Sölvesborg, Sweden, June 4, 2008


Introduction: Well, then it was that time of year again! The festival has been around annually since 1992, when it was called Karlshamnfestivalen. Since 1998, though, it has been known as Sweden Rock Festival and has become an institution, inevitably growing into the most popular music festival in all of Sweden. Like always, 2008’s line-up saw a great spectrum of just about every genre that Rock, Hard Rock, and Heavy Metal can provide. Sweden Rock Festival has been known mostly for concentrating on veteran artists, but newer bands have also been featured aplenty, especially so in recent years, with the festival doing a good job in exposing newer Swedish bands in particular. For the second year in a row, it was a four-day festival as well, with the first day being limited to an audience of 10,000, and the two largest stages not yet active. The festival continues to grow; the last four years it has done so remarkably. The general audience figure for 2008 claims around 33,200 participants. The question is, how much more will Sweden Rock Festival grow?


Just as the case was in 2007, the first day showcased the talents of several Swedish bands -some of them even relative newcomers to boot. Astral Doors from Dalarna has been noted to indulge in being a Ronnie James Dio tribute in general, as far as their obvious first choice of influence is concerned. That’s indeed quite intentional as well; vocalist Patrik Johansson even pulls out Dio’s “there’s a big black shape” routine during the band’s performance of “Of the Son and the Father”, the title track off of it’s 2003 debut. Indeed the song in question pays musical home age to the Black Sabbath classic “Heaven and Hell”. It should be taken as humour and, hey, there are certainly worse characters in the big, bad world to emulate than the “King of Rock N Roll”! Taken in that light, its good fun and served with some fine tunes makes up a strong enough recipes. Astral Doors continues to provide quality performances of Old-School, Hard Rockin’ Metal that make up for with heartfelt warmth what it may lack in originality, and on the day they manage to draw a sizeable audience to join in on the indulgence. After all, which self respecting Hard Rocker has never taken to heart any single album Ronnie James Dio performed on?


Fatal Smile may seem a newer band than they actually are, having only three CD’s so far but having formed as far back as 1995 initially. Line-up’s have come and gone though and the current CD World Domination is the first one to feature singer Thomas E. Blade and bassist Alex Johnson. Both the look and style of the band brings to mind a general Mötley Crüe consensus, with Johnson especially, again consciously or not, strikes a similarity to Nikki Sixx with his stage antics. Songs such as ”Crash and Burn”, ”Stranger” and especially ”Learn Love Hate” serves as great live music, especially if you enjoyed a cold one or two prior and keep the spectators in good mood. Fatal Smile should have a bright future, indeed.


As daylight starts to slip away, it’s time for another Swedish band to hit the stage – the stage in question the biggest available on the first day, with many people gathering in front of the Sweden Stage. Over the last few years Sabaton, hailing from Falun, has grown very popular in their home country, despite a rocky start with a delayed debut (the original pressing now goes for a considerable penny) and whatnot. In a way it’s easy to understand Sabaton’s quick rise in popularity; their songs consists of catchy choruses that tend to stuck, a sound that is firmly based in the European “Power” Metal fashion, albeit approached with a bit more crunch than the likes of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarious, in part due to rawer, but painstakingly one-sided vocals. Thus, the band’s charm tend to wear off very quick and despite putting on an enthusiastic live show and front man Joakim Brodén seemingly genuinely humbled by the crowd reaction, one can’t help wondering how long the popularity will last, especially considering the lack of variation within the band’s scope and vision. Time will lead the way, but for now, the band is still enjoyable in the live environment.


Reactivated NWOBHM group Sweet Savage are first and foremost known for two things: Metallica covering their old tune “Killing Time,” and, even more so, once harbouring then very young guitarist Vivian Campbell who would rise to stardom in the first formation of DIO, on to Whitesnake and, of course, Def Leppard, the far more successful band who originated in the same era as Sweet Savage, where he’s been for the last 16 years. Coincidentally, Def Leppard would headline the festival two days later, which Vivian’s old band mates acknowledged by giving him a shout out during its gig. Indeed a nice touch, for perhaps one or two in the audience wasn’t as familiar with Sweet Savage to acknowledge this link in Rock music history. Campbell brought several of Sweet Savage’s ideas to be part of the early DIO material.

That’s pretty obvious on this night as well and instantly one hears where the riff to “Invisible” off of DIO’s classic debut came from. However, though as this lent-age of material of Sweet Savage’s catalogue suggests the group did have a share of good material, as the gig proceeds, the Bluesy, slight Thin Lizzy-likeliness of many of the songs is too forgettable, and combined with the fact a visual presentation that could, vocalist/bassist Raymond Haller excluded, hardly be described as enthusiastic, ends the first, chilly night of the festival on a sleepy note.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.