|» Sweden Rock Festival 2005||
Sweden Rock Festival: Great as always.
It was the beginning of the first month of summer and I was back in Norje again for the fourth consecutive year I was attending this festival, which has become one of the highlights of the year for me and something that I would not want to miss. And this year it was the first time I had a backstage pass, only to be able to give you readers a better coverage and as a result of that two interviews were done together with my colleague Michael. He had set up both the interview with Hellfueled as well as with Therion and what was said there will soon be revealed on this site.
The festival only gets bigger and bigger and the organization behind it only gets better and better. It is a very well organized festival that leaves me with absolutely nothing to complain about, perhaps I can wish for them to introduce big screens next to the larger stages next year, but apart from that nothing. The number of sold of tickets had once again set a new record and this year 21,500 would be attending the festival each day. And Sweden Rock Festival is the place to be if you like to take part of an amazing feeling and a nice and cozy three days. Everywhere you meet friendly people and most of the crowd there seems to be enjoying themselves, the company, the beers and of course the music. During my four years at the festival the number of hostile people I met is close to zero, I guess that hard rockers are simply naturally good hearted and devoted to the music, which does not come as a surprise to me. And this is also the place to be if you want to see great bands, I don't know how they do it but every year there is some big re-union or comeback they managed to put on the bill Earlier there has been bands like Europe, Twisted Sister and Judas Priest among many others and now it was time for Accept and the legendary Mötley Crüe to be on stage among a bunch of other great bands.
Thursday - 9th of June
Anthrax was one of this years bands that arrived with a re-union line-up. With vocalist Joey Belladonna and Dan Spitz back in the band alongside with Scott Ian, Charlie Benante and Frank Bello this was the classic and original Anthrax setting. I missed the start since I just had to see a little bit of Freak Kitchen but when I arrived and heard the last notes of A.I.R. I knew this was going to be good. And damn, what a lot of classic songs they did. They where all there, everything of the old stuff that you wanted to hear. The band was in great shape and even if the voice from Belladonna does not hold up as good any longer it was nice to hear these thrash classics live. The concert nevertheless didn't get really intensified until the last part that started of with Indians and Be All, End All but from there it was just to sit back and enjoy the ride. I also liked that they included one of their crazier songs with I'm The Man that really got a sweet vibe to it. Apart from the appetizer I got from Freak Kitchen this was the first concert for me at this years festival and a better start of the festival is hard to get. And although this was good I must say that I prefer Anthrax with John Bush behind the microphone, the concert they did at Sweden Rock Festival in 2003 is hard to beat.
7,5 chalices of 10
Band: Within Temptation
As the sun started to descend it was time for Within Temptation, a band that only seems to grow in popularity and that was obvious with the big crowd that they gathered. Although they have quit a lot of pre-recorded parts to accompany their music they managed to become lively and vital on stage. This time it was not only Sharon that was alive on stage as the case was when I saw them on tour earlier this year; now the whole band seemed to be excited and made a good effort to breathe life in to their performance. Sharon is of course the main focus of the band with her beauty and the way she moves around on stage and not least with her beautiful voice.
5 chalices of 10
Band: Morgana Lefay
I was hoping much on Morgana Lefay to do a great concert but I wasn't in my wildest dream expecting that it would be this good and therefore this was a most pleasant surprise. Morgana Lefay debuted in the early nineties and have had their ups and downs but with this performance I must say that they are definitely back on top. Heavy Metal filled with heavy thrash riffs, guitar harmonies and refrains that stick is a short description of their sound and it works greatly live. The band seems to have an appearance of a new moon with the release of their new album Grand Materia, which has brought the band back to my heart. And to hear old tracks like Maleficium and In The Court of The Crimson King made a pleasant feeling fill my body and not to forget To Isengard - my god how great it was to hear that one again. The track Hollow from their new album also turned out to be a great live track as did I Roam that has a great energetic flow, as well as the thrash attack in Angels Deceit with its powerful and catchy refrain. And even if I missed a bunch of songs I can't really complain since they did a great performance during the time they had been given and I really hope I get a chance to catch them on tour soon. Vocalist Charles Rytkönen seems to be in perfectly good shape and his charismatic voice has never sounded better if you ask me. Once again Morgana Lefay can be counted as a part of the prime of Swedish metal and this was one of the better concerts at this festival.
9 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Friday - 10th of June
Mustasch was a late replacement for Arch Enemy that cancelled in the
last minute and after I witnessed this concert my disappointment over
the Arch's cancellation was completely gone. It is always good to start
the day with a healthy stoner groove in the sunshine and I was impressed
by the delivery from the guys despite the early hour and the hangover
they supposedly suffered from. Mustasch tend to be uneven on their albums
and even if it is good music they have trouble lasting for an entire album.
But live is where their music is to be enjoyed as the stoner groove combined
with the guitar harmonies really comes to life on stage with these guys.
In a cheerful mood they delivered what I consider a "best of"
set from their studio albums and Mustasch is a confident live act that
you should see if the chance is being granted.
7 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Band: Black Label Society
Zakk Wylde made fame as he was wielding the axe for Ozzy and to me he is the heir to the late Rhandy Rhoads and now he rolled into Sweden with his band Black Label Society. With the theme from the Godfather movies as intro the band kicked into action with Stoned And Drunk as opener, and it stroke me that this band is so much more powerful and dynamic live than on album. It is heavy duty metal with no fuzz and Zakk that looks like a combination of a lumberjack and a biker shows that is one helluva guitar player without the need of sticking it in your face. It was a bit of ups and downs with the intensity in their performance but with songs like Funeral Bell, Suicide Messiah and Fire It Up it worked really well, although I think that a small club gig is to prefer with this band rather than a large outdoor stage in the sunshine.
6,5 chalices of 10
This was the concert I was looking forward to the most and I was afraid that Overkill was not going to be able to live up to my high expectations, but man did they ever. The guys were in a great mood and played the shit out of us in the crowd. I usually don't get myself into head-banging but rather tend to stand and simply nod my head to the music but when Overkill started to shred I couldn't resist, it was simply to energetic and compelling. Starting with the opening track Within Your Eyes from their new album RelixIV the energy level was at top right from the beginning but this was just the warming up. As they continued and delivered classics like Hello From The Gutter, Wrecking Crew, In Union We Stand and the obligatory Fuck You during their performance and due to the way they did it, I was in the wonderland of thrash. There is hard to find a more charismatic and dedicated vocalist then Blitz and when he as well as the rest of the band had fire in their eyes there was no stopping them this afternoon. Mix those classic songs with a nice blend of Overkill songs from all over their career this was beyond my expectations, only two songs from their new album and they picked the best ones with the opener and the punk-ish track Old School. Overkill had some special treats for us as well, a thrashed up version of the classic AC/DC track in Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and the big surprise that included a special guest. In time for Elimination the new drummer in the band Ron Lipnicki, that did an awesome job filling the position after Tim Mallare by the way, left the drums in order for Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater to take the place. Not the music you are used to hear him play but he looked just as happy as he is an extraordinary great drummer, this was a really cool moment in the concert. Overkill came, saw and conquered and gave one helluva show, this was absolutely one of the best concerts I have seen during my four years at Sweden Rock Festival. This concert alone was worth the trip.
10 chalices of 10
(Not in the correct order and might be slightly incorrect)
Band: Dream Theater
Progressive metal masters and a band that I highly enjoy, and to see these guys in action and getting into full gear with their progressive music is just dazzling. Unfortunately the wind destroyed the sound from the concert quite a lot and swept away with most of the details within the music and many of the great melodic parts and harmonies didn't really reach back to where I was standing. Dream Theater have gathered a lot of material to choose from during the years and they could have done it better if you ask me. Although Pull Me Under and Metropolis Pt. I was included to my delight, as well as Peruvian Skies. But there are only so many songs that the band can squeeze in to the time for their performance. It was also good to hear that the material from their new album Octavarium fitted so nicely together with the older songs and especially the song Never Enough that turned out to work really well live. Dream Theater did a good performance and it was nice to the see the joy from them on stage and that the voice from James LaBrie sounded as good as it did, but as the nuances from their progressive metal didn't come to its right in the blowing wind that swept them away, the band weren't able to do themselves justice.
5 chalices of 10
Hammerfall are professionals and it is very obvious, it both shows as well as it can be heard. The stage was decorated with icebergs as an arctic landscape and if you saw them at their own Ice-breaker festival you get the idea on how it looked. The set and performance was very much similar to that one as well, and since it wasn't that long since April when I last saw the band, this kind of felt like a re-run, although one I gladly watched one more time. And especially when the voice from Joacim Cans was back on top and not suffering from bronchitis as it did the last time. The band showed that they are very much capable of handling the largest stage at the festival and it is always great to see a band that enjoys their time on stage. With a good selection of songs they made the crowd enthusiastic and even if songs like Renegade or Blood Bound aren't my personal favorites they got a huge reception from the festival audience.
7 chalices of 10
Saturday - 11th of June
Band: Sebastian Bach
There was a gigantic crowd in front of the Sweden stage when I arrived to listen to the old front man from Skid Row. It was great to see that people had not forgotten about Bach and his great voice and it was even greater to see that Bach realizes that it is the Skid Row songs most people wants to hear. It was purely fantastic to hear classic Skid Row songs live once again and the crowd loved it and Sebastian himself seemed to be overwhelmed by the reception he got and kept saying I love Sweden and stuff like that in staggering Swedish. On the sad side it has to be said that his voice wasn't exactly on top or at least not what it has been and when he mixed the set list with material I suppose was his own, it lost much of the pulse the concert got from the Skid Row moments. I didn't catch the name of all of the members in the band he had brought with him but I do know that Metal Mike Chlasciak (third year for this guy at the festival, last year with Testament and earlier with Halford) gave a tougher edge to the music with his guitar while Bobby Jarzombek (also with Halford) was lashing out on his drums. These guys as well as the rest of the band did a great job with the old Skid Row songs making them heavier and also making them feel a lot more metal. In all it was a really good concert with some amazing moments but also with a total destruction of the classic ballad Wasted Time. It was made into a duet with a new Swedish pop hope named Sofia and I am sure she will sound great on her album with a cover version of the track when they can tamper with her voice in the studio. But live she has nothing to offer, she did look rather nervous and that might have had something to do with her performance, but it cannot have affected that much. Sebastian seemed to be overly excited over his guest performance although but I could hear the boo's shouted from people in the crowd and perhaps if they had practiced a bit more it might have sounded better.
6 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Band: Yngwie Malmsteen
Yngwie Malmsteen is a true guitar hero, there is no argue about that. By the way he plays and by the way he dances around with the guitar and let his fingers walk around on it and the fact that is an awesome guitarist. It started good with the track Rising Force and with the following tracks the concert got a good momentum as it went on. Doogie White on vocals did a great job with the songs and Malmsteen seemed to be in a particularly good mood when he was strutting around on stage. But after the good start something happened as it got filled with a lot of guitar playing, I mean very much. One endless guitar solo is followed by the next and to me it gets only boring and I start to wonder when someone is gonna help him bend his fingers loose from the strings he has tangled them in. I went for a beer and when I returned it sounded much better. Luckily it got back on track towards the end of the concert with some classic tracks but unfortunately it is too late to save the day. In all it was a good start, a crappy middle and a good ending but nevertheless the guy can play the guitar.
4 chalices of 10
Band: Sonata Arctica
These guys only get better for every time that I see them but they still have a long way to go before they are a solid live act. I really like the combination of speed and melodies that Sonata Arctica has and that is works so well live as well on album. The voice from Tony Kakko was in great shape and he nailed all of the songs perfectly and he also tends to get a voice that is a bit rawer live and that gives the songs some more aggression. The selection of songs was pretty good but I missed the song Replica, not usual that I want to hear a ballad but this one has something special to it and is also a very good live song. The wonderful melodies that are Sonata Arctica's trademark weren't as obvious as they are on album and the harmonies didn't come to its fully right. But on the other hand Sonata Arctica become heavier live, naturally, and that makes up for the small loss of melodies. There was a rather big crowd that met up for their concert and the band seemed to be pleased with the reception they got and this was a refreshing concert to start the evening with.
7 chalices of 10
(might be slightly incorrect)
They returned and did an amazing concert at Sweden Rock Festival in 2002 and then they split up once more and now finally, thank god, they have returned again. This time they also has a new record in the back, an album simply titled Candlemass and as they entered the stage and it was time for some serious doom metal, they opened with Black Dwarf from that album. A perfect start to a perfect performance. Candlemass was blending classics like Mirror Mirror, Dark Reflections with newer material like Copernicus and Seven Silver Keys and they did it with a splendid performance. Doom might be slow and heavy but Candlemass knows how to work the audience and get a momentum going and despite that the music can be slow and ultra heavy at times this did never, not even for one second, get boring. At the end of the show with A Sorcerer's Pledge and the sing-along part in it, it really made the concert lift to enormous heights. Then it was just for Messiah and the guys to close the bag with The Well Of Souls and Dark Are The Veils Of Death, this was just magnificent. Candlemass were spreading joy with their doom and showed that heavy can be fun even if the sun is still up.
8 chalices of 10
It is strange with this little fellow, the older he gets the better his voice seems to become. Dio drew, what I believe, is the biggest crowd ever in front of this stage which is the second biggest at Sweden Rock. And they didn't show up in vain because Dio was at his best and had such a setlist with him that it was impossible for anyone to feel dissatisfied with the selected songs. For my own part I was thrilled and almost completely satisfied when he fired of Stargazer as the third song. I never think I have heard so many people sing along at concerts here before and the feeling that spread during Holy Diver was really nice. Sunset Superman, Don't Talk To Strangers, Man On The Silver Mountain, Heaven And Hell, they were all there to cover his past as a solo artists as well as to reflect on his time in Rainbow and Black Sabbath. I have seen Dio many times but I am not sure if I have ever seen him as convincing as this before.
8 chalices of 10
Band: Mötley Crüe
I had no real expectations on these guys and in my opinion Mötley
Crüe is more of a rock 'n' roll myth than what they actually are
a good band. But I must surrender and give them credits for this. They
brought along the whole circus and gave us a real show as they were living
up to their rumor.
7,5 chalices of 10
Freak Kitchen, how could I not watch these guys? Even though I saw them just a couple of weeks ago and even though Anthrax started to play simultaneously, I just had to get a glimpse. The band seemed to be in the same happy and playful mood as always joking around on the stage but I missed the part where IA played guitar with a bull dick(!?) though.
Megadeth, this sounded great and Dave Mustaine seemed to be more energetic than usual. His voice was a bit flat though and even if the delivery of the songs was flawless, Megadeth tend to be a bit stiff on stage. But I only got to see a few tracks before I had to leave in order to assist my colleague Michael in time for our scheduled interview with Hellfueled.
Symphorce, and Andy B. Franck were back at the festival again. Last year it was with Brainstorm and no matter which band he plays in he does a great job and his voice fits perfectly also with Symphorce, which is a more heavier band than Brainstorm. It truly was a nice moment lying in the grass relaxing and listening to them, especially with the great work they did with the cover version of Nice Dreams originally done by Powermad.
Vixen, I remember when I was a teenager and watching Headbanger's Ball on MTV and they were showing videos with Vixen. They might not still be as hot but what can you say, they still got it. Not really my taste in music but it worked well to sink a beer to while listening and dreaming back to the days of my youth.
Drunk People, yup, there were a lot of drunk people also this year. Already in the middle of the first day you saw people lying passed out in the grass after drinking way too much alcohol. And then you saw people totally pissed early in the days wearing t-shirts with bands not playing until much later and that always makes me wonder if they actually managed to sober up enough to see their favorite band. Probably not. It does not bother me at all that people drink a lot, oh no, it is just that I wonder: after they have been permanently pissed for three days and then returns home and their friends asks them how the festival has been, what do they answer then, what can they actually remember?
I must say that I enjoyed this year at the festival as much as I have done earlier and a big thanx to those responsible seems to be in place for all of the great job they've done, they even did a great job with the weather. Lots of sunshine and hardly any rain at all, just a tiny few drops that fell on Saturday and I got my self a great tan on my bald head and was forced to go and buy myself a cap in order to avoid sunstroke.
The only disappointment with this year's festival is with me. While sitting
in the car returning home I leaned back and went through the festival
in my head and all of the bands I had seen, I started to realize that
I almost only saw bands I had already seen before. It seems like I only
went down the safe path with bands that I knew that I liked and didn't
take the time to discover new bands, and that is usually a big part of
the fun with festivals. Unfortunately we arrived a bit late on Thursday
and I also was a bit tired on Saturday (call it hung over if you like)
and that made me miss some concerts I would have wanted to see, but I
surely got value for my money spent anyway. And the dates for next years
festival is now marked with red in my calendar - 8th, 9th and 10th of
June. I will not be home answering the phone those days if you know what
Related links: www.swedenrock.com
Thomas, June 2005