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Days 1 And 2 @ Sweden Rock Festival Norje Havsbad, Solvesborg (SWE)

in Wednesday, 4 June 2008 at Sweden Rock Festival Norje Havsbad
by Erika Wallberg

Days 1 and 2

I guess it belongs to all big festivals, the frustration of having to choose what to see and what to do all the time. 'Sweden Rock' festival was no exception this year either, even a little worse even since I had the chance to hang out at press-conferences and in the backstage bar. 'Sweden Rock' is together with 'Metal Camp' in Slovenia the festivals with most days of fun; I had to admit I was really ready to go home on Sunday morning this year. 5 days of festival camping, extreme sun and people everywhere is quite an overdose of fun. Yes, I said 5 days. It all started off a little on Tuesday June 3 with a few bands playing at the Restaurant stage outside the festival area.

LEOPARD LADIES from Gothenburg rocked hard. Sort of ordinary 80's Hardrock, with real attitude and a good performance. These girls can absolutely give CRUCIFIED BARBARA a match for the throne of Swedish chick-Metal. Musically, I actually liked LEOPARD LADIES more but after a while it sounded a little too much the same as it does with most of these bands; but this girls are absolutely something to look out for.

From Glam to HOLY MOSES tasting Thrash Metal served by DECADANCE from Stockholm. And yes, it does get more common for women to sing brutal music nowadays too, but not in this way. Of course, some girls can actually sound really good but it's far less that can do with the right attitude and approach to feel 100% real. Kitty can! She is skinny as a knitting stick but has a voice power of a grizzly bear. They're fun to watch, sound is as good as it can be and the crowd is awake too by now. The thing I found strange is that they've released three albums already, they should have gotten more recognition by now. This is too good to be ignored.

But festivals are not all about music, it's a lot about hanging out and meet friends, get into more or less crazy things (like flip-flop shoe-fights)… This is an event where I have been meeting people year after year, and only here. So there was a lot of catching up to do so the rest of the night was spent chatting and cheering a little here and there. No more attention was paid to the stage that night. If that says more about me or the rest of the bands on the bill this evening I leave uncommented.
Wednesday offered a little too much free time at the tent since the first bands weren't on until 4.30 pm. Well, most of the day was spent chasing away other visitors from our camp to make sure all our friends would get room in our area. It worked out quite well until beer-drinking and storytelling was more interesting than to guard the place.

The bunch of Happy Little Boozers found the way to 'Sweden Stage' in the early evening. And by that I mean us, Wood-Metal with a Finnish Hummppa-touch and lyrics about beer, beer, mythology, beer; and beer is perhaps not my favorite style of music but it sure as hell boosts the party mood. KORPIKLAANI are fun to watch too, and there is nothing to complain about in their musical performance either; it sounded exactly as it is supposed to. A small dose of KORPIKLAANI was enough to cure the frist signs of tiredness that hit us during the afternoon. Add a big doze and the party is on again. There was no risk of getting lazy at this festival at least. First, you need to get from the campsite to the area then walk between the stages, and then of course the multiple choices of bands on stage at the same time that makes you run forward and back between stages. So, after KORPIKLAANI it was time to run to 'Zeppelin Stage' where ASTRAL DOORS were getting ready to rock.

I think it was a little sad to watch live a band that could take over the crown of Classic Metal being that boring. ASTRAL DOORS have released four full length albums and one EP since 2003, and they were damn good albums. I held New Revolution as one of last year's best releases but I never get a kick out of seeing them live. Great songs without a connection to the crowd is not the right recipe for live performances if I have something to say, it's just not enough spice! Sometimes it felt they're playing a little safe too and take the easy-listening songs rather than the ones with more heart and soul. Ok, I got both Quisling and London Caves that are some of my favorites and the fact that the sound was really good raised the impression a lot.

One quickie at the bar, beer that is… And yes, beer is a necessity while watching AIRBOURNE. That band was the most promoted band in our camp. It was everyone's No. 1 priority and almost everyone's highlight of the festival. I myself was that fond of simple Aussie Rock but I had to tag along and see what the buzz was all about. Goddamn! AC_DC is going to have a really hard time to top this. The adrenaline was bubbling off stage from the first second and just increased all the way to the end. And even if this wasn't my favorite type of music I must admit it was damn good and a lot of fun to watch them. It's always an extra plus if some on stage starts climbing in the light-rig and it gets impressive if someone actually has the guts to jump right off the PA speakers back down on stage. I sure as hell am that I will have another chance to see AIRBOURNE this summer.
After that, nothing felt alive, it felt a little pointless to go and watch BONAFIDE directly after. They're really good too, but after AIRBOURNE they didn't have a chance.

Back at the camp it felt we'd landed at the Faroe Islands, our camp was invaded but tiny yellow tents and extremely drunk people speaking in strange language. They turned out to be a lot of fun and we could start a betting-pool on which one of them was going to passed out when we got back to the camp every night.

Cold Wednesday night turned into a hot Thursday morning and another crazy day at the 'Sweden Rock' festival. Sometimes, to not have the time to stay updated on a band is a good thing. I'm quite familiar to PICTURE's music but I never found the time to check them out either the information sheet for the festival or their websites or anything else before they entered the stage. I had my fair share of reunited bands the last couple of years but I never expected a Dutch version of Dee Snider. Awesome! Perhaps it's not perfect, not flawlessly played but with this spirit it didn't matter. They didn't try, they just were and it all felt very natural and completely right. Classic Hard Rock_Metal from Holland, perhaps very ordinary but it was still good and set the mood perfectly on a sunny morning. 'Sweden Rock' festival's mission for some bands, to write a song called Fill Your Head With Rock was completed with grace, could easily been something from the past. Also new song Blood Out Of A Stone sounded very promising, a tune it will be nice to drive the car really fast too, really cool! That's one more thing with all those reunited bands, of course they can do their old songs but it's not very often they manage to write new material in the same class as the old. Listening to this I can't wait to hear more from PICTURE. This concert made my Thursday, that's quite a start of the day!

I just regret that I didn't stay for the whole set but my plan was to catch the last part of BLACK STONE CHERRY. That was a mistake! They were probable brilliant in their style but I think they played 2 songs the last 40 minutes of their set, then it was all jam and guitar solos, or perhaps I should say squeak and creek on guitars. Nothing I fancy at all.
Due to bad scheduling with the flights SEBASTIAN BACH didn't make it to the festival on time and you can't really leave the biggest stage empty for hours because of something like that. Lucky enough BONAFIDE was ready to rock. And now there was no problem for them to blow me away and erase every memory of BLACK STONE CHERRY from my mind and convince me once more time that Basic Rock can be really, really good.

As I said this type of music is not at all my cup of tea but BONAFIDE always makes me feel good. It is laid back but never lazy. At the same time it's powerful and energetic. It was so nice to be sucked into the music and just enjoy. Not many bands can do that to me. I tried to find something to criticize but I couldn't come up with something really. Not even the size of the stage. Normally a new band looks lost and small on the 'Festival Stage' but not BONAFIDE. -Up for some Blues? Pontus walks out on the runway as he had never done anything else in his life and his guitar starts talking. It was a flawless performance for all of them and even for the slightly hung-over Micke Nilsson (bass). I'm really surprised when the gig was over, it felt like it just started and that says a lot about a band playing a style of music I'm not that fond of.

Then off to something completely different. PAIN OF SALVATION has already started over at the other corner of the festival. To me the stereotype of Progressive Metal has been a bunch of pretentious musicians looking pretty boring. It's great to see a band that visually could be exactly anything, Grunge, Hardcore, Aggro, Rock� Style wise that is. So perhaps it was wrong to call them Progressive Metal. Perhaps boundary breaking, super creative…. Well, Music was more right! Like BONAFIDE, PAIN OF SALVATION got to me with the power of their music. Due to the complex vocal arrangements the band tended to be quite still at stage but it never felt boring, never felt dead. It's atmospheric and I'm always impressed with a band that can write extremely long songs and keep them interesting all the time. But I am sure I have some homework to do here, I loved it but I've rarely listened to it. Shame on me!

I'm absolutely more familiar to PRIMAL FEAR. They're sort of a supergroup, no one can object to that. To mention names like Ralph Scheepers, Mat Sinner and Randy Black will convince the even biggest novice of the genre. This is a band that has grown on me everytime I am listening to them, and the more albums they release. I really love the last two Seven Seals and New Religion and I've taken all chances given to see them live the last couple of years. Again they delivered a tight well balanced set of the finest German Metal. It's polished, it had groove, it had actions, looked good, sounded great. There's really nothing to complain about… Only that now when I've seen them a couple of times it feels like I get the same thing over and over again. PRIMAL FEAR is far from alone about this, most bands has the same setlist for the whole tour, and to me that often see bands more than once on each tour really encourage some brave behavior and changes in the setlist. Ralph sounded great this afternoon (as always), his voice is so perfect to the new heavier and more soulful tracks and those are the ones that appeal to me the most too.

Then, I probably did the right thing and relaxed a little in the shade at the backstage bar. From what I heard COHEED & CAMBRIA did not do such a good impression to start with. The sound was terrible and the band wasn't really enjoying themselves at all.

When I got out in the sun again the sound was good and the band seemed to have a good time. Of course, just played song after song on a festival and no interaction with the crowd were perhaps not the best things but as wacko as they were I thought it suited the image of them well. And then, they started serving hit after hit during the last half hour probably helped a lot too to raise the impression. But this band showed how damn hard it is to place bands right, that it's impossible to predict how big or small a band is before they actually enters the stage. COHEED & CAMBRIA has been pushed extremely hard in at least British magazines and I thought that would raise some curiosity in the Swedish crowd too. But no..

Hello! Chuck Billy leaned back on the chair in the Press tent and every hair on my body stood straight up. It felt exciting and terrifying at the same time to sit here, just looking directly at TESTAMENT. Surreal in some way and a little as I've sneaked in somewhere I didn't really belong. But I guess I wasn't the only one feeling the same way, the questions coming was way too few and lacked substance for the scheduled 30 minutes. I took my chance to ask about 'Rock Hard Festival' where they appeared as a four-piece because Alex had earlier scheduled commitments with Yamaha. You know Chuck says, TESTAMENT is not a band that cancels a gig, we don't want to be that band so this was what we had to do.
I didn't want to cancel my things either Alex says and interrupting Chuck a little. I admire that, it's not Rock'n'Roll to cancel gigs and to get songs like Reign Of Terror and Raging Waters was just awesome. But for that gig the sound was against them, just a big blur of everything. Very unfortunate since it still was a really great show.

A few hours later Chuck, Alex, Eric, Greg and Paul ruled 'Rock Stage'. Chuck roared Are You Ready? and got an immediate response from the crowd and I have never been more ready in my life! Bring it on!!! There's no doubt that Formation Of Damnation will end up at this year's top ten list for me. But it actually took a while before I could see the greatness. That might beat the high expectation I'd set on it though. Tonight, with Alex in the lineup again these new songs got justice. One guitar was just not enough for these tunes. My fishing for some of the more odd songs performed at 'Rock Hard' didn't help but I really can't complain about the setlist. Maybe it's a little too obvious but all songs were so good that it didn't matter what they played, it would be good anyway. The sound was far from flawless now too, perhaps the wind took some of it but it was just as 'Rock Hard' for the first few songs, all a blur. Luckily the sound got a lot better for the rest of the show and in the end it was actually decent but Alex's marvelous guitar solos got a little bit drowned.

It's very few bands that affected me the way TESTAMENT did, they always make me feel elated and make me realize how much I love music. How much it really means to me. And they're one of very few bands that performed with the attitude and passion to convince me that Metal doesn't get much better than this. And that is for every time I see them. To me this was the best gig of the festival.

AT THE GATES has doubtless been one of the most influential Death Metal bands in the world. No metalfreak can deny the impact Slaughter Of The Soul had on the scene when it was released back in 1995. After that album the scene exploded with brutal yet melodic Death Metal bands. What can I say, the songs still stand, they're still as brutal as they were, still as good. Tomas Tompa Lindberg might look a little misplaced these days but he has a great voice and he sounds just the way he should. My concern with this was that he wouldn't be passionate enough for this reunion. I'm glad I was wrong. It was as tight and intense as Metal can be! The Bjorler-brothers know what they're doing and having Adrian Erlandsson behind the drums is nothing but great. I mean, with this bunch of musicians, how can it fail? The scream when they finally played Blinded By Fear is proof of that. I still like THE HAUNTED more though.

Again it felt so surreal to be at the press tent, perhaps not like with TESTAMENT, that I'm at some place I didn't belong rather that I was watching TV.

Could it be true, was it really Rob Halford under that hat and dark glasses? But it was real, I'm right in front of the Metal Gods. Rob and KK talks about Nostradamus, their new album that would be released in the coming days. They were very satisfied with the album and they've gotten great support from the record company. They went an extra mile Rob said, it's released in really nice packages. Deluxe digipack version and the box-set with 3 LP's, 2 CD's and a 48 page book.

Ian Hill was asked who he thinks is the best guitar player in JUDAS PRIEST, he actually looked surprised to even get a question.

Glen and KK stared at him while Rob and Scott started laughing.
Later that evening the duel is on, the masters of twin-guitars and the Metal God enters the stage in the cold night. With a band like this, it was impossible to get all the right songs on the setlist but I was still pleasantly surprised that they changed it quite a lot from last time. Eat Me Alive,Between The Hammer And The Anvil and Sinner was really nice surprises and Rob has more Metal on his coat that the rest of the festival together. I can't help it, I love a great stage set, great lights and effects such as great clothes. If the show is great and huge like this, the band can get away with a less perfect performance. Now I don't think this was bad at all, the opposite. The whole thing felt a lot more a live and inspired than the 'Angel Of Retribution' tour. The only thing I could wish for was that Rob interacted a little more with the audience rather than look down at the stage floor. And no, he didn't have the same voice he used to have but I think he did really well, he pulled it off and I got goosebumps from all screaming in Painkiller.

JUDAS PRIEST are back to stay now. Of course, Rob said, PRIEST is the band I love! It has always been that way, even when I left the band. And it's time for a new chapter in the JUDAS PRIEST history, Nostradamus has received a lot of positive feedback, both from press and fans. The Leather Rebels ended the night quite predicable with Hellbent For Leather, Green Manalishi and You've Got Another Thing Coming. Still it was a great ending of a long day. And the winner of the guitar-duel was… Glen!
(Swedish photos by the festival freak Erika)






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