Sweden Rock Festival

For me, Sweden Rock Festival is probably the highlight of the year. At least when it comes to big, outdoor festivals. Four days of drinking, hanging around with awesome people in the sun, and great acts as well. What more can you ask for? As always on a festival, you don’t get to see all the bands you’ve planned to see, but here are some of the bands I catched this year.

MORBUS CHRON

Morbuschron

Photo credit: Unborn

On Wednesday, there weren’t many bands of interest, but the interesting one, Morbus Chron, did indeed one hell of a gig. Even though I’ve had many chances to see these guys live, I haven’t seen them before now. Morbus Chron played at the Rockklassiker Stage, and the new tent stage worked out so much better than the last years windy location. With their progressive style of death metal, these young fellows gave us a strong performance. The gloomy sound combined with the radiant expression of the vocalist worked out really great, and ending their show with the band members leaving their instruments to rest, one by one, definitely left a mark on me. A small gesture, but the effect was just tremendous.

STEVE GRIMMETT’S GRIM REAPER

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Photo credit: Daniel Berg

That HAIR! Steve Grimmett still got his hair. And his voice as well. Even though it has been quiet when it comes to album releases, Steve Grimmett is touring with his solo band, and has been doing so for a while. The band seemed grateful for being booked to Sweden Rock, and I’m grateful for them playing there. Even though the concert were scheduled quite early, a bunch of people found their way to the 4 Sound stage located directly in front of the entrance.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the old Grim Reaper material consists of songs with the word “rock” and “hell” in it. Rock You to Hell, Rock Me ’till I Die, All Hell Let Loose and finally, their biggest hit See You in Hell. I don’t mind the not so inventive lyrics, and the performance of these songs turned this show into a very pleasant event.

Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper even made place for an excellent cover version of Dio Don’t Talk to Strangers, before ending their show with See You in Hell. That did it for me. See you in hell, my friend!

EXODUS

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Photo credit: Daniel Berg

With Steve “Zetro” Souza back in the band and a relatively new album out, the Bay Area thrashers Exodus sounded vital and energetic. I didn’t quite get the hang of the former vocalist, Rob Dukes, and not their newer album either, so it’s a good thing that Souza’s back in the band again. I haven’t seen Exodus live in a long time, and even though I’m not a hardcore fan, the gig was enjoyable, although not remarkable. Gary Holt was somewhere else playing with Slayer, and was replaced by Kragen Lum from Heathen.

I was mostly looking forward to the oldies, and Exodus didn’t let me down. Bonded by Blood is by far their very best album, and they played a lot from it: Piranha, Metal Command, A Lesson in Violence, Bonded by Blood and Strike of the Beast.

MAD MAX

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Photo credit: Daniel Berg

I never thought I would get to see Mad Max live. Ever. And I never would’ve believed it would be this good. When it comes to Mad Max’ discography, I consider their third album the best – the excellent Stormchild from 1985. Luckily, most of the set consisted of tunes from this very album, and it sounded absolutely splendid. Micheal Voss still has his hoarse, quite unique voice intact and it sounded as good as on the albums from the 80’s.

One of the first songs in the set was Heroes Die Lonely and this one really set the standard for the rest of the concert, with well played songs enjoyed both by the audience as well as the band. Night of Passion from the album with the same title followed up, and when Never say Never and Lonely is the Hunter from Stormchild were being served to the audience, my face was just a big smile. The title track Stormchild ended the whole gig, and what an ending! Ah, this was definitely one of the best concerts at this years edition of Sweden Rock Festival if you ask me.

GHOST

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Photo credit: Unborn

Ghost formed back in 2008, and a lot has happened since then. Endless touring, two albums and one in the making and contradictory views on whether the nameless ghouls and Papa Emeritus has earned their rightful throne in the metal landscape. Nonetheless, whether you see Ghost as a metal act or not, they sure know how to write great music. And they certainly know how to put on a great show.

With the new upcoming album, Meliora, the band members have changed their costumes and masks and a “new”, third vocalist has made his appearance.

The band is tighter and more professional than ever, and the sound is crystal clear. That’s true for the whole festival as well, the sound is never bad, unless it’s very windy. The crystal clear sound matches Ghost’s performance perfectly well – a performance concentrated on the first album, Opus Eponymous, which suited me fine.

To open the concert, they’ve chosen the instrumental Genesis that ends the first album. Surprising, but nonetheless awesome. The second song was a new one from the upcoming album, the first of three this evening. The rest of the set was impeccable: Ritual, Con Clavi Con Dio, Death Knell, Stand By Him, Elizabeth, Satan Prayer and the three anthems to finish the whole event: Year Zero, the excellent cover version of Roky Eriksson’s If You Have Ghosts and Monstrance Clock – a perfect song to end a concert, with its monumental chorus. Beside Year Zero and Monstrance Clock, nothing else were played from Infestissumam. A bit surprising, but welcomed by me. This performance is probably the best Ghost concert I’ve attended, and I guess the rest of the audience would agree with me that the phrase “The masses standing in awe” quoted from Year Zero has never been more fitting than this night.

DOKKEN

Expected the worst, but got the best. Never trust Youtube-clips shot with an horrible iPhone-camera. The ones I’ve seen, Don Dokken has sounded really bad, but experiencing him and his band live? Now, that’s something completely different! At first, Don Dokken seemed to have a bit trouble with his voice, but after Dream Warriors (third song), he managed really well. Of course he can’t reach those highest notes anymore, but what do you expect after all these years? The main point is that Dokken still has something to offer to the 2015-audience, and so what if it’s just Don Dokken and Mick Brown from the original line-up? George Lynch who? Just kidding, of course it would be great if the originals reunited.

The set list was filled with goodies, and as Don Dokken puts it himself: “The hits just keep comin’!” Starting out with Kiss of Death from Back for the Attack, pursued with classics like The Hunter and already mentioned Dream Warriors, the concert topped itself with Into the Fire and In My Dreams before ending the show with Tooth and Nail. I’d loved to hear Unchain the Night too, but I guess you can’t have’em all.

MÖTLEY CRÜE

Where to start? This was just sad. This is my third time seeing Mötley Crüe, and it’s definitely not the best, it’s actually most probably the worst. Set list-wise, it’s not that bad. It’s the performance which unfortunately is miserable. Vince Neil seems to has lost what’s left of his voice, and his energy and inspiration along with it. Mick Mars can hardly move anymore due to his illness, it’s heartbreaking seeing him on stage like that. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee try their very best to save whatever left of this live band, along with a couple of female dancers and some pyrotechnics.

The setlist contained classics like Live Wire, Shout at the Devil, Wild Side and Girls, Girls, Girls. Fantastic tunes all of them. On tape that is. Whenever I hear Live Wire for instance, I just want to bang my head off and scream along, but live this night at Sweden Rock? I felt more like I wanted to scrape my own intestines out with a little spoon – that would actually feel a lot better than this gig. A nice surprise was On With the Show from Too Fast For Love, though. An underrated piece of music, and this particular song didn’t sound that bad to be honest.

I guess it’s a good thing that they’ve made the decision to call it a day when the year is over, and that they’ve signed a pact that none of them are going to call themselves Mötley Crüe and spend rest of their lives touring with some random musicians playing Crüe cover songs. They’ve made some of hard rocks most awesome tracks, and that’s how I want to remember Mötley Crüe, not like this.

EXCITER

EXCITER

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Photo credit: Daniel Berg

One thing I don’t appreciate at this festival, is that a lot of the interesting bands play really early. 12-01 PM? Come on, who want’s to go see a concert at that time? I know I wouldn’t. Seeing Exciter do a killer gig a couple of months ago in New York at Defenders of the Old Fest, made my expectations maybe a bit too high seeing them again at Sweden Rock. The circumstances made the concert in New York quite different from this one, being held in the evening in a small, dark building. Outdoor at 13.15 PM, you don’t get the same feeling at all.

It wasn’t just the circumstances that made this gig less great than the gig in New York. Dan Beehler seemed a bit rusty, his voice weren’t as strong as it was last time. And the sound wasn’t all that either. John Ricci also had some guitar trouble in the middle of the set that didn’t particularly improve the concert. The setlist was great, though, with Stand Up and Fight, Violence and Force, Pounding Metal, Heavy Metal Maniac and Long Live the Loud, but the performance was sadly nothing more than average this day.

JUDAS PRIEST

You can always count on Judas Priest. There’s very few surprises, the band is still solid, even without K. K. Downing. Richie Faulkner is a good replacement, though, and the one who’s putting on a show upon stage. The rest of the band is quite stillstanding, but it doesn’t really matter.

Three of the tracks from their newest album Reedemer of Souls were represented in the set: Dragonaut, Reedemer of Souls and Halls of Valhalla. The last one worked out pretty well I think, but of course: No one is attendig a Judas Priest concert screaming for the new ones (hey, that should be the title, Screaming for the New Ones!).

Non-musical highlight of the event: Right before the encores, the band played their way through the almighty Jawbreaker and Halford introduces the next song by screaming: “Breaking the WHAT?!” and everyone: “LAW!!”, except the guy standing next to me. Rob goes “Breaking the WHAT?! and he’s like: “JAW!!!!” – haha!

It was indeed an very enjoyable performance by Judas Priest this evening, and as encore number one we got, not surprisingly, one of the greatest intros that is, The Hellion followed by Electric Eye and Painkiller and Living After Midnight ended the whole concert. In my opinion, they could’ve replaced Painkiller with something else from that album. Leather Rebel, A Touch of Evil or Between the Hammer and the Anvil are way cooler than the title track and I would love to hear them live.

Other great acts this year were Nuclear Assault, Dare, D-A-D, Jerusalem, Riot V, Wolf. And of course, the festival as a whole kicked ass. See you next year, Sweden Rock!

Header photo also by Daniel Berg.

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