Sölvesborg, Sweden, June 3, 2009

Thursday, May 21st: Sweden Rock Festival organizers issue a press release that reveals the 2009 edition to be yet another attendance record. Seeing as this has happened annually since 2001, one could argue it was hardly a surprise. Yet, economy is low and one can only guess how many possible attendees skip various festivities because of the fact. To break a record even in the current state of affairs further solidifies the Sweden Rock phenomena; a festival often ridiculed by mainstream media in its native country for its formula of old, tried and tested artists, yet continues to branch out onto different styles within the broad Rock/Metal field, being reflected as well in the wide age span of festival visitors.

Tuesday, June 2nd: Imagine being told the bus that was supposed to take you to the festival at hand is cancelled just hours before you’re supposed to take off, and you’re short changed for expensive last minute train tickets! Fortunately alternative affordable travel ways were found on short notice. By the way, what were the odds of sharing a car ride with another serious Warlock fanatic?


LBy the time yours truly had eventually arrived at the festival, waiting in line by the accreditation booth due to the cause of some indistinct muddle in front, and then dropping off luggage by the camping, it was nearing eight o’clock in the evening already. Thus the first band to catch was Swedes’ Witchcraft. Carrying on in the tradition of 70’s Black Sabbath and Pentagram – the latter’s influence was even recognized with a cover song – Witchcraft’s music is cozy enough to start off (well, for this here reviewer anyway!) the festival, as their, at times, Doom/Stoner meets old Prog Rock approach works for a large part. Guitarist/vocalist Magnus Pelander mentions a trip to Russia not once, but twice, as inspiration to songs, so whatever mentioned trip had in store, certainly left an impression on him. This band had a loose feel to it that accompanied the slowly setting sun just fine.


LThese Swedes take a great pride in their Viking Metal; their visual image is modest but still includes subtle hints of its fascination, such as vocalist Johan Hegg sporting a Viking horn by his side. Never the less the imagery comes more with the music, as the likes of “Runes To My Memory”, “Cry Of The Black Bird” and “Twilight Of The Thunder God” swish through this first (and all, as it would turn out) chilly festival evening. The band’s popularity is ever growing. Still, despite being rich on melody, the music fails being captivating and somehow lacking of true substance along the way. The band has often been put into the Melodic Death Metal racket because of the vocals, despite having no connotations with the sub-genre at hand otherwise. However, the monotone vocals don’t exactly help in keeping the interest for the sporadic spectator for long.


LAlcohol abuse, business factors, bankruptcy, and not to mention the loss of his late wife; latter years have been rough for Blaze Bayley. Thus, touring in the support of an album that bears the title The Man Who Would Not Die could be interpreted in even further ways than originally intended. Here is clearly a man who believes in what he’s doing, and for all the trials that have been in his way, 2009 indeed sees his career back on the right track. Extensive touring, Sweden Rock Festival saw Bayley’s second visit in the country in just six weeks. This means the performed songs were practically identical; the set list just shortened somewhat. Just as the case was in Stockholm in April, “The Clansman”, a song from the man’s former band – the not entirely unknown Iron Maiden – sets the crowd alight the most. However, almost the entire set consists of Bayley’s solo work and as such serves as a testimony to the strength of the material at hand. Kudos to his current band, which has risen considerably above the lackluster display that was evident on the untimely recording of last year’s Live in Poland DVD release.


LStockholm area based Thrashers Decadence made their return to the Alarm stage, located just outside the Festival area, next to the Sweden Rock restaurant. Despite being a very young band still, their music is a successful venture of the golden era of Bay Area Thrash with some modern touches thrown in for good measure. Sporting well crafted melodic aggression, the impression further heightens by front woman “Metallic” Kitty Saric as she snarls and growls her way underneath a mass amount of hair. Performing songs from its three releases, new material is being let out in the open as well. Going by the reaction repeated from last year, Decadence surely has deserved a spot inside the festival area for next time.


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