Wednesday, June 7'th 2017
With the weather not exactly looking promising in the forecast, I had packed just about everything, including some tech gear, resulting in a seriously major heavy load… I was meeting up with Michael and Thomas (Nice Try vocalist) for the ride to Sweden, and just walking from my car to the pickup point, I had to stop five times for breaks because it felt like my arms were about to fall off…
A few beers later, we arrived at the festival area, just after noon. There, I met up with Mads and Thomas, who had saved me a space on the Rosenlund camping ground, while Michael and Thomas stayed at the parking ground. Both Mads and Thomas had begun brewing their own beers and had brought a huge arsenal along, which was very fortunate indeed. Beer quality was through the roof compared to previous festivals and based on what I tasted, they should start their own brewery.
The weather was ok at this point, cloudy but sunny. Putting up the tent and sitting down for a beer in the camp was definite highlight of the day. Since last time, I had upgraded my small 2-watt speaker to regular monster, which could actually be heard more than two feet away. With the speaker jacked into my favorite playlist, everything in the world was good.
First band of the day was Art Nation. I had been looking forward to seeing them for a while. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, I discovered that I had somehow lost my mobile phone, including my credit cards. I found that out right after entering the festival area… So after frantically searching my jacket, I backtracked all the way back to the camp and searched everywhere for the phone, the nearby loo included, but it was nowhere to be found. I was just about to send a message to my wife to cancel all my cards, when the phone appeared, sticking out from under the beer cooler. Whew!
I quickly ran all the way back to the festival area (about 1,5km) but by this time, Art Nation was halfway through their set. Grrr... I arrived during "Need you to Understand", which sounded excellent. Art Nation put up a good show with strong energy and the band seemed in good spirits. Lots of people had turned up at the 4Sound stage and the hill in front of the stage was pretty packed. "Kiss up and Kick down" had everyone singing along.
I was so hungry at this point, that I left the last part of the show to look for food and when I got back, the show was already over. So I did some quick record shopping and headed back to the camp. On the way, I met Dodge and Sean, my Scottish mates, and it was great to see them again. Unfortunately, I was never able to catch them at their camp for a party, as it was deserted, the times I tried.
Half the festival area was closed, since Wednesday is the warm-up day of the festival, but I peeked about to see if the "Indisk Mat" booth was there. Unfortunately, it looked like it had not been set up yet. I wanted to pay them back for that free Tandoori chicken, they had given me on the last night of the festival in 2013, when I had been insolvent and extremely hungry.
Back at the camp we partied for a bit, before heading back to see Heavy Tiger, a three-piece female band playing Hard Rock. The Rockklassiker stage was placed inside a big tent and along the wall were Sweden Rock posters, from its inception in 1992 till 2017. Mads, Thomas and I spent the time waiting for Heavy Tiger, studying the posters and discussing the bands and remembering the good times of the previous years.
I saw about half the Heavy Tiger's show and they were ok, but didn't really peak my interest. Instead I went to see the last half of Grand Magus, who were playing at the same time on the 4Sound Stage. Now, there was some music right up my alley. Heavy, powerful and tight, with a strong singer. Grand Magus were excellent, but their sound was not the best, as the drums took up too much of the sound and became overpowering. This was also a problem with Grave Digger, who played the same stage later in the day.
While Grand Magus were playing their Viking metal, I looked up into the blue sky, and saw a great eagle soaring high overhead. I was struck by a moment of serene perfection, right there. Though, shortly after I thought "Well... It might have been a seagull...". I never found out, but right in that instant, it was an unforgettable moment.
"Forged in Iron - Crowned in Steel" was a highlight of a great concert, and seeing the eagle of course.
Back at the camp , I warmed up for Grave Digger by putting on some warmer clothes, including a rain coat, as the weather had shifted and rain was now starting to pour down. Damn!
When Grave Digger took the stage, it was raining quite heavily. I got there a bit late at the end of the first song, as I had not yet timed running from the camp to the stage, but I still managed to get a good spot near the front row. The band delivered a good show, in spite of the heavy rain, which was pouring down over the stage the whole time. Chris Boltendal was in a good mood and had a strong connection to the audience.
"Killing Time" was a highlight of the show, where everyone sang along and I forgot the rain for a moment, in favor of intense headbanging. Their guitarist had several moments in the spotlight and I was impressed by his skill, look and coolness. Chris held plenty of sing-a-longs, but fortunately they were all short and straight to the point.
"Dark of the Sun" was another highlight, but I missed some songs from my personal favorite, "Knights of the Cross".
The show peaked as Chris Boltendahl gave a speech about the horror of terrorism and followed it up by playing a superb version of "Rebellion (The Clans are Marching)". A good show ended with "Heavy Metal Breakdown" and even if the show was hampered by a bad sound and erratic weather, I left with a good feeling of satisfaction.
I had planned to stay and see Black Star Riders, but I was drenched at this point and decided to head for the tent instead.
Thursday, June 8'th
After an extremely cold, rainy night, I got up early for a hot bath, and after a home-baked muffin for breakfast (Thanks Trine) and a small cucumber (the healthy feature), I was ready for another day.
Today was all about peaking at the Edguy concert, which was set to begin just after midnight, so we started out with a 12% homebrew Mads had brought along, and it turned out to be a perfect complement to a varied breakfast. It was really cold and windy today, Mads even brought out his winter gloves, but the weather didn't really matter, it was just a great feeling to be back at the festival.
Just before noon we headed down to check out Stacie Collins at the 4Sound stage. Stacie Collins brought some warmth at least, with her good mood and straight to the point music. It was a simple but good way to start the day. The band looked like they had a great time on stage and the happy vibe passed down to the audience.
After half an hour, I moved on to check out Great King Rat. It was interesting to notice the contrasting vibes, whereas Stacie Collins and the band was all smiles, Great King Rat lacked that glow. Everyone looked very serious and were very static on stage, but they played well and especially their guitarist was on fire. However, I couldn’t help but feel less involved here than before.
I quickly moved on to catch the last part of Phil Campbell and his Bastard Sons. But first I went looking for the Indisk Mat food truck. Unfortunately it was gone and had been replaced by a Nordic Street Food truck. I decided to mourn the passing of my favorite place to eat at Sweden Rock, since discovering it more than ten years ago, by supporting the new truck, but it was just not the same.
I checked out Phil Campbell's band and they were absolutely on fire. A very tight band, who clearly enjoyed themselves on the huge stage. An energized and excellent concert, even if I only caught the last part. After that I went to check out the press bar and working area. I'd decided to try and work a bit every day and write down my notes, so I wouldn't face the near impossible task of remembering four days of music and partying when I got home. With a Jack Daniels and Coke, along with a water from the bar, my foldable keyboard and phone, I sat down and began typing. It was a partial success but at least I got a few notes from yesterday down.
After this monumentally strong work effort, I headed back to the camp for a beer, before Iced Earth would take the stage at half past two.
An hour later, I was back in the second row for Iced Earth and they turned out to be the highlight of the festival so far. They were full of energy and delivered a freakin' amazing show. Vocalist Stu Block fit the band perfectly and delivered both old and new songs with much energy and a strong voice. They even played a whole new song for the first time, and it sounded pretty damn convincing.
I have sort of lost track of Iced Earth since Matt Barlow left the band and this concert made me realize that I have to get back to discovering what they have done since, as soon as possible. I didn't recognize the first song, but "Burning Times" followed and was met with many fists and much jumping in the audience. "Declaration Day" was a personal favorite from the show and it was delivered in an impressive way.
Other highlights from an amazing show included "The Hunter", "Vengeance Is Mine", "Pure Evil", "I Died For You", "My Own Saviour" and a poignant end to the show by "Watching Over Me". It was a powerful show that often sent shivers down my spine, and that is no mean feat.
Unfortunately, I missed the Hardline show, which was at the same time as Iced Earth. I would have loved to hear their Double Eclipse anniversary performance, but there was no regret after the show Iced Earth delivered.
It was 15 minutes till Doro's Warlock show and I just had time to grab a beer and meet up with the other guys.
Doro has enough positive spirits that you cannot go to one of her shows and not be impressed by her energy level, her enthusiasm and her strong voice. She is clearly ageing like a fine red wine and her performance was very life affirming. I've never gotten properly into Warlock and didn't know many of the songs, but I still enjoyed the concert.
I left when Doro introduced "All We Are", since I am still haunted by that particular song, after a gang of Scotsmen sang the chorus for what felt like a whole night, back in 2006, while I was trying to get some sleep in my tent, so I really didn't want to go there again.
Later, I was back in the front row for Fates Warning, who I had last seen at the Keep It True Festival for their "Awaken The Guardian" anniversary show. It was so cool to see two such different performances from a band, who have evolved musically, as much as this. Joe DiBiase was still on bass though, since Joey Vera had been unable to come. He was a welcome sight and fit this incarnation of the band as well.
"From The Rooftops" opened the show and through the show, the band stuck to playing newer songs, from Parallells and onward. It somehow fit this day, with a different, serious vibe, from a band who are masters of their instruments and had some challenging music to offer.
The technical level was high, even if they lost their timing slightly during the first break of "Eleventh Hour", it was a small thing in an otherwise superb concert. In fact, that mistake only made the concert better as the band took it with knowing smiles and seemed to loosen up a bit.
"Life In Still Water" was a highlight from the first part of the show. That song just flowed and held a great power as well. Another personal highlight was hearing "A Pleasant Shade of Gray, Part III". The band was brilliantly tight here and I remember being completely into the song. Ray sang this with special controlled emotion.
Other highlights included the highly melodic "Seven Stars", which had the most brilliant guitar solo, and an excellent performance of "Point Of View", sing-a-long included.
"Monument" ended a superb show ,and I was high after seeing so much great music in one day.
At the front row, I met some fellow Fates Warning fans, which was pretty cool. One Italian photographer, I talked to, turned out to come from the same hometown as Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli and speaking with him shed some light on some of the questions I had about the development in that particular band over the years. We walked to the Press area and bid each other a fine festival, before I headed for the bar and failed miserably at ordering a Jack Daniels and Coke.
The place was packed with partying people, as is usually the case on this first real evening of the festival. Instead, I headed for the Work area to write down some notes, before Steel Panther took the stage 2 minutes later. What I wrote didn't really make a lot of sense now, but looking back, I had the best intentions.
I caught the first part of Steel Panther, who strangely seem to have become the embodiment of the exact thing they are making fun of. It was a both fun and strange experience seeing them live again. They clearly know their chops and have a sense of humor, but it also felt slightly flat. After the first part of their show I headed to the Rockklasiker tent to catch the power metal band Veonity, who sounded pretty good. They were playing a song called "Brothers in Arms" (I think) when I arrived and it sounded highly promising
Then they played a song called "Warrior", and the way they sang it, it sounded exactly like "Oreo", so I had a hard time taking anything serious after that, and I just couldn’t get that Oreo song out of my mind. Of course that was not fair to the band, but after a whole day of music and drinking, I was in a mood where I would find the smallest thing funny. I stayed and watched most of Veonity's show before heading back to the camp to warm up for Edguy. On the way back, I checked up on Steel Panther. Now, the stage was filled with girls lifting their shirts and dancing around. Aside from that, nothing had really changed. The band was firing jokes on all fours and playing some sleazy hard rock tunes.
Back at the camp I got ready for Edguy, listening to some warm up music and enjoying the Sweden Rock feeling to the fullest, and of course, drinking more of Mads and Thomas' homebrew.
Leaving for the concert, I recklessly decided to call Tommy to let him know just how great it was up here, but this being about midnight, I only got his answering machine, which I then told all about it.
Mads and I got a perfect sport in the second row for Edguy. Edguy played an overall great concert, but I would still have wished for a few older songs and not quite so many ballads.
They opened with "Love Tyger" and the party was off. The triplet of "Vain Glory Opera", "Mysteria" and "Tears of a Mandrake" brought the show to a peak and right there, it was absolutely perfect. Tobias Sammet was on fire and the band looked like they were having a great time. There was much jumping and singing along in the audience, where I stood.
"Piper Never Dies" brought the momentum down a bit, even as a huge gargoyle seemed to materialize above the drumkit. "Lavatory Love Machine" was a bit boring, as I've heard it so many times now, as was "Land of the Miracles", since I was just yearning for some more power at that moment.
The sing-a-longs didn't get me going either.
"Ministry of Saints" brought that power, but not exactly the song I had hoped to hear. "Babylon" hit that mark though, and when the band suddenly pulled out Iron Maiden's "The Trooper", I was right back in the mood again and thought that was absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, they only played the first verse and chorus, before "Save Me" took over. "Superheroes" ended the show, but fortunately the band came back for encores.
Amazingly, the first encore was "Out of Control". That is one of my favorite Edguy songs, so needless to say, I was absolutely stoked. Great performance too. Finally, the band finished the concert with "King of Fools" and I gave the last of my energy, jumping to this one.
All in all a really great and enjoyable concert.
At the end of the day, Edguy was a highlight along with Fates Warning, but Iced Earth were the winner of this day's best concert.
Back at the camp I called Tommy again and left another silly message, this time in a high-pitched squeaky voice, as it had been shattered by singing loudly along to Edguy.
I was in a heightened state of mind after all the great concerts (and beers), so I walked around in the rain looking for the Scottish camp and hopefully, a party. Unfortunately I was unable to find said camp. Instead I ended up walking close to tents calling "Dodge! Dooo-ooodge! Dodge?" But no one answered. After almost tripping over a few tents, I gave up and headed back to my sleeping bag.
Friday, June 9'th
When I woke up at 7, way too early after last night's party, I was surprisingly fresh.
A muffin and cucumber for breakfast, and I was ready for another day.
Michael and the rest of his camp popped by and I missed Primal Fear due to the camp party, which was unfortunate.
Later, Thomas and I headed down to the 4Sound stage to see Picture. I had expected a hard Rock / AOR band, but what I got was full blooded Heavy Metal. The band had a really great audience interaction and were playing some surprisingly powerful music which sounded excellent.
Having missed Primal fear, this made somewhat up for it.
After Picture, I went for some record shopping and by chance, I noticed a food truck outside the festival area, looking very familiar. Great was my joy, when I discovered the Indisk Mat food truck!! It had somehow moved outside the festival area!
And there was much rejoicing, as I bought a Tandoori chicken... The seller remembered my cow hat, and when I told him that I wanted to pay for two chickens, since I owed him one from four years ago, he looked at me and insisted that it was on the house.
The Tandoori chicken was just as good as I remembered it and I savored it with much enthusiasm. This was the discovery of the day for sure.
Musically, Friday was a slow day for me, but I did catch a bit of The Dead Daisies, who had a great, guitar driven sound. After hearing "Join Together", I headed back to the camp.
I was thirsty and the Sweden Rock prices are sky high, so the camp was the optimal solution. On the way, discovered that the small supermarket between the camp and stage had the most amazing popcorn, so from that moment on, every time I went back to the camp, I had to get one of those bags of popcorn.
I was back at the main stage for Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul. Now, here was a band able to fill up the huge stage. With three female background singers on the right, and a small orchestra on the left, in addition to the regular players, they made a strong first impression.
To sum up Little Steven's show, I would say Tight and Cool. They were clearly enjoying themselves, especially the main man came across as very humble and happy to be here, and even if I am not that familiar with his music, I found songs like Soulfire and Salvation very convincing and I stayed as long as I could, before running for the Rockklassiker stage to see The Brandos. I will definitely check out some more of Little Steven's music when I get home.
Over at the Rockklassiker stage, I met Michael and we finally had a beer together, took a few selfies and talked a bit before The Brandos got on stage. Now that band is something of a peculiarity, as I discovered shortly before the festival, when I heard one of their albums, and was strangely fascinated by their unique sound, so I decided I had to check them out live. The band delivered a solid, great show and I was not disappointed. After the one song I knew of theirs, "Over The Border", was played, we had to leave for the Ratt concert.
For Ratt, we got a spot right in the middle of the crowd, slightly to the front. Unfortunately, Ratt did not really deliver anything memorable. I found them slightly boring for the first half of the show, unable to really get an audience connection. Fortunately, the last part of the show picked up on energy and they came into their own with the last handful of songs. It also seemed that these were the songs the audience wanted to hear. I'm not that familiar with Ratt and this concert did not manage to peak my interest.
After the Ratt concert, I was ready to go to bed and so I did, unfortunately missing Running Wild, who played just past midnight, but I was really tired and had to gather strength for the last day, which had several bands I didn't want to miss for the world.
Saturday, June 10'th
My hand written notes sum up the day like this: "Enjoyed the mood / beer / camp / breakfast / music" so I guess you could say it was a pretty good day.
When I woke up, I was in the mood for a party. This was the last day of the festival, and I wanted to make the most of it.
After walking to the breakfast tent and purchasing a few gifts for my daughter back home, I headed back to the camp with Mads and Thomas and enjoyed their beers for a while. One beer turned into many and the music was playing on my massive speaker, so I had such a good time that I forgot the clock and had to run all the way to the main stage to catch Thunder.
About 200 meters outside the festival grounds, I heard the band open their show with one of my favorite songs of theirs, "Wonder Days", and my heart just sank.
I sped on and made it to the stage during the second song. The Thunder party was underway in fine style with "River of Pain", "Resurrection Day" and "Higher Ground". "Resurrection Day" had a nice sing a long (it's a big thing for me to call a sing-a-long nice). I met Michael and some of the Nice Try guys at the front, had a beer and just enjoyed the show. Thunder had a great rhythm and feeling to their music, which works wonders in a live situation, and I left the show completely satisfied.
Also the best pick throw of the festival goes out to Luke Morley.
Instead of hanging around for Candlemass, I decided to make a quick pitstop at the press bar for a whisky, and I am glad I did, since I met some amazing people there. After getting a drink, laying out all my equipment on a bench just outside the bar area, and sitting down to do some work, some of the Sweden Rock crew stopped by and asked if they could sit here and eat their dinner. We had a nice chat and it was great to hear their stories and we agreed to meet later at the bar.
Then, shortly after, two other guys sat down and we got to talking. It turned out that one of the guys (Pasi) used to front the now extinct Power Metal band Freternia, and he now had a new band called Cromonic. Freternia was another band I had somehow missed back in the day, but he handed me the Cromonic album to hear when I got home.
We talked for a while about music, and it was clear that he had the same passion about music as me. At one point he mentioned the "I hear the silent voices..."-part of Manowar's Achilles... Being one of his favorite passages. I was amazed, because I couldn't agree more, and I have always seen it as a glowing example of pure musicality. So there was a shared kinship there. It was just so cool to meet a like-minded individual by chance like this.
An IPA later, I hailed the two guys and moved on to be sure I got a good spot for Rhapsody.
I was able to secure the perfect spot for Rhapsody in the first row, center stage. I was more than ready to witness their 20'th anniversary reunion of the farewell tour, even if it was not really complete with keyboardist Alex Staropoli being replaced by playback.
Anyhow, after a quite silly introduction, "Epicus Furor" was underway and the excitement, which was felt in the crowd before the show began, grew to epic proportions. As the band came on stage a great cheer rose and when the band went into "Emerald Sword", the place just went crazy. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it fully, which makes it rather hard to remember the minute details from the concert.
What was sure, is that Fabio's voice still holds up and he was amazing to hear live. Luca was one big smile, acting as both maestro and conductor, and seemed to enjoy the concert fully, as did the rest of the band. The Rhapsody concert was kind of a blur, riding hard from one song to the next and only slowing down for the occasional ballad.
Highlights included the opening blast of "Emerald Sword" followed by a brilliant version of "Wisdom of the kings", as well as a surprise rendition of "Riding The Winds of Eternity". That one was just amazingly powerful to hear live. "Land of Immortals" was another highlight, as was "Dawn of Victory", where Fabio told the crowd that we had to sing louder than the band if we wanted more songs. So that is exactly what I did, while jumping, headbanging and playing air guitar at the same time, and if you wonder how that is done, you may notice me in the front row at this link, which captures the whole concert.
It apparently worked and the band came back with a brutal version of Rain of a Thousand Flames
During the slower moments, including the opening segment of Symphony of Enchanted Lands, Winds of Destiny and Lamento Eroico, Fabio shined through with a voice of pure gold.
While I missed Eternal Glory and Flames of Revenge and could have done without a few of the longer songs, the concert was a success and totally enjoyable from beginning to end, even with all the playback.
It was just great to hear and see the band play these songs together again.
I still remember seeing Rhapsody for the first time, back in 2000, just after Alex Holzwarth joined the band. After the concert, I shouted "Sieges Even" to him and he threw me his t-shirt. I tried the same thing today, but was drowned out by the audience and I guess the moment has passed. Still, a great memory, and it was as if my Rhapsody experience came full circle today. Now I can only wait with baited breath and much excitement to see what Alex Staropoli and his new band conjure up.
Having missed Dare due to the all-out Rhapsody party, I ran for the main stage to catch Rival Sons, a band I'd wanted to check out after hearing some great things about their live performances. It was instantly clear that they are a band living in the now, as they just went for it and sparkled with a certain relaxed tightness and an extremely strong groove. Led by a singer who went all in, and had the voice to go all the way, it was a pretty impressive experience, though I would have loved to see them on one of the smaller stages, where I have a feeling that there would have been an even better connection.
After catching about half of Rival Sons, I went for food and later to look for the Scotsmen, but their camp was empty. I ended up being invited for a glass of red wine by an elderly couple who had camped across from my tent. We had a nice chat before I had to run back to the festival area to catch Treat close to midnight.
Rounding off the festival was Treat, party rockers of the highest degree. Though I was pretty beat after four days of festival, I wouldn't miss Treat, so I went down and found a good spot in the middle of the crowd, where I also met Michael and some of the Nice Try guys. Treat opened the show with "Ghosts of Graceland". There was some sound problems on the 4Sound stage, but the sound improved during the first few songs. When the band introduced "Paper Tiger", I moved further to the front and enjoyed the song fully.
This was the anniversary show for the Dreamhunter album and the band played a great medley of almost all the songs from that album, chronologically. It was a cool thing to hear. Near the end of the medley, as it finished with "World of Promises", lots of confetti blew from the stage.
The band continued their set with "Roar" and a couple of older songs, before finishing off with "Skies of Mongolia". Treat pulled off an excellent concert, here on the eve of the festival, and I was ready to pack it in by now.
All in all, the Sweden Rock Festival 2017 was a fantastic experience and I really can't wait to get back there again.
Whether it was meeting another music fan in the crowd, sharing a glance at our t-shirts and a knowing smile, meeting an Italian reporter at the front row of a concert, who just happened to be from the hometown of some of my musical heroes, or meeting a guy who used to front a cult power metal band and speaking about our shared love of music, there is no doubt, that for me, The Sweden Rock Festival is all about having a good time, enjoying the music, the special atmosphere, and meeting like-minded people.
All this came together for this year's festival and it was simply an experience to treasure. I highly recommend you check out this one of a kind festival. That special Sweden Rock atmosphere is still intact, even after all these years.
Written By Steen
Online: Friday, July 14, 2017