Album review: The Lurking Fear “Death, Madness, Horror, Decay”

The new album from Sweden’s The Lurking Fear’s is relentless and unapologetic. This is classy freight-train death metal with flair. It’s fast, furious and mental.

The Lurking Fear was founded in 2016 and released its debut album, “Out of the Voiceless Grave”, in 2017. The band members are all seasoned soldiers from the Swedish metal battle frontlines: vocalist Tompa Lindberg (At The Gates, Lock Up, ex-Skitsystem), guitarists Fredrik Wallenberg (Skitsystem) and Jonas Stålhammar (At The Gates, Bombs of Hades), bassist Andreas Axelson (Skitsystem, ex-Marduk, Necronaut) and drummer Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates, The Haunted, ex-Cradle of Filth, Paradise Lost, Brujeria, Skitsystem). One of the new album’s standout tracks is “Architects of Madness” and that song title nicely sums up what this band and album are all about. There’s chaos and mayhem but it is structured, built by skilled musical architects. A favourite track of mine is “Death Reborn” and this is indeed a rebirth of old-school death metal. This particular song is almost Napalm Death-esque. The Lurking Fear’s music is built around Tompa’s characteristic voice and a full-on, uncompromising take on death metal. It’s mental, in a good way. This band is somewhat of a side project for the busy band members, but it is not an unloved side project. These musicians take The Lurking Fear very seriously. They are simply better at what they do than most others in the death metal genre. It shows on this album – in the songwriting, the performance and the terrific production. “In a Thousand Horrors Crowned” is the album’s zenith in all its glorious and violent heaviness dressed up with melodic guitar riffs. A noteworthy guest, Autopsy’s Chris Reifert, makes a splendid vocal guest appearance on the twisted-yet-epic track “Kaleidoscopic Mutations”. What a terrific album!

The Lurking Fear’s album “Death, Madness, Horror, Decay” will be out on 19th November via Century Media Records.

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 81: Carl von Schewen

Carl “Calle” von Schewen is a cult legend in the Swedish music industry who has been involved in the careers of many Swedish and international artists. He was one of the co-founders behind the House of Kicks record shop in Stockholm in the 1980s and early 1990s as well as the record label TCP Records. Carl’s activities evolved into the Sound Pollution group of companies. At Sound Pollution, Carl and his business partners Johan Hargeby and Johan Haller manage everything from record labels and music distribution, via PR and song publishing, to a terrific record store in Stockholm. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Carl to find out about the records that polluted his world.

Alice Cooper “No More Mr Nice Guy” (1973)

“This was the first record I bought with my own money! Yes, it’s a 7” single, but for me, at that time it was as important as a full-length album! Alice Cooper opened up a new world for me! On the flip side of the singe was ‘Raped and Freezin’’… For a few years, Alice Cooper, KISS and Nazareth were the music for me.”

Ramones “Leave Home” (1977)

“And then came the Ramones… I was knocked out by their first album. ‘Ordinary’ guys without makeup and high-heel shoes did what we all had been waiting for. Then came their second album, ‘Leave Home’. That album is still the best album ever made. I sold all my KISS albums, there was no need for them anymore. I saw Ramones in Stockholm in May 1977. Was it after that show I decided to work with music? I don´t know but after that night nothing was as before.”

The Only Ones “Baby´s Got a Gun” (1980)

“I was lucky enough to have a friend of a friend who worked at Sony, so I got a Walkman very early. I had ONE cassette in the player for what felt like a VERY long time (although I guess it was just a few weeks). On Side A, it had the English band The Only Ones’ third album ‘Baby´s Got a Gun’. I know all the lyrics. The artwork was an inspiration when I started up my ‘first’ record company TCP Records. With tracks like ‘Why Don´t You Kill Yourself’ and ‘Oh Lucinda (Love Becomes a Habit)’, it is an all killers, no fillers album! On Side B, it had Johnny Thunders’ first solo album ‘So Alone’ (1978) on which you hear echoes from the New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers. Peter Perrett from The Only Ones played an important role on that album. Did I say that I nearly got ruined from buying all those AA batteries for my Walkman?”

Sonic’s Rendezvous Band “City Slang” (1978)

Another 7”. Yes! And this is actually the best single ever! I bought my copy in New York, years after it was released, but I finally found my own copy! At that time, I had started to hang out with the youngsters from Entombed and Dismember. I liked their stuff and they were also into punk! So, one drunken night – there are two versions of that night – I ‘clearly’ remember that it was just Nicke Andersson and myself, Nicke has ‘a good’ memory that the guys from Nomads and a few Entombed guys were there a well. Anyway, I said to Nicke, ‘I will play the best single ever made!’ He probably thought I was kidding. I played it once and then he said, ‘Hey, Calle, can you play it one more time?'”

The Hellacopters “Supershitty to the Max!” (1996)

“There are so many memories around this album that I don´t know where to start. I was lucky enough to play a small part in the making of this classic Swedish album. The deal was that we had to do a vinyl version to be released before the CD version. In 1996 NOBODY did vinyl… But we did and the rest is history. A year later the band had a Swedish Grammy Award, their own car (Hellamobilen) and had opened up for KISS…”

Album review: Unleashed “No Sign of Life”

Sweden’s death metal Vikings are back on the battlefield with a new terrific album.

Unleashed is a band that was among the pioneers of the death metal scene in Sweden. Founded in 1989 by Johnny Hedlund, they quickly established themselves as part of the leading pack of death metal wolves. But this is not a band that is happy to just live off a reputation of past glory. 32 years into the band’s career, its members are still hungry. They can still write terrific music and perform it like few other bands can. Unleashed’s new release, its 14th studio album, is terrific. I particularly like Johnny’s vocals that make Unleashed a bit different from many other death metal bands. His signature vocal style is somewhat of a mix of harsh and clean vocals. It’s not growling, it’s more a harsh take on clean singing. The soundscape is a bit different from what we typically hear in the genre. It is less chaotic and has a cleaner sound. The vocals are not drowned out by the drums and guitars. I like this approach to death metal. You can actually enjoy the vocals and hear the songs’ lyrics. When it comes to lyrics, Unleashed continues its established theme of Norse mythology and Vikings. There are certainly some cheery and catchy “Hail Odin!” shout-outs on the album. “It is Finished” is a splendid song with some dark and powerful lyrics about masters and servants. The track “Midgard Warriors for Life” features some fine guitar work. Other great songs on the album include “Tyr Wields the Sword”, “The Highest Ideal” and “The King Lost His Crown”. The album is even and has no dips or fillers. Bandleader Johnny Hedlund on bass and vocals is joined in Unleashed by Anders Schultz on drums and guitarists Tomas Måsgard and Fredrik Folkare. The band hasn’t had a line-up change since 1995. That line-up stability has translated into a mean battle machine that consistently delivers in the studio and on tour.

Unleashed’s new album “No Sign of Life” will be released on 12th November via Napalm Records.

Album review: Knights of the Realm “Knights of the Realm”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Tiamat and Eclipse members unite in a new band overflowing with excellent 1980s heavy metal.

If European melodic heavy metal of the 1980s is your thing, then Sweden’s Knights of the Realm is for you. Hard-hitting and very melodic, it is the best of two worlds nicely packaged as a Swedish heavy metal band overflowing with 1980s-style heavy metal. While Knights of the Realm is a new band, there is some serious pedigree here in the form of drummer Lars Sköld of Tiamat fame and guitarist Magnus Henriksson from Eclipse. They are joined in this forceful heavy metal trio by vocalist Marcus Von Boisman whose voice clearly is meant to sing heavy metal. Fantastic song titles such as “Chains of Metal”, “Blood on Steel”, “When Metal Meets the Beast” and “Metal Attack” hint at what this is all about. On the track “Heavy Metal”, the band pays respect to its musical heroes and at the same time makes a bit of fun of a genre that these men clearly love. It’s excellent self-deprecating humour delivered in a fine form of heavy metal. “Fields of Fire” is more of a straight-faced track and it is one of my favourites on the album. The album never gets boring. There is enough musical variety here to keep the listener glued to the speakers. The “Knights of the Realm” album contains excellent and entertaining songs which have a sound foundation in classic heavy metal. People who take themselves too seriously may not understand this kind of tongue-in-cheek approach to heavy metal. But for the rest of us, this is gloriously fun. The song styles, the lyrics, the guitar sounds and everything else about Knights of the Realm are great reminders of why we all love 1980s metal. This is a great tribute to the past but delivered here and now. The band name probably comes from the lyrics to Saxon’s classic song “Crusader” which in itself makes this band worth a listen. This kind of music is still relevant and it clearly has a future. This is my music and these are my people. Now let’s take on the world and give it proper heavy metal!

Knights of the Realm’s self-titled debut album will be released on 12th November via Playground Music.

Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 80: Douglas Blair

Douglas Blair. Photo: Dawn Kingston

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Douglas Blair is the lead guitarist of the American heavy metal band W.A.S.P. He is a long-serving member of the band that he originally joined in 1992. The American guitarist is nowadays based in Finland. In addition to W.A.S.P., he is active with various projects, including his own band signal2noise. Douglas is the inventor of both the GuitarCross and the Blair Mutant Twin guitar. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Douglas to find out about the five albums that made him wanna be somebody.

Led Zeppelin “The Song Remains the Same” (1976)

“With small plastic-box co-axial speakers mounted to the wooden headboard of my childhood bed, I’d listen with my head between them on the pillow every night while falling asleep. Starting with the rush of the crowd and then Bonzo’s hi-hat crescendo into ‘Rock and Roll’, this record took me straight into Madison Square Garden and the irreplaceable magic of the live chemistry that was the core of Zeppelin. And it may have single-handedly injected straight into my soul the desire to be in a band! This record is ingrained so deeply within, along with live records from that era such as KISS ‘Alive!’, Rush ‘All the World’s a Stage’, Peter Frampton ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’, Lynyrd Skynyrd ‘One More from the Road’, Thin Lizzy ‘Live and Dangerous’, Robin Trower ‘Robin Trower Live’ and Judas Priest ‘Unleased in the East’ – they truly informed my pre-Van Halen, pre-MTV development regarding guitar playing and band visions. And, along with guys likeJoe Perry, Rick Derringer, Frank Marino, Ted Nugent and Pat Travers, this really showed how the 70s were a truly epic time for American/English/Canadian guitar. Highlights: ‘The Rain Song’ (I still perform an acoustic arrangement of this often), ‘No Quarter’ (my power duosignal2noiseperforms this live and has recorded this), ‘Whole Lotta Love’.”

Type O Negative “October Rust” (1996)

“A never-ending soundtrack to autumn and October – the season of the Scorpio – every single year, since its release. A dark romance, with sensuality, humour, sadness and rage – also a great soundtrack to aspire to last through during… certain interpersonal physical activities. Highlights: ‘Love You to Death’ (‘Am I good enough? For you?’), ‘Be My Druidess’ (‘I’ll do anything to make you come’), ‘Red Water (Christmas Mourning)’ (‘Just last year I dined with eleven’), ‘My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend’(Our meat triangle’), ‘Cinnamon Girl’ (a Neil Young cover), one of their many epically re-imagined covers. Type O’s irresistible stew of The Cure, Black Sabbath and Hallowe’en emblazoned with Peter’s earthquake of a voice are perfectly packaged in this collection. Amazingly clever harmonies, instrumentation and bass guitar are hidden behind the sometimes kitschy but engaging humour and intensity of the delivery. Tool’s iconic ‘Aenima’ had also been released around this time. The circus/vampire keyboards are just classic.”

Poe “Haunted” (2000)

“Her second record, the MTV favourite created a beautiful family story that takes every listener on its long journey. This artist was way ahead of her time. She found cassette tapes of messages to her from her deceased father and, along with her brother, created a beautiful aural and written story around it. ‘House of Leaves’ was her brother MarkDanielewski’s companion story, which made it onto the New York Times best sellers’ list the same year. Then she disappeared. This extremely diverse record is tied together with effective and affecting segues. Highlights: ‘Haunted’, ‘Control’, ‘Wild’, ‘Hey Pretty’ (with an awesome re-mix voiced by her brother Daniel, and describing a white-knuckled drive down the iconic Mulholland Boulevard in Hollywood), ‘Amazed’.”

Wynona “Lost Hill” (2002)

“Discovering this Copenhagen-based Americana band, watching them on a rainy outdoor city festival in 2002, me and my ex – by complete serendipity – then heard their entire debut record played over the PA as the festival closed the next day. We promptly trekked across town to buy copies at the local record store, which we both wore out within the next year – while taking two trips abroad to see the band in Denmark. One trip was on my birthday and the other to see their final show under the big tent at the legendary RoskildeFestival in July 2003. Camilla’s divinely natural and intensely personal voice merges with Jesper’s living and breathing Telecaster and the pedal steel slide guitars, with a space as big as the Montana sky above and around them. Some songs are so sad, it is very hard to listen to them without being transformed. They released a second record, ‘Santiago’, in 2003, before splintering out into several already-formed groups. Just one of those right-place-at-the-right-time things that become such an unexpected influence. Highlights: ‘Railroad’, ‘Lost Hill’, ‘Rain Weather’.”

Steven Wilson “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” (2015)

“This record is the most recent in my list, seamlessly connecting my 70s prog past (Yes, Rush) with Steven Wilson’s solo and Porcupine Tree present, as far as playing and song structure. Guthrie Govan is stellar as is Marco Minnemann – this line-up was a climax of sorts, never to be again. But, eclipsing the actual playing found here, are the human stories found within that touch on many aspects, as Wilson is so, so good at. Ninet Tayeb, a popular Israeli singer, stars here as well. Highlights: ‘Hand Cannot Erase’, ‘Perfect Life’ (its video and its remixes. Well, hardly words to describe), ‘Routine’ (maybe the saddest story Steven Wilson ever tackled, aside from ‘The Raven That Refused to Sing’ and ‘Drive Home’), ‘Happy Returns’ (and the final delivery of the listener back into the world). And every other song in between – taking me out of this world and back. Steven’s music – of all versions – has connected with me more than any other modern music, giving eternal hope that there will always be a new Prince, Bowie, Van Halen, Dylan. They only look different and sound a bit different from generation to generation. But they tell the world’s stories, through the human heart. Definitely number one.”

EP review: Mors Verum “The Living”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Canadian dissonant death metal trio serves up a decaying stew of smashing music.

It’s autumn here in Japan. Autumn is all about things dying and decaying as we start the walk towards winter. That’s exactly the time of year you need a good serving of dissonant death metal. The Canadian band Mors Verum, founded in 2014, consists of Greg Carvalho (drums), Mrudul Kamble (guitar and bass) and Lyndon Quadros (vocals). “The Living” is Mors Verum’s third release, following the 2015 EP “Indoctrination Forest” and 2019’s full-length album “Deranged”. Deranged is indeed a good way to describe the band’s dissonant death metal. The five-track EP’s best tracks, “Death’s” and “Purge”, are filled with brutal and heavy riffs, pummelling drums and a foul smell of grim hopelessness. It’s a nasty stew of decaying metal born in a damp Canadian basement. The EP’s third track, “Womb”, is a bit different, more ambient in a horror-movie kind of way. It gives the listener a bit of breathing space away from the pure mayhem of the other four songs. This EP gives us doomy, gloomy deranged music to scare off your neighbours with. The future’s bleak and I love it. Buy the EP, play it loud and give my regards to your neighbours and the police.

Mors Verum’s EP “The Living” will be out on 5th November.

Album review: Steve Conte “Bronx Cheer”

The New York Dolls and Michael Monroe guitarist takes centre stage with his new solo album.

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Steve Conte is perhaps best known as the guitarist for the New York Dolls and Michael Monroe’s band. While the Dolls have called it quits, Steve still plays with Michael Monroe and I understand they are now working on a new album. But Steve is a restless soul who always wants to create and play music. While he is often a collaborator who plays in other people’s bands and projects, he is also a solo artist. His new solo album, “Bronx Cheer”, is about to be unleashed on the world. What the album sounds like? It sounds like Steve Conte paying his respects to New York. Steve was born in New York State and grew up in New Jersey next to New York City. “Bronx Cheer” is filled with classic American rock and, certainly, there are plenty of echoes of both the Dolls and Michael Monroe on the album. There’s a bluesy Americana feel on many of the songs. I sense some influences from Willy DeVille (an artist in whose band Steve has also played) here and there and heaps of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers-style rock. And there’s a whiff of CBGB, the famous New York club which was home to The Ramones, Blondie, Willy DeVille and many other artists in the 70s. The main musicians on “Bronx Cheer” are Steve on guitar and vocals, Steve’s brother John Conte (Southside Johnny & The Jukes, David Bowie, Ian Hunter) on bass and Charley Drayton (Keith Richards, Iggy Pop) on drums. On the good-fun rocker “Gimme Gimme Rockaway”, guest musicians include Blondie drummer Clem Burke (aka Elvis Ramone of The Ramones) and The Smiths’ bassist Andy Rourke. Another favourite song of mine is the contagious track “The Human Animal”. Perhaps the album’s peak, “Recovery Doll” is a great upbeat rock song with a couple of twists – it has fantastic old-school doo-wop background vocals and dark lyrics about addiction and the struggle to recover.

Steve Conte’s solo album “Bronx Cheer” will be out on 5th November via Wicked Cool Records.

Album review: Omnium Gatherum “Origin”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Finland’s Omnium Gatherum returns with a new line-up and an album filled with progressive and pop-influenced melodic death metal with a difference.

Finnish band Omnium Gatherum combines heavy guitar and drum-based metal music with melodic keyboard-driven soundscapes. They live under the broad umbrella called melodic death metal, but their modern signature sound has more keyboards than most other bands in that subgenre. They also have a tendency to weave catchy pop-like tunes and progressive elements into the music. They have been at it for more than a quarter of a century by now. Since the last album, 2018’s “The Burning Cold”, the band has lost three members. The band’s founder and leader Markus Vanhala (on guitar and clean vocals) is joined in the band’s current line-up by Jukka Pelkonen (vocals) and Aapo Koivisto (keyboards) as well as the new additions Mikko Kivistö (bass and clean vocals) and Atte Pesonen (drums). The new members seem to have settled in quickly and helped the band create another great album. The dreamy “Fortitude” has a great choir adding a terrific contrast to Jukka Pelkonen’s harsh growls. I dig the mixes of styles on tracks such as “Prime”, “Unity” and “Solemn”. On a track like the splendid “Tempest”, the band is closer to “normal” melodic death metal. Personally, I like Omnium Gatherum’s take on the melodic death metal genre. It’s a fine blend of full-on aggression and beautiful melodies. There are plenty of style changes within each song and album. It’s refreshing and brings some musical surprises here and there.

Omnium Gatherum’s album “Origin” will be out on 5th November via Century Media Records.

Album review: Carl Sentance “Electric Eye”

By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Great new solo album by Nazareth’s vocalist.

When Carl Sentance joined veteran Scottish hard rock band Nazareth in 2015, it was a tough gig to take on for any vocalist. Carl not only succeeded in performing the old Nazareth classics on stage, but he also breathed new life into the band. He helped Nazareth create fabulous new music on its 2018 album “Tattooed on My Brain”. Now Nazareth is in the studio recording its 25th studio album, its second with Carl on vocals. But there’s no rest for the wicked. Carl has managed to put together a great solo album as well. Having initially made a name for himself in the 1980s as a great singer with the band Persian Risk, he also sang with Geezer Butler Band and later sang with Swiss hard rock band Krokus for a few years. In addition to his commitment to Nazareth, he continues to create music with Don Airey of Deep Purple. On this solo album, Carl on vocals and guitar is joined by Don Airey on keyboards, Bob Richards (Asia, Adrian Smith, AC/DC) on drums and Wayne Banks (Robin Gibb, Brazen Abbot, Blaze Bayley, Persian Risk) on bass. Carl’s new solo album, “Electric Eye”, is a laidback affair. It’s so well-made it sounds effortless, although I am sure that a lot of effort has gone into its making. Carl’s voice is backed up by very good songwriting skills and good-old hard work. One of the best songs on the album is “Nervous Breakdown” which has a bit of a laidback pool-party feeling about it, despite its serious song title. “California Queen” also adds to the pool-party vibes. The title track is a terrific rocker of a song and so are “Exile”, “Judas” and “Alright”. Overall, this is a sunny and happy album. I like that about Carl Sentence – he’s an artist not afraid to go wherever his inspiration takes him. This studio album is great and it bodes well for the next Nazareth album too.

Carl Sentence’s new album “Electric Eye” will be out on 19th November via Drakkar Entertainment.