Sweden Rock XXVI Day 1 @ Sölvesborg (SE)

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'Sweden Rock Festival 2017' - Day One

BLACK STAR RIDERS / GRAVE DIGGER / MYRKUR / HELIX / LOST SOCIETY / GRAND MAGUS / ART NATION / BLACK INGVARS / HEAVY TIGER / EMMA VARG / A TRIBUTE TO LED ZEPPELIN

Date: 07th June, 2017
Venue: Norje Havsbad
Ticket: 2690SEK (4-Days) (€258/$320)
Promoter: Sweden Rock Festival
Photos: Erika Wallberg


There's always with a mix of horror and delight opening the 'Sweden Rock Festival' schedule. There's no doubt there will be clashes. It's just a matter how bad they'll be. And then, after seeing the schedule, picking whom to see and be anxious about the acts ignored this time around. Last year I decided to pick the ones I've never seen before. This year I chose slightly different, at least for the first day.

I wasn't there waiting for the festival to open this year so the first band I saw was Finnish LOST SOCIETY at the Rockklassiker Stage. It was either them or ART NATION at the 4 Sound Stage. I definitely wanted to see both but in the end I picked LOST SOCIETY. They really killed it when opening for EXODUS a year or so ago. I loved their frenzy and energy on stage and it felt like a good way to start the festival. And it sure was! The size of this stage compared to the rather tight club-stages didn't take away from the energy.

This is still a very young band so it's an impressive list of qualifications they've collected over the years. Apart from three full length albums, they've also done multiple tours with prominent acts and giving the headliners a true match for their money. The routine they've gather really shows, Samy Elbanna (guitars and vocals) looks very comfortable on stage and how he connects with the crowd is fantastic. They get a really good response and it's fascinating to see that a lot of people actually know their songs. “Terror Hungry” being one of them and the circle pit got started. “I Am The Antidote” became a favorite at the last round so it was good to hear that one again. Again, Samy dominated the crowd; it's a smart move to remove the microphone from the stand on occasion and bring it to the edge of the stage to get even closer to the crowd. And it works, on his command everyone present starts to jump for set-closer “Riot”. Another really good song from this fantastic band. It was definitely a good start of the Festival and the energy injection I need to get going as well.

LOST SOCIETY setlist:

01.“Braindead”
02. “Kill (Those Who Oppose Me)”
03. “Hollow Eyes”
04. “Terror Hungry”
05. “Rage Me Up”
06. “I Am The Antidote”
07. “N.W.L.”
08. Drum Solo
09. “Riot”

LOST SOCIETY

Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)
Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)
Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Lost Society @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)

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Then something rarely happens; there was a pause in the schedule. The only band on was BLACK INGVARS. A band doing funny (but in a rather serious way) versions of classics and many times in Swedish. A bit of a spectacle and nothing for me. So it was just to wait for GRAND MAGUS to get ready at the 4 Sound Stage which was a no miss. I've seen them countless times over the years and they've always been very good. Perhaps, they've lost a little of the raw edge they had back around “Iron Will” but their songs still knock me over release after release. Fantastic “I, The Jury” opened the set. I love the chorus-line and it's very hard not to sing along and start fist punching in the air but you have to behave inside the photo-pit. Even if GRAND MAGUS’ sound isn't as raw anymore they still have the power, force and drive. They're a trio but it all sounds massive. The downside with being a trio though and not being mobile enough on this rather massive stage is that the show becomes a bit stale.

Folksy “Varangian” from latest release “Sword Songs” worked too. The raw groove in the verses towards the lighter passages sounds amazing and I love it when songs holds this kind of dynamics. It was the second half that was the best though if you’d ask me. It can be because I've listened more to the older material of course. Or that the crowd also had woken up at that point. “Ravens Guide Our Way” is a favorite from “Hammer Of The North” together with the title track, which ended GRAND MAGUS's set. And then of course “Iron Will” and “Like The Oar Strikes the Water”. The latter is an instant party-booster. The drive is fantastic and that riff is spot on. It all sounded fantastic. I was surprised though that it was a rather lazy crowd hanging out in the afternoon sun. The first day else normally is a party without comparison. The whole area was filled up but most just looked cozy and nodded along to the music. Anyway, it was a very good one from GRAND MAGUS as usual.

GRAND MAGUS setlist:

01. “I, The Jury”
02. “Varangian”
03. “On Hooves Of Gold”
04. “Steel Versus Steel”
05. “Forged In Iron – Crowned In Steel”
06. “Ravens Guide Our Way”
07. “Freja’s Choice”
08. “Iron Will”
09. “Like The Oar Strikes The Water”
10. “Hammer Of The North”

GRAND MAGUS

Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)
Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grand Magus @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)

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No competition for HELIX either as they were the only ones on after GRAND MAGUS but this was definitely another must-see. I've never really gotten a grip of HELIX. I've liked what I've heard and I of course know a few songs, far less than I thought though. But from people more into them they either love or hate them. First, I should definitely have had listened more prior to the show since I realized it was only the hits I knew.

And the main reason for saying this was because HELIX got to me immediately, their musical performance was flawless and their energy absolutely fantastic. And with that they were really fun to shoot too. Vocalist Brian Vollmer, the only original member these days, is a character, a great performer and it all was so much fun to watch. And to put HELIX on at this point of the Festival felt like a perfect match. Even for me, not knowing all songs too well they're easy enough to sing along to anyway and they have a good beat and groove in everything they're doing. “Feel The Fire” is a very good sample of this. The AC/DC stomp type riff topped with a catchy chorus-line always work at a Festival and it was no exception with this one.

The HELIX set worked as a very good introduction to the band as well. And I suppose, for the enthusiastic front-row as a list of greatest hits. That's both very good and, if not bad, a bit unfortunate with 'Sweden Rock Festival'. That the bands get very extensive play-time which can be overwhelming on occasion. Especially when trying to take in something new. This doesn't apply for HELIX, I thought they were amusing and good straight through. But there were a lot of songs on their set. Another favorite from the set was “When The Hammer Falls”, a more up-tempo track came in just right there in the middle and I made a note I had to check out “Walking On The Razors Edge” (again) after the festival. Both “Rock You” which ended the main set and had Brian climb out on the security fence and “Animal House” that came as an encore both are from that same album. And those I know and like.

I didn't know what to expect from HELIX before their show. I assumed they would do good, at this point on the bill it almost always are. Still they came as a very pleasant surprise and when I get another chance to see them I am definitely going to be more prepared.

HELIX setlist:

01. “Long Way To Heaven”
02. “Wild In The Streets”
03. “Get Up!”
04. “The Kids Are All Shakin'“
05. “Feel The Fire”
06. “Even Jesus (Wasn't Loved In His Hometown)”
07. “I'm A Live Frankenstein”
08. Bass Solo
09. “Danger Zone”
10. “When The Hammer Falls”
11. “Never Want To Lose You”
12. “Deep Cuts The Knife”
13. “No Rest For The Wicked”
14. Drum Solo
15. “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'“ (CRAZY ELEPHANT cover)
16. “Heavy Metal Love”
17. “Dirty Dog”
18. “Rock You”
19. “Animal House”

HELIX

Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)
Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)
Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Helix @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)

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Swedish summer didn't really show up at its best side this year. Funny though, almost always there are threats that the weather will be bad during the festival. And of course, it has happened that it has been raining but more times I've seen black skies moving in over the festival and as Moses split the sea those black clouds have opened up and moved around the festival instead. Not this year though.

The pouring rain didn't take Chris Boltendahl down one bit. His energy was fantastic and he really didn't care that water was coming down with the same force as a fire-hose. He chased the crowd to support GRAVE DIGGER and he chased his band to give the crowd the show they defied the rain for. The attempts to get guitarist Axel “Ironfinger” Ritt out there on the edge of the stage failed. The guitarist didn't seem happy about it either.

It was a bit hard to focus on the music during the first few songs. Especially since the lens-cap filled up with water and had to be wiped clean constantly. Also that I haven't listened as much to this year's “Healed By Metal” as I have the rest. But “Lawbreaker” is a favorite from that one. I didn't see it to begin with, it was when checking the result of a photo on the monitor I saw the shady figure behind bassist Jens Becker. And yes, GRAVE DIGGER had the Grim Reaper playing keyboards for this show. The imagery got fantastic and a simple thing like that really enhanced the show even further. The cool thing about a show like this one is that everyone present will give it all. And that doesn't just go for the band. The crowd was full on as well and especially the singing in “Ballad Of A Hangman” and later on also for “Excalibur” and “Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)” was massive, among the loudest I've ever experienced at the festival.

For the last of the three the band actually stopped playing completely and just had the crowd singing, or chanting the chorus. And it sounded absolutely amazing. I loved it that GRAVE DIGGER got this type of response. The odds were definitely against them but for true fans a rain-shower really doesn't scare people away. It all sounded fantastic and with this, the bar was set to extremely high. It would definitely be hard for other bands to match this kind of delivery.

GRAVE DIGGER setlist:

01. “Healed By Metal”
02. “Lawbreaker”
03. “Witch Hunter”
04. “Killing Time”
05. “Ballad Of A Hangman”
06. “The Dark Of The Sun”
07. “Hallelujah”
08. “Excalibur”
09. “Season Of The Witch”
10. “Highland Farewell”
11. “Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching)”
12. “Heavy Metal Breakdown”

GRAVE DIGGER

Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)
Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Grave Digger @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)

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Soaking wet after the session with GRAVE DIGGER set at 4 Sound Stage it wasn't as fun as I expected to walk over to the Sweden Stage for BLACK STAR RIDERS. The rain slightly eased up though but as it was getting late, it wasn't just raining, it was getting cold too. As soon as BLACK STAR RIDERS started playing most were forgotten though and it was just to focus on shooting and getting the rain drops wiped off the lens.

Again the band impressed. It felt like they were entering the stage with a bit more attitude here compared the Gothenburg club show a few days prior to the festival which suited the situation perfectly. Getting out from the photo-pit after fantastic “Bloodshot” I was warmed up and to my surprise when “Soldierstown” was kicked off I wasn't even tired anymore. And if that doesn't say how damn good BLACK STAR RIDERS are I don't know what will. I mean, when a band manages to make you forget about the pouring rain and wake you up towards the end of the night and feel like you can do the day all over again, that sure is something. The song worked great with the crowd again too, people were cheering and dancing in the rain and had a really good time. Also stompy “When The Night Comes In” worked really well. Then I'm not sure if it would have been better to split “Cold War Love” and “Charlie I Gotta Go” as both are two of the softer ones in the set. As much as I love the latter of the two the show still mellowed down as did the crowd. It picked up again for “The Boys Are Back In Town” though and with this type of reaction it's easy to see why BLACK STAR RIDERS play this song. I still think many other THIN LIZZY tracks would have the same impact on a crowd.

I decided to call it a night here though, I really wanted to hear “Charlie I Gotta Go” one more time and when that was done, so was I (heard the singing to “The Boys Are Back In Town” walking away from the area). Still, it felt very bad to leave in the middle of the set as the show was fantastic. Reading up the next day it seems people wasn't too thrilled about Chad Szeliga drum solo towards the end of the set but apart from that all comments were positive.

BLACK STAR RIDERS setlist:

01. “All Hell Breaks Loose”
02. “Heavy Fire”
03. “Bloodshot”
04. “The Killer Instinct”
05. “Dancing With The Wrong Girl”
06. “Soldierstown”
07. “Hey Judas”
08. “When The Night Comes In”
09. “Cold War Love”
10. “Charlie I Gotta Go”
11. “The Boys Are Back In Town” (THIN LIZZY cover)
12. “Who Rides The Tiger”
13. “Testify Or Say Goodbye”
14. “Kingdom Of The Lost”
15. “Finest Hour”
16. “Bound For Glory”
17. “Whiskey In The Jar”

BLACK STAR RIDERS

Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)
Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)
Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg) Black Star Riders @ Sweden Rock XXVI @ Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg (SE) (Photos By Erika Wallberg)