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~ Reviewed by Niklas

When the Swedish hard rock-magazine Close-Up celebrated their 15th birthday, they didn't settle for cake, presents and lucky dip like most of us would. Instead they stuffed hundreds of metal-fans onto a Silja Line-ferry, booked a bunch of great bands and set course towards Turku in Finland. While Silja Line is a Finnish company and the ship sailed between Sweden and Finland, it was an all-Swedish line-up. The fact that some of these bands rarely play around Stockholm, and that some also had new material to present, made this kind of an exclusive event. Which means that Metal Covenant naturally was present on this 23-hour pleasure cruise and therefore embarked the ferry that sailed from Stockholm's harbour on a chilly February evening.

Thursday - 15th of February

Band: Dimension Zero
Dancing Palace 21:30-22:30

The first of the bands to step up on the stage had only played in Sweden three times before, and had also promised beforehand to offer some brand new songs, which meant that it was a no-brainer to attend this gig. Dimension Zero's founder Jesper Strömblad is known to most people as one of the guitar players in In Flames, but here he switches between bass and guitar from time to time. In Flames currently has time off from touring and recording (bassist Peter Iwers is seen in the audience at the Dancing Palace during practically every concert) but Jesper has instead used this time to resurrect his beloved side project. A new album is in the making, and the new tracks Red Dead Heat and I Can Hear The Dark that are premiered tonight suggests that it might be a good one.

Dimension Zero's sound reminds vaguely of Jesper Strömblad's other band, but leans more towards thrash, while the sound is grittier and not as polished as In Flames'. The band definitely has potential and gets a groove going on several occasions, but is let down by the singer Jocke Göthberg. The legendary former Marduk-vocalist is not bad per se, put feels like the wrong type in this context and doesn't produce the same powerful growls as he does on the Dimension Zero-albums. A shame, but this was still a performance that gave the boat trip a good start and also made me look forward to the upcoming album He Who Shall Not Bleed.

6 chalices of 10

(Sorry, no setlist)

Band: Tiamat
Dancing Palace 23:00-00:20

Thursday's headliner is just as shy as Dimension Zero when it comes to Swedish gigs - this was actually the first proper concert in Stockholm for the goth rockers in Tiamat since 1995, when they played at Cirkus alongside a little band called Black Sabbath. Which is a bit funny, since it was here that Johan Edlund formed the band 18 years ago. Edlund now resides in Greece, and was apparently flown to Sweden by helicopter for this show only.

It's difficult to watch a band with sober eyes when you have waited for several years to see them perform live. My Tiamat-favourites Vote For Love, Cain, To Have And Have Not and Gaia all sound just as great as I envisioned them, but what about the show as a whole? Tiamat have always suffered criticism for not being much of a live-band, and it's easy to see why. Most of the songs go in mid-tempo and there is not much interaction with the audience. Perhaps they should simply write faster songs a little more often, like the evening's standout track Cold Seed. "This song is based around a riff that Kent stole from us", says Johan Edlund (check out the track Palace & Main) and the crowd starts jumping up and down for the very first time.

It's disappointing that there are no new tracks this evening, given that Edlund hinted beforehand that he had several demos for an upcoming album laying around. Otherwise the set list leaves little to wish for, most of Tiamat's best tracks are played and even the early death metal-years are represented in the shape of In A Dream and The Sleeping Beauty. During the latter the band manages to get a very drunk Peter "Pain" Tägtgren up on the stage to growl on the chorus, and the result is awesome. The whole song culminates with Peter falling off the stage, but he was luckily back with his own band the day after.

While it is obvious that Tiamat is a band to enjoy in your home rather than on a live scene, I'm still glad to finally have seen them. It's understandable if the spectators that were non-familiar with the band before weren't too thrilled by this performance, but all the Tiamat-fans seemed genuinely pleased afterwards. There is another Sweden-based concert coming up for the band, at Sweden Rock Festival this summer, but I doubt that Tiamat will reach the same heights by then. Especially as they probably will be assigned a poor stage time in the middle of the sunny day, meaning that the black magic that occasionally appeared here will be lost.

7 chalices of 10

SETLIST: (order might be slightly incorrect)

Vote For Love
Children Of The Underworld
Brighter Than The Sun
Whatever That Hurts
I Am In Love With Myself
To Have And Have Not
In A Dream
Wings Of Heaven
Cold Seed
As Long As You Are Mine
The Sleeping Beauty

Friday - 16th of February

Band: Necrophobic
Dancing Palace 12:00-12:45

Stockholm-based Necrophobic might not be that well known on the mainstream metal-market, but they are highly respected among the true death metal-fans. Necrophobic can be described as practitioners of death metal with shades of black, and has released five albums so far, with the celebrated Hrimthursum as one of the greatest of its kind last year. And just like some of their colleagues on the Close-Up boat, they rarely play in their home country.

Necrophobic's stage time was hardly perfect; I wouldn't go as far as saying that they were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I imagine that it's quite a struggle to build up an atmosphere when the sun beams occasionally shines in through the shaded curtains. The attendance wasn't that impressive either, since most passengers were probably still sleeping in their cabins and those who attended weren't exactly on their toes, due to possible hangovers. But this is hardly Necrophobic's fault, since their performance is close to flawless. Even if their request to the audience to shout "death to Christ!" again and again is a bit silly, but also rather amusing if you look at it from the right angle. One also has to mention Tobias Sidegård, a natural born front man with loads of charisma.

It certainly helps that the music is very convincing. The best tracks from Hrimthursum, like Blinded By Light, Enlightened By Darkness and I Strike With Wrath, are all played, and the inclusion of fan-favourites like Into Armageddon and the natural closer The Nocturnal Silence means that few death metal-supporters could have left disappointed.

7 chalices of 10

(Sorry, no setlist)

Band: Pain
Dancing Palace 13:15-14:15

Seeing Pain again for the first time in two years makes me nostalgic. That particular show was the very first I reviewed for Metal Covenant, and quite a few things have changed since then. The girly line-up from 2002 has been replaced by a an all-new band, which rocks much harder than before. This works to Pain's advantage on many songs (the opener Greed sounds almost like Hypocrisy-material) but is sometimes less successful (Same Old Song, for example).

The set list is a fair reflection on Pain's discography so far, with a bit more emphasis on the breakthrough-albums Rebirth than on the other records. Songs like End Of The Line, It's Only Them, Shut Your Mouth and Supersonic Bitch all sound great and remind me why I loved the Rebirth- and Nothing Remains The Same-albums upon their releases. Peter himself seem to be in great shape and looks better than ever, which is a bit strange considering how he was doing the night before.

The biggest treat of all is to hear two new tracks, neither which have been performed live before. Walking On Glass continues where the previous album Dancing With The Dead left off, with a thick and groovy guitar-riff as the foundation. Even better is Zombie Slam, the track that's going to promote the upcoming album Psalms Of Extinction. Here Peter has created a future Pain-classic, which the audience obviously loves. It's just too bad that a problem with Peter's microphone ruins some of the experience.

Pain is apparently set for appearing at numerous summer festivals this year. After seeing this gig and also witnessing large parts of Pain's concert at House of Metal the following day, I can only hope that I will have the joy of crossing paths with him again soon.

7,5 chalices of 10


Same Old Song
End Of The Line
It's Only Them
Dark Fields Of Pain
Dancing With The Dead
Just Hate Me
Supersonic Bitch
Walking On Glass
Zombie Slam
On And On
Shut Your Mouth

Band: Dark Tranquillity
Dancing Palace 14:45-16:00

The shores of Sweden are just a couple of hours away, and the biggest and best band on the boat hasn't stepped up on the stage yet. But when they do - wow. Dark Tranquillity has in later years risen as one of the most talked of live bands on the Swedish stage and has also mastered the charts. This becomes evident today; the Dancing Palace is crammed with people and this is hands-down the most intense show on the ride.

You really got to give vocalist Mikael Stanne credit. The way he constantly seeks contact with the audience and how he really tries to give something back to the ecstatic fans is very entertaining to watch, and certainly not something you see everyday when you go to concerts. He's funny too; like when he makes a remark about the dance floor that is normally filled with old people. The rest of the band is not too shabby either; and when they fire on all cylinders like on The New Build and Lost To Apathy, I can't think of any other Swedish bands that are on the same level. Worth noting is that the keyboardist Martin Brändström also handled the electronics in Tiamat the previous day, and since Tiamat will perform at Sweden Rock Festival this summer, let's hope that Brändström will play in two separate bands over there as well…

The set list is perfectly balanced and contains old favourites like The Sun Fired Blanks, Hedon and Punish My Heaven, as well as tracks that haven't even been released yet. It's the world premiere for the upcoming video-track Focus Shift, a song that I actually felt a bit disappointed with at first. But I never seem to learn. Just like most Dark Tranquillity-tracks, Focus Shift soon crawled its way under my skin and now I feel like it's one of the best damn songs they've ever written. Take into account that the other new track Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive) is just as great, and the upcoming album Fiction is shaping up as perhaps the most anticipated release this year.

8,5 chalices of 10


The Treason Wall
Lost To Apathy
White Noise / Black Silence
The Sun Fired Blanks
The New Build
The Wonders At Your Feet
Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
The Endless Feed
Focus Shift
Damage Done
Punish My Heaven
My Negation
Final Resistance

Niklas, March 2007