Sweden Rock Festival 2019 - Day 1

I was very torn apart this year between attending Barcelona Rock Fest or Sweden Rock Fest (with Hellfest being a close third option). However the more boutique character of the former two (who peak at 30-35k of people), avoiding chaos, along with their band selection made it an easier choice and despite, not minding another “Sleepless Night” with the King, I decided I had too much of Spain, attending for the last four years and it was time to head back North after a decade or so, since Sweden Rock had one of the better lineup it had in years, boasting a lot of old favorites along with a healthy dose of newbies.
Sweden Rock Festival 2019 poster
After a friend bailed out on us, me and my good friend and huge KISS fan Achilles, got onboard the plane and landed in Copenhagen (since it easier to get to Solvesborg that way) on the 4th. A reasonably priced car hire (100€ for 5 days + 55€ gasoline) and a couple of hours later, we were at the festival site, getting accredited and then off to Immeln (some 40km away – near a lake) where some reasonably priced and idyllic cabin was hired (75€/pp for 5 days) perhaps a little too far from civilization as we found out…
 
One of the downsides was that one of our bags (including a second camera) got wrongly diverted elsewhere. So, no double “photo-coverage” as we had planned. On the upside, it’s now been safely returned to its owner, but it wasn’t the best way to start the fest and it also meant that we were deprived from a few more creature comforts.
 
Wednesday 5 June:
 
Having already sorted ourselves out and after a good night’s sleep we parked at a space that was afforded to us, only to find out it was some 2 km away from the actual fest, something that wasn’t particularly bad on our way there, but did take some getting used to – after the shows were over… trying to find a narrow road out of identical ones in the middle of the night in the Swedish outdoors, while it’s foggy, it is more atmospheric than words would make you think… especially the headlights from the approaching cars gave the whole scene a twin peaks sort of tension.
 
At any rate having narrowly missed, James Holkworth and The Coolbenders, who opened the festival, we went to see Rock på svenska: en hyllning till Strängen, which was a bit of a tribute to Robert Dahlqvist from The Hellacopters, who died a couple of years ago and were quite good.
 
Longtime Finnish metallers OZ, who since 2015 had a massive lineup change with only drummer Mark Ruffneck remaining from their classic lineup were up next on the smaller “4Sound” open stage. While the newer members were trying valiantly to recreate the sounds of yesteryear while throwing in a few tracks from their latest effort “Transition State” the shift from proper, ballsy heavy metal, towards something that was more like a Europower band trying to sound as heavy as they possibly could. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but compared to the old line up (that I had seen a few years back at KIT), I found it a little lacking.
 
OZ Setlist:
Fire in the Brain
Burning Leather
Dominator
Restless
Heart of a Beast
Black Candles
Turn the Cross Upside Down
Bone Crusher
Search Lights
 
The Italian ladies from Black Mamba were playing on the interim in the “Rockklassiker” tent stage and their highly rhythmical rock, translated well enough to the stage, but since it had been a while I decided against sitting idly there and went on to the “Sweden” stage where British hard rock institution Demon were about to perform and perform they did, with a nice “best of” sort of set.
 
Of course by now, I’ve seen Demon almost ten times, but they’re one of these bands that are guaranteed to satisfy, just like Saxon or Motorhead were. It was however the first time for me to watch them with frontman Dave Hill in makeup and donning the demonic mask from the 80s that definitely made for some interesting visuals and theatrics. After a few songs and due to the heat, Dave took it off and placed it in the center of the stage, proceeding with his mad monk act in quite a hilariously thrilling fashion. The whole shtick worked well, wile the setlist that was largely culled from the first couple of albums.
 
Demon Setlist:
Night of the Demon
Total Possession
The Spell
Sign of a Madman
Strange Institution
Victim of Fortune
The Grand Illusion
Beyond the Gates
Don't Break the Circle
No More Hell on Earth
Encore:
One Helluva Night
 
Running around a bit, meant I missed my chance to enter the photo pit for the Gathering Of Kings a project band that was represented by a plethora of interchangeable members, including multiple singers like Apollo Papathanasio (ex-Firewind, Spiritual Beggars), Rick Altzi (Masterplan) etc., guitarists and drummers. Their style is what you’d pretty much expect from the people involved in the project and they were pretty good, overall. (I only found out the next day that I could still get in the photo pit, past the “first song” and until the third as it usually happens). At the same time Brazilian tech extremists Krisiun were tearing it at the “tent”/Rockklassiker Stage, but unfortunately we missed most of their show.
 
The ever-youthful Joe Lynn Turner took the stage around nine, with most members of the Swedish power wonders Dynazty supporting his efforts instrumentally and did a show full of the biggest hits from his Purple, Rainbow and Malmsteen days. The excellent musicianship of the Swedes allowed some rarely performed songs to be played with great precision with Joe usually sounding fine, but struggling a bit with the more demanding vocal lines of the Malmsteen tracks. All in all, a fair performance, but one of the most consistent guys in rock, that didn’t disappoint.
 
Joe Lynn Turner Setlist:
Tape: Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen song)
Death Alley Driver (Rainbow song)
Power (Rainbow song)
Street of Dreams (Rainbow song)
Déjà Vu (Yngwie J. Malmsteen cover)
Difficult to Cure (Rainbow song)
I Surrender (Russ Ballard cover)
King of Dreams (Deep Purple song)
Can't Let You Go (Rainbow song)
Spotlight Kid (Rainbow song)
Rising Force (Yngwie J. Malmsteen cover)
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (Rainbow song)
Jealous Lover (Rainbow song)
 
Having to make the tough selection between the excellent US Death/Thrashers Death Angel and the aforementioned Dynazty, who were raising hell in the “tent”/Rockklassiker and maybe biased, by the excellent musical prowess they had just displayed as a backing band for JLT, with a heavy heart, I elected the latter, who in a matter of seconds, after they started were able to lighten the load, with their super dynamic and anthemic power metal. Nils Molin and his boys were headbanging like spinning dynamos, while not missing a beat. A real tour da force band that has to be experienced to be believed and a hell of a frontman… wow!
 
Dynazty Setlist:
Breathe with Me
The Northern End
Firesign
The Grey
Ascension
Drum solo
In the Arms of a Devil
The Smoking Gun
Raise Your Hands
The Human Paradox
Titanic Mass
Starlight
 
Last but not least Skid Row, sporting South African born British boy ZP threat (formerly of Tank and Dragonforce). came on and while I had my fair share of doubts if his usually pristine voice would fit the bill, he seemed able to go the extra mile and be the most convincing Sebastian Bach replacement to this date. Skid row played with Ryan Spencer Cook (Gene Simmons, Hair Of The Dog) replacing Dave “The Snake” Sabo on guitar. While I was ambivalent about seeing them in Greece in July, I now just might do so; I mean they were so good that a crazy drunken guy next to us, went into almost an amok during “Monkey Business” and starting a pit on his own that must have been the most short lived pit ever, since as soon as he pushed a huge burly guy around and got an angry look his moshing quickly died down…
 
Skid Row Setlist:
Tape Intro : Blitzkrieg Bop
Slave to the Grind
Sweet Little Sister
Get the Fuck Out
Big Guns
18 and Life
Piece of Me
Livin’ on a Chain Gang
Ghost
Psycho Therapy (Ramones cover)
I Remember You
Monkey Business
Makin' a Mess
 
Encore:
We are the Damned
In a Darkened Room
Youth Gone Wild
 
We left almost zombie crawling back to the car and dropped to sleep like deadweight back in the cabin.