Sweden Rock Festival
June 9-11, 2005

By Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #31 (June 2005)

Day One

This was my third trip to the Sweden Rock Festival and I thought it would be hard to beat last year's festival but this year was simply incredible. I got to see bands that I had not seen in 20 years and some I had never seen. A real true blast to the past! We arrived about 11 in the morning and after some hassles and stuff we camped in the media camping area and got set up. They were charging 220kr for entrance to the camping site, which I thought was quite unfair, as you had already paid 1250kr for the ticket. Oh well. We could hear Hellfueled play but did not get to see any of their set. The first band I caught any of was the last two songs of Napalm Death. Phew…. heavy shit. Then at 14 was the original line up of Anthrax from the mid 80s. Man, did they deliver the goods and totally smoked the place! The band all looked good, even Belladona, even though his voice was about half the strength of what he was 20 years ago! It was a classic set and the crowd was into it as well.

Setlist: Among the Living, Got the Time, Caught in a Mosh, AIR, Madhouse, Antisocial, N.F.L., Medusa, Indians, ?, I am the Man, Metal Thrashing Mad and I am the Law

Next up was Megadeth. I had not seen them since January 1987 when they opened for Alice Cooper! I am not sure how many of the members are the same in Megadeth, could be none, but they had a great sound. Dave is singing well and had a Bon Scott t-shirt on. They played some really complex stuff, almost like some sort of progressive metal with lots of duelling ripping lead guitars. They played a lot of new material and it was very melodic. They did not thrash out hardly at all, especially compared to Anthrax. I really enjoyed them.

Next up was Trettioåriga Kriget (30 Years War), an old Swedish band the 1970's who had recently reunited. They looked their age but damn, can they play great. I ran into Par from Sgt. Sunshine and Marcus from Last Laugh/DarXtar at this show. Anyway, this was old school 70's progressive rock in the small tent where most of the other bands were cover music.

Ok… back to 1986 again for me when I last saw Saxon play. Saxon clearly is still very popular today. I have to say I have not followed them since the 80's but they still really rock. Only two original members nowadays but Biff. He is a great front man. I was really surprised how much I got into their set, which included a few good new songs but a lot of the classic material. Great crowd!

Set List: HM Thunder, Dogs of War, Take my Heart Away, Backs to the Wall, Strong arm of the Law, Solid Ball of Rock, Dragons Lair, The Eagle has Landed, Man and Machine, And the Bands played on, Motorcycle Man, Dallas 1PM, 747 (Strangers in the Night), Princess of the Night, Denim and Leather, Wheels of Steel, Crusader

Now it was back to the main festival stage to catch Styx. Amazingly, the band had never played in Sweden. I really liked their records from 1975-1979 and then they completely lost it and went very commercial. I had quite low expectations for them but was really amazed at what I heard. The band opened with Blue Collar Man and sounded great. While this line up only has one of the original members (James Young) in the main band, one of the original members (Chuck Panozzo) playing on a few of the tracks. Tommy Shaw, who joined the band after the second album was released, is of course in the line up. The main songwriter and voice for the band, Dennis DeYoung, is not but his vocal replacement was superb (Lawrence Gowan). Anyway, they were pretty damn heavy and did not play much of that pop shit from Paradise Theater, or Killroy Was Here. Lady, the bands huge hit from 1975 which put them on the map was really great. They did a medley of 18 old songs that was about 10 minutes long so some of the songs were really hard to hear what they were. The band has just released a CD of all cover songs. They played I Don't Need No Doctor and I Am The Walrus. Their set was really great though with classics like Miss America, Loreli, Renegade, Sailing Away, and Snowblind. The medley had samples of songs like Lights Out, Midnight Ride, Great White Hope, Borrowed Time, Suite Madam Blue, and Man in the Wilderness from what I can recall. Great set!

Only 15 minutes break for a beer and off to get our asses kicked by Motorhead! I did not see them on the Inferno tour but I had seen the setlists they had been playing and I was really psyched to hear one of my all time favourite bands! They opened with Dr. Rock, and damn it was loud as hell. In fact the loudest I would hear at the festival. It was a great set of old classics like Love Me Like A Reptile, Metropolis, Over The Top, Just Cuz You Got The Power Don't Mean You Got The Right, RAMONES, Going To Brazil, Killed By Death, Shoot You In The Back and Stay Clean. The new songs were really heavy as well. The crowd loved it and Lemmy. The show ended with Bomber and the bomber lighting rig coming down which was really cool. They finished with Overkill…. 30 years of Motorhead and still going strong!

Set List: Dr. Rock, Stay Clean, Shoot you in the Back, Love me like a Reptile, Killers, Metropolis, Over the Top, No Class, I got Mine, In the name of Tragedy, Dancing on your Grave, RAMONES, Sacrifice (w/drums solo), Just cos you got the Power, Going to Brazil, Killed by Death, Iron Fist, Ace of Spades, Bomber, Overkill

Only another short break to pee and recover and it was ACCEPT, with nearly the original line up of balding gray haired guys. I had last seen Accept in 1984 when they were opening for Saxon on the Balls To The Wall tour. They were really awesome and powerful on this tour, so I had no idea what to expect. They opened the show with the old track, Starlight From The Breaker LP. The sound was great and people were into it. UDO, he can still sing that stuff really well. The band looked like they were having a lot of fun up there as well. It was a pretty heavy set with Living For Tonight into London Lullaby, Metal Heart, Lovechild, Breaker, Darkness, Neon Nights, Some kind of singalong anthem that went into a jam and guitar solo. They played a really long set with Restless and Wild, Son of a Bitch, Turn me On, TV War, Up to the Limit, Monster Man, Flash rocking Man, Burnin' etc. The encores were Princess of the Dawn, Fast as a Shark, I'm a Rebel and Balls to the Wall. What a day of Heavy metal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Day Two

Well, I could hardly get any sleep until like 6 in the morning until 10 as people were up all night partying as the weather was really nice. Bastards! Anyway, besides being very tired, I checked out a couple of songs by Sabaton before heading off to The Lizards. Saboton are a Swedish band playing very classic style heavy metal. Not bad. The Lizards are a NYC based ass kicking blues rock band, 70's style. The singer used to be in Riot and they feature the famous drummer, Bobby Rondinelli I was pretty impressed by the cool riffs of guitarist Patrick Klein and the lot of good songs that they had. It was quite a small crowd at 12 for their set. Next up I caught the last half of Mustasch, the only stoner rock like band at the festival. They had a large crowd and some of their songs were really excellent and some did nothing for me.

Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society, were on the main festival stage next and this was one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing. Set up on the drum riser were 8 plastic cups of beer with a sign saying "Pub Closed". When Zakk hit the stage, first thing he did was change the sign to "Pub Open" and start ripping it up on the guitar. The Swedish Chapter of the Black Label Society was out in force for sure and Zakk demanded they scream! They opened with Stoned And Drunk from the Blessed Hellride. Most of the set would be taken from the new CD, Mafia and the Blessed Hellride. This is a band that rocks out with maximum intensity. Zakk, his voice is very powerful and his guitar ripping on high gear. The whole band is very tight. It was 70 minutes of headbanging for sure! Awesome!!!!!

Set list: Into>Stoned and Drunk, Destruction Overdrive, Been a long Time, IronMan tease>Funeral Bell, Suffering Overdue, Suicide Messiah>Jam, old song, Spread your Wings, Fire it up>Jam, Stillborn, Genocide Junkies.

I was quite tired after that but now it was over to see Overkill! I loved the bands first two records and then never really followed them after that. They were fucking loud, next loudest of the festival next to Motorhead and they were great as well. I sat a bit far away in the grass and got into it. They even played some old numbers like Rotten To The Core! Great stuff.

Next up was KANSAS, a band I have always loved and had first seen in 1979 and again in 1992 but not since. It was 5 of the original 7 members which were awesome! Kerry, the 7th original member does not tour with the band anymore and only occasionally appears with them, despite being the major songwriter of all their most famous material. They rocked like hell and this was the first time they had ever been in Sweden! The set was exclusively 70's material. They closed the concert with their heavy metal hit, Dust In The Wind, the band joked! I really enjoyed it a lot and they play so fantastic and it makes you realize just how good their old songs are.

Setlist: ?, Mysteries and Mayhem, The Wall, ?, Icarus, Magnum Opus, Song for America, ?, Bringing it Back, Point of no Return, Portrait (He Knew), Dust in the Wind, Carry on Wayward Son

Another one I was really looking forward to was Robin Trower! He had a very small crowd at his stage, which really surprised me. All the guys in Black Label Society showed up and were sitting on the side of the stage for the first hour watching the master play the guitar! Robin opened with Too Rolling Stoned and it sounded great, just like back in 1975. He had a very beautiful cherry Stratocaster that he played the whole show. This is a man with a great tone when he plays the guitar. He had a very young singer and an excellent bass player, who had a quite a bit of trouble during the first 30 minutes of the show. The drummer was the drummer, good but not outstanding. Robin, on the other hand, was amazing and better than when I had seen him back in 1993. He played a lot of stuff off his latest studio CD and these were really good solid 4 minute songs with cool riffs. Great 80 minute set.

Setlist: Too Rolling Stoned, Sweet Angel, What's your Name, Rise up like the Sun, Daydream, Living out of Time, Breathless, Day of the Eagle, Bridge of Sighs, Close Every Door, I want you to love me, Please Tell Me A little bit of Sympathy, Ain't gonna Wait

Unfortunately, they scheduled Diamond Head to overlap with Robin Trower, but the stage was the closest one, so I was able to catch their last 25 minutes. The only original member is the guitar player, Brian Tatler, and a bunch of young hired hands who were probably in diapers when I used to listen to the Diamond Head records! Am I Evil, sounded cool but Helpless and Sucking Your Love, which were great songs. The singer just lacked the passion in his singing and it just sounded a bit off. I left quite disappointed.

Next up was the Swedish Nordic metal band, Hammerfall. These guys are like the Swedish version of Manowar, but their music is not as cool. They had a massive stage set up with cool mountains and stuff. The crowd was the most massive I had seen the whole day at any of the stages. They have some great numbers but after a while there was too much of it that was the same for me. I went to go check out Behemoth, from Poland… fucking hell that was some heavy shit. These guys don't fuck around. The vocalist has this insane voice… not for the weak or dying!

Next you had to choose between going way back with Status Quo or for cheesy all female 80's heavy metal! Well, I had only seen Status Quo one time and they were excellent. It is hard to go wrong with their style of boogie rock and roll. Hell, the band celebrated 40 years in 2004, even older than the Rolling Stones! They delivered the goods and stuck with their mainly classic tracks from the 70's sound, a bit like the 78' era QUO. Fucking good rocking…

Next up was the crazy bastard, Sammy Hager. I saw him opening for Boston back in 1979, my second concert. I did not expect to hear him play much from his solo records from the 70's that he made after he left Montrose, but he delivered a greatest hits package that included songs from all the era including Rock Candy by Montrose. A few of his Van Halen hits as well with his massive stage show with scantily clad girls serving him drinks and a round side stage that he let like 60 fans come up on. It was a huge show, Sammy style. I think he surprised a lot of people. Good night.

Day Three

Well, my good friends WE were lucky enough to get on the bill but had the hard job of being the first band of the day at 11:50. They had quite a good crowd and really delivered the goods giving a strong 45 minute set, focusing almost exclusively on their new CD, Smugglers. It was a great choice for them to put the old Groundhogs classic, Cherry Red in the middle of the set! There were some people from Norway that knew the band and were up on the barrier but I think they got some new fans on this day!

Setlist: Lucid, Lightyears Ahead, Crawling out of the Wreckage, Sulphur Roast Stomp, Cherry Red, Cosmic Biker R&R, Smugglers, Carefree

There was not much until Candlemass that I was really interested in. I caught the last few songs by Kim Mitchell, who used to play guitar in the Max Webster band. It was just pretty normal rock and roll. It was not bad or good. I caught a few songs by Sebastian Bach (ex- Skid Row) and he rocked pretty hard and still had a pretty damn good voice but it was not what I wanted to hear really. I saw 30 minutes of the NWOBHM band Magnum. I never really cared much for them and they sounded just like I remembered, pretty much slick poppy rock. Ugh…. quite a good crowd though. Strange. I caught a few songs by the Swedish band Defleshed. This was bringing back to life the old Bathory sound… heavy stuff. Next up was Yngwie Malmsteen and I had never heard him live. I really liked the first Rising Force record from 1985 but did not follow him much after except to hear this CD with the orchestra. Anyway, he was way way over the top. Talk about a solo maniac. The guy just can't slow down. He did like 3 separate solo guitar solo spots in his set. The people loved him but so much of his stuff was nearly the same. I had to break down laughing a few times with Thomas of WE, because he was just too much with his million note a second guitar soloing all the time. We got the message.

Now it was time for Blackfoot. Close but not the real Blackfoot. The original drummer died like 2 months ago and Ricke Medlocke is in dispute with the rest of the guys and is not in the band either. I saw Blackfoot a lot in the 80's with Foghat, Def Leppard, headlining, with Ted Nugent, etc. They were a great band and have excellent records from the first one in 1975 up until 1982. After that they started to lose it. But today's set was the classic Blackfoot shit and they kicked some ass. I had my doubts coming to see them. The two lead guitar players really smoked. The replacement drummer is a guy from Austria, while the two guitar players, Bobby Barth (also did most all the lead vocals) and Charlie Hargrett (original guitarist), are both excellent. They opened with Good Morning and we were rocking hard! Wishing Well, a cover of the old Free song, was great as well. It was a classic set with some good long jams and one new song as well called Done Wrong Blues. I thought after Highway Song they would be finished but they came out for two encores, playing a song from the first record and Dry County.

Setlist: Good Morning, Wishing Well, I got a line on You, Baby Blue, new song, Everyman should know, Shorty Intro>Doing the Fighting, Took a left turn on a red light, On the Run, Done Wrong Blues, Rollin' and Tumblin', Fly Away, Train Train, Highway Song,. ?, Dry County

Candlemass were always my favourite DOOM metal band from the first time I heard them and they influenced a huge range of DOOM. Yes.. they took from Black Sabbath but somehow, this was the beginning of the real DOOM metal sound. This was the classic line up that recorded the records from Nightfall through the live record. I last saw the band in Oakland, CA in 1991, their last trip to the USA. Messiah, he was back and bad as ever. He was so powerful and they had the crowd totally going wild and the sound was massive and awesome. The new songs sounded really great like the classic era material. I was totally blown away. Great set.

Setlist: Black Dwarf, Mirror Mirror, Under the Oak, Assassins of the Light, Copernicus, Dark Reflections, Solitude, At the Gallows End, 7 Silver Keys, Bearer of Pain, Well of Souls, Dark are the veils of Death

Next up was DIO. What can I say. I saw him on the Holy Diver tour in El Paso in 1983 and a few songs in 1995 when we went to go see Motorhead but had an hour drive back on a week night, but not since. He had an awesome band and at like 60 years old he sounds incredible. It was a greatest hits set and an excellent one. We got Gates of Babylon and Stargazer from the Rainbow era, Holy Diver, Stand up and Shout, Rainbow in the Dark, Last in Line, Sunset Superman, Heaven and Hell…etc. The crowd was huge. I could not get anywhere close to get any good pics so I just rocked out! I will for sure see him the next time they come around!

Now the last band of the festival and the one that many people (not me) were looking forward to seeing, Motley Crue! I had just finished reading their biography, The Dirt, a few months ago so it was kind of cool to get to see them. I first saw them in December 1983 and again in April '84 opening for Ozzy. They were fucking rocking metal at this time. I never cared for Vince's high pitched voice but they had some cool riffs. Anyway, this was a fucking carnival show and very far out, with strange costumes on all the roadies and midgets, and lots and lots of very hot nearly naked females! The crowd totally ate it up. They came out hard and heavy after a strange clown introduction with Shout at the Devil. Massive flames and smoke. It was going to be a huge show. They went straight for all the early hits, Too Fast For Love, 10 Seconds Til Love, Looks That Kill, Wild Side, Girls Girls Girls, etc. Then all that was left was the pop hits. The new song they played was really good, which surprised me. One of the encores was Helter Skelter. The crowd was totally nuts for Motley Crue and I am sure they felt like the got their money's worth as it was a hell of a show. See ya next year, Sweden Rock!

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