Royal Rock Fest – Sandviken 18/12-21

Live music is back – for now. This weekend saw the one-day festival Royal Rock Fest visit first Stockholm, on the Friday and then Sandviken on the Saturday. The line-up consisted of eight bands in total – The Hives, Hellacopters, Royal Republic, Graveyard, Horndal, MaidaVale, Bombus and Thundermother. I was able to attend in Sandviken, which was my first major concert since the beginning of the pandemic.

 The venue was very well suited for the purpose, with two separate stages. The opening act on the smaller stage was Horndal. I am going to be honest right from the start and say that this is not the kind of music I normally listen to. I am an eighties guy who prefer more melodic, classic singalong stuff. I had listened to Horndal before but found it too extreme. That was before I saw them live.  Suddenly it all made sense. The stage design fits their narrative of the dying industrial small town, abandoned by capital and society perfectly. Two chimneys spewing out thick smoke illustrate the theme of the songs perfectly.

It is not easy to create something new and original in the world of metal nowadays, but Horndal succeeds. The story of their hometowns demise, past and present, woven into their music is as unique as some of the Swedish song titles must appear for an international audience. From a live stage the songs hit you in the stomach and having seen them live, now the songs mysteriously work when played through my home speakers as well. 8/10 to Horndal.

 First off on the main stage was Royal Republic. Despite the band’s efforts the show never really takes off. Maybe it is because of the audience. Royal Republic is not really a hardrock band but hardrock is what most people had came for. Personally I like the band. The mix of hard rock (rather than hardrock) and pop with funky rhythms and a considerable sense of humor is rather appealing to me. The band is a well-oiled machine on stage and with a rowdier audience it could very well have turned into a party, but perhaps the early time-slot (16.30) is what prevents the party from taking off. The fact that they did not get to play any encores also made it feel a bit like an opening act rather than one of the main acts. 7/10.

Next up was all female act MaidaVale. They can best be described as some kind of experimental psych rock. The sound echoes the early 70’s and bands like Led Zeppelin and Hawkwind but even more experimental. The band members are highly musical and they sound like nothing else. It is very entertaining for a while but towards the end of the show it tends to get slightly boring. They would probably benefit from playing at a club stage rather than in this pretty sterile environment. The music speaks to your mind and imagination and maybe I would experience it differently less sober. 6/10.

 

 Concluding the first half of the day was Graveyard. This too is a band where the influences are easily traced back to Led Zeppelin and others. They are very good at what they do, both as song writers and instrumentalists, but for me it does not really do it. Most songs keep a low and laid-back tempo and one-on-one I would probably like most of them, but with few, if any, up-tempo songs everything starts to sound the same for me after a while. I would probably prefer them on an outdoor stage. 6/10.

Time for the biggest surprise of the day – Bombus!  It is not a band I have listened very much to. I decided to listen in their music for real before this show and I realized they were actually very good. But Bombus still had a surprise for me in their backpockets. This is a band that should be experienced live! I absolutely loved this gig. This is metal at its best. Sometimes they pay homage to Motörhead and you could easily imagine Lemmy singing the specific song in question, but at other times they are heavier or the other way around – more sing-along friendly. I am now officially a Bombus fan!  8/10.

Let be honest – there were two of the bands more or less everyone were there for and The Hellacopters were of course one of them. You get everything you expect from a Hellacopters gig – every band member has his well defined role in the band, they are extremely tight and the sound is good. Still there is something missing I cannot really put my finger on. Maybe it is exactly that – there are no surprises. I also kind of miss Kenny Håkansson on bass. Dolf DeBorst is the odd man out in this band. He just does not fit in. So was this a poor performance? Of course not! It is Hellacopters! You get what you came for. All the hits are there of course and after all these years Hellacopters have quite a catalogue. The mix is spiced up with the brand new single Reap a Hurricane which is yet another given hit single. Hellacopters – It’s only rock’n’roll but I like it! 7/10.

When all other band members left Thundermother in 2017 it would perhaps normally have been the end of the band, but Filippa Nässil rebuilt it from the bottom. The band is her baby and she has grown up to be a very competent live act. I have a soft spot for bands where you can see they really enjoy being on stage and are having fun being there and Thundermother is one of those bands. Nässil is a seasoned compositor and the music is built around classical metal riffs that often reek of AC/DC but still never feel boring or worn out. On top of that the band has an excellent vocalist in Guernica Mancini. I am not really comfortable with the label “girl band”. Thundermother is not a girl band. They are a band. And they are good.

This is the kind of music I usually really enjoy live but find a tad bit boring on record, but that is not the case with Thundermother. Their recorded material has spun quite a lot in my car stereo over the last couple of weeks. Maybe the set was slightly too long for the material, but the same goes for AC/DC nowadays :-). 7/10.

Finally time for the second main attraction of the day – The Hives. Hives are an extremely good live act. They are more than just a band – they are entertainers, which of course to a large extent comes down to Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, but not exclusively. His brother Nicholaus Arson is also a very flamboyant stage personality. The Hives is also a concept – everything from the suits to the stage decor and the legend created around the band and the hilarious monikers.

I have never seen The Hives anything less than excellent from a musical sense as well as from an entertaining point of view. Tonight is no exception. But it is a bit disappointing to realize that the set-list is identical to most of the recent shows. With the pandemic putting live music on hold for so long you could wish for a bit more spontaneity when finally being back on stage. Even when Howlin’ Pelle leaves the stage and parts the crowd, like Moses did with the Red Sea, only to simply sit down and speak with them during the final encore Tick Tick Boom is all to similar to when I saw them in Dalhalla more than two years ago. But hey – it’s still a party and thanks for having us! 8/10.

Royal Rock Fest – Sandviken 18/12-21

December 23, 2021

Live music is back – for now. This weekend saw the one-day festival Royal Rock Fest visit first Stockholm, on the Friday and then Sandviken on the Saturday. The line-up consisted of eight bands in total – The Hives, Hellacopters, Royal Republic, Graveyard, Horndal, MaidaVale, Bombus and Thundermother. I was able to attend in Sandviken, which was my first major concert since the beginning of the pandemic.  The venue was very well suited for the purpose, with two separate stages. The opening act on the smaller stage was Horndal. I am going to be honest right from the start and say that this is not the kind of music I normally listen to. I am an eighties guy who prefer more melodic, classic singalong stuff. I had listened to Horndal before but found it too extreme. That was before I saw them live.  Suddenly it all made sense. The stage design fits their narrative of the dying industrial small town, abandoned by capital and society perfectly. Two chimneys spewing out thick smoke illustrate the theme of the songs perfectly. It is not easy to create something new and original in the world of metal nowadays, but Horndal succeeds. The story of their…

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