Sweden Rock Festival - Saturday
7 June 2008
Sölvesborg, Sweden

So to the final day of Sweden Rock and the rare treat of an appointment with Lizzy Borden. Opening with There Will Be Blood Tonight, there was initially no sign of Lizzy until eventually he appeared as a figure in a hooded cloak with his face covered by material. Notorious saw the removal of the hood and the first of a selection of masks. Lizzy, now with straight black hair as opposed to his familiar frizz, proceeded to add a theatrical element to his performance with a variety of props such as a baseball bat, an axe and a skull. The rest of the band looked like a bunch of zombies and the whole presentation was much more professional than last time I’d seen the band at Wacken in 2000.

Musically the band touched on each of their six studio albums, including four from their latest release Appointment With Death. In addition, a couple of covers were thrown in being Born To Be Wild, which appeared on The Decline of Western Civilization, Pt. 2 soundtrack, and Long Live Rock & Roll from their debut EP Give ‘Em The Axe. I’d have preferred to hear the likes of Red Rum or American Metal, though the Rainbow cover did bring the set to a rousing close. Me Against The World was the anthem most here seemed to know. Lizzy spending the whole song in the photopit smearing the crowd with fake blood which he’d previously covered his face with in an encounter with is axe. Appearing in a Swedish ice hockey shirt during We Got The Power didn’t do him any harm with this crowd either. One of my favourite sets of the weekend.

Lizzy Borden set list:
There Will Be Blood Tonight / Notorious / Live Forever / Be One Of Us / Perfect World (I Don’t Wanna Live) / Rod Of Iron / Sins Of The Flesh / Abnormal / Bass Solo / Tomorrow Never Comes / Born To Be Wild / Guitar Solo / We Only Come Out At Night / Me Against The World / We Got The Power / Long Live Rock & Roll

As an Englishmen I may have joined the mad-dogs in the midday sun for Lizzy Borden, but shelter and re-hydration was now required, hence Gotthard were observed from the comfort of the central beer tent. Whilst not really to my own tastes, the Swiss band proved they could cope with the expanse of the main stage with ease. Indeed, the quality of frontman Steve Lee’s vocals put some of the more famed singers appearing this year to shame.

Gotthard set list:
Master of Illusion / Gone Too Far / Top of The World / The Call / Hush / I Wonder / Sister Moon / Anytime, Anywhere / Let It Be / Mountain Mama / The Oscar Goes To You / Lift U Up / All We Are

Time for a bit of a diversion from the usual guitar set up of rock bands with Apocalyptica. If somehow they’ve managed to pass you by, the Finns consist of four cello players and a drummer. Starting life with their take on Metallica songs, Apocalyptica frequently visited that past with covers such as Creeping Death, Seek and Destroy and Nothing Else Matters. Without a singer, one of the cello accentuated the vocal line whilst the crowd sang along. This was most in effect with the closing Enter Sandman unsurprisingly. Many of the band’s own compositions have featured guest vocalists on record and I couldn’t help but think that the performance would be raised by the addition of a permanent singer. It did take some time for Apocalyptica to add a drummer to their ranks and Mikko Sirén would now certainly be missed.

However, the bands presentation could not be faulted and this was surely the first time I had seen a cello player windmill headbang. This is not your usual cello quartet, with three of the four making use of the space and heading round the stage with their cellos. In a festival environment, Apocalyptica provided something refreshingly different.

Apocalyptica set list:
Refuse - Resist / Grace / I’m Not Jesus / Somewhere Around Nothing / Fight Fire With Fire / Helden / Creeping Death / Betrayal-Forgiveness / Bittersweet / Last Hope / Life Burns / Seek And Destroy / Inquisition Symphony / Hall of The Mountain King / Nothing Else Matters / Enter Sandman

Having met Archer on our train from Copenhagen, it was rather disappointing to discover they clashed with Ratt. In the end I managed to sneak in two songs on route and with a song title of Brewtality it’s not surprising that there were some similarities to Black Label Society in that song. The young Californian’s had come along way for their show in the Gibson tent and looked up for the occasion.

Archer set list included:
Brewtality / Man Who Knows All

I’d never seen Ratt live before, but after this performance I certainly would again. With barely a pause, Ratt raced through a 21 song set with the energy I would have expected from them during their 80s heyday and not necessarily now. Within their first six songs they’d managed to play the whole of their debut EP, then it was off on a glorious best of set, possessing more muscle than one might have imagined for a band often lumped in with “hair metal”.

For a band that had been estranged from their singer for many years, there was no hint of awkwardness and in fact Ratt came across as a very tight unit. It’s actually hard to imagine Ratt without frontman Stephen Pearcy who was in fine form and noted, “Who’d have thought 25 years later we’d still be doing this”, before continuing with the speedy I’m Insane. You’re In Love, as my favourite Ratt song, was my own personal highlight, though it was Round & Round that really got the crowd singing at the climax of what was one of the sets of the festival.

Ratt set list:
Tell The World / Sweet Cheater / Walkin’ The Dog / U Got It / You Think You’re Tough / The Morning After / Back For More / Wanted Man / I’m Insane / Lack Of Communication / Lay It Down / You’re In Love / Slip of The Lip / Dangerous But Worth The Risk / Nobody Rides For Free / Way Cool Jr / City To City / Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job / Bodytalk / Giving Yourself Away / Round And Round

I must admit that four days of rock and metal was beginning to take it’s toll and a seat on the grass was necessary as a holographic head told us that rumours of Triumph’s demise had been greatly exaggerated. With a flurry of explosions the Canadian three piece, with session guitarist in tow, took to the stage with When the Lights Go Down. Triumph were famed for their blinding lights shows, however as the sun was still in the sky, they were mainly relying on their material which was a little shaky to begin with.

Wearing a Swedish ice hockey top for the occasion, bassist Mike Levine announced that this was their “First gig in 20 years.” The performances of Lay It On The Line and Allied Forces that followed made that fact noticeable, though I’m told that things begin to click into place after I’d departed towards the Zeppelin stage.

Triumph set list:
When the Lights Go Down / Lay It on the Line / Allied Forces / Never Surrender / I Live For the Weekend / Blinding Light Show / Rocky Mountain Way / Magic Power / Rock and Roll Machine / Fight the Good Fight

With the way the billing had shaped up on this last day, Primordial represented one of the most extreme propositions of the day and the large crowd that had gathered suggested Sweden Rock was in need of something with a bit of “oomph” today. Indeed, frontman Nemtheanga was aware of this as he quipped, “We’ll f**k off and leave you to enjoy Poison” following a rousing Heathen Tribes.

Primordial had become a bit of an in-joke for Rockers Digest this weekend, as our camping neighbours seemed to have nothing else to put on their stereo all weekend. Hence, it’s a wonder I wasn’t able to sing along, though thankfully, whilst I had become saturated with hearing their albums, it did not spoil my enjoyment of this very strong live performance. Against the wash of the band’s wall of crashing guitars, Nemtheanga seemed totally absorbed in each epic song.

Primordial set list:
Empire Falls / Gallows Hymn / Sons of The Morrigan / The Soul Must Sleep / As Rome Burns / The Song of The Tomb / The Coffin Ships / Heathen Tribes / Gods To The Godless / The Golden Spiral

I’d been holding out until this point on whether to see Avantasia, however the weight of the crowd heading towards the rock stage and my apathy with their recorded material led me to join the throng of Swedes gathering for home grown heroes Mustasch. Little known in the UK, at home Mustasch are loved and the effort into tonight’s show proved they knew this slot was an opportunity to be grasped. A curtain with the band’s logo had been put in front of the stage, which following cracks of thunder and lightning, and strangely the Eurovision song contest theme, fell to explosions as In The Night opened the set.

This wasn’t the end of the stage effects, with smoke cannons firing during Down In Black and flame pots rising from the stage. Frontman Ralf Gyllenhammar takes the foot on monitor approach as the band entertain with songs from their back catalogue. Falling somewhere between stoner rock, Load-era Metallica and the Cult, Mustasch are not breaking any boundaries but they do what they do well. This was a good band to have your Swedish photographer on hand for, as Gyllenhammar stage banter, entirely in Swedish, had this crowd in stitches. It also helped make sense of the strange song he had the crowd singing, which I’m reliably informed was a kid’s TV show tune.

Double Nature was the single this crowd was waiting for, but Gyllenhammar was still able to raise the crowd during the lesser known I Lied by announcing it was our last chance and that he was Joachim Cans conducting us. Mustasch put on a great fun set and I was glad of my decision to check them out.

Mustasch set list:
In The Night / Down In Black / Accident Black Spot / Falling Down / Bring Me Everyone / Lone Song (Reclusion) / Into The Arena / ? / Parasite / Dogwash / Monday Warrior / Double Nature / I Lied / I Hunt Alone

Each morning at the campsite there was a long queue of glamsters, the like of which I haven’t seen since the 80s, lining up to use the plug sockets in the toilets for their hair straighteners. A large portion of these had rushed past us on route to the main stage, though with the amount of time we were kept waiting for Poison, there was little need to hurry. Whilst the crowd had packed in down the front, the bulk of the audience was much more spacious and many drifted off after a few songs.

Eventually a very American introduction video started and after another wait Poison hit the stage with Look What The Cat Dragged In. Sticking with their 1986 debut album, I Want Action followed, with Bret Michaels stating “It’s awesome to be back!”. I’m sure collecting the fee for today was. This was the first time in 15 years Poison had been on European soil and even longer in CC DeVille’s case. Hence keeping the fans waiting at a festival that is always punctual, playing for only 75 minutes and including guitar and drum solos was somewhat lame. As Michaels signed off Talk Dirty To Me with “We will never wait this long” I’d already had the same thought and was hearing his words from the campsite.

Poison set list:
Look What the Cat Dragged In / I Want Action / Ride the Wind / I Won’t Forget You / What I Like About You / Guitar Solo / Cry Tough / Something to Believe In / Your Mama Don’t Dance / I Need To Know / Drum solo / Unskinny Bop / Every Rose Has Its Thorn / Fallen Angel / Talk Dirty To Me / Nothin’ But a Good Time

Sweden Rock Festival
Lizzy Borden