From the dark to the light

There’s a little place in Sweden called Grängesberg. When I was younger I saw such bands as Europe and Treat in a venue called Folkets Park. At the same place in the last weekend in may it was totally darkness when Dark Funeral and Carpathian Forest was headlining the festival Gamrocken. Two days of black, death and extreme metal was set up on the menu and it was full speed ahead from the beginning til the end. I’m kind of enjoying this type of festivals. It’s not that much people and those who show up really love the music. It’s so great. The first night I see In Mourning play four songs because that’s how many they’ve got time for in 40 minutes, and the band who close it up the first night is Dark Funeral who definitely is one of the best acts when it comes to death metal. For about an hour they decide to give the audience a great show with great songs as “My Funeral” and “Hail Murder”.

Saturday starts with me working ten hours before I have the opportunity to go back to Grängesberg. One of my most different experiences in my whole life take place when the finnish band Rotten Sound enter the stage for 35 minutes extreme metal. The place isn’t full but the energy from the band and the audience blows me totally away. When they left the stage I shake my head and wonder what the hell was just happening. After that outburst I walk to the main stage to see the norwegian black metal pioneers Carpathian Forest. When I’m standing there my thoughts go to the fact that I like what I see but I’m never listening to this kind of music at home. I have promised myself to get o hold of myself and start to listen to black metal as well. Carpathian Forest was doing a great job closing Gamrocken 2018 and I hope that the organizers could make this work also next year.

One and a half week later me and some very good friends take the car and go the 65 swedish miles to Sweden Rock Festival in Norje. There is no way you can compare Gamrocken with Sweden Rock so I will not even try. Sweden Rock this year take us right back to 1983 and the classic TV-show from Dortmund when Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne among other bands was showing on Swedish national-TV. It was pretty awesome then and believe me when I say it’s pretty awesome 2018 as well. The festival starts on wednesday the 6th of june and I’m watching Suffocation as well as Hardcore Superstar.

This is one of the reasons that I’m very fond off Sweden Rock. The different type of music that fits in the hardrock/metal genre. I first watch Suffocation that totally blows my ears off with it’s intensity and right after that the sleaze takes over with Jocke Bergh and his band Hardcore Superstar.

Thursday on Sweden Rock was the day where you can almost touch the excitement that everyone at the area was feeling. Of course it was the day when Iron Maiden was going to show up at Sweden Rock Festival for the first time. I was pretty excited to because I haven’t seen the band since the “Brave New World tour” back in 2001. There were a few band before Iron Maiden and there’s no reason to forget those acts. My first gig was Dark Tranquillity from Gothenburg who did a great job despite the early hour. “Lost To Apathy” and “Misery’s Crown” is great songs. Right after DT i walked the few meters to the Festival Stage and I thought that Buckcherry maybe could make me feel even better. Believe when I’m say that they didn’t. It was pretty worthless and the band wasn’t very comfortable on the stage this thursday. The next act though was extraordinary instead. Nazareth have been playing hard rock for the last 40+ years and Pete Agnew are the man to thank for that. The new singer is Carl Sentance and he is doing a great job filling Dan McCaffertys shoes. You can’t fail when you have songs like “This Flight Tonight”, “Expect No Mercy” or “Love Hurts”.

Next up was an American band called Killswitch Engage who was very intense and sometimes even a little bit angry. The man who made the band angry is Donald Trump who’s not very popular if you ask Killswitch Engage. In the end I believe they had a good day at work and when they played “Holy Diver” to praise Ronnie James Dio it was one of the finest moments on Sweden Rock Festival 2018. When I was seventeen years old I saw Helloween supporting Iron Maiden in Stockholm and now 30 years later it’s time again. Back then Michael Kiske was the singer and Kai Hansen was one of the guitarplayers. Now they are back in the line-up along with Helloween as we know them today. The show we’re about to see is one of the best this year with songs like “I’m Alive”, “Eagle Fly Free”, “I Want Out”, “A Little Time”, “Future World” and the outstanding “Power”. If you missed Helloween take a trip to Stockholm in december. I can guarantee you that it’s worth it. And now it’s time to go to bed…….or maybe not. At this time there is a new record when it comes to people at Sweden Rock. Everybody is waiting for Iron Maiden and the machine from Great Britain is very well-oiled. The show is great and I’m coming back during the show thinking how tight Nicko McBrain is. This is the sixth time I see Iron Maiden live and I don’t think that Nicko has been this good before. The sound is great, the show is great, Bruce Dickinson is great, Dave Murray is always great and even “Fear Of The Dark” is great. It starts with “Ace’s High” and it ends with “Run To The Hills”. In between Iron Maiden take us on a musical journey with songs like “The Trooper”, “Revelations”, “For The Greater Good Of God”, “The Number Of The Beast”, “The Evil That Men Do”, “Halloweed Be Thy Name” and many, many more. Iron Maiden came back to Sweden and went out in Europe as winners once again. We can call it the perfect ending of the second day.

Friday started with one of my lifes most odd experiences up to this day. On Sweden Stage “The Imperial March”sounding from the speakers and after a few minutes with the band Skindred I’m wonder what the hell is happening right now.

The frontman Benji Webbe taking over the area totally and his presence is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a stage. A great start to the third day at Sweden Rock who’s getting even better when Pretty Maids in bright sunshine step up on the Festival Stage. With songs like “Back To Back”, “Rodeo”, “Red Hot & Heavy” & “Future World” you can’t fail. And at the time when they performing “Little Drops Of Heaven” my thoughts go to my girlfriend who is ill and can’t be with me this sunny afternoon. I haven’t seen Nazareth live before and the same applies Uriah Heep despite the fact that they have been in the business since early 70’s. I have to say it was a very tight band that hit the stage with classics like “Gypsy”, “Look At Yourself”, “Stealin”, “Lady In Black” & “Easy Livin” among others. Extremely vital band.

It’s not every day you have the chance to meet Josh Rand in Stone Sour but I got the opportunity to have ten minutes with the bands guitarplayer. That was fun and exciting and the same feeling hits me about an hour later when the band performing in front of thousands of people. It hits me that Corey Taylor must be one of the best entertainers these days. The way he takes the audience is incredible and despite the dirty words he’s having a damn good time in Sweden this friday. Unfortunately I’m not able to see the whole concert with Stone Sour because my mission this festival is to write some reviews for another on-line paper called Rocknytt. And right there I’m not very pleased that I have to leave Stone Sour for a gig with Pestilence. A band that I’ve never heard before. After half an hour with Pestilence I’m not angry anymore. This death metal band from the Netherlands taking me by storm. I’m standing there thinking about the fact that I have a complete genre in the hard rock family that I haven’t discovered yet. I don’t have any problems see death metal live because I love the energy but I have to begin taking time listen to it at home as well. Ozzy Osbourne is the one who is the main attraction this third day at Sweden Rock and it hits me right away that the voice is holding together. “Bark At The Moon” is the opening song and Ozzy is standing on his usual spot on the stage, clapping his hands the “Ozzy Osbourne way”. After a while I’m getting suspicious around his voice because it works fine and it shouldn’t do that. When we’re coming to “Mama I’m Coming Home” I’m pretty sure that there is something called “pre-recorded song” involved. If you have listened to the album “Live & Loud” from the early 90’s you hear the crowd singing the chorus and sadly he doesn’t let us go all-in this time. That makes me suspicious. To sum it up I’m pleased anyway with the concert because it’s really great songs. One thing I can talk about is that Zakk Wylde made a guitarsolo who was like 45 minutes but that discussion I can take elsewhere.

“It’s saturday night in Sweden and the Priest is back”. This is what we looking forward to this last day on the Sweden Rock Festival 2018. But as always there is plenty of bands playing before the last nights headliner. The last day for me starts with the finnish band the 69 eyes which in my opinion got a totally wrong time at the day to play. This is what we call Goth and to watch that type of hardrock at 13:30 in the afternoon it’s not as funny as it would have been around 20:00 in the evening.

Next up is Pain and my old friend Peter Tägtgren shows us that rock’n roll can sound great in the early afternoon. With songs such as “Same Old Song”, “Dirty Woman”, “Just Hate Me” and the cover of Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” it’s impossible to fail. Next up for me to watch is a swedish band called Torch who were in the swedish minor-league back in the 80’s, but when they hit the stage they showed everyone that they still love playing hard rock. One of the most surprising moments for me when you sum the whole festival up. Great songs which been flying under my radar for all my years as a listener to this brilliant music called hard rock and heavy metal.

Power Metal is also a branch on the tree we call hard rock and one of the bands which manage this type of music best is from Finland and they are calling themselves Stratovarius. One of my favourite albums of all times is “Visions”, released 1997 and at that time Stratovarius peaked as songwriters. This saturday at Sweden Rock they don’t play “The Kiss of Judas” which in my opinion is one of the best songs ever made in Power Metal. But instead we got “Forever Free”, “Paradise” and “Black Diamond” from the album that changed my view on Power Metal. Stratovarius is playing one hour this year and after they are done my schedule is to write some reviews and after that I’m kind of curious to see the German trio Destruction. My relationship with Destruction has always been kind of cold, and as I stand there watching this earthquake reach 7,8 on the Richter scale I make a decision to listen more to this band at home as well. Classic Thrash Metal it is indeed and when immortal songs like “Life Without Sense”, “Release From Agony”, “Bestial Invasion” and “Mad Butcher” roar across the landscape I’m totally blown away.

As all good things even this has to come to an end and the band who will wrap the Sweden Rock Festival 2018 up is the mighty Judas Priest from the U.K.. It’s kind of a vital band we see this saturday night and the man who should be honoured for that is Richie Faulkner. This 38 years old man from London are showing everybody what kind of energy you can put into a band who many thought were dead and buried when K.K. Downing left Judas Priest. I think “Redeemer of Souls” is a good Judas Priest album but this years effort “Firepower” is absolutely outstanding when we talk Heavy Metal releases 2018. Three songs are they playing for us from that album and when they play “Rising From Ruins” I’m almost moved. Judas Priest are not playing “The Hellion/Electric Eye” this time but I can live with that. Instead we were cheering when Glen Tipton hit the stage for the three last songs “Metal Gods”, “Breakin’ The Law” and “Living After Midnight”. I believe that was the biggest moment for me this year. I’m pleased with both Gamrocken and Sweden Rock this year and I will definitely be back at both venues next year.

 

 

Johan Hagberg

Johan Hagberg

Editor & writer

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