Saturday, October 8, 2016

Live review: Huskvarna Rock & Art Weekend

In the small town of Huskvarna, just a few kilometers outside of Jönköping, there was a party happening at Folkets Park. Some of the best tattoo artists from all of Sweden and even Europe would be summoned, to a weekend of tattoos, music, and booze.

That is pretty much all you need to know about Huskvarna Rock & Art, a tattoo convention and music festival combined, creating a beautiful symbiosis between two amazing cultures. This was my first time going, and it was quite a good timing, because the even has expanded, including more tattooers and allowing the music acts to perform on a proper stage, instead of a rather small one inside the convention hall. It was a cool feeling going through all of the booths, hearing the humming of all tattoo machines doing their work, and looking at all the art that was created. It certainly gave me a urge to get one myself, but since I had no clear idea of what I wanted, I passed.

But that is not all, other stuff in the hall was being sold as well, mostly related to metal and tattooing of course. CDs, vinyls, merch, steel necklaces, paintings, tattooing equipment, and a whole lot of other stuff too. Needless to say, you could easily get busty without getting under the needle, and I purchased 4 new albums to my collection. Iron Maiden "The X Factor", Dio "The Last In Line", Stormhold "Battle of The Royal Halls", and Kotipelto "Waiting For The Dawn".

Then we have the shows, all of them happening on Saturday (except for some acoustic sets that was played in the convention hall from time to time) in a special venue called Teater Ladan (The Theater Barn), and the line up was pretty good, knowing how small this festival was. There was a total of seven acts performing, and I got a glimpse of all of them. However, I will not review all of them, since I did not spend my full time on all performances. I only got a small peak of the cross over thrash band Negative Self and the black metal band Mordant, mostly because it was not my (and my pals') type of music. I did get a good look of the remaining 5 acts though, so here are the reviews of their shows.


First band out was Stormhold, a power/heavy metal band from around my neck of the woods, Värnamo, and also one of the main reasons to why I went here in the first place. I have always wanted to check this band out live, but never really gotten the chance. Well, I was determined to not miss out this time, even if they played relatively early (15:45).

So how can I describe these guys? Well, imagine if Gloryhammer started playing a mix of Iron Maiden and HammerFall, and you might get a good image on what this band is. Here they come in, dressed in their own medieval gears, and starts playing passionately with their cool style of classic heavy metal and cheesy power metal. It works out really well, and the band gets a great response from the engaged, still relatively small, audience. Sing alongs were loud, the showmanship was top notch, and they really gave it all they had.

Stormhold, bringing up a storm... hold
Most of their set list is based on their only released studio album, called "Battle of The Royal Halls", that was released last year, and it is a really nice album, with catchy melodies and cool riffs. We also got a sneak peak of what would come, a new song called "The Stranger" was played from their upcoming album, and it certainly got some good response as well. It will be interesting to see what these guys can do in the future, and judging from their performance, it is a bright looking one. Go check them out now if you have not already! Here is a good place to start --->

Best: Legions of The Brave

Worst: Their time slot was too early, otherwise nothing really

Rating: 8/10


Battle of Royal Halls
The Final Decision
Legions of The Brave
Fear Your Death
The Stranger (brand new song)


Absolva is a British band that was formed in 2012, and while they are still in an early stage, they have came some way already, like being the band who backs up Blaze Bayley. Their style is more or less classic modern heavy metal. No fuzz what so ever, it is straight on and in your face.It may not be the most original style out there, but it works if you have enough passion and song writing skills.

While I have close to no clue about this band before watching them (hence why no set list, sorry), I really did not expect anything from them. What I got was a band that was filled with adrenaline, never stopping and just being overly active, like they all had ADD. While most of the guys handled it quite well, I do think that the singer Chris Appleton took it a little too far, being off pitch here and there. But hey, who can really blame him, we was really excited to play his first real gig with his band in Sweden.

Literally the only non-blurry picture I could get of Absolva
Overall, the music certainly kicked ass. It is a type of music that works really well in a live setting, inviting to sing alongs, and gives room for the band to unleash hell. I really have to give some extra credit to the drummer Martin McNee, who was a god damn machine, delivering in every beat and even doing a pretty sweet, and not too long, drum solo. So job well done from the guys of Absolva, a band I will certainly be looking out for in the future.

Best: The passion of the entire band

Worst: Me, for being unprepared

Rating: 7/10

Sorry, could not find a set list here :(


Okay, so this is not really a review, but more of a rant, because I simply cannot take Skitarg (Swedish for pissed off).

First off, for those of you who do not know of this band, consider yourselves lucky. They can easily be best described as a Swedish version of Insane Clown Possy, because they are all clowns, and they are all out of their fucking minds. The music is kind of good, some cool melodies here, some catchy choruses, and some sweet riffs, but it is the overall image of the band that just makes me sick to my stomach.

Most of the band's lyrics relies on filthy, sexual, childish things, like finding brown treasures, supporting abortion, slaughtering dog owners, and breaking the necks off horses (all sung in Swedish as well). This is seriously disgusting, and I cannot take it in CD form, even less in a live setting.

Bring out... THE CLOWNS
I gave it a chance though, watching a couple of their songs, but seeing both of the singers, one having no pants and the other only wearing what could be best described as something German Tarzan would wear, them LITERALLY fucking each other, and then shooting their fake splooge over the audience. Sure Rammstein does this too, but they mix it up with cool stuff, like fire and shit, but seeing this being done by clowns is seriously nightmare inducing. So nope, nope, nope, nope, and more nope, this simply is not for me. It is something for someone else, but not me.

No setlist here either, because screw that.

Blaze Bayley

Despite not going on last, Blaze Bayley was the sole reason to why many of the visitors bought their tickets, because it seems like Huskvarna really love the former Iron Maiden singer. This is his third time performing on this event, and not only that, he really made sure this would be a special show for everyone here. For the first time ever, the whole "Infinite Entanglement", Blaze's latest album and first part of a trilogy concept, would be played live, and recorded for an upcoming live DVD.

I can totally see why Blaze chose Huskvarna for this grand event, because the crowd really do love him to death. The sing along was loud and clear from the get go when Blaze entered the stage with "Born As A Stranger", and it only grew louder and stronger with the following two songs, "The Launch" and the Iron Maiden song "Futureal". So a good start to the show, right? Well, it would have been, if it had not stopped all of a sudden after that. The lights died, Blaze came back on stage to thank a lot of people for making this show possible, and asked for a 5-10 minute break. I was really confused, and a couple of my friends even left for a moment to get a quick beer. I was fortunate to get a quick word with Blaze after the show, and he said that it just died, nothing like this was planned.

So yeah, a set back that certainly killed the mood, but it did give a good opportunity to present the main act of the show, the "Infinite Entanglement" opera. I really was not sure this was going to work all too well, because while the album is a good one (one that I enjoy more now than on the day I did the review), I was worried that Blaze would not get the audience along for the entire ride. Fortunately, I was wrong.

Scream for me Huskvarna!!!
To help Blaze out with this massive project, we of course had his backing band (whom consists of 3/4 of Absolva), we had voice actors who would act out the story of the record between the songs, a opera choir, Thomas Zwijsen on acoustic guitar, and Anne Bakker on the violin. So this was quite an arrangement (especially since the stage itself was not the largest I have seen), and it worked out really well, giving a whole new life to the album and its story. And my biggest concern seemed to be overly exaggerated, because the audience was as loud as ever this time too, singing along on every chorus
that Blaze threw at them.

The show was not over after that, it continued with a couple of more songs from Blaze's career, the highlight being the final two songs. First we have "Man Hunt", the only Wolfsbane song on the set list. In a live setting, it is a fantastic song, with a chorus that is cheesy, but so god damn fun to sing. Just hearing and singing the "Man Hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hu-hunt" is fun in itself. But it does not stop there, because during the solo part, the guitarist (which is also the singer of Absolva) goes buck wild and starts pushing Blaze away, starting a insane solo part where every part of the backing band is in. It is fast, insane, and incredibly fun. I usually hate it when the instrumental part drag out for too ling, but this was just so god damn ridiculous. A rebellion that was extremely enjoyable.

The last song was, not surprisingly, Iron Maiden's "Man On The Edge", but this was performed with every artist who was in the opera, which made it a little more special, and it was also the ultimate showing of Thomas Zwijsen's mad guitar skills. Even if he played acoustic and Chris Appleton played electric at the same time, I could actually hear Thomas, and my god, what a shredder he is. Seriously, go check him out on his YouTube, where he is most famous for his covers of Iron Maiden songs (called Nylon Maiden), a great musician in general.

So yeah, this was quite a 2 hour show, one that exceeded my expectations by miles, even with the technical difficulties in the beginning. I am excited to see the upcoming DVD, see if I am in it :)

Best: The whole opera and "Man Hunt"

Worst: That sudden break was a real bummer

Rating: 9/10


Born As A Stranger
The Launch
Futureal (Iron Maiden song)

Infinite Entanglement opera (performed with voice actors and opera singers)

Infinite Entanglement
A Thousand Years
What Will Come (with Thomas and Anne)
Stars Are Burning
Solar Wind
The Dreams of William Black (with Thomas and Anne)
Calling You Home
Dark Energy 256
A Work of Anger

Stare At The Sun
Virus (Iron Maiden song)
Blood And Belief
Man Hunt + instrumental rebellion (Wolfsbane song)
Man On The Edge (Iron Maiden song, with all participating artists)

Hardcore Superstar

The Blaze show took a lot of energy out of me, and close to everyone else, so it was no surprise that the Hardcore Superstar show was not nearly as energetic, even if the band tried everything they could to get the party started, and they succeeded... to some extent.

The setlist was very varied, having songs from nearly every album the band has made, so old fans of the band were of course pleased with it. Me? Well, it is kind of weak, but that could be because I am not a huge HCSS fan. I am most critical over the end of the setlist, ending it all with "Above The Law", one of their most boring songs. Jesus Christ, if people was not ready to go to bed before, they were surely now.

The band still have some killer songs though, and most of their big hits, like "Dreamin' In A Casket" and "We Don't Celebrate Sundays", got some great response. My personal favourite though, "Last Call For Alcohol", got an even bigger treatment. All of a sudden, a big bar is rolling into the stage, ready with Jägermeister and beer, and since the band is so generous, they invited up some of the audience up for a drink. And like that was not enough, the drummer was brought forward, because it was his birthday. So you all know what that means, birthday sing along!

Yes, I'll have a Jägerbomb please
So in the end, a nice ending to a night of metal, but I still think that Blaze should have had the honor of closing it out. A pretty decent desert that did not taste quite as good as the entree.

Best: Last Call For Alcohol

Worst: "Above The Law" as the closing song? Really?

Rating: 7/10


Touch The Sky
My Good Reputation
Dreamin' In A Casket
Silence For The Peacefully
Someone Special
Punk Rock Song
Last Call For Alcohol
We Don't Celebrate Sundays
Dear Old Flame
Above The Law

Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

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