time. “River Of Pain” comes from one of their “good but not great” albums, their third one Behind Closed Doors (1995). I always thought the song was a good one, albeit a bit forgettable but it grew a new life live and I couldn’t for my life figure out why I never liked it more. It rocks, it has a groove and a chorus impossible not to sing along to – how awesome. Next up, “Resurrection Day” (Wonder Days). This uptempo half ballad of a pop song works great this hot summer day – the groove is intense and it’s hard to stand still – a very good choice.
“Higher Ground” may not be the most obvious choice from Backstreet Symphony but it worked like a charm. The chorus is extremely catchy and very in-your-face which hits the crowd right where it should. Add a ballsy groove and the guys hits a home run – brilliant.”In Another Life” off the new album is a big, rhythmic and groovy blues tune, slow in pace but to the crowd, that didn’t matter – as long as it has a steady beat it works – and it did work. Thunder really knows their blues stuff. “Backstreet Symphony” tore down the biggest cheers which probably didn’t come as no surprise to anyone. A great rocker, bluesy with shitloads of hooks can never go wrong at a sunny festival and Thunder kicked some major butt with it – and then some. “Don’t Wait For Me”, the ballad from Backstreet Symphony, however, did slip some. It’s a good song but it brought the tempo down too much and a big enough part of the crowd acted almost restless while they were playing it.
But Wonder Days‘ “Serpentine” kicked things back into motion again – and how could it not? It’s a fun-loving rocker that is impossible not to rock out to. They closed the set with “I Love You More Than Rock ‘n’ Roll” (The Magnificent Seventh, 1995) and this hard rock pearl turned out to be the perfect closer – complete with singer Danny Bowes walking out on the front flip of the stage and got us all to sing along like there was no tomorrow. Thunder as a live act is great and what they lack in rock star appearance and looks they make up for in musicianship, charm and groove and their brand of 70’s based, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll with catchy and memorable melodies strikes right to the heart. There were songs I missed, however – a Thunder gig without “She’s So Fine”, “Love Walked In” and “Dirty Love”? C’mon, guys. And “Everybody Wants Her” from Laughing At Judgement Day should be mandatory as well. Other than that, no complaints from this guy.
It’s not easy for me to write a Candlemass review. See, I have never really been a fan – which is weird because I love Avatarium and The Doomsday Kingdom, I really like Abstrakt Algebra and there lots of Krux stuff that are killer – which means that I really don’t know their stuff that well. But I have seen the band live a couple of times lately and I have always enjoyed their concerts. Much of my resentment towards the band have been there because I could never stand original singer Messiah Marcolin’s voice – it annoys the shit out of me – and therefore I could never embrace the songs and give them a fair chance. Also, it gets on my tits when music becomes too doomy and Candlemass are the masters of doom. But with Mats Levén (Swedish Erotica, Treat, Yngwie Malmsteen, Krux, Abstrakt Algebra) in the band, the vocals are much more varied, not to mention that the guy is an astonishing singer with a range so broad it’s ridiculous. Today’s gig is in the afternoon and this will be the first time I will see Candlemas in broad daylight. And not just daylight, the sun is high in the cloudless sky and it’s really hot outside. Which is a contrast by large – Candlemass, the dark, doomy,gloomy metal band plays while the sun is up.
The band’s recent tour is about celebrating the album Nightfall that turns 30 this year and I must admit that I have never listened to that album back to back – ever. I have heard a few songs here and there but, well, you know, the Messiah issue. So this gig will be the first time I will hear the album back to back albeit in a live environment and with Levén at the mike. After the intro “Gothic Stone”, the band kicks right into “The Well Of Souls”, followed by “Codex Gigas” and “At The Gallows End”. And it sounds good – really damn good. To me, Candlemass comes across as a completely new and different band. The songs run over the audience like a steamroller on acid – hard, heavy, dark and evil sounding. I find myself stomping my feet and this time I actually get it – these are great songs. And the band keeps up the good job without much space in between the songs at all – “Samarithan”, “Dark Are The Veils Of Death”, “Mourners Lament” and “Bewitched” and I’m a bit shocked just how much I actually enjoy this. Hot damn!
When the band is done with the Nightfall back to back, we get “Mirror Mirror” from Ancient Dreams, a song that is as close to hit song this band has ever come. It’s a classic and one of the few old Candlemass tunes I have always liked. The same with “Dark Reflections” (Tales Of Creation, 1989) – a great song. But with Mats Levén at the mike, those songs takes on a new life and it’s impossible not to surrender to how they sound today – awesome! They close their set with two songs from the debut album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986), “Crystal Ball” and “Solitude”. Even though I’m not a fan of Candlemass’ debut album, I have always thought that “Solitude” is a decent track, but the way Candlemass sounds today, both songs turns really, really good. Way to go.
Candlemass played an awesome gig this day, even for someone like me who’s not that familiar with their older stuff. Sure, we all missed Leif Edling who had to bow out because of health issues and yes, I had hoped for at least one song from my fave Candlemass album Chapter V (1992) but the fact that Candlemass managed to combine doom, gloom and ultra-heavy music with sunshine, groove and fun speak volumes of how talented these guys are. To call this gig anything else than a success is plain wrong. A success it was!
When it comes to Rival Sons, I was a late bloomer. When they broke through in 2011, the hype was so big that I became obstinate and turned the other way instead. Of course, there wasn’t a chance in the world that I could keep that up for very long. And when I finally checked them out, I was completely floored. But when that happened, the band already had three albums out – Before The Fire (2009), Pressure And Time (2011) and Head Down (2012). In 2012, Rival Sons also played Sweden Rock for the first time, but then I had yet to give them a shot so I never watched them then. Also, they played at the same time as Night Ranger and that was a band I had wanted to see live forever. Rival Sons had played Sweden after the SRF gig but circumstances had made me miss them so when they were booked for this year’s festival I went to rock and roll Heaven. This time I would finally get to see them live. But they joy for me would be short lasting. Read on…
I was a little late for the gig, but I was in time to see Rival Sons going through the last half of opening track “Hollow Bones Pt 1” from their latest album Hollow Bones (2016) and man, what a swing fest it was. That continued with the two following songs “Thundering Voices” from the latest album and the amazingly groovy “Electric Man” from 2014’s The Great Western Valkyrie. There are only four members in the band (plus a hired tour keyboard player) but the big Festival Stage wasn’t too big for the guys to fill – quite the opposite. To manoeuver a big stage like this seemed like a walk in the park for the band and especially singer Jay Buchanan looks like he was born to play stages like this – how brilliant. That’s why it felt extremely saddening that I had to leave their gig for a while to take care of some unforeseen problems that showed up right after the third track. Which meant that I missed “Secret”, “Pressure And Time”, “Tied Up”, “Where I’ve Been” and “Belle Starr”. Shoot!
So when I finally arrived back to the gig – not just a little bit pissed off, I might add – the band had just started to play “Face Of Light” (Pressure & Time) and I could finally concentrate on some groove deluxe. Said song comes in a more spacey and down to earth way but it workes like a charm and the crowd is with them all the way throughout the song. The debut album Before The Fire is the only Rival Sons album that I haven’t heard before so it was nice to make acquaintance with its open track “Tell Me Something”. It’s a hard rocking, Zeppelin-like groover that kicked our asses big time. The intense and direct groove of “Torture” is impossible not to get caught by. Buchanan owns the audience and the rest of the guys swings with him, making the tune one of the most obvious winners this evening. “Open My Eyes” (Great Western Valkyrie) is one of my favorite tunes by the band and this mix of Led Zeppelin and The Doors (with a small twist of Black Sabbath) is a perfect live track. It comes with an infectious groove and a sing-along friendly chorus that brings some sharp voices from the audience out. A highlight this evening without a doubt.
“Hollow Bones Pt 2” is a trippy little bugger but it also grooves like crazy and the more I think about it, Jay Buchanan comes across like a modern Jim Morrison with a bit of Robert Plant thrown in for good measure. They close their set with “Keep On Swinging” (Head Down), the first song I ever heard by the band and the one song that made me want to continue my Rival Sons check-out – and swing they do. The groove is so bad-ass, it makes me feel like I was 14 again, just discovering something new in my life and it’s impossible to hold back and not sing along to the chorus. Brilliant! And with that, it’s goodbye for now. Someone once said that Rival Sons are the future of rock and I’ll be damned if I don’t agree with that. This band was born to play the big stages, they were born for world domination and the way I see it, they are (one of) the heirs of all the great rock bands that soon will be no more. The day when Rival Sons are the headliners of festivals like this can’t be far away. One of the finest gigs of this festival and I’m still pissed off that I had to miss the middle section of the gig!
While In Flames were headlining the biggest stage, I walked over to the much smaller 4Sound Stage to watch Treat instead. I have seen Treat many times by now but this was the first time the band got to play late in the evening instead of going on at noon in broad daylight at SRF. I know just how amazing this band is live and to choose them over In Flames wasn’t even anything to think twice about. This meant that they had the benefit of a light show, a smoke machine and fire, something that just doesn’t work in daylight. Also, the band are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their 1987 album Dreamhunter (an album I still think they should re-record with today’s line-up – great songs but a pretty lame production) so I was hoping I would get to hear songs from that album that they usually don’t play live.
The band opened with the title track from their latest album Ghost Of Graceland (2016) and it’s a brilliant opener. It’s heavy, a bit on the darker side but still ridiculously catchy and it was clear that the surprisingly large audience knew the song well. “Ready For The Taking” (Organized Crime, 1989) – Treat’s own “Still Of The Night” – is an awesome Led Zep goes melodic rock groover that was written for the stage and to not swing along to this one is not an option – it will kick your ass no matter if you want it to or not. Coup De Grace (2010) is one of Treat’s best albums and “Papertiger” is the hit that never was – which is quite annoying. It’s an awesome song, uptempo and rocking with a refrain to die for – and we all rocked along to it. Oh yeah, baby! Then it was time for the Dreamhunter celebration, but instead of playing the album in its entirety, we got a medley of, almost, the whole album. “Soul Survivor”, “You’re The One I Want”, “Take Me On Your Wings”, the ballad “Best Of Me”, “Dancing On The Edge” and “Outlaw” were all baked in before “World Of Promises” was played in its whole and the whole place exploded. It was clear that everyone knew that album by heart and even though it might had been cool to get to hear “One Way To Glory”, “Save Yourself” and “The Winner”, their absence wasn’t that annoying. The most important songs of that album were played.
“Roar”, the other hit from Coup De Grace that wasn’t to be, rocked our socks off and I still don’t get how those songs didn’t make Coup De Grace a huge album world-wide. “Get You On The Run” (Organized Crime / Scratch And Bite, 1985) needs no introduction, it is the band’s biggest hit and it showed – people were singing and dancing along to it with huge smiles all over their faces and by now, the success was a fact – killer! “Conspiracy” (Organized Crime) was never a hit song but has turned into a bona fide Treat classic and today, this song could never be left out from a Treat gig – everyone knows it and loves it and it goes down like a storm every time they play it live – and this night was no exception. They ended their set with another ‘no hit but a classic’, “Skies Of Mongolia” from Coup De Grace. The song is only seven years old but turned into one of Treat’s most loved song years ago – and I got goosebumps by how wild the crowd got when they played it – I can only imagine how the band must have felt.
Without the shadow of a doubt was Treat’s gig a highlight of this year’s festival even though there was some problems with Anders Wikström’s guitar here and there – and in a fair world, Treat would have headlined this festival. No shadow over In Flames, they’re a very good band and the fact that they are a headliner at a festival of this magnitude is impressive but I will take Treat over In Flames every day of the week. Treat are a fantastic live act and they are all brilliant musicians. Sure, they use backing tracks for the backing vocals but who cares? It’s not that much anyway and they still sing the back-ups as well. The only thing I didn’t like with the gig is that it was too short. They only played for an hour and It would have been great with at least 15 minutes more. But hey, you can’t have it all, now can you? To me, Treat’s gig was the perfect ending to another great festival!