Gig Review: Thulsa Doom / Spidergawd, 22.03.2019

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On Friday, March 22nd, the Arena Wien hosted two Norwegian rock bands. In the course of about two hours, they served the audience a wholesome brew of rock, hard rock, blues and heavy metal.

I don’t know in how far Norwegians value punctuality – the gig, however, started an hour later than was announced. This should turn out as rather clever, though: the visitors arrive only sluggishly. But the moment Thulsa Doom start their first song, the hall fills abruptly. It doesn’t get full – for that the Norwegians probably aren’t famous enough – but there is a decent number of people. Just enough to still be able to move about freely, have a good view onto the stage and get your drinks quickly.

»See me rollin’«

Thulsa Doom is a five-piece that might confuse a little upon first sight. Here, the young (Fast Winston Doom a.k.a. Halvor Winsnes barefoot on drums) meets the fairly old (Doom Perignon a.k.a. Henning Solvang on guitar and Angelov Doom a.k.a. Egil Hegerberg on bass), and in between there’s the middle-aged section (El Doom a.k.a. Ole Petter Andreassen on guitar and Papa Doom a.k.a. Jacob Krogvold on vocals). How does that go together? Well, it just does! After all, the line up hasn’t changed since 2003. Since 2001, four studio albums have been released, the youngest (»A Keen Eye for the Obvious«) in February 2018. From that one, the band plays quite a few during their one hour set, including »Eloquent Profanity« and the very impressive »Lady Nina« – greetings from Thin Lizzy included.  

It shall be emphasised that the band does have a lot of stage experience and knows how to include the audience successfully. It seems to be one of Thulsa Doom’s desires to manifest themselves in their spectators‘ memories with their show. The singer achieves this in the last third of the set, when he jumps off the stange and wanders through the crowd while he keeps singing. He actually rips this off for two whole songs, looking the visitors in the eye, circulating the audience with his immensely long microphone cable until he ultimately joins the light technician at his desk before heading back to the stage.

Thulsa Doom are indeed a valuable recommendation for everybody who is longing for rock with some substance these days, yet doesn’t sound dusty. And even if bassist Angelov Doom explains to the crowd (in German): »We have none understanding from German…please can you help me? I have to go to the railway station. What are we doing here? We don’t know anyone!« it becomes clear pretty quickly that the played music is able to overcome such borders impressively.

Keith Moon reincarnated?

After this tasty first half of tonight’s line up, Spidergawd march onto the stage at 10 p.m. sharp. Interesting is how the instruments are set up: the drumset is equipped far above average and forms the heart of the stage with its central position in the front. Obviously, this band wants the attention to be paid to their drummer. This will soon turn out to be a decision never to be questioned again. Even if it’s a cheeky claim: Kenneth Kapstad may well be one of the best drummers out there at the moment. I, in any case, can’t remember the last time I was this impressed by one. I was as well impressed by the other band member Per Borten (guitar), Hallvard Gaardløs (bass), Rolf Martin Snustad (baritone saxophone) and the newest member on guitar, whose name was unfortunately not understandable and can’t be found anywhere.

What’s special about Spidergawd is, for one, the attractive mixture of heavy metal, hard and blues rock; secondly, the strong presence of drums and saxophone, and thirdly the fact that all four members around rhythm machine Kapstad are really talented singers. The band in fact enjoys to showcase this: The lead vocals switch with almost every new song, the other three complete the sound with their backing vocals. How often do you see a rock five-piece out of which four members cannot only decently sing, but even show this in alteration? It was definitely a first for me.

Spidergawd play their set, consisting of songs from all their albums »I« to »V«, loudly and energetically, yet elegantly. Towards the end, one fan audibly asks for one of the crowds‘ favourites »Is This Love…?,« which visibly delights the musicians. Borten, however, reverently asks for permission to play a number of other songs before that. The fan shan’t be disappointed, though: For the encore, the guitarist remembers his promise: »Right, we need to play the song for this guy« he says before starting to play the one song that Borten has written for his »wifey who you can meet at the merch stand.« It is also the one song where the musician reveals more vocal facettes than before. But that’s exactly where the show ends, unfortunately.

Author: Robin Frank

Read the German version of this article on

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Thulsa Doom

Alice In Chains – 2018 Tour, 30.06.2018

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Alice In Chains played Vienna’s Open Air Arena on Saturday, June 30th in course of their 2018 world tour. The Seattle grunge legends were supported by local rockers Mother’s Cake.

Mother’s Cake started out in 2008, signed with Gab Music and released their debut Creation’s Finest in October 2012, which was produced by Georg Gabler and featured by Ikey Owens of The Mars Volta. After playing support shows for Iggy and the Stooges, Deftones and Limp Bizkit, they can now tick Alice In Chains off their list as well.

It is not hard to see why the band enjoys growing success – the stage suits them extremely well. They behave in the same way their music works. Very straight-forward, but then again psychedelic, dreamy and slightly off track. Mother’s Cake are an unpretentious, talented and very sympathetic bunch of musicians with lots of potential yet to be reached, and set the perfect mood for the main act of that evening.

Great expectations

After Lane Staley’s tragic death in 2002, the band went through a rather long pause. In 2006, the singer William Du Vall joined the group. Together they recorded the well-known studio albums Black Gives Way to Blue and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. Their newest studio album Rainier Fog, from which they played the song The One You Know, will be released on August 24th.

Of course, the expectations were extremely high. The pressure has been on Du Vall to live up to what became Alice In Chains‘ trademark, the twin vocals, from minute one. Yet in my eyes, he masters this task superbly. The audience’s opinions on the topic definitely differed. Some fans felt he failed to transport the feeling of Staley. But imagine having to step into shoes like that – and still performing the entire set without a single mistake, which is exactly what Du Vall did. He was not only very present and attentive to the audience, he also delivered 100 percent. My assumption is that in fact his natural timbre is warmer and fuller, yet he mastered the technique he needs for the songs‘ vocals, which tend to be colder and flatter, fully, which makes his performance even more impressive.

Props to mastermind Jerry Cantrell

There probably is not one single negative thing that can be said about this show. All musicians performed on an extremely high level. There were no uncertainties, allures or bad vibes coming from this band. Ex-Ozzy Osbourne-bassist Mike Inez was at least as energetic as drummer and founding member Sean Kinney. Yet the most inspiring was guitarist, singer, lyricist and mastermind Jerry Cantrell.

The four-piece opened their set with Bleed the Freak from their album Facelift, but most of all played songs from the Dirt album, including Them Bones, Dam That River and Down in a Hole. Toward the end of the set, Cantrell announced Nutshell, dedicated to Staley, former bassist Mike Starr and Pantera-drummer Vinnie Paul, before concluding the show with Would? and Rooster for the encore’s finale shortly after.

And even though they decided not to play one of their most famous songs Angry Chair, it certainly was an evening that let all fans‘ hearts beat faster, so fast each of the musicians was presented with a flower bouquet by one fan at the end of this truly brilliant show.

Author: Robin Frank

More info / photo credits:
Mother’s Cake
Alice In Chains

Gig Review: Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters, 28.07.2016

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Truly Sensational

It was Thursday, July 28th, that I got to see who is in my mind one of the greatest rock singers of all time: Robert Plant. Famous as Led Zeppelin frontman, the artist is currently touring Europe world with his Sensational Space Shifters, with whom he also recorded his latest studio album Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar (review here).

Just in time for the start of the main act, I arrived at the well-filled Arena Wien and found a great spot on the lawn near the stage with excellent view. Just as good as the view was the sound that night, which was lengths better than of Wolfmother’s concert at the same location.

Then and now

At about 9 pm, Robert Plant emerged with a huge banner carrying his feather symbol in the background. Himself on vocals and diverse membranophones, he brought five other musicians with him: Juldeh Camara on nyanyeru (an African one-string fiddle), Liam „Skin“ Tyson on guitar, Justin Adams on bass, John Baggot on keys and Dave Smith on drums.

What’s known is the different musical approach of the ensemble (compared to Plant’s earlier times). Not focusing on one specific genre, the artists freely mix styles and rhythms. The result is a colourful medley with folk and country elements as well as foreign African sounds paired with Led Zeppelin classics and the well-known mighty riffs.

Diverse and versatile

This diversity lead to an interesting setlist that included Poor Howard, Rainbow and Turn It Up from Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, a cover of Willie Dixon (Spoonful), the traditional Little Maggie, and lots of Led Zeppelin medleys that included (parts of) What Is and What Should Never Be, No Quarter, Dazed and Confused, Whole Lotta Love, Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You and Rock and Roll for the encore.

The band not only convinced the audience by its versatility and range of styles, but also by the quality of performance. Robert Plant still has a great voice and a very individual approach on singing that one recognizes immediately. Furthermore he really secured a great atmosphere by continually including the audience and performing with lots of energy. This concert meant a great deal to me – and without any exaggeration: it was truly sensational.

Author: Robin Frank

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Robert Plant

Gig Review: Wolfmother – Gypsy Caravan Tour, 11.05.2016

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Garage Wolves

Perfect weather, great location and tons of fans: the evening of May 11th had a promising start for the Australian rock act Wolfmother at Vienna’s open air Arena. I arrived only a few minutes before they started their set (the support band I unfortunatley missed beforehand was Electric Citizen).

To be honest, I never really got into Wolfmother that much, but I am aware of who they are and what they do – and have always liked their sound. I was thus very excited to go to this concert without any expectations at all – which is probably the best way possible if you dig the unexpected. You just end up with lots of surprises – good and bad. So here they are.

Restless and energy-driven

First surprise: the band’s tempo and dynamics. Man, they played a set of twenty songs and took but three breaks (one to say hi, one to say thanks, and one before the encore), which lasted only a few seconds each. Which leads me to the next surprise: they hardly said a word to the audience. Apparently, Stockdale is not much of a talker, but it would definitely have been his role to communicate with the fans a bit more. However, the band did not seem as if they did not enjoy themselves on stage – so even though there was no communcation, there was still a lot of energy in the performance. Which is probably what saved them from an angry crowd.

Third surprise: Alex Carapetis is a damn great drummer. In fact, the drums were the only instrument that sounded as they should all the way through the show. The others, from guitar to bass and vocals sounded horrible most of the time. That night’s horrendous sound was yet another surprise for me. I do not know who was responsible for it, but honestly I’d rather not know – it was a real shame. The guitar sounded bad, the bass was too loud at times, whereas bassist Ian Peres‘ backing vocals were hardly audible at all. Well…drums and keyboard were fine, at least.

Monotonous but special

I already mentioned that Wolfmother have a cool sound. The main reason behind that is Andrew Stockdale, who is basically the brain behind this music project. The other musicians are rather professionals hired to play along. Big part of the sound, however, is Stockdale’s special voice, which mostly reminds one of Jack White’s (whose, in turn, reminds one of Robert Plant’s). What I did not know, though – and that’s surprise no. 5 – was that besides its cool and bright timbre it is pretty monotonous, too. I haven’t heard Stockdale sing much more than five notes during that show. It’s not like he tries and fails – the songs are just composed that way, without exciting melodic vocal lines. And they are fine like that, just a bit monotonous after a while.

To summarise all of that, I was most impressed by their efficient way of performing, playing one song after the next without even considering to take a break. This is naturally the most professional way to play a gig and shows that the band is really tight and knows what’s going on. On the other hand, there is not much space left for interaction with the audience or spontaneous improvisation on stage. Still, they played well, and the bad sound was not their fault. So all in all I did enjoy this gig, and I am glad to have seen Wolfmother. They do make cool music that definitely comes from the right source of inspiration and surely motivate tons of young garage rock bands to continue doing their thing, which is exactly what today’s music needs.

Author: Robin Frank

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Gig Review: Midriff, 11.03.2016

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Deutlich über der Mitte

Am Freitagabend des 11. März traten Midriff im Arena Beisl auf. Die Tiroler Band, gegründet 2010, widmet sich dem Genre des Alternative bzw. Stoner Rock und ist längst kein Geheimtipp der heimischen Musikszene mehr.

Die Gruppe besteht aus lediglich drei Mitgliedern, hat jedoch eine ungewöhnliche Aufstellung. Während Gitarrist Josh für Melodik und Soli sorgt, übernimmt Bassist Jele die Rolle des „Publikums-Kommunikators“. Der Gesang kommt jedoch von Schlagzeuger (!) Paul, was ich vorher noch nie live erlebt habe.

Der Gig startete um ca. 22:45 Uhr. Irre, wie viel Energie das Trio trotz später Anfangsstunde zeigte! Mit regelmäßigem Platztausch von Gitarrist und Bassist, sowie tighten Doubletime-Wechseln spielte die Band eine gemischte Setlist aus allen drei Alben. Darunter waren die Songs Before I Wake, Pumping Iron (ein eher langsamer Song mit vielen Bendings auf der Gitarre), Broken Dreams, The Machine Force und einige weitere. Lobenswert war ein gelungener Taktwechsel bei der Nummer Safe House, die zwar hart ausfiel, aber trotzdem melodisch blieb – mit einem ziemlich coolen Ende plus Gitarren-Outro. Insgesamt kamen die Musiker dann auf stolze 16 Songs inklusive Zugabe, bei der Motörhead’s Ace of Spades gelungen gecovert wurde.

Stamperl auf’s Haus

Dass die Band eine gute Performance ablegte, erwies sich an der stetig wachsenden Zahl der ZuseherInnen im Raum, der sich mit Ende des Konzerts um etwa 00:00 Uhr zur Gänze gefüllt hatte. Die Partylaune wurde, abgesehen von der treibenden Musik, zusätzlich durch eine Runde Jägermeister für alle (ausgegeben von der Band selbst), enorm angehoben. Freier Eintritt und dann noch Stamperl auf’s Haus – wie oft kommt das schon vor?

Midriff haben mich in vielerlei Hinsicht positiv überrascht. Der wohl wichtigste Aspekt ist jedoch der singende Schlagzeuger. Neben einer relativ hellen, vielseitigen und angenehmen Stimme ist vor allem faszinierend, dass hier keine Unsicherheit, kein schiefer Ton, keine Fehler zu hören waren. Und das betrifft sowohl Stimme als auch Schlagzeug! Zwar konnte man natürlich nicht mehr erwarten, dass das Schlagzeug eine virtuose Hauptrolle einnehmen wird – man konzentrierte sich eben auf die Basics. Aber die waren sattelfest, und dazu noch für jeden Song die Lead Vocals zu übernehmen, ist einfach nur beeindruckend. Es gibt in einer Rockband wohl keine schwierigere Kombination aus Instrument und Gesang, als eben jene mit Schlagzeug. Hut ab!

Autorin: Robin Frank

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Gig Review: Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence Tour, 09.11.2015

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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.

Heavy Tiger

The first of the 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 the 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.

Imperial State Electric

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 band 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!

Backyard Babies

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. 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 ensemble 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.


Finally, Graveyard made their way onto the stage. They, too, are a band from Sweden, which formed in Gothenburg in 2006. On September 25th they released their new album Innocence & Decadence, from which (among others) they included the fantastic track Too Much Is Not Enough and The Apple and the Tree in that night’s setlist. There was no greeting, the band started playing right away, and actually kept on – without break – for the rest of the show.

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 title track 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.

Author: Robin Frank

More info / photo credits:
Heavy Tiger
Imperial State Electric
Backyard Babies