|» Sweden Rock Festival 2005||
This was to be my seventh visit to the fields of Norje, outside Sölvesborg in Blekinge, Sweden. A community that lives up once a year, in the beginning of June, when 20000+ hard rocking visitors invade with leather, beer and long hair. So far I have never been disappointed, although the trip gets more expensive for every year. As usual my schedule of bands to check out was quite inhumane, so if I should have any time for socializing it had to be on the Wednesday before the first festival day. It's fun how you among all these people always meet the ones you know. It took just a few minutes before I bumped into my tent neighbors from last year. You also always have the opportunity to meet new people. Everybody usually happen to be at their nicest mood this weekend every year. Though the number of visitors has risen dramatically the latest years, a good part of the old geniality is still there. But I will not be too sentimental, over to the music! Here is a trip from Crystal Eyes to Mötley Crüe, or from Napalm Death to Magnum if you think of the width of genres.
Thursday 9 June:
- Too lame and too brutal
First band out on this year's festival was Crystal Eyes from Borås, Sweden. I saw them on Sweden Rock a couple of years ago and can't say that I was impressed then, but now the lineup have been strengthened with ex. Lost Horizon singer Daniel Heiman. Well, that didn't help much. Daniel did not shine out the same energy and power in his green t-shirt as he used to do in his cape and war-paint in Lost Horizon. He did not seem to be very engaged in his singing either. It sounded quite average to be such a famous voice. Mikael Dahl's attempts to do "evil" metal faces were, to put it nice, not very convincing either. Then I simply don't think that the songs are good enough. They lack some originality, that extra hook or some really good choruses, I guess. I left after four songs. (Crystal Eyes, Spendrups Stage 12.15, 2/10)
Next on the list was grindcore legends Napalm Death. If it weren't for that second of pause between the songs I would never be able to separate one from the other. Napalm Death is (and I guess, should be) a wall of brutal noise and screams. "Singer" Mark Greenway delivered his throat exercises with some kind of spastic headbanging. At least that made it fun to watch. I actually suffered through the whole set, although the last half from some distance, eating pasta. (Napalm Death, Festival Stage 13.30, 5/10)
- Return of the yellow cow
Finally! The house band of Sweden Rock, Freak Kitchen, is back where they belong. After three years of long waiting, hoping and wishing from the many fans, this equilibristic trio from Gothenburg were able to reclaim their rightful place with the yellow cow on stage. Everything was as usual - but different. Guitarist, singer and talker, Matthias "IA" Eklundh never fails to deliver new ways of playing guitar - or new nonsense from his mouth in between. This time he did solos with Chinese shop sticks, his mouth and with a bull's hm, muscle of love. But we also got some great songs of course like My New Haircut, Razor Flowers, Porno Daddy and the new favorite Speak When Spoken To. I missed Appetizer and The Ugly Side Of Me in the set though. Anthrax? Who are they??? (Freak Kitchen, Sweden Stage 15.00, 8/10)
If you are looking for a show then I recommend Sammy Hagar or Mötley Crüe. Dave Mustaine and his new friends in Megadeth play songs, no more - no less. Great songs of course. We got a whole parade of straight hits: Symphony Of Destruction, Hangar 18, Die Dead Enough, Trust, Peace Sells Mustaine let the music do the talking. It was almost the middle of the set before he even said hello to the crowd. (Actually he did almost all the talking in Swedish!) There was not even a backdrop. There was not much movement going on stage either. But in spite of all this - it was a great concert. The songs we want to hear are delivered with all the quality you could wish for. (Megadeth, Festival Stage 16.30, 7/10)
- Orchs and Elves
Last time I saw Saxon on SRF -02, it was one of the best shows I have ever witnessed. They closed the whole festival with their eagle rig, and everything was just magic. Now the preconditions were different. Saxon was put somewhere in the early middle of an unbelievable evening of great bands. In daylight Biff & Co. suddenly seemed to be weakened like old Orchs. Perhaps a bit of the problem was that they started with a bunch of songs from their more anonymous era, like Solid Ball Of Rock, Dogs Of War and Dragon's Lair. Although I like them, they didn't seem to work that well on the crowd at large. When The Eagle Has Landed slowed down the tempo further (that song works better together with the eagle rig I guess) I left for a while to check out Within Temptation.
There is another band that probably would do better in some mystic dark light. Sharon Den Adel is a beautiful elf-like appearance, but was perhaps too dressed up in her long, wide gown to be able to move smoothly on stage. The sound was for once during this festival not that great. Sharon's voice was cutting like knifes, rather than touching as silk. I stayed for about four songs before I got back to Saxon. Now the Britishmen finally had woken up a bit. The latest half of the concert was a row of classics and of course that paid off on the crowd. 747, Princess Of The Night, Wheels Of Steel and the others made me happy again. Kind of fun when Biff yelled: "Should we bring the Eagle again next time? I heard Motörhead brought that Messerschmitt " Hm yes Biff, that's right it is right above you actually (Saxon, Rock Stage 18.15, 7/10)
- It's a bomber!
After a very small pause and some Morgana Lefay it was on it again. Lefay was great by the way, but somewhat got lost in this insane day. Though I wanted to see Nazareth as well, I decided to once again give all my eyes and ears to the solid legends in Motörhead. After all, this was the first time I would see them with the bomber rig, and the experience earlier on the day with splitting Saxon/Within Temptation turned out to be a bad solution. Motörhead always delivers, no doubt about that. But the setlist was almost exactly like that in Stockholm in December, so the surprises were too few this time. That also meant that my favorites, Born To Raise Hell and Orgasmatron, were left out once again. We had to wait for the mighty lightning show until the encore numbers, which not very unexpected (so to say) consisted of Bomber, Ace Of Spades and Overkill. I've seen Motörhead better. This was a one-in-a-row gig, for me on this hectic evening, and probably for the band on their tour as well. (Motörhead, Rock Stage 21.45, 7/10)
- Once in a lifetime?
Perhaps this was the only time in my life that I would be able to see my overall favorite band Accept play together. The pressure on this gig to be perfect, even magic was too great I guess. I was also quite tired after a long day, with a full schedule. Maybe it was the fact that I've seen U.D.O. so many times that it didn't feel very exclusive to hear Udo sing these classic songs? Maybe I even missed some of the U.D.O. classics? Anyway, what I want to say is that it was an absolutely wonderful concert, but only 9,5 out of 10. I was expecting at least 11 0,25 are taken off because I missed Stefan Kaufmann. Ok I know he probably can't play drums anymore, and Stefan Schwarzmann was an okay stand in, with his background in U.D.O., but anyway. Kaufmann is a part of U.D.O. as a skilled guitarist and he should be a part of Accept as well. Why didn't he play the second, or for that matter third, guitar?
The other 0,25 are taken off because of the all too expected setlist. Wouldn't there have been place for at least one outsider? Wonderful Seawinds from the debut album? Or something at all from the underrated comeback-albums of the 90s? On the other hand, I can't se any other group on the festival that is able to bring forward so many hits that everybody seems to sing along to: Restless & Wild, Fast As A Shark, Balls To The Wall, Princess Of The Dawn, I'm A Rebel, Son Of A Bitch, Metal Heart, Burning, Up To The Limit they were all there The band also seemed to have warmed up well earlier on the tour. Not too many traces of that eight ears of vacation that some of them have had since last time around. They had fun, and that is a great part of a good show. I must add that if there must be solos in a set, I definitely prefer if they are done the Wolf Hoffmann way, with great feeling and real classical melodies included, rather than just fingering as many meaningless chords as possible. And Udo what a fantastic voice! Still outstanding! But where were the camouflage pants? (Accept, Festival Stage 23.30, 9,5/10)
Friday - 10th of June
This day was way more laid-back than the day before, on the schedule. But I ended up checking out even more bands anyway. What can I say, it's an illness! I warmed up with Sabaton (you can read about that in the Sabaton special). Mustasch delivered, as always, a great dirty rock 'n' stoner show with a lot of (Swedish) West Coast humor. I Hunt Alone must be one of the best live songs ever. Black Label Society had just barely started to spread their smell of gasoline and gunsmoke before I had to leave to meet Sabaton for an interview. (Mustasch, Rock Stage 12.00, 8/10)
- Thanx for everything!
Overkill was one of the bands that I was most curious about in advance. I'd never seen them live before, but I almost sensed something great here. In retrospect all my high expectations were fulfilled - and more! This was one of the absolute highlights of the whole festival. A cruel party from start to end, in spite of the merciless sunlight. Well in class with last year's most positive surprise, Exodus. I guess you can read more about Overkill in Thomas review! (Overkill, Sweden Stage 15.00, 10/10)
The day went on with the only German band besides Accept - Symphorce. A nice gig, but maybe too much focus on the not that instantly killing latest release, Twice Second. It is a record who craves some serious listening before you can take it in, and that might not work on a festival scene during 40 minutes. After a short break for drink and food I went on to see the end of Kansas set. I had promised a friend to do so, and I do my best to keep my promises. I managed to conclude that Kansas play old buffer's rock, added with a violin. I got in time to hear their most famous hits: Dust In The Wind and Carry On Wayward Son. For the moment I was pleased with that, but I guess that Kansas should be more at their right in the longer format. (Symphorce, Spendrups Stage 16.20, 6/10)
- Am I Evil?
Diamond Head was a small disappointment. The new singer sounded (and looked) more like a boy-band popper than a metal showman. I also felt like the band had some identity problems. The short performance stretched out between heavier metal (the old songs that everybody knows through Metallica), NWOBHM and pop-post-grunge-like AOR. When they finally played Am I Evil? I had to leave for Hammerfall (see the Hammerfall special). Another band with a similar problem as Diamond Head is Vixen. Only one original member, Jan Kuehnemund on guitar, makes it a quite new band with an old name and some old hits. Most of the crowd knows the oldies but few care about what they did on their new record. (Diamond Head, Spendrups Stage 19.20, 4/10)
- Confetti, tequila and music?
Finally on this better-than-expected festival day we got Sammy Hagar. The first part of his performance I only heard from the backstage bar. But I've never missed a headline on SRF, so I reluctantly walked towards Festival Stage to lay the Red Rocker to my merits. My timing was perfect. I got there just to hear the three Van Halen songs, including Why Can't This Be Love. After that the highlight of the show took off with confetti, fire and bombs. Sammy had promised a show to remember and that he surely delivered. The scene decor was extravagant with a Caribbean theme: 30-40 specially invited people on a bridge in the background, a bar with chicks handing out tequila drinks to the band and an advanced backdrop lighted up with a lot of color. Sammy seemed happy and full of energy. Of course his voice was terrific! But he almost totally lacks any really great songs to play along with all this. Subsequently people dropped off when they thought they've seen most of the fun, and so did I. (Sammy Hagar & The Wabos, Festival Stage 23.30, 6/10)
Saturday - 11th of June
- Slow awakening
On the third day you can't escape a bit of a dull feeling. After a couple of days filled with great music you can't really take in all the influences anymore. You become kind of hard to please. I didn't know what to expect from Therion really. I'd never seen them before but on record their live performances sounds extravagant and moodfull. On the other hand they were to go on stage at noon. Not the best time for mystic and bombastic arrangements. This time my doubts were fulfilled. This was the greatest yawning since Gary Moore 2001. Although Therion might be seen as a very experimental band, the variation ended up non-existent this time. All the songs went in the same tempo, mood and arrangement, with the choir and female vocalist. The movement on stage was not more exciting than when the opera lady stepped back and forward to the microphone to sing her parts. Equally boring was Magnum. I've never really understood their greatness and I didn't change my mind after their performance on SRF either. Sure they have some good songs on for example On A Storyteller's Night, but in the end it is all to lame and edgeless. (Therion, Rock Stage 12.00, 3/10)
Sebastian Bach next Not much to write home about the ex. Skid Row singer either. Some say he sang terrible and some state that it was wonderful. I place myself in between. Youth Gone Wild still works fine as party rock! Face Down was a nice break in all the melodic stuff. An aggressive fist on the ear, although they might lack some really great songs. It was sad that Marco Aro left The Haunted! (Sebastian Bach, Sweden Stage 15.00, 6/10)
- The Paganini of Rock
Yngwie Malmsteen you gotta see Yngwie at least once in your life, so why don't get it over with? I missed my favorite song I'm A Viking, because of the press conference with Candlemass, but I got just in time to catch a guitar solo ! It is not fun, it is not party, it is not action it is Yngwie and he can play guitar. If you take it for what it is, I guess it is great. No one can doubt that Yngwie is a true rock star though. Earlier on the press conference he seemed to be on his best possible mood. The press tent was loaded with people when Mr. Malmsteen arrived a bit late (of course). He told us that the new record, Unleash The Fury, is very "Malmsteenish". He sings himself on many of the tracks simply because he thought that his voice fitted to the "bluesier" style. The title comes (as you all should have heard by now) from a moment of Yngwie-rage against a lady on a plane in 1988. Unfortunately my stomach said fuck off to the Paganini of Rock and I had to leave the tent a bit early.
- The Black Foot
I went by Sweden Stage and Sonata Arctica. It was just as horrible as I had expected, and I rushed further to see Blackfoot. I didn't have very high expectations on these old fellows either, maybe a nice warm up for the evening at most. I bought a Blackfoot-album (Marauder) just before the festival, and it was ok but not fantastic. But these gentlemen rocked hard! I was totally amazed. I even consider their masterpiece Highway Song to be the single highlight of the festival. The guitar solo in that song well that's feeling! The most positive surprise! By the way, I was standing next to an old (somewhat drunken) man who danced in the dust with just sandals on his feet. He wanted me to look at his foot for some reason, and it took a few seconds before I understood the humor (Blackfoot, Rock Stage 18.15, 9/10)
- The Black Dwarf
Dio got the songs, both from Rainbow, Black Sabbath and the classic Dio albums, and he surly got the voice. But he looks like hell Yes I know, you shouldn't hold that against an artist. But on the other hand, the visual is a part of a great live performance. I just came from a concert with crosses, sculls and a mighty monk doing strange sumo dances (Candlemass of course, which I will tell about in the Candlemass special). Dio got nothing for the visual part. Well, the Holy Diver backdrop, but that's it. Actually I didn't care that I couldn't see very much from where I stood, because there was not much to see. Dio delivered his songs, from most parts of the career, although Rainbow and the first two Dio albums dominated. He did it almost prefect. But I couldn't avoid thinking that this was really boring anyway. Nevertheless, I've never witnessed a concert on Rock Stage so totally crowded. Almost everybody must have been there. And it is logic, because who is not a fan of at least something out of Dio's long career? (Dio, Rock Stage 21.45, 7/10)
- Girls, Girls, Girls
If Dio lacked a show, Mötley Crüe got a show for two. Actually it was only show. They literally burned Shout At The Devil right away. Then followed some minor hits here and there, mixed with long speeches, solos, strippers, dwarfs, fire, bombs you name it! The absolute lowest point came when Tommy Lee for about ten minutes tried to beg young girls to show their breasts so that he can film it on his tittie-cam. Embarrassing just to watch If people complain about Manowar being un-serious on stage, that is nothing against Mötley Crüe. On top of that Vince Neil stood for the lousiest song performance on the whole festival. He sounded more like a shabby crow than a rock star. The sound had worked excellent earlier during the festival, but now it was horrible. If they had played Kickstart My Heart a bit earlier in the set, I would have left after that. Now it came just before the encore and I was happy to be able to leave before the awful Helter Skelter started. Accept won the battle of the headlines on double knockout! In a state of panic I went through what was still left of the record booths. I couldn't leave the festival without buying any record at all! Happy, but freezing to my bones, I went back to my damp tent and started to sort out some wonderful memories. (Mötley Crüe, Festival Stage 23.30, 4/10)
Related links: www.swedenrock.com
David, June 2005