Sweden Rock Festival 2014

Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg - June 4-7
event website | venue website | full line-up

In 2014, there was really only one criteria for a successful on-paper line-up for all festivals of the necessary size, and that was: did they get Black Sabbath? The reunited legends of heavy metal were making the final leg of their 13 tour a run of European festivals, and while the typically over-sized ones were all getting excited about Iron Maiden and Metallica, who alternate at those events from one year to the next, Black Sabbath were the real indication of successful booking.

And of course, Sweden Rock got them, placing the oft-requested Alice Cooper and massively popular young Danes Volbeat alongside them as the event's other headliners, with Queensrÿche (the Todd La Torre version) unexpectedly topping the warm-up day above Magnum. Compared to some other festivals on the 2014 calendar, many of which had Black Sabbath as their smallest headliner, the SRF top-billing may seem weak, but the pulling-power of Volbeat and the sheer spectacle of Alice Cooper can never be underestimated, and as always, the rest of the bill was immensely strong.

Directly below the headliners Rob Zombie, Alter Bridge and Megadeth were added, along with the only festival appearance of the Summer from Billy Idol, and a European exclusive booking of Ted Nugent. Sadly of course Megadeth cancelled their June shows due to a death in the family of bassist David Ellefson, but at the last minute ever-popular German metal hero Udo Dirkschneider agreed to bring his U.D.O. band along as a replacement. Dutch superstars Within Temptation, one of the only five European appearances from Emperor, the reunited Dark Angel (criminally clashed with headliner Alice Cooper), a unique and exclusive Talisman reunion, and several more of the best bands on the Summer circuit made this one of the strongest overall Sweden Rock bills ever. So strong was it that the likes of guitar hero Joe Bonamassa, who's own shows are now unaffordable to most fans, thrash veterans Sodom, Y&T, prog supergroup Transatlantic, and even that exclusive Talisman appearance, all had to make do with early-mid afternoon slots.

The lead-up to the festival was not without its problems. As well as both Megadeth and Lynch Mob (ably replaced by long-time friends of the festival Electric Boys) cancelling at short notice, Swedish train drivers' trade union SEKO tried their best to ruin the event for international visitors using Copenhagen's Kastrup airport by going on strike over a (valid) job cuts dispute during the week of the festival. It primarily affected the Öresundståg train service which connects Denmark and Southern Sweden, and is the only service to stop at Sölvesborg, but via a combination of replacement buses laid on by DSB (the Danish state rail company), the Pågatågen train service run by Skånetrafiken in Sweden, local bus services from Bromölla, and taxis, most people managed to get there, even if journeys took longer, cost more, and were filled with stories of annoyance.

Once under way the festival, from the outside looking in at least, went off without a hitch and enjoyed some truly memorable performances.


Alice Cooper

Festival Stage
Thursday, June 5
23:30 - 01:00

There are few more dependable live acts in rock music than Alice Cooper. Even at the grand old age of 66, showing no signs of slowing down yet, the master of rock 'n' roll theatre still struts confidently around stages of all sizes and never fails to deliver.

In terms of calibre it could be argued that Alice is a "smaller" or "cheaper" headliner for Sweden Rock, but with such a big, reliable stage show and so many popular songs, stature matters a lot less than the sheer enjoyment such a performer can bring to a festival. Regardless of who is in his band at the time (and Sweden Rock would be one of the last shows with Australian guitarist Orianthi Panagaris), everyone is on the same page at all times and the show runs like clockwork.

With no new material since 2011's Welcome 2 My Nightmare, Alice's Summer run is just a continuation of the Raise The Dead tour concept, with the same setlist and set pieces as he's been using for the last couple of years; probably the final leg of shows in that format. This means the break towards the end of the main set where the band run through four cover songs in tribute to famous musician friends of Alice's who died; John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, and Jim Morrison. At Alice's arena shows this section can somewhat kill the momentum of the set, but at a festival, where classic rock songs played by almost anyone are well received, it proved a very successful segment.

To polish off an already great set - which retained He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask), a more significant inclusion for this audience than at most of his shows because it was such a huge hit in Scandinavia in 1986 - he invited Rob Zombie to join him for the evergreen School's Out to provide a rare special finalé. And unlike a lot of guest appearances, Rob didn't hide at the back of the stage afraid to step on the main star's toes, he joined Alice out on the central walk-way and sang his verses like it was his show. The two of them singing the final choruses together with the confetti cannons firing and Tommy Henriksen handing his guitar over to John 5 for an impromptu outro solo was a truly thrilling end to the first full day of the festival.

Setlist: Hello Hooray / House of Fire / No More Mr. Nice Guy / Under My Wheels / I'll Bite Your Face Off / Billion Dollar Babies / Caffeine / Department of Youth / Hey Stoopid / Dirty Diamonds / Jam / Welcome to My Nightmare / Go to Hell / He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask) / Feed My Frankenstein / Ballad of Dwight Fry / I Love the Dead / Break On Through (to the Other Side) / Revolution / Foxy Lady / My Generation / I'm Eighteen / Poison // School's Out (with Rob Zombie)


Alter Bridge

Rock Stage
Thursday, June 5
20:00 - 21:30
Photos

Every year at Sweden Rock there is a slot on the main stage given to a band considered "modern". Not necessarily young, because there are plenty of young bands playing classic styles of rock and metal, but a band who play something which probably originated after 1995. A band who are more likely to appeal to younger fans. For 2014, that was Alter Bridge, and they were probably one of the most well-received bands to be given the slot.

Their increasingly wide appeal is due in no small part to singer Myles Kennedy's continuing position as front-man of Slash's band, which has made both him, and Alter Bridge, more acceptable in the notorious narrow vision of the classic rock crowd, making them more and more common fixtures at rock and metal festivals in Europe and allowing them to sell out the biggest arenas with ease.

On probably the final leg of the touring cycle for latest album Fortress, having already had a big headline run through Europe in 2013, their setlist for these festival appearances hasn't changed much, apart from reinstating the best track from their debut album (which is also still their best), Find The Real, meaning they played almost every hit from the first three albums alongside the newest songs, some of which are fast becomming hits with fans themselves. Fronting Slash's band has also significantly increased Kennedy's showmanship compared to his slightly shy persona when the band first started out, and on this occasion that was needed more than usual to make up for a somewhat subdued Mark Tremonti (lead guitar).

Normally far more animated and enthusiastic, especially after fronting his own eponymous band with his debut album in 2012, he spent most of the set camped behind his monitors, looking about as cheerful as the grey clouds overhead. Of course he never missed a beat, but he wasn't contributing much to visual side of things. Nevertheless, a solid set, a good performance from Kennedy, and better sound than they've enjoyed at other festivals on this run, validated their inclusion and pleased the sizeable early evening crowd.

Setlist: Addicted To Pain / White Knuckles / Find The Real / Come To Life / Farther Than The Sun / Cry of Achilles / Ghosts of Days Gone By / Fortress / Ties That Bind / Waters Rising / Brand New Start / Metalingus / Blackbird / Rise Today / Isolation


Annihilator

Sweden Stage
Friday, June 6
16:45 - 18:15
Photos

Annihilator's return to Sweden Rock was long overdue. Their last appearance at the festival, despite other Summers in between spent touring Europe, was 2007 and both the upgrade to the Sweden Stage (from the Zeppelin Stage on Wednesday last time), and the increased crowd size, showed that they'd been missed, and that their stock has risen in recent years with more regular touring and solid album releases.

As a live band Annihilator are a given. The fearsome partnership they've developed between main-man Jeff Waters on lead guitar and front-man Dave Padden has been the best thing to happen to the band, and it has meant they can do things like approach this festival tour with a brand new live bassist, Oscar Rangel, without any concerns that their performance will suffer. As it turns out, Rangel is a more energetic performer than the man he replaced, Alberto Campuzano.

Mixing just a couple of songs from Feast into the set, the interesting move they made was to drop a few classic songs, like The Fun Palace, in favour of resurrecting other old songs that are rarely played. Road To Ruin, the brilliantly off-the-wall Brain Dance and Phantasmagoria all found places, but the biggest surprise was saved for last, when they closed the set with Human Insecticide from debut album Alice In Hell, a track not played in over two decades. As with most thrash bands at a rock festival, the crowd was compact, but clearly loved every minute of it.

Being able to do things like that with the set, something Overkill also did on the same stage last time they were here, is a benefit to being a thrash band at this festival - they don't really attract passing interest like catchy rock bands do. Everyone bothing to watch Annihilator was an Annihilator fan, so the significance of playing something like Human Insecticide wasn't lost, and the crowd reacted accordingly to a flawless performance.

Setlist: Smear Campaign / King of The Kill / No Way Out / Deadlock / Set The World On Fire / Reduced To Ash / Alison Hell / W.T.Y.D. / Ultra Paranoia / Road To Ruin / No Zone / Phantasmagoria / Brain Dance / I Am In Command / Fiasco / Human Insecticide


Avatarium

4Sound Stage
Saturday, June 7
20:15 - 21:15
Photos

Ever since Avatarium released their debut self-titled album in November 2013 their touring activity has been sporadic. To make matters harder, founding member and doom metal legend Leif Edling has been unable to play live for health reasons, making any appearance by the band an occasion to savour for fans.

And the same for the band, who didn't cancel a single show due to Edling's absence, instead drafting in drummer Lars Sköld's Tiamat band-mate Anders Iwers as a replacement. Managing to be devastatingly heavy with just Marcus Jidell's guitar, the focus of most attention was of course singer Jennie-Ann Smith, who while perhaps not the most natural metal front-woman, can effortlessly reproduce her amazing vocals live, which makes for a captivating performance.

The expected thing for Avatarium to do at their few shows this year was play all of their debut album, plus their b-side cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, so that's precisely what they didn't do. Obviously the set was mostly songs from their album, but there was no Sabbath cover in site. Instead, a new song set for release on a forthcoming EP, Pandora's Egg, which fit perfectly with their other material. Besides Swedish legends Candlemass doom metal never proves as popular at Sweden Rock as it should, but this performance was as well received as any doom set has been on the side stages in recent memory.

Avatarium's touring activity is probably destined to be patchy for a while longer yet, but any chance to see will prove worth the effort. They are a band made up of top professionals who have formed a tight cohesiveness on stage very quickly.

Setlist: Moonhorse / Bird of Prey / Boneflower / Tides of Telepathy / Deepest Sorrow / Pandora's Egg / Avatarium


Black Sabbath

Festival Stage
Friday, June 6
22:00 - 23:30

Arguably the most significant booking of 2014, and easily the biggest crowd-puller, the metal legends Black Sabbath brought their hugely successful tour for new album 13 through Europe for a second time, intentionally being coy over whether or not it would in actual fact be their last one.

Playing their shortened festival set (only three songs actually missing from their regular headlining set), with the skies already dark, there was something very fitting as their intro tape began and the band kicked off with the unmistakeably War Pigs riff. When the moment of truth arrived, that point in every Black Sabbath gig where Ozzy Osbourne sings the first line of the first song, with memories of his disastrous 2011 solo headlining set still vivid for many, the crowd let out a collective sigh of relief as the famously fragile front-man sounded in good voice.

Of course Ozzy's hit-and-miss vocal performances are well documented, and most fans are beyond the point of holding a bad night against him, but the biggest difference regular Sweden Rock visitors will have undoubtedly noticed was in the performance of drummer Tommy Clufetos. He was, and still is, Ozzy's solo band drummer as well, and on his first tour with Ozzy in 2011 became notorious for not being good enough to play the complex drum patterns of the old Black Sabbath songs in the set. It was clear, echoed by people who have seen other stops on the tour, that Tommy has put in a tremendous amount of work and practice since being tapped to play live with Sabbath, because the difference in his performances is astonishing. No more so than on Fairies Wear Boots, a song famous for complicated drum fills, which he now pulls of perfectly, but which is completely massacred in 2011.

The rest of the band, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, are always dependable performers, and are currently playing louder and heavier than ever. Iommi's iconic riffs are devastating on this tour, and rattling out from the giant Sweden Rock speaker stacks they sounded immense. The sense of historic importance which rightly surrounds Black Sabbath doesn't affect everyone in the same way, and with their various health problems, and naturally age, those not caught up in that feeling can find their lack of movement a boring show. Those aren't the people Black Sabbath are playing to. Everyone else couldn't fail to be enthralled.

Setlist: War Pigs / Into The Void / Snowblind / Age of Reason / Black Sabbath / Behind The Wall of Sleep / NIB / Fairies Wear Boots / Rat Salad/Drum Solo / Iron Man / God Is Dead? / Children of The Grave // Paranoid


Di'Anno vs Blaze

4Sound Stage
Wednesday, June 4
22:30 - 23:45
Photos

The concept of these collaborative shows between the two "other" Iron Maiden singers Paul Di'Anno and Blaze Bayley is now a couple of years old, and it involves both men sharing a backing band to play some of the song from their own time in Maiden, followed by a couple of tracks performed together.

Blaze Bayley goes first, brilliantly powering through five tracks from his two albums The X Factor and Virtual XI which, although probably the five most obvious songs to have chosen, provided a glorious first 30 minutes of the set. Blaze himself was in excellent voice, and the band of local musicians knew those Maiden songs inside out. As maligned as any Iron Maiden album without Bruce Dickinson tends to be, Sign of The Cross and The Clansman are still two of the best songs in their whole catalogue, and hearing them performed live by the man who helped create them is something all Maiden fans should experience.

The second half of the set was quite the opposite however. Slowly limping onto the stage, clutching a glass of vodka, Paul Di'Anno briefly apologised for his lack of mobility, citing a knee problem, before sitting himself on the front of the drum riser, not to move again until the end of the set. Making similarly obvious selections from his two albums with Maiden, slipping in the instrumental Translyvania, to allow time for a rest and more alcohol, Di'Anno tried, and failed, to come close to Blaze's performance. With a voice apparently in similar shape to his body, he sounded just awful.

His portion of the show was only worth bearing to get to the end, when Blaze rejoined proceedings to help out on Running Free and the seminal Iron Maiden, taking the front of the stage while Di'Anno remained on the riser, looking very conscious of the fact that he was upstaging his predecessor without even trying. If it hadn't been for Blaze, and the excellent band, this show would have been a disaster.

Setlist: Lord of The Flies / Futureal / Sign of The Cross / The Clansman / Man On The Edge / Sanctuary / Wrathchild / Remember Tomorrow / Killers / Phantom of The Opera / Transylvania / Running Free / Iron Maiden


Joe Bonamassa

Rock Stage
Friday, June 6
14:00 - 15:15
Photos

Each year there are only a handful of slots available for blues artists at Sweden Rock (one of the few major European rock festivals to even book blues acts) and without doubt one of the biggest blues acts on the planet still to play the event was American Joe Bonamassa, making his debut this year.

Which was just as well for many fans, who are increasingly finding Joe's own shows unaffordable as his ticket prices rise year on year. Joe's schedule for the Summer actually included a lot of rock festivals, so he constructed a setlist which featured several of his riffiest songs, including the ever popular The Ballad of John Henry, which he used to play live with Black Country Communion, and that certainly stood him in good stead.

It's hard to imagine the crowd at Sweden Rock for Joe's set being any bigger or more receptive than it was to this bunch of songs, including two new ones from the forthcoming album Different Shades of Blue. Joe approached the set wisely, not taking too many indulgent solo spots himself, or letting any of his accomplished backing band have solo spots, as all bands at a festival should. Instead the 75-minute set was compact, each song following hot on the heels of the last, but in several cases played out with additional solos and instrumental passages for a hypnotising, and surprisingly loud blues jam.

Indeed the time passed quickly while Joe was on stage, and he layered all of the songs chosen with enough lengthy rock soloing to fit right in with the event. His lack of talking between songs and hasty exit did make it feel more like a task than a performance for him, but there could be no faulting the music or his playing, both of which he was fully invested in for the duration.

Setlist: Oh Beautiful! / Story of A Quarryman / Midnight Blues / Who's Been Talking / Slow Train / Song of Yesterday / Love Ain't A Love Song / Sloe Gin / The Ballad of John Henry


Queensrÿche

Sweden Stage
Wednesday, June 4
00:00 - 02:00

With the future of the band's name finally settled (and in their hands) the Todd La Torre-fronted version of Queensrÿche, soon to be the only official version now that Geoff Tate has agreed to stop using the name, were surprisingly handed the Wednesday night headline slight after it had originally been announced the day would be topped by Magnum, who dropped down one slot.

Some Queensrÿche fans can't quite get past seeing them without Tate, but everyone who can overcome that barrier finds the same thing: La Torre can hit every note of every song, including all the old ones from the late '80s that Tate can no longer sing. This is enjoyable on a small club stage, but on a larger festival stage, at night with all the lights blazing, the band look right at home, particularly La Torre, with more room to prowl the front of the stage, even in the rain.

Sticking to a set exclusively from the band's first five releases plus the new self-titled album pleased pretty much everybody and they delivered every track with an enthusiasm which was reflected by the audience, despite the poor weather conditions. The set didn't really contain any surprises, although the return of the ever popular old pair The Lady Wore Black, and Queen of The Reich in the encore, was universally welcomed, and the likes of Screaming In Digital were still absent, as the band delivered more or less their usual packed headlining set, never missing a beat.

The arrival of La Torre has clearly rejuvenated the band - even bassist Eddie Jackson smiles now - and it's showing in their performances, aided of course by playing sets containing their best material. There was still some gold in the later years, so La Torre's handling of some of that material would be interesting, but there can be no faulting what they're currently doing, especially with new songs like Where Dreams Go To Die, the closest thing to classic Queensrÿche for two decades, mixed in as well.

Setlist: Nightrider / Breaking The Silence / Walk In The Shadows / The Whisper / En Force / Spore / Warning / Silent Lucidity / Where Dreams Go To Die / A World Without / Guitar Solo / The Needle Lies / NM 156 / The Lady Wore Black / My Empty Room / Eyes of A Stranger / Empire // Queen of The Reich / Jet City Woman / Take Hold of The Flame


Rob Zombie

Rock Stage
Thursday, June 5
21:45 - 23:15
Photos

Last time Rob Zombie played Sweden Rock Festival he misjudged the length of the time slot he'd been given, leaving the stage 30 minutes early only to be told he had more time, managing three encores. This time he was a little more prepared.

Although absent the full stage show that had been promised for this festival run (a trek which they likely thought would contain more non-festival headlining shows to justify the enormous transport costs of his extravagent set than they ended up with), there's never a doubt that Zombie will deliver in the live arena. The spectacle of his full show is immensely enjoyable, but he doesn't actually need 12-foot robots and moving platforms to put give a compelling performance.

Rob Zombie is, after all, the consummate showman, even if he comes across as dismissive when he speaks on stage, and with a band comprising John 5 on guitar and Piggy D on bass, he's flanked by two of the most animated side-men he's had with him to date. All three don't really stop moving for the entire show, especially Zombie himself, who races back and forth across the raised platforms between the monitors along the front of the stage in a mass of dreadlocks and tassels, kneeling, swirling, jumping, and generally never staying in the same place for any longer than it takes to sing two lines of lyrics. The setlist held no surprises as it was more or less his current headlining set, but it did run the full length of his allotted time and contained all of the classics fans flock to see, culminating in inevitable closer Dragula, alongside a couple from new album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, and a couple of covers.

Diamond Head classic Am I Evil? sounds great in the Zombie style, and although they kept in the usual snippet of Alice Cooper's School's Out, which the band normally launch into after John 5's guitar solo spot half way through Thunder Kiss '65, Zombie rightly noted "we can't play the whole song, that would just be fucking rude", knowing that he would be joining Alice himself for the same song on the main stage immediately after his set.

Setlist: Meet The Creeper / Superbeast / Scum of The Earth / Living Dead Girl / Dead City Radio And The New Gods of Supertown / Drum Solo / More Human Than Human / Sick Bubble-Gum / House of 1000 Corpses / Trade In Your Guns For A Coffin / Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy) / Am I Evil? / Thunder Kiss '65/Guitar Solo/School's Out/Thunder Kiss '65 // The Lords of Salem // Dragula


Talisman


Rock Stage
Friday, June 6
12:00 - 13:15
Photos

This year is the fifth anniversary of the death of bassist and Talisman driving force Marcel Jacob, who committed suicide aged 45 in 2009. The band, who last played Sweden Rock in 2007, never got a chance to celebrate the music and life of Jacob at the time, so for this first significant anniversary they decided to play a one off show, and felt Sweden Rock was the only viable place to do it.

Standing in for Jacob was current Evergrey bassist Johan Niemann, who joined original singer Jeff Scott Soto, and long-time members Pontus Norgren (guitar) and Jamie Borger (drums), the line-up which first played together on the Truth album in 1998, plus Soto's solo band keyboard player BJ, for a setlist which was almost identical to their 2003 appearance at the festival.

Any fans who had seen front-man Soto in recent years may have seen some of these songs played live more recently than those who have only seen Talisman, but not many of them, and usually as a medley, so it didn't really matter than the set was basically the same collection of songs they previously used to always play, Talisman fans were just eager to hear anything at all. Therefore tracks like Tears In The Sky, Colour My XTC, their covers of Madonna's Frozen and Seal's Crazy, and especially the ever-popular I'll Be Waiting found the audience singing every single word.

For a performance as significant as this, and a band as good as Talisman, the midday slot, even if it was on the second stage, was unfair. The band deserved at least the first slot on the main stage, maybe even higher than that, and would easily have delivered a performance to justify that faith. Maybe in another five years they'll get it. For now, Swedish fans were given this rare and rewarding event.

Setlist: Break Your Chains / Colour My XTC / Fabricated War / Mysterious (This Time It's Serious) / Tears In The Sky / Sorry / If U Would Only Be My Friend / Frozen/Crazy / Dangerous / I'll Be Waiting // Standin' On Fire


Ted Nugent

Rock Stage
Saturday, June 7
21:45 - 23:15
Photos

There's no one else quite like Ted Nugent. The eccentric American who never stops talking is not someone a lot of people are able to agree with, but no one can argue when he starts playing his guitar. Varying quality of material aside, he's still one of the best rock 'n' roll guitar players of all time.

Last time Ted played Sweden Rock - probably the most suitable festival in Europe for him, and therefore no surprise he decided to play his only European show of the year there - was 2006, and he released the show as a live DVD soon after. In a big difference to that show, Ted's original lead singer Derek St. Holmes has returned to the band, sharing the set roughly equally with Nugent (and playing rhythm guitar the rest of the time), which makes for a very different dynamic compared to the last time Nugent played in Sweden.

The biggest effect of course being that there are actually periods of the set where Nugent isn't saying anything, and interestingly he is far less animated during the songs St. Holmes sings than he is for the ones he sings himself. Between songs he's the same old Ted, the guy who has to say every sentence three times before moving on to the next one, and of course on guitar he shreds as relentless as he always did, but on the St. Holmes songs he is a noticeably quieter presence. He was still responsible for the set's highlight however, taking lead vocals for the majestic Fred Bear, a song that has rightly become a staple of his sets.

And apart from opening with Gonzo and Just What The Doctor Ordered, his set is mostly staples and after an eight-year wait, that's all his fans wanted from him. Weak new song Shutup&Jam!, from the at-the-time forthcoming album of the same name, therefore didn't go over too well, but every other classic lick and riff did. Hopefully it won't be another eight years before he comes back, and if it is a shorter time, maybe he'll do it with some different songs - not that any Ted fan will ever tire of hearing Cat Scratch Fever.

Setlist: Gonzo / Just What The Doctor Ordered / Wango Tango / Turn It Up / Stormtroopin' / Free For All / Wang Dang Sweet Poontang/I Can't Quit You Baby / Fred Bear / Hey Baby / Shutup&Jam! / Cat Scratch Fever / Stranglehold / Great White Buffalo


W.A.S.P.

Rock Stage
Friday, June 6
20:15 - 21:45

For a band whose early reputation was founded on being so notoriously unpredictable, W.A.S.P. have become somewhat more reliable in recent years. Fans know what they are going to get from the band on every tour now, regardless of whether they have a new album out or not.

The improvement the band have made, perhaps in response to continued complaint from fans and journalists alike, is to play slightly longer sets. A growing contingent of their fan-base were becoming increasingly frustrated with sets lasting just 70 minutes, but ever since the anniversary tour for The Crimson Idol, W.A.S.P. have consistently played shows of at least 90 minutes (where possible), which has meant some of the longer tracks from that album in particularly have remained in the setlist.

But with the longer set seems to have come a reduced amount of spectacle. W.A.S.P. are tame now. Obviously it's decades since the meat-throwing, fake blood days of the first couple of albums, and no one really misses that, but their sets have no edge to them anymore. Every year it's the same songs, in the same order, with ever-diminishing theatrics. Just ten years ago it was still a joy to see front-man Blackie Lawless atop his mic-stand, swaying from side to side in glowing green face-paint, snarling through Kill Your Pretty Face from vicious mid-'90s album K.F.D., but no more, despite Lawless oddly pointing out half-way through the set as 'Elvis', his famed microphone stand, was being brought out, that it "does tricks", which he promised to demonstrate later, and never did.

Perhaps it's age, perhaps it's a lack of will now that Lawless is a somewhat less angry person than he used to be, it could be a number of things, but the fact remains W.A.S.P. are a less impressive live act than they used to be. The songs are still just as strong, and the band still sounds great, especially with their steadiest line-up for a long time, and that should be the area where they make up for the lack of visual tricks - by rejuvenating a great variety of songs from their extensive catalogue - but they aren't doing that at the moment. In Sweden, where they are very popular with the kind of rock fans who visit Sweden Rock, they don't play as often as some, so the novelty hasn't worn off for their fans there, but it soon will if they do come back more often and keep playing the same set of songs they played last time.

Setlist: On Your Knees/The Torture Never Stops/The Real Me / L.O.V.E. Machine / Crazy / Wild Child / Sleeping (In The Fire)/Forever Free / I Wanna Be Somebody / The Invisible Boy/I Am One/The Gypsy Meets The Boy / The Idol / Drum Solo / Chainsaw Charlie / Heaven's Hung In Black / Blind In Texas


Within Temptation

Rock Stage
Saturday, June 7
18:15 - 19:45
Photos

Bands like Within Temptation are not especially well-regarded by "true" rock fans. Often seen as a "kids" band, and therefore unauthentic because of that, they are generally left to teenagers and are not considered suitable for a festival like Sweden Rock.

But defying that convention, they were given a prominent Rock Stage slot, and they made the very most of it. Even more unacceptable was their superb performance, which would surely have won over any doubters who deigned to given them the time of day. Bringing with them their full stage set-up, comprising a large central staircase, raised platforms, and pyrotechnics, they gave a far more energetic, festival-level performance than most people were expecting from them.

Their material has become derivative of late, with even fans of old losing interest a little, but when some of those songs are accompanied by jets of flame and other such stage tricks, even they can become more engaging. And the setlist needed that assistance as they stubbornly featured material from their most recent albums ahead of what are widely recognised as their best, Mother Earth and The Silent Force, playing just two tracks from each, and none at all from debut album Enter. New album Hydra, probably their most successful since The Silent Force, was heavily represented with four tracks, and those tracks went over well with the faithful fans at the front, while the heavy use of pyrotechnics during the first two songs hooked in every else - a wise tactic.

If Within Temptation had just rolled up with a basic stage set-up and hoped their songs would do the job on their own, they'd have witnessed their audience diminish over the course of their 90-minute slot until only their hardcore fans remained, which at a festival such as Sweden Rock, wouldn't have been that many. As it was, their had enough spectacle to them to keep a large proportion of the interested viewers for the duration. In terms of meeting expectations, Within Temptation's set was one of the biggest successes of the week.

Setlist: Let Us Burn / Paradise (What About Us) / Faster / In The Middle of The Night / Fire And Ice / And We Run / Dangerous / Our Solemn Hour / Iron / Stand My Ground / Covered By Roses / Mother Earth // What Have You Done / Summertime Sadness / Memories / Ice Queen

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2014, Blues, Doom Metal, Female-fronted, Festivals, Hard/Heavy Rock, Heavy Metal, Southern, Stoner, Symphonic, Thrash Metal, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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