|» Sweden Rock Festival 2022||
~ Reviews by Mozzy
Walking towards the Sweden Rock Festival main entrance, a fabulous feeling of anticipation is present. It is soon 1 PM and it feels only right to experience the moment when the festival opens its gates again after two lost years because of the pandemic. A large number have gathered and there is joy in the air. "For those about to rock we salute you" is printed on the banners above the gates, and the AC/DC classic starts playing when time is approaching 1 PM. As the gates finally open, to excited cheers, it has been timed so that the cannons towards the end of the track fire off just as we enter. Awesome!
It is wonderful to witness the happiness in people's faces when they are inside the festival area and I am moved as well. At last we are back on these fields where one feels so at home and has so much fun, and it is enjoyable just strolling around to check out the familiar areas. And when VA Rocks take to the Silja Stage as the opening band of the festival the atmosphere among the crowd is happy as the festivities have kicked off for real. The atmosphere is present throughout the four days, and while the mood is always upbeat at Sweden Rock, one can sense that it is extra special this year when the festival has returned.
There are surely more people inside on the first day than previous years, probably because more visitors are eager to enter earlier, even those who are usually content with arriving in the evening. A development on the site is that the Rockklassiker stage had been pushed further to the side thus making room for a bigger space for food and drinks. A good move which makes it less crowded in that part of the site.
As for the other stages and areas, they looked the same and the organisation was excellent as usual. However, that the ramp for wheelchairs and disabled are now placed far to the right on one side, further from the two main stages, does not feel right. Before, the ramp was placed on the field between the stages, with much less distance to the shows. Although there are screens, those visitors surely prefer to watch the actual show, just like everyone else.
One thing many, including me, have remarked on during the last two festivals is that the space on the field between the two biggest stages is significantly more crowded and packed than earlier festivals and moving around is not as smooth as before. That was the case this time as well, not least because Guns n´ Roses was on the bill, but by now one is starting to get used to it.
That one of the headline performances was a letdown does not really matter as they were loads of quality concerts by other artists, in various genres offering something for everyone. It was also very nice to meet friends, acquaintances and press colleagues one has not seen in a long time, some not since the last festival.
Let's hope that we don't have to endure a wait
like this one again. There are of course many things in life which are
much more important but Sweden Rock Festival is important as well, I dare
saying, in many people's lives. It is an event many are looking forward
to each year and it offers a chance to forget about many of those other
things. There are lots of other great events where that is possible but
Sweden Rock is unique.
Band: Jean Beauvoir
Jean Beauvoir is a living legend in melodic hardrock circles, and many are eager to see the American with the trademark mohawk hairdo. After his band have taken the stage, the frontman soon joins them and Are You Ready kick things off. A number from Beauvoir's career in Crown Of Thorns, it is followed by two more from the debut album and it is a hook-filled start.
The singer is in a cheerful mood, happy to be in Sweden again and demonstrates some Swedish language knowledge. He tells some tales from his well-known collaborations with other artists before we get some of that music: Ramones' Pet Sematary and My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes To Bitburg) plus Kiss' Uh! All Night.
These tunes please the spectators and get them singing. Although it is not a great version, it is particularly fun to hear the latter tune as Kiss never play it themselves and many, including me, remember the song with its obvious lyrics from their childhood.
At the same time, it feels a little cheap playing these covers simply
because Beauvoir has co-written them, instead of performing more quality
material from his own albums. Apart from the soundtrack from Shocker,
we just get one Voodoo X song. Speaking of soundtracks, Feel The Heat,
the biggest hit in Beauvoir's career, is a highlight in the set. His voice
does not have the same power as before, but it is great to get to see
the prolific American onstage at Sweden Rock. His bandmates are quite
boring onstage, however.
Performance: 6 chalices
Before it is time for Evergrey to go on, Def Leppard's Love And Affection is played from the speakers. An amusing ploy since it sure has a different style compared to the music that is coming up. Opener Save Us from the new album, and second number Weightless demonstrate this but the bass is too dominant, affecting the nuances and melodies. By the third song, another new track titled Midwinter Calls, the sound is better, and singer Tom S. Englund even gets the crowd to participate in a singalong.
Similar to the Def Leppard introduction, one cannot avoid thinking how the lovely summer weather this afternoon is a big contrast to the mood in these Swedes' music. The emotive but at the same time beautiful melodies and passages, plus the great hooks pulls you in as usual however, regardless of the setting.
The larger portion of the set is based on the last three albums, and
though those songs are of the standard Evergrey high quality, the crowd
gets more going when old favourite A Touch Of Blessing appears. Later,
the ending with two other older gems, Recreation Day and King Of Errors,
is awesome. The band's gig at the festival in 2015 was more memorable,
but this performance by these top musicians is certainly pleasurable.
Performance: 7 chalices
As I walk from the VIP area towards Rockklassiker Stage to see Victory, I can hear that the gig has started. Getting nearer, what is striking is the vocalist who impresses already. The one singing Victory's songs nowadays is Italian Gianni Portillo and he proves throughout the show that he possesses a great voice that is powerful and versatile.
This is of course former Accept guitarist Herman Frank's band, and Frank is able to operate more freely here, moving around much onstage with a smile on his face while throwing guitar shapes, which is nice to see. He is backed up with younger musicians and the band's melodic and catchy hard rock is very well executed, with the aforementioned Portillo singing and fronting excellently.
The stage sound is top notch as well. Victory get a warm response by a big crowd and probably surprise many. Although the tunes, picked from the old albums as well as recent releases, are not of the same top quality as other more successful old acts this is definitely one of the highlights of the first day at Sweden Rock.
Performance: 7,5 chalices
After coming out blazing with Hangar 18 and following it with The Threat Is Real, Megadeth give us a couple of more unexpected songs. First, Dread And The Fugitive Mind from The World Is A Hero and then old soundtrack gem Angry Again. Both are cool inclusions, and are followed by two more Dystopia tracks.
The instrumental Conquer or Die! is a fine piece of music but another old one would have been preferable, not least In My Darkest Hour which is missing from the set, sadly. One can assume, however, that said instrumental offers some minutes for main man Dave Mustaine, who is now 60 after all, to rest his voice.
Mustaine's voice is in good shape tonight though, and he is in a good and gracious mood, cracking a couple of jokes and genuinely thanking the audience. His playing, just like that of his bandmates, is impressive as ever and the collective musicality is just outstanding and a treat to behold. The sound at Rock Stage is terrific as well and the result is an immense wall of metal.
Since their last appearance here, James Lomenzo has once again replaced Dave Ellefson and although the latter is missed Lomenzo has brought more energy to the live show. Guitarist Kiko Loureiro, meanwhile, now has big confidence and covers more of the stage than in the past. As for the production side of the show, it is impressive with a big light show and images projected.
Song-wise, the second part of the set is filled with Megadeth hits and classics and they have brought back The Conjuring is very cool. In the past, Megadeth gigs have often been criticised in some areas, not reaching the top level, but this is a very strong and impressive display.
Performance: 8 chalices
Using Roses On Your Grave, the opener on latest album Wired, as show opener as well, the guys in Eclipse run onto the stage in an excited fashion. Two more from the album keep the energy level high and it will last during the whole gig. The band's debut at Sweden Rock in 2016 took place on a smaller stage and having advanced to the bigger Rock Stage this time is surely inspiring.
That more people have discovered Eclipse in recent years is apparent as the songs are greeted warmly with cheers, singing and applause. It is a set packed with melodic hard rock tunes of the highest calibre, and the hour the band have at their disposal goes by quick. The quartet is a tight unit live and all members excel. Frontman Erik Mårtensson covers the whole stage including the ramp in the middle and has a great, cheerful rapport with the audience, while singing very well.
In 2019 bassist Magnus Ulfstedt left the band and was replaced by Victor Crusner, and this has brought a new dimension to the band live. Crusner is a bundle of energy onstage, running and bouncing around throwing shapes and interacting and joking with his bandmates and people in the crowd. His brother Philip is solid on the drums while guitarist Magnus Henriksson delivers strong riffing plus sublime melodies and solos.
Viva La Victoria, with the crowd participating wholeheartedly, concludes
an entertaining start to the second festival day.
Performance: 8 chalices
Band: Devin Townsend
Walking onstage, Devin Townsend goes straight to the microphone and utters "Hi, my name is Devin and I have not cleaned my ass for a week". While most spectators are aware of the Canadian's inimitable personality and banter, he surely gets the attention of those who are not.
Starting with Failure from the Transcendence album, the well-balanced set consists of ten songs from different constellations of the remarkably productive and gifted Townsend. His music is often challenging and diverse with many layers, creating a massive wall of sound and it is demonstrated today. But it is so well-written and contains clever hooks among the complexity and colossal heaviness.
Fourth number is Aftermath and it is a treat to hear the old Strapping Young Lad song. By now, Townsend has won over the entire crowd, entertained by plenty of one-liners and self-mocking comments, and drawn to the frontman's charisma and mimics.
That said, let's not forget the most competent musician and vocalist
Townsend, who is assisted by an equally skilful band. In Deep Peace, we
get an example of the subtle and beautiful side of his music. There is
a wonderful, joyful atmosphere at the Rock Stage and it ends in a great
fashion as we get another Strapping gem, the crushing Love?.
Performance: 8 chalices
At this stage in their career, only Wolf Hoffmann remains from heavy metal titans Accept's origins. The guitarist leads his metal troops with passion and the current line-up consists of accomplished players who put in an equally strong effort. It is hard to ignore the absence of bassist and founding member Peter Baltes, however. It is also odd to see his successor Martin Motnik firmly planted next to the drum set, just like guitarist Uwe Lulis on the other side.
The band now include three guitarists making the band a sextet, but the stage should be big enough for all of them. Hoffmann, third guitarist Philip Shouse and impressive singer Mark Tornillo now get to enjoy the benefit of running around and interacting with the audience.
Except for Living For Tonite, Restless And Wild and unexpected inclusion Objection Overruled, the first part of the set consists of songs from the band's comeback in 2010 and onwards. It is quality heavy metal, no doubt about it, but just not on the same level as the old golden classics. When Princess Of The Dawn is aired and followed by Fast As A Shark and Metal Heart, the atmosphere at the Festival Stage is raised considerably.
And as the latter anthem goes straight into Teutonic Terror, the temperature
and crowd reaction drops, no matter how good that tune is. Hoffmann and
co conclude the show in an awesome manner though with Balls To The Wall
and I'm A Rebel, and the crowd's excitement and singing makes me reflect
on how fantastic it is to have live music back.
Performance: 7 chalices
It has been said before, but it is remarkable how Volbeat have gone from making their debut at Sweden Rock on the smallest stage to being headliners. (for the second time even, also in 2014). With a fat sound, the band start off with a couple from recent albums.
It is not until fourth number Lola Montez that any excitement from the crowd is felt and Ring Of Fire and Sad Man's Tongue keeps it up. Evelyn sees former Morgoth singer performing the growl parts of Barney Greenwood in the studio version. Before the song, frontman Michael Poulsen has paid a nice tribute to the German death metallers.
The stage show is ambitious in terms of light and visuals. There is no doubt either that the quartet feel at home headlining a show this big, and Poulsen oozes confidence and is both humble and humorous when addressing the audience. Although the band get a warm reception, some songs go by rather unnoticed.
A treat in form of a new song is presented, however, with Poulsen saying that it is inspired by death metal, and he continues by paying tribute to Entombed's late L-G Petrov as a huge picture of the Swede is projected on the screen. Very classy and moving as well.
As a whole, Volbeat's show is enjoyable and convincing although it does not generate the same enthusiasm all the way through. The ending is tremendous though, with two great Volbeat anthems. First, For Evigt, who does not seem to be in the setlist originally, is played after Poulsen chats with the audience about what song to play.
It gets a loving reception just like Still Counting during which a bunch of kids are welcomed onstage by the frontman who rocks out with the overjoyed children. A brilliant and touching gesture.
Performance: 7 chalices
After their appearance at Sweden Rock in 2004, where their set entertained but where the audience had to endure massive rain, Nightwish are finally back on the site. The dramatic and bombastic music is presented with a great sound at the Rock Stage.
The production is extravagant with stylish lights and projections on the screens plus plenty of pyro that all enhance the mood of the music. With fourth number Elan we get the first sample of the more accessible, straight-forward tunes the band also have in their repertoire. Another example, Storytime, is next and a great rendition starts to really get the audience going.
Floor Jansen showcases her fantastic pipes, impressing both with gentle as well as powerful vocals. Unavoidably, Jansen catches much of the spotlight, commanding the stage and audience, also chatting in Swedish. The other members are all skilful musicians on their respective instrument and it all gels into an excellent and highly professional presentation of Nightwish's music.
As hits like I Want My Tears Back, Nemo and Sleeping Sun are aired, the response from the crowd is one of love and the combination of music and atmosphere has a touching impact.
There is one obvious difference to the old Nightwish nowadays though, namely that Marko Hietala has left the band. This is a setback live too, as expected, as Hietala´s great stage presence and powerful vocals are sorely missed. That a staple like Wish I Had An Angel, where he was a big part is absent is significant. Troy Donockley assists Jansen with vocals sometimes but although his voice is good it is nowhere near the same.
All in all this is an impressive show. As one is a bit rusty when it
comes to standing in a festival field all day, one is a bit tired although
it is just the second day, but Nightwish' tremendous performance is invigorating
and a great ending to the day.
Performance: 8 chalices
Similarly to Evergrey, the music Opeth play is not really what you think of first on a hot summer day. But as Hjärtat Vet Vad Handen Gör, kicks things off with quality and is followed by the awesome Ghost Of Perdition, the listener is already immersed in the musical world of Opeth and the surroundings does not matter.
Aside from the magnificent music, singer/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt delivers amusing comments between songs as usual. The claim that he and his bandmates are "no pros" is far too modest however, as they prove their skill both individually and as a unit. Longtime drummer Martin Axenrot is sadly gone but that is not noticed musically which says a lot of Sami Karppinen who is stepping in since late last year.
Mid-set, Opeth's excellence and versatility is showcased for real when the great The Drapery Falls is followed by the beautiful, captivating In My Time Of Need. The eight songs performed are also picked from eight different albums which is a cool move and testament to this band's enduring class.
Performance: 7,5 chalices
The fact that Saxon played at the last Sweden Rock in 2019 and are back in 2022 when the festival returns speak volumes of the band's strong relationship with Sweden, and the festival as well. This is actually Saxon's 10th appearance at the festival, when including the 1997 edition when it was called Karlhamns Rock Festival, which makes this a jubilee for one of the bands that has become sort of a house band here, just like Motörhead were.
Since 2019, Saxon have released a cover album, been playing 40th anniversary shows and recently released a new studio album too. Therefore, it is odd to see that it is the backdrop from Thunderbolt that adorns the stage, just like in 2019. Frontman Biff Byford explains that the touring for the new album Carpe Diem will take place later and the band are still doing their anniversary greatest hit set.
No-one is complaining. After Motorcycle Man starts the festivities we get a pure celebration of Saxon's career. One cherished classic is followed by another, and that the setlist is very similar to the one in 2019 does not matter. The band get a heartfelt response from the audience and the atmosphere at the Festival Stage can only be described as a joyful heavy metal party.
One song in the setlist which is new compared to 2019 is Never Surrender. The strong message in the chorus is sung loudly and gets more meaning when Byford it followed by Broken Heroes. Biff dedicates the emotive great war-themed tune to Ukraine and surely many more than me get tears in their eyes.
Byford's voice is in strong shape which is great to see considering his health scares in recent years. And he is as usual a superb frontman with a superb rapport with the audience. Speaking of the setlist, there are shouts of Crusader whereby Byford says that it is not on the setlist, shows it to the camera and then tears it apart before the band starts the song. Brilliant.
747 (Strangers In The Night) and Princess Of The Night then finish the celebrations triumphantly. This is yet another excellent gig by this marvellous live band, who will surely return to Sweden Rock to be praised by their loyal fans.
Performance: 8 chalices
Band: Mercyful Fate
For me, and many metalheads shared the feeling, the most tempting act beforehand this year was Mercyful Fate, who are playing their first live gigs since 1999, a long-awaited reunion indeed. The logo of the legendary and influential Danish group could be seen in red on a big backdrop long before and increased the appetite. Finding and meeting up with a couple of friends before the gig meant I missed much of In Flames so there is no review of them, sorry about that.
Then the time has come and after an ominous intro, the intro to The Oath appears. A figure with a mask with devil horns appears in the centre and it is indeed King Diamond himself. The band and King sound great and the atmosphere is joyous. The stage set is ambitious and looks awesome, with an inverted cross and cool backdrops, and the light show is just as stylish and effectual.
Then King introduces a new song, The Jackal Of Salzburg. It is a cool composition but putting it as second number instead of another old classic to keep the momentum is rather strange and the excited mood all but disappears, also because it is for the most part a slower number.
A Corpse Without A Soul from the first EP resumes the festivities however and from here on we are treated to a pure heavy metal feast with classic songs from seminal albums. There are horns in the air, frequent headbanging and air guitar playing and I behave no differently. It is finally happening; one gets to see the the mighty Mercyful Fate and hear these awesome tunes live!
The band is tight and King's voice is in very good shape, mixing his distinguished dark and high vocals. Joey Vera, the replacement for the late Timi Hansen, fits in splendidly. And while it had been fantastic to have Michael Denner joining Hank Shermann to complete the legendary duo, Mike Wead is of course a stellar guitarist and was part of the line-up before it went on a long hiatus, just like solid drummer Bjarne T. Holm.
After some minutes waiting, the band returns to the stage and another classic, Satan's Fall, rounds it off. Although one can argue that the setlist can be improved a little and more gigs will fine-tune the show, this is a brilliant metal show and historical happening that is a privilege to experience.
Performance: 9 chalices
Sweden's Nestor received much praise and top reviews after the release of their debut full-length. These guys are far from inexperienced musicians though, having started in the late 80´s. This is apparent straight away as they start performing their melodic hard rock with skill and confidence.
The same three tracks as on the album kick off the show: On The Run, Kids In A Ghost Town and Stone Cold Eyes, and talk about well-crafted, high quality tunes. The stage sound is great too with punch as well as clarity.
While the band is a tight unit, they have a star in Tobias Gustafsson, who shines with stage presence and crowd contact as well as with his strong and soulful vocals. In Tomorrow, the duet vocals originally with Samantha Fox on record are performed with Lollo Gardtman who impresses too.
There is a packed crowd in front of the stage and the hill is full as well. There is later information that this was the biggest audience ever at the Sweden Stage. The atmosphere is just wonderful to behold, even touching, as the crowd is singing along, clearly having taken to Nestor's music, and smiles can be seen everywhere.
The joy stays throughout the set, during other tremendous tunes from
the album and even during a premiere of new song A Loosing Game, which
verifies the impact Nestor have made.
Performance: 9 chalices
Band: Night Ranger
In 2012, which singer/basist Jeff Blades is aware of as he points it out to the crowd, Night Ranger played at the stage across this one, the Festival Stage. That was one of the best concerts then, and I was not the only one who was very impressed by the Americans, who had not been to Sweden in ages and thus took many by storm.
This time, the quintet are intent on repeating it, kicking it off hard with (You Can Still) Rock In America. Touch Of Madness is next before the catchy Four In The Morning really gets the crowd going. Except for Breakout, also a fine song, from the latest album the set consists of old gems which get a warm response. These include Coming Of Age and High Enough by Damn Yankees which featured singer/bassist Jack Blades.
These long-time pros sound and work great together and it is awesome to see just how much joy and energy the band members still have playing onstage. Blades has a formidable rapport with the crowd and he and guitarist Brad Gillis rocks out onstage like youngsters. Gillis again demonstrates his expertise and top sound.
The third original member, drummer Kelly Keagy then gets the limelight in the band's biggest hit Sister Christian which generates a lovely atmosphere. Night Ranger do not have time to play as many songs this time but they once again put on a tremendous, memorable show at Sweden Rock.
Performance: 8 chalices
Band: Michael Monroe
As I walk through the entrance and approach the Sweden Stage to see Michael Monroe the main man is not visible at first. But wait, there is he is, hanging in the lightning rig to the right. This is one of Monroe's typical stunts onstage, where he is highly active and energetic. Tonight he seems even more on fire, if possible, and this is a man that is turning 60 in a few days.
Admittedly, one is a bit weary on this fourth festival day but the Finn and his bandmates deliver a set packed with catchy and punky rock tunes that keep up your spirit, such as ´78 and the brilliant Ballad Of The Lower East Side.
The gig is fun and entertaining to watch as Monroe is everywhere and has a great contact with his audience, onstage and down at the barrier. His colleagues are very cool rockers as well and it is particularly great to watch his old partner in Hanoi Rocks, Sam Yaffa, a cool bassist indeed.
With the mood at the Sweden Stage festive already, Monroe and Yaffa then
revisit their old band in some cherished tunes that increases the party,
not least Up Around The Bend. Dregen also joins the band for a couple
of songs at the end and this performance is a perfect warm-up for the
concluding party rockers at the festival, namely Guns n´ Roses.
Performance: 8 chalices
Band: Guns N' Roses
And so here we are; the last concert of this year's festival. On paper, it is a highly enticing one with a band whose music should guarantee that it all ends with a party: Guns N´ Roses. Forget the group's appearance in 2010, which was plagued by a long delay, and was rather unexciting, with just Axl Rose from the classic line-up. In 2016, Slash and Duff McKagan rejoined and the tours have been very successful and the visits in Sweden pleasurable.
Then it happens once again: a long wait for the show to begin. It is late on the last festival day, after all, and some boos can be heard. Finally, after half an hour it starts but the response to It's So Easy and Mr. Brownstone and certainly Chinese Democracy is rather indifferent.
The inclusion of Velvet Revolver's Slither feels redundant and then it is time for a true classic in the form of Welcome To Jungle. It has been noticed already that Axl´s voice is not in its best shape but now it is painfully apparent. Whether it is because he is ill or he simply does not have the same capability, he sounds very strained.
Without remarking on Rose too harshly, and to his credit he is clearly fighting onstage to deliver his vocals, they just don't sound good and don't sound right. Although we are treated to one GNR classic after the other, it is impossible to ignore the frontman's singing.
The crowd's response is not great and the outdrawn instrumental parts between songs, surely so Axl can rest his voice, are very tedious and do not improve the mood and people can be spotted leaving quite early. As for the atmosphere onstage, Slash and McKagan seem far from thrilled, simply doing their own thing with barely any interaction with other members.
And then there is the set's length and composition. It had been announced before that the band would play for longer than any before at the festival but tonight's length (well over 2,5 hours), also considering the issues talked about above, becomes demanding.
The choice of songs from their own catalogue is excellent, although not many would have missed the newest tracks played, but why so many covers? The ones recorded on the albums have become classic GNR songs, but there are a few more included. After Live And Let Die, a familiar riff kicks off and it is indeed Back In Black. It is both odd and pointless.
After bearing with the set long enough, also from quite close for a couple of songs which was easy since the crowd had thinned out, I finally exit the field to the music of Knockin' On Heaven's Door. It does not feel right doing so as a reviewer but I am just too tired and Guns N´ Roses have not energised me enough. Just before, during November Rain, I have seen two guys hugging each-other emotionally when enjoying the song. A touching sight.
But although great music has been played, as a whole this performance by the legendary group is very disappointing, unfortunately.
Performance: 4 chalices