Sweden Rock Festival
(June 4-8th, 2008)

by Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #40 (September 2008)

Sue and I headed out the door at about 9:00 from Copenhagen and we will meet up with Kai, Susan and Klaus at the first rest stop after the bridge to Sweden. They are a little late as Kai had some trouble with the lights on the trailer to his car. Just about 12:00 and we are parked and getting our wristbands at the accreditation. Unfortunately, since Heavy Jam is not coming, we have some delays, trouble for Klaus and can't get wristband exchange for Sue. No big deal. We head off to the Hotel and will try to make it back to Faith (a new Transubstans Label band).

The hotel is really nice and we have a giant room. All gets sorted out and we can relax a bit before walking the 15 minutes to the bus stop. The bus is suppose to come at 14:00 but does not show up until like 14:20. We are interviewed by a local newspaper and they are quite surprised one of us are from London and an American living in Copenhagen are together at the festival. They ask us about what we think of the bus service and take some pictures. Turns out we are in the local newspaper the next day. I thought the bus was really expensive at 80SEK for only a 10km ride. The bus goes to several other places and depending the day, takes 25-45 minutes. We will miss some of the bands due to this and the fact that the bus schedule is poorly set up. It makes no sense that the first bus is 10:20 as nothing happens before 11:30. Then the next bus is at 12:20 and this gets you to the festival just about 12:50, so you miss almost all of any bands that start at 12:00. The bus should come at 11:00 and 13:00. This makes much more sense.

15:30 - We go to the small Gibson tent to catch FAITH. Meet up with Johnny and Konrad from Transubstans. This year the only beer choice is the Sweden Rock beer, which is not that good. No Norrlunds Gul this year. Damn. Also the price has gone up to 49kr. Anyway, FAITH are ok. A kind of light version of DOOM with a singer a bit like the UK band, the 12th Night. They have hurdy gurdy and violin, which is quite interesting. The crowd was quite small, but we would see even smaller. We run off and catch some of the Danish band, BOIL. There are quite a few Danish people here. They play a sort of riff rock, a bit like a slower version of Mustasch, perhaps. Volume is really low.


16:35 - We sit and have a beer and wait at the Sweden stage for KORPIKLAANI, the great Finnish polka metal band. We saw them last year and were pretty blown away. The weather is great and not as hot as last year. It has been quite hot lately and the grass is totally dead on the festival site. Seems like it could just go up in flames with one cigarette. Korpiklaani play really great and are really fun. Sound was not that good to start with as the drums and bass were way too high and you could almost not hear any of the two guitar players. It did become excellent later but this was a common theme at this years Sweden Rock, so many bands with poor sound, some that just sounded terrible for most of the concert (Carcass and Apocalyptica). This means just terrible sound people. Anyway, we had fun at this show and now we are off to catch some of ASTRAL DOORS. They play a melodic power metal and sound a lot like early 80's DIO. The strange dressed people are starting to appear. Some people with a lot of tattoos as well. See the t-shirt and interesting people gallery!


19:00 - We are back to the Sweden Stage to catch AIRBOURNE from Australia. Think AC/DC without the guitar solos (they have a few). A cool band and they really rock out in a high energy performance but not very original. They sound like 1977-78 AC/DC. People are really into it and we enjoy them as well. A band like this could simply not exist or would be a AC/DC cover band, if the real band actually existed and still put out records and toured. Fun anyway.

20:00 - Off to the Zeppelin stage to catch BONAFIDE. A pretty cool Swedish band that reminded me a lot of the Black Crowes at times but also AC/DC at times. We saw nearly the whole show and they had some really great songs.

Airbourne Bondafide

21:00 - We see about 20-30 minutes of Sabaton. They have a huge crowd at the Sweden Stage and play melodic metallic war anthems. People are really into it. It was not really anything for me but good at what they do and the people are quite hooked. Near us was a woman with a Sabaton shirt on and she is singing along while her two kids, 10 and 12 or so, are looking on, not particularly into it.

22:00 - We run over to the Gibson tent and I say hello to the guys in GRAVEYARD, who are friends of mine. They are on at the same time as the great Finnish band, FIVE FIFTEEN, who I am also friends with and it has been years since I have seen them. I have seen Graveyard two times in the past few months so I wish them a great gig. I speak briefly with Mika, the singer from 5.15, but he is quite busy.

FIVE FIFTEEN were really great and it was an excellent selection of songs. I was really surprised that the band did not have a bigger crowd. They are on the Sweden Rock label and have played here before as well. Anyway, the band kick some ass and play some of the great songs like Innocence is no Excuse, I don't remember, Into the Mushroom Land, Rocking Horse, Fill your head with Rock, Alcohol, Jesus went to NYC, etc. They ended with a jam on the song Prostitute and Mika came out into the crowd and they did a jam on a Doors song as well. The band is really great. A bit sad that this was probably the bands last show with this line up or maybe any line up.

Five Fifteen

23:30 - It is a bit dark now but not entirely. The band choices are down to SATYRICON or SWEET SAVAGE. We go for Sweet Savage. Sweet Savage were a band that I really loved in the old days and my Irish penpal, Cola, she was good friends with Vivian Campbell (went on to be in DIO and Def Leppard). I had loads of old pics, a t-shirt she made, the singles, etc. Never thought I would see the band. Anyway, they totally blew me away and were my favourite band of the day for sure. The singer sounded amazing. The crowd was small but those that were there were pretty blown away. Sadly, they had some technical problems and were 15 minutes delayed and had to cut their set short in the end. We got to hear Lady Marion, The Road, Into the Night, Take no Prisoners, Prospector of Greed. The set ended with Whisky in the Jar and Killing Time (the song Metallica covered). Great way to end the night. Loved it.

Sweet Savage

Day 2

9:00 - I have a bit of a hangover today but after a shower feel great. It is going to be really hot today but luckily there is a bit of a breeze. It is a nice breakfast at the hotel and the person working comes up with the local paper which has a picture of Sue and I. Funny. We won't make the 10:20 bus so we will miss Black Stone Cherry or Picture at 12:00, both bands I wanted to see. Damn.

12:55 - We arrive at the festival site just in time to hear the last two songs by PICTURE, Bombers and Message from Hell. They sounded great. Damn.

13:30 - Was suppose to be Sebastian Bach (who has been here the last two years) but he had plane problems and did not show up so BONDAFIDE played on the large Festival stage instead. They sounded better on this stage and we heard some of their songs again.

15:00 - OMAR AND THE HOWLERS are the only Blues band at the festival this year. It was suppose to be Uli Jon Roth but he sadly cancelled. OMAR reminds me a lot of Billy Gibbons. We meet up with Kaj, Susan, Klaus, Stefan and is wife, Dennis. All the Danish folk we know. We see the whole show and it is pretty enjoyable but not really blowing us away.

16:30 - COHEED AND CAMBRIA are next. The Danes go to see Volbeat. We walk over there and I am pretty stunned to see how huge a crowd they have and people are really into it. I don't like Volbeat. A poor man's version of Metallica. Anyway, COHEED are pretty interesting but the singer sounds a lot like Geddy Lee at times and they are just a bit too much like 80-90's RUSH with maybe a bit of Mars Volta thrown in. We just did not get sucked into them and it did not turn us on so we left after 30-40 minutes. We walk around and check out all the things at the festival site before DERRINGER.


18:15 - DERRINGER...wow... Not sure how they managed to get the original 70's line up of this band back together but it was great. Four guys who all became famous on their own, now back playing in a nearly unknown band for no money, just the love of music. They sounded really great and played a lot of the cool classic songs. They open with Let me In, played Still Alive and Well (Johnny Winter), Sitting by the Pool and many others from their 3 records. Fun concert. They end with Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo and an encore of Hang on Sloppy, that Rick wrote in 1965! Best concert of the day so far.

20:00 - It is very dusty now and my nose is running. I have just changed clothes as it gets cool at night here. We hear some of The DISTURBED, a very angry hardcore metal band. Sound is terrible.

20:30 - We got to checkout DARE, Darren Wharton, drummer from Thin Lizzy is in this band. Quite a big crowd at the Zeppelin Stage. Yuk... I can't stand this commercial radio rock stuff. Crowd seems to be into it and some near us clearly know these songs. I just hate this kind of music. Now we must choose between At the Gates and ELO (Electric Light Orchestra).

21:30 - We head over to the ROCK stage and wait for ELO. I have no idea what to expect. So far we have only seen one really great band today, so pretty disappointing day of music. ELO start at 21:45 and wow... what a mistake to come here. We only last 2 1/2 songs of this commercial AM radio synth pop stuff. An interesting historical choice but not for me. Off to AT THE GATES. A huge crowd for this reunited Swedish death metal band. Damn the drums are loud. We manage to find a place up on the hill to see them and sit down. A really intense band and people are really into it. They have some really great songs and a powerful melodic form of death metal. All Life Ends was a really great song. Powerful band.


23:30 - JUDAS PRIEST. We saw them 3 years ago here at Sweden Rock and they have a new record so it is really interesting to see what they will play and how they will sound. This is only the second show of the world tour. Judas were very powerful musically but Halford was very disappointing. His voice is gone. The scream does not exist anymore and he has replaced it with a powerful forceful growl of sorts. Just not the same. Still, it was a pretty interesting set list and I really liked the new songs, Very heavy and moody. I look forward to hearing the new record when it comes out in a few weeks. A short concert around 90 minutes. Good but not as good as 3 years ago. In fact, due to Halford's lack of voice I can't see the band ever being anything like it was seeing them in the 80's.

Setlist: Nostradamus, Metal Gods, Eat me Alive, Between the hammer and the Anvil, Devil's Child, Breaking the Law, Messenger of Death, Dissident Aggressor, Angel, Hellion- Electric Eye, Rock hard Ride Free, Sinner, Painkiller, Hell bent for Leather, Green Manalishi, You got another Thing Comin'.


Day 3

Yesterday was not that good of a day for music. I expect today to be much better. Sadly, we will not get there in time to catch BIRTH CONTROL but I was later told by people that they were amazing and the best of the day. Dam...

13:30 - We did not see any of Birth Control but arrived in time to catch TESLA on the Festival stage. Last time I saw them was in 1991 opening for Alice Cooper! TESLA totally rocked! Damn, they were jamming hard. I was really into it but really wanted to see the old Swedish metal band called AXEWITCH.

14:00 - We check out Axewitch. Maybe they have 3 of the original guys. Anyway, I was pretty blown away at how cool these tracks were and that I actually remembered them. They played Axe Victim, 7 Angels, Stand up, Sinner, Born in a Hell (amazing song!), Fill your head with Rock and Antisocial by TRUST. Not that good a choice of cover song. We headed back to catch the last two songs of Tesla. Great band.

TESLAAxewitch Joe Satriani

15:00 - We catch all of the excellent JOE SATRIANI concert. I have not seen him play since 1998 at the G3 concert with Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth. It is a great and fun concert. He has such a great variety of stuff and we hear Surfing with the Alien, Flying, Ice 9, Time Machine and many more. Great stuff.

16:40 - We missed Fastway as they were on the same time as Joe Satriani. Also did not see any of Shakin' Street, which could have been interesting. Anyway, up now is ACE FREHLEY. The crowd at the Festival stage is massive, as if KISS themselves was playing. We hang out with Kaj and Susan on the left side a ways back. It is fun to hear these songs and he has a good band but damn, he has not changed at all. It is nearly the same exact concert I saw him play in 1986! He is a mediocre at best lead guitar player but hard to not admit that some of these are great songs. A fun concert for sure!

Set list: Rip it Out, Parasite, Snowblind, I Want you, Rock Soliders, Breakout, Into the Void, Strange Ways, Shout it out Loud, NY Groove, 2000 Man, Shock Me-Guitar solo, Rocket Ride, Deuce, Love Gun


18:15 - Now it is time to hear the reunited CARCASS. Another one of those bands that you never thought you would hear play. Bill Steer is off with Firebird, Michael Armott is busy with Arch Enemy, Anyway, they are here. We watched most of the show but the sound guy was so terrible it was hard to enjoy anything as the drums and bass were so loud that Bill and Michael were playing on another stage almost. Terrible. Hard to enjoy this one. The music was intense like it should be. They had the original drummer come out for a couple of minutes and do a short solo, which was nice but also a bit sad and tragic as the guy was severely injured in a car accident some years ago and has suffered permanent physical and brain damage. Pity the sound was so terrible.


20:00 - Now it is time for WHITESNAKE. This was one of my favourite bands between 1979-1983. A huge catalog of great songs but will they play any of them? The sound is great and Mr. Coverdale is looking tan and fresh. His voice was a little rough to start but then he sounded great. The set was pretty damn predictable except for this Snake jam blues guitar solo thing they do these days. Anyway, they were ok but it is just too predictable. Besides the two new songs all the set was played 2 years ago when they played here except for the nice acoustic version of Ain't gonna cry no More. Still not as good as the original. Anyway. a good band but unless they really change the set list and get off the greatest hits tour, I won't ever see them again.

SetList: Best years, Fool for your Loving, hear the Wind Blow, ? No Stranger to Love, Lay me Down, Is this love, Snake Jam-guitar solo, Ain't gonna Cry no More, Ain't no love in the heart of the City, Give me all your Love, here I go Again, Still of the Night

21:45 - Now another tough choice has to be made between SAXON and MINISTRY. As this is Ministry's last tour and Saxon will continue to play until they are dead. I went for Ministry and Sue went for Saxon. MINISTRY were amazing. They had a fence up on the front of the stage to protect the audience from the band. The guy doing the films that went along with the light show and music was amazing. It was a very anti-US Gov't-George Bush show with a lot of very political songs. I was really into it and they were my favourite band for the festival. Great show. They played about 95 minutes. They wanted to play more but there were not allowed.


23:30 - Now Def Leppard were up. I had actually no interest in seeing them and I had also read about the tour on the internet and it was going to be a best of the ballads tour and that would put me to sleep. Poor choice of a headline band as they just played 2 years ago. Good night. It was a great day of music but it could have been amazing if a headliner I wanted to see was playing.

Day 4

It is the last day today and it has been hot and great weather. Still some great bands left today like BOC and Triumph! The first band of the day for us was about 20 minutes of GOTTARD. I saw some of them from the beer tent a few years ago and did not like them much nor do I now. I respect how good they are at playing this style of melodic heavy metal but I have never really liked this over polished stuff. Crowd is huge and digging them though. We pop by the Gibson tent and see a few minutes of VIVIAN who have about 40 people in this tent that holds 800 or so. I guess mostly their friends and people trying to find some shade. They were terrible.

14:00 - Our only option now is to go over to the Zeppelin stage and see who was the winner of the cover band competition. It was a Sabbath, Maiden, Doors, Zeppelin, Judas Priest, and AC/DC. It was the Zeppelin band that won the tribute. We thought it was a little bit funny that the drummer put on a fake moustache (see picture) but damn, I was really impressed with the bands approach to Led Zeppelin! They really had the spirit of the band from the most jamming period. They could have played the songs as 3-4 minute versions like the album and made the audience really happy but they explored, jammed, had fun and this was what the real Zeppelin was about. They played Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker and Dazed and Confused in the first 30 minutes. Then I can't quit you Babe. Pretty fucking cool.

LED ZEPP Tribute

15:00 - APOCALYPTICA were next up. It had been years since I had seen them and was really looking forward to this one. We hung out with Kaj and Susan. We stayed to see their whole set and they played a couple of Metallica songs, as people pretty much expect, but we did not enjoy the show that much as the sound guy was a complete idiot and made the drums so loud you almost did not hear the cellos. Their sound was almost all drums. We kept thinking it would get better and it did but still the drums remained like 70% of all the sound. It totally ruined it for me.

16:30 - BLUE OYSTER CULT. I had been waiting some years to see the band again and it was worth it! Although Alan is no longer with the band and they are down to just Buck and Eric, they still have a classic set list and played a great one for us. I really enjoyed the long jamming version of The Last Days of May. Cool to hear tracks like Black Blade and Harvester of Eyes. Great concert for 90 minutes.

Set List: Red and the Black, A kiss before the Redcap, Burning for you, Agents of Fortune, harvest Moon, ME262, Cities of Flame, Bucks Boogie, harvester of eyes, Black Blade, Last days of May, Godzilla>small Queen Medley>Godzilla, Don't fear the Reaper


As soon as BOC was finished I ran over to meet Sue to catch the end of the southern rock band from Finland called HAVANA BLACK! I could see the last 25 or so minutes and they were great. Played Oh Well by Fleetwood Mac and did an encore song of Whipping Post by the Allman Brothers. Great taste. Originals were cool as well.

18:15 - We ran over and caught a couple of songs by RATT, who I last saw in 1984! It was just not what I was interested in hearing and they did not sound that good. So off for Hensley and Lawton on the Sweden Stage. They played some songs from Ken's latest CD, Blood on the Highway, and several Uriah Heep songs as well. Two different guys were singing lead vocals. We saw most all their concert and it was pretty good but some of it was just a bit too polished. Crowd was nuts for the Uriah Heep stuff.

20:15 - TRIUMPH: I think most people thought they would never see this band again. Last time I saw them was in 1981 on the Allied Forces tour, before they became more poppy. I thought that was going to be most of the set and boy was I wrong. They did not play all that long, about 70 minutes, but it was a great set. Pity Rik Emmetts guitar was so low in the mix. His voice was in top form, surprisingly. They really rocked and seemed like they were having a great time. I had not listened to this band for some years but damn, they did write some great numbers.

Set List: ??, Lay it on the Line, Allied Forces, Live for the Weekend, Never Surrender, Blinding Light show, Rocky Mountain Way, Magic Power, Rock and Roll Machine, Fight the Good Fight.


21:45 - AVANTASIA played some sort of melodic speed power metal. We were not that into it so we went to see MUSTASCH and damn they had a huge crowd. I had seen them last November in a small club. A cool band but I really wish they would change their set list more. This is like my fourth time to see them and it seems like the same songs. They were having a great time and gave out a bottle of Jack Daniels and one of Jim Beam and had a little contest with the audience. Great show they put on. We went for the bus after this as we had no interest in seeing Poison at all. I also heard they were really terrible and only played like 1 hour as the headliner. Very poor choice from the festival organizers. I am sure they will have better headliners next year. I am not at all sure I can make it next year though.

For more pictures including the tattoo's crazy people and other bands go to this link!

My Top Five bands for the festival:
1. Ministry
2. Sweet Savage
3. Blue Oyster Cult
4. Triumph
5. Derringer or 5.15


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