What happened on this year’s November 9th is the best example for a win-win situation: both Swedish bands Backyard Babies and Graveyard released their latest albums in August and September, which means that both of them are currently on tour. Since they were about to come to Vienna on the same day, they simply fused their shows, bringing along three more Swedish support bands. So for the price of one act, you got to see five – how often does that happen? Exactly.
The first of five Swedish bands I saw on the evening of November 9th were three young women in red overalls, who followed JUNKSTARS, a band I unfortunately did not manage to see. They came in support of Backyard Babies.
The female musicians call themselves Heavy Tiger, a name which at first sounded and looked like heavy metal to me. This assumption was wrong, though (Misleading Band Names, the 1st). What followed was some steady classic rock – or, as the band calls it, „High Voltage Rock ’n‘ Roll“. High voltage can indeed be confirmed, for I cannot recall having seen such energetic female rockers live on stage…ever. I was thus very pleased to see these girls with songs such as Chinatown, Girls Got Balls or Heavy Tiger (short but great guitar solo!), which are all to be found on their debut album Saigon Kiss from 2014.
With Maja Linn’s dynamic guitar and vocal performance, backed by solid bass (Sara Frendin) & drums (Astrid Carsbring), this power trio has what I like to call a good foundation. I approved of the way the musicians presented themselves on stage: no explicit front figure, instead guitarist and bassist chose to arrange themselves slightly in front of the drummer’s left and right side. Switching singers (Carsbring took over for one song) and choreographical elements added quality to the performance. Even though the whole thing would look even better with bassist Sara Frendin being less static. The other thing is that Heavy Tiger played songs that were good, but all similar in style, there was no contrast within their set. I would recommend to always include something that is a bit different from the main idea, no matter how little time there is on stage, to prove yourself versatile, which I definitely trust this group to be.
This band, formed by Nicke Andersson after the break-up of The Hellacopters in 2008, is a true gem. Imperial State Electric is a band that successfully pursues real rock music. The group came in support of Graveyard.
The group consists of Andersson (vocals, guitar), Dolf de Borst (bass, backing vocals), Tobias Egge (guitar, backing vocals) and Thomas Eriksson (drums), whereby the formation underwent several constellations throughout the gig. Andersson is singing most of the time, for one song, however, Egge became the singer. At first I thought this wasn’t such a good idea, because his backing vocals hadn’t convinced me up until then. I was thus really surprised that he actually did have a powerful voice! For another song, de Borst handed his bass to Egge, and took over the vocals as new „frontman“. De Borst, in contrast to the more melodic and bright Egge, had a rougher sound. Things like switching instruments and singer are so fantastic because they prove how talented and experienced the musicians are, guaranteeing very high quality, especially if everything goes right, which it absolutely did. Fascinating, too, was that all three singers have completely different voices and timbres – so within one setlist, ISE practically created three bands instead of one. Nevertheless, Andersson is the most talented singer of the three, and the best choice for a frontman.
Though I simply could not tell which band or artist exactly ISE reminded me of, there was hardly a rock band it didn’t remind me of. These musicians seem to be taking out all the good bits and pieces of several great rock bands, be it Guns N‘ Roses, The Darkness, The Who: name it and you will find something of it in Imperial State Electric’s music. This does not mean that they simply copied – they do have their own style, but you can hear that they know rock music – and you can see it, too: their performance included perfectly simultaneous twin guitar sequences, a by-the-way Day Tripper riff within a song, and last but not least a great ending, where all three singers fell to their knees at once. Well done!
My expectations for Backyard Babies were high, considering that this band exists for over twenty years, got a Swedish Grammy and supported artists such as Alice Cooper, AC/DC or Motörhead.
Founded in 1987, singer Tobias Fischer was replaced by Nicke Borg after only two years. By Borg’s side are Dregen on lead guitar, who also had several projects with Nicke Andersson from ISE, Johan Blomqvist on bass and Peder Carlsson on drums. The group functions, definitely, the musicians are mostly energetic (especially Dregen, Blomqvist not so much) and work together – but I expected more. Even though they call their genre rock ’n‘ roll, I think what they do is punk rock. Or did, since it seems their best days are over. The first half of the show did have a rough and punky edge considering the songs, but it all turned shallow toward the end, with songs like Th1rt3en or Nothing, White Light District or Bloody Tears from the latest album Four By Four. Their melodies were nothing special, the lyrics boring. It almost sounded like pop music in the end – some sort of Bon Jovi trying to do punk rock. The track Wasted Years was not an exception – but that one had a catchy tune, I’ll give them that.
Not knowing too much about Graveyard, I was not sure what exactly to expect (Misleading Band Names, the 2nd) – besides being aware of the band defining itself as a classic heavy rock, blues and psychedelia group I only knew a few songs beforehand, mostly from their second album Hisingen Blues. From that album, released in 2011, Graveyard played the cover title Hisingen Blues, Buying Truth, as well as The Siren in the encore, which is one of their best-known singles – and in my eyes the best song of the gig.
It was interesting to see that while during the first half of the concert guitarist Jonathan Ramm was doing most of the solo-work, it was singer Joakim Nilsson who presented his guitar skills in the second half. I was impressed by the fact that this did not diminish his vocal performance at all – Nilsson has an incredibly strong and uncompromising voice, which he proved throughout the whole show. Moreover, the singer shows great variety in style, that ranges from melancholic blues tunes to high and loud screams. The only thing that puzzled me about him is that on one hand you have this great performance, while on the other Nilsson seemed to be sort of tired or down – but maybe that is just his way, who knows.
Jonathan Ramm as well as bassist Truls Mörck, who replaced past member Rikard Edlund, seemed rather unmotivated to me throughout the set. This was actually the overall-impression I got from Graveyard, even if they played really well. The only exception, in that respect, was drummer Axel Sjöberg, who can doubtlessly be called a living machine. He seemed to be putting his whole self into this show – and I am confident he does so every time. Generally, Graveyard have quite a hard, edgy sound, with a few calm, bluesy parts „sprinkled“ over the songs. Interestingly – and with good reason -, those were exactly the parts the audience loved most. I would have hoped for more, because that is the style which in my eyes fits the band’s sound and strengths best, but it remained exclusive in that night’s setlist.
Further information / photo credits:
http://www.junkstarsofficial.com (JUNKSTARS) ©
http://www.heavytiger.com/home/index.html (Heavy Tiger) ©
http://backyardbabies.com (Backyard Babies) ©
http://www.nuclearblast.com/en/music/band/about/219863.graveyard.html (Graveyard) ©