Sölvesborg, Sweden, June 7, 2007


Despite several chart entries, Dark Tranquillity never got the same recognition as In Flames, The Haunted, or Arch Enemy, but still they do have some fantastic albums to their credit – The Mind’s I and The Gallery are melodic Death Metal classics, and the latest Fiction was also a very strong effort, which really can grow on you. In other words, the very big crowd that had gathered in front of the Rock Stage this Thursday morning were in for quite a feast -– and that was also what they got. Michael Stanne delivered a fantastic performance fronting the band, and this is also a man who seemed truly sincere when greeting the crowd for their response -– nice one indeed. “The Lesser Faith,” “Nothing To No One,” and “Focus Shift” were among the songs played from Fiction, and mixed with a good selection of older classics, the fans seemed very happy with what they got. The guitar sound could have been better, and neither Niklas Sundin nor Martin Henriksson are technical geniuses of any kind, but the message came through loud and clear, and aided by Martin Brändström’s clever keyboards, Dark Tranquillity delivered a very good show. (Torgeir P. Krokfjord)


Axel Rudi Pell Axel Rudi Pell IS the most ridiculous Malmsteen/Blackmore-clone the world has EVER seen … but that has not, and still does not stop him from creating some very enjoyable classic Hard Rock. Bringing with him a band that ranks among the genre’s very finest, featuring vocal God Johnny Gioeli, drum wiz Mike Terrana (whose biceps flexing show was both embarrassing and unnecessary), keyboardist/backing vocalist Ferdy Doernberg, and bassist Volker Krawchak. Especially Gioeli and Doernberg put on a fantastic performance in front of the reasonably-sized crowd, and made songs like “Rock The Nation,” “Fool Fool,” and “Tear Down The Walls” come out brilliantly. Pell’s playing, however, was nothing but noisy and annoying as he feed-backed his way towards poor man’s attempts at Blackmore’s “Child In Time” solos for basically every track. (Torgeir P. Krokfjord)


Here was a sense of freshness for audience and band alike. Though schedulued to be released later in the month, they had managed to release Emotional Coma, Lion’s Share’s first new album in six years, earlier in Sweden, in fact the very day of their gig at the festival. Vocalist Patrik Johansson (Astral Doors) thus referred to the gig as a ”release party.” Indeed the band included several tracks off the new album whilst Johansson would prove to tackle older material well and make them adjust to his voice naturally, heard for example in the opener ”Unholy Rites.” Other older goldies included ”Shotgun Messiah” and ”Sins Of The Father,” and tracks from the new, very impressive release such as ”Bloodstained Soil,” ”Arsenist,” and ”Soul Taker,” though being quite different from past works on record, blended in nicely with the older songs in a live situation. (Patrik Gustavsson)


One could feel the tension –- even sprinkle it over one’s Tex Mex dinner plate -– as the hour at last arrived, and Symphony X finally entered the Sweden Rock stage again. The band’s sudden cancellation of last year’s visit following bassist Michael LePond’s stomach surgery, combined with the impending release of their latest studio project, Paradise Lost, the expectation levels were sky high. Deciding what songs to include in the setlist is probably a difficult task given the band’s wide array of brilliant pieces, but the outcome was thoroughly satisfactory with every album represented, except for The Damnation Game (not counting their pre-Russell Allen debut).

Mike RomeoKicking off with “Of Sins and Shadows” –- the latter totally absent in the hot sun (the prior probably fully present) –- Symphony X had the crowd in their grasp from the first moment and managed to maintain suspense and excitement throughout the performance with classics like “Smoke And Mirrors,” “Sea Of Lies,” “Inferno (Unleash The Fire),” and especially “Communion And The Oracle” complimenting nicely. Also, the three contributions from Paradise Lost: “Damnation”, “Set The World On Fire,” and “Serpent’s Kiss” represent a somewhat more riff-oriented approach than before, yet maintained the trademark Romeo elaboration. Finally, every Progressive Junkie’s wettest dream came true as Russell announced: “Well, for those of you unfamiliar with the band … this one is called ‘The Odyssey’,” their most Symphonic masterpiece, making sure that the tour de force performance was ended with power and panache.

The only notable hiccups came from the sound engineering -– Michael Pinnella’s synth went from being almost inaudible to having an overwhelming bass level, and Michael Romeo’s guitars weren’t always top notch. Still, Symphony X showcased a display of flamboyant musicianship throughout, especially Russell Allen proved that he stands second to no vocalist and frontman in the genre, and presented versions of their complex and technical Progressive Metal well-adapted to a festival setting. (Eirik P. Krokfjord)


Two singers…one good – and one not that good, really After a press conference that could hardly be described as nothing but a parody, where Meat Loaf did everything in his power to make every journalist brave enough to ask a question look like a fool -– although some of the questions in fact were just as hopeless as Loaf argued, he had a helluva job to even out the prejudices. As with Axel Rudi Pell, the backing band did their best to make him stand tall through the storm, delivering an utterly professional performance, reeking, though almost pleasantly, of studio musicianship along the way. With “Bat Out Of Hell,” “Paradise By The Dashboard Light,” “I Could Do Anything For Love,” and “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” in the setlist, there was really no way he could go wrong … or was there? Yes, there was. Meat Loaf himself delivered a terrible performance, hulking and stuttering himself through what really is fantastic melodies sung by a (once?) great singer (himself). This was even more embarrassing when Aspen Miller, who took care of the female lead parts, did fantastically all the way through. To sum it up; great music, great band, one great singer … and Meat Loaf himself. Quite a shame, indeed. (Torgeir P. Krokfjord)


Black Metal covey Marduk has kept the black flag flying high for more than 10 years, and are rightfully considered amongst the very top Swedish exponents of the genre. Being one of the most extreme bands to visit Sweden Rock Festival this year, great expectations of their performance by the numerous Metalheads with black-dyed hair waiting patiently in front of the Zeppelin Stage. Marduk had attained a somewhat arrogant approach onstage with clear and crisp asseveration of their Satanic message, this fitting nicely along their musical and visual way of expression –- the only breach being Mortuus, who most of the time looked worn out and genuinely tired.

Their set included “Wolves,” “Still Fucking Dead,” “Baptism By Fire,” “Cold Mound Killer,” as well as “Of Hell’s Fire” from their latest release Rom 5:12, before ending the show with the incredibly intense track “Panzer Division Marduk.” The numerous additions of older tracks was a genuinely positive experience, as was the decision to not only prioritize their fastest material, but rather blend in some of the more distinctively groovy songs as well. This made a nice impact on their selection of incredibly aggressive choices, and made for a very nicely balanced show and a tight performance –- the only thing noticeably lacking being “Opus Nocturne” from their 1994 release bearing the same name. (Carl Engström)


Silenoz, Galder, and ShagrathWhen spying the name Dimmu Borgir on a poster, one immediately comes to expect a thoroughly professional band producing a serious, determined and competent performance –- and that was just what was presented at the Rock Stage Thursday night. The Death Cult Armageddon classic “Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse” started the Dimmu machine rolling, performing so proficiently that fans could’ve been fooled into wondering if it was in fact a live performance after all. However, a few things contradict this, namely ICS Vortex’ struggling clean vocals as well as some dodgy sound engineering, a lingering problem during “Vredesbyrd,” “Cataclysm Children,” and “Kings Of Carnival Creation” –- a shame indeed. The problem righted itself as the set reached “Sorgens Kammer,” and Hellhammer decided to celebrate with a drum solo -– not strictly necessary considering the musical material available to the band, but the man’s pace is simply incredible. An awestruck audience is plummeted further into the concert, and discovering that “The Serpentine Offering” from In Sorte Diaboli in fact works better live than the album version – Vortex’ vocal escapades yet again being the only clear point of frustration. With encores such as “Spellbound (By The Devil)” and “Mourning Palace,” one can only sum up with the manifestation of Dimmu Borgir as an incredibly able group of musicians, something their worldwide recognition only confirms. There are some bumps still yet to straightened out, however, first of all, Shagrath may well be deemed as arrogant for being a Norwegian frontman deciding to speak English when playing in … Sweden. Much of his appearance seemed somewhat on “auto pilot” as well, and the whole band generally didn’t entertain much visually except for their nicely crafted costumes. In conclusion – Dimmu Borgir is a good band, but they need to learn to bring out the best in themselves at every opportunity. Otherwise, the polished feeling will get far too dominating, and a number of critics will see the opportunity to lunge at them. And, this band deserves better than that. (Carl Engström)


Thin Lizzy People’s opinion of today’s Thin Lizzy could basically be divided in two entities; those who, hesitantly, refer to it as a cover band, preferring to put quotation marks around the band’s name, and those who simply refuse to recognize them as an existing band at all without it’s founder and main songwriter, long since deceased Phil Lynnott. The former bandmates touring as ”Thin Lizzy” using the logo and playing songs from the old repertoire. John Sykes, guitarist from the last Thin Lizzy album Thunder And Lightning is now handling vocal duties and manages to sound similar, but not identical to, Lynott.

Also on board is Lynott’s longest duty band partner guitarist Scott Gorham whose presence probably gives the most credit. After all, Gorham played on all of the albums from which the 90 minutes worth of material was based. With bassist Marc Mendoza and drummer Tommy Aldridge on board as well as Sykes, what’s funny is that now ”Thin Lizzy” features three musicians who at one time or another resided in Whitesnake. And yes, Aldridge performed his solo with bare hands this time around, also.

One certainly can’t argue with the material performed. ”Jailbreak,” ”Waiting For An Alibi,” ”Dancing In the Moonlight” and ”Boys Are Back In Town” (to name a few) are still staples you’ve probably heard on any classic Rock radio station. Add, to that lesser known, but just as good Rock greats such as ”Chinatown,” ”Suicide,” and the closing epic ”Black Rose (A Rock Legend)” all being performed by musicians who even mention Lynott’s legacy several times throughout, there’s really no need to complain when you see the performers in that light: a tribute to the legacy, especially for anyone younger who never saw the real incarnation, this show was worth one visit, though not more. (Patrik Gustavsson)


Tony Iommi This was really an historical event. The band that now calls itself Heaven & Hell (Black Sabbath featuring vocalist Ronnie James Dio) had never performed in Sweden before under any moniker. A gig had been planned in Stockholm during it’s Dehumanizer tour, only to be scrapped when the band fell apart again. Today, the band is not under the pressure of having it a long term project and thus gives a relaxed impression in that respect. Because it was a first, naturally there was a curiosity as to how Sabbath live with Ronnie James Dio would be. In retrospect, it wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone who had seen Sabbath in any constellation including bassist Geezer Butler and DIO (the band) in any line-up, including drummer Vinny Appice.

Guitarist Tony Iommi and Butler’s stage behaviour is long since well-known; the heaviness they muster with their instruments is really remarkable, but they are about as wild and physically active as a monk’s sex life. Ronnie James Dio did his usual stage self, pointing to the audience and occasional flashing “the sign,” hand on his thighs and a quirky, evil smile every now and then, but even his charisma as a frontman can’t alter Sabbath’s overall stiffness as a live act. For many years, his voice seemed incapable of showing any kind of weakness, but later years have clearly put strains on the legendary pipes. On the night, his voice cracked when attempting the higher notes on “Sign Of The Southern Cross,” for example, and the aggressive timbre is especially missed in Dehumanizer classics “I” & “Computer God”. That said, Dio still sings mid-range material as well as ever, and he shined during the beautiful, slow beginnings of “Falling Of The Edge Of The World,” possibly the very best track from Sabbath’s Dio-era.

Screens on the sides of the stage occasionally also showed Appice looking tortured and in agony behind his kit, like banging the drums is the world’s ordeal, yet it’s what he does as profession. Perhaps the cut down since the tour’s inception from 16 to just 11 performed songs (yes, basically a whole third of the initial set, resulting in long lost tracks such as “Lady Evil” and “Lonely Is The Word” being dropped), but with the drum solo still present, there were signs of the band members age. Still, the inclusion of a way too long performed version of “Heaven & Hell” (the song) could instead had been shortened to add another, preferable more up-tempo, song. The shortened set, and instead inclusion of outdrawn versions of certain songs and solo’s, despite the steady performance of the band musically, left a feeling of slight disappointment. The show, though very professional, never seemed to pick up momentum. Though you can’t blame the band for aging, eleven songs still felt too sparse for a headliner. But then, that’s the problem with reunions; the dilemma of expecting a certain performance, only to get an older and often not as vital version. (Patrik Gustavsson)

Special Note: All Pictures by Sue Ashcroft


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