Europe's best rock festival Sweden Rock called us for the sixth time around to our western neighboring country. We were welcomed by yet another sold out festival, that has succesfully sold over 30,000 tickets for a few years now and grown at the same time. The five most popular stages were the attractions this year, they were the easiest to reach, but as usual, we walked loads and under the blazing sun. Although the usually grand Sweden Rock wasn't as grand this year in band lineups, the four day offerings were enough to keep us going. This years headliners POISON, TOBIAS SAMMET'S AVANTASIA, JUDAS PRIEST, ELO, SAXON and DEF LEPPARD got a lame response from the festivals regular visitors, but they had their fans and each night the area was fully packed.

This year included special shows like TRIUMPH, Avantasia, RATT, HAVANA BLACK, DARE and CARCASS. These bands either played a reunion show or were seen in a unique lineup, like Ratt, who presented Stephen Pearcy back in vocals. Edguy vocalist Tobias Sammet's band Avantasia was a spectacle many had been waiting to see live. This was their second show, and featured a cavalcade of respected vocalists. It was a show worth seing, even when the enactment resulted to a mishmash. Sweden Rock (SRF) was hosted by Crucified Barbara this year, and Joacim Cans' (HAMMERFALL) choir Team Cans performed songs such as "Pour Some Sugar On Me" (Def Leppard), "We Will Rock You" (Queen), "O Fortuna" (Carl Orff) and the Swedish national song. The festival always has special treats for its visitors.

Our trip to Sweden began early on Wednesday morning, and although our flight was delayed, the trip went well altogether. While waiting for our plane to take off, we decided to spend the time in an Irish bar. Sitting at the same bar with us was Finnish Korpiklaani, who were on a happy mood already so early. As we finally boarded the plane, it was clear for each passanger these guys were a rockband, messing restlessly around in the plane in their cowboy hats, leather jackets and black clothes. Our trip had actually kicked off in an entertaining way, so even if we were unable to catch any more sleep while flying, we had fun observing what the guys were up to. Our tired group constantly came up with stupid jokes too, or maybe there was laughing gas in the air?

As in our past trips, we again flew to Copenhagen, Denmark, where we took a fast train to Malmö, Sweden, and rented a car. You can go to SRF in so many ways, this is the easiest from Helsinki. It's a short ride from Malmö to Sölvesborg, but it would be a sin to drive even a short trip without music. I stuffed the cd-player with various cd's, including bands playing in SRF this year. The ride went fast while headbanging to them. Well, some fell asleep to the AOR selection, but the smooth tunes can knock you out if you're tired enough.

We had an enourmous crew from two magazines, so the space of our rental ranch was essential. This was one of the best decisions ever made for Sweden Rock, no need to sleep in an uncomfy tent or in a noisy hotel. Instead we had two houses with two floors and a big yard to toss around those promotional Brother Firetribe -frisbees we got. The frisbees were handed out to some lucky hardrock fans in various festivals this summer, also in Rocklahoma, USA. You can read more about that festival from here later on.


Missing out on the Korpiklaani show in the afternoon, AIRBOURNE in the evening was our opening for Sweden Rock. The AC/DC-influenced Aussie band was one of the most interesting acts this year. Their debut seized many to believe that AC/DC released a new album, and it didn't take long that AC/DC actually released one. Since their latest releases haven't been as decent as their first ones, Airbourne came right on time for rescue, their debut brings back the AC/DC spirit that once existed.

Airbourne is very similar to their idols in many ways. Their Angus Young is singer/guitarist Joel O’Keeffe, who is a wildman on stage. The biggest stunt was performed, when he climbed up the steel gurg as high as the rooftop, then landing halfway down, switching the guitar on the way and jumping down from few meters height. He was lucky not breaking his bones. Needless to say the crowd loved this sweaty act, the Sweden Stage area was swarming with curious people, and the band played one of Sweden Rock's best shows this year. The band was very tight and very entertaining, pulling all sorts of stunts, and the guitarists loved to pose in front of the stage on their knees. This was their first show in Sweden and afterwards they headed to Finland, which has always had a strong AC/DC following, so their success was guaranteed there. Their comment on Sweden? It was the best gig they've ever had. To this date anyway.

Setlist: Stand Up For Rock'N'Roll, Hellfire, Fat City, Diamond In The Rough, What's Eatin' You, Girls In Black, Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women, Heartbreaker, Too Much Too Young Too Fast, Runnin' Wild, Blackjack

BONAFIDE played after the Aussies. Their set of blues-influenced rock was firmly played with a relaxing spirit. A harmlessly entertaining band to listen to in the evening, which was so banal though, that the Swedish crowd didn't get excited from their fellow countrymen's music. Bonafide got another chance to win over more fans the next day though, when it was announced that Sebastian Bach couldn't make it to the festival due to flight connections, and Bonafide took their spot. On Thursday they had a bigger crowd on the Festival Stage, where Bach fans heard the sad news, but many stayed and watched Bonafide. Some of the biggest Bach-fans took the news so seriously though, that they ran out crying from the area. It was a very disappointing moment for our crew too, but most of us had been lucky to see Bach and Skid Row before, so our hearts weren't completely torn about it.

Wednesday went by pretty fast. FIVE FIFTEEN were playing in late hours, and because I was the only one interested in them, we only watched a couple of songs. The band sounded good and singer Mika Järvinen was his usual self on stage, doing all those Robert Plant -poses without a shirt. For obvious reasons some people hate him, but I love his character, and so does many Swedes. This is why they are always welcomed in Sweden with open arms.

The last bands on Sweden Stage this night were SABATON and SATYRICON, and even as hard as I tried to get our crew over and watch that nasty black metal band Satyricon, I lost the game. It would've been interesting to see how it went down for the overpowered hardrock crowd. Well, at least we didn't get nightmares tonight, but drove back to our ranch for some relaxing nightcaps.


The Dutch PICTURE is familiar to some from the 80's, to me through my brothers album collection, but the band never raised any feelings in me. Still I was curious to see them live, and as one of the first bands of the day they played for a small crowd. Their music has seen its best days, and among todays brilliant rock acts their hard rock had nothing to offer for those not too familiar with them. Meanwhile BLACK STONE CHERRY was soloing the living daylights out of its crowd on Rock Stage for bloody fifteen minutes. And I thought Joe Satriani was hired to do that this year. Goes to show you can never predict the course of a liveshow.

SEBASTIAN BACH was supposed to take the stage after these acts, but as mentioned earlier, sadly was informed having problems with flight connections. You can say what you will, but the rumours started immediately after fans saw the message on the big screens. The reactions were many. BONAFIDE replaced Bach, now playing their second set in SRF this year, so we decided to pass them this time. And there ain't a band on earth that could ever replace Bach. He managed his way to Finland though, where he hasn't been since his Skid Row days, so it was good he was able to do that at least. Sweden has had the luck of seing him and Skid Row every year in the last years. Another band that was replaced this year was ULI JON ROTH. I was looking forward to seing him, his solo albums are very interesting and enlightening, with great guitar work, complete food for the soul. The blues-oriented OMAR AND THE HOWLERS replaced him, giving a good show for their fans.

The avid SRF fans have noticed, that among the average rock fans the festival area also hides hidden gems, rock stars, only if you look closely though. PRIMAL FEAR chaps Ralf Scheepers and Mat Sinner are regular visitors in Sweden, and this year not only as music fans, but also playing their own show. For over an hour they spewed their dark and powerfully melodic rhythms on Sweden Stage in the afternoon, being as tight and catchy as always. Their sort of metal works any time of the day, with the testosterone levels to get anyone going anytime. Ralf's pipes were in good shape and the band introduced a new guitarist in Magnus Karlsson (Allen/Lande, Starbreaker), the heterosexual in Ralf's words. He played an impressive guitar solo duet with Henny Wolter. Later Ralf appeared on stage wearing the Swedish national football team shirt printed with "Sweden Rock 08", and got a loud response to that. This was another fine show from Primal Fear, who show what metal is about.

Set included: Sign Of Fear, Silver And Gold, Running In The Dust, Face The Emptiness, Seven Seals, guitar solos, Under Your Spell, Demons And Angels, Fighting The Darkness, Final Embrace, band introduction, Metal Is Forever

The US metal scene has for years been very loud and heavy, and COHEED & GAMBRIA was one to raise interest with their progressive rock influenced metal, so we headed towards the Festival Stage at 16.30. The five piece with two female background singers wasn't too special for Sweden Rock goers, the area didn't fill up as expected from all the fuss surrounding the band. The show was very cheerful though, but their material is surprisingly flat considering how MTV has managed to mold an exciting vibe around the band, you'd expect a little bit more than this from them. Even their Iron Maiden cover didn't work on the crowd, a strange reaction from a crowd dedicated to traditional metal.

The US metal scene brought up next the thrashers TESTAMENT on Rock Stage. This wasn't their first visit to the festival, so most knew what was to be expected. Chuck Billy (vocals), Eric Peterson (guitar), drummer Paul Bostaph (Forbidden, Slayer, Exodus), Alex Skolnick (guitars) and Greg Christian (bass) are a band one can count on. I've seen them live since early 90's, and during all these years they only lost some of that aggression that goes hand in hand with age. Eventhough this wasn't their best shows due to some difficulties, it's still easy to say Testament belongs to the best thrashers in the world, you can see they enjoy being on stage, they're a tight group and Chuck Billy never misses to smile for their fans. With Skolnick and Christian back in the band again the old fans are even more excited seing them live, and got to hear a great collection of songs like "Into The Pit", "Electric Crown" and "More Than Meets The Eye".

There are always overlapping schedules in festivals with many stages, and this year at least Dare and DISTURBED played at the same time, causing problematic situations for some. Before Dare started I went over to the Festival stage to check out Disturbed for thirty minutes, and their popularity in Sweden seemed strange. The band allured a full crowd and there was tangible thrill everywhere. With so much hype involved around the band the expectations were too high for me anyway, and as much as they were supposed to be a unique act, they seemed like a colourless chameleon. What makes them rise above the rest from the thousands of simple aggressive US bands nowadays frolicing around, I have no clue yet, they only cut the biggest damage with some clear vocal parts. This is where Disturbed shines, the vocalwork was fine from David Draiman and surely the band was tight and entertaining, but their songs seemed out of reach. I'm still giving them a try though, taking a few spins of their albums when I get a chance. The guys were very nice in the press conference, so at least they're not faking an image, which too often comes with the heavy metal territory. Cudos for that.

Visiting Sweden Rock for the second time, and seems like Sweden every ten years, the British melodic, celtic influenced AOR sensation DARE was back in the festival since their 1999 visit. Finland last saw them on their tour with Europe in 1989, so if you missed Sweden Rock '99, it was about time to catch up with the band. The years have treated the guys more than well compared to most 80's bands. Singer Darren Wharton (also from the legendary Thin Lizzy) and guitarist Vinny Burns, who returned for some live shows at the time, have been aging stylishly and were as care-free on stage as I remembered. Also seen on stage were Richard Dews (guitar), Kevin Whitehead (drums) and Marc Roberts (additional keyboards). The band also brought on stage Thin Lizzy member Brian Robertson, playing "Jailbreak" and "Rosalie" with him, ending their 75-minute set with that.

A dreamy atmosphere surrounded the show, as if I was floating in a fluffy cloud, there was a strange sensation through the show. Maybe it was the band being so damn cute and sympathetic, or I must've drank a few too many, but most likely it was the sheer excitement from seing the band again after two decades. I really do live in the wrong country, these bands rarely visit Finland for the nonexistent demand. The band seemed very modest and could've interacted with the crowd more, which was content with just watching, so this wasn't the place for wild rock fans. All the Dare trademarks are still there, Wharton's vocals were as smooth as on their albums and it was a balanced set, but at the same time a bit flat. Many songs from their album "Blood From Stone", like their biggest hit "We Don't Need A Reason" were missing, which was sad. Nonetheless they were a cool breeze among the heavy Thursday.

Setlist: Silent Thunder, Dreams On Fire, Sea Of Roses, Someday, Stormwind, Where Darkness Ends, Beneath The Shining Water, Abandon, Into The Fire, The Raindance, Emerald (Thin Lizzy), Chains, King Of Spades, Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy), Rosalie (Bob Seger)

Thursday headliner JUDAS PRIEST are another band not new to Sweden Rock, and they're always popular here. Seing the band close-up isn't easy, and if you do manage to get to the front rows, all you probably get from the show is a black eye from all the fists swaying in the air. Rob Halford, the Metal God, brought back the 80's on stage with the worlds heaviest outfit. Riding his motorcycle to the stage as on Priest's Painkiller-tour in 1990, Halford took his time basking in the noisy cheers he received from the fans. Priest and Motörhead were the first metal bands who started this biker culture in mid-seventies, afterwards many bands like Steelheart and Manowar also brought bikes on stage. Priest began with their new album "Nostradamus", and Halford preferred to keep his eyes pretty much shut throughout the show.

Everything Priest is made of was still present. Guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton delivered furious solos and choreographies and Halford's pipes are still in good shape, no big change there, and we were treated to few fantastic screams. "Painkiller", one of their most demanding and fastest songs, showed what they're really made of, it seemed the toughest task for the band to deliver, but it was still a job well done. Another fine show from the Brits, that had a fantastic stage setting as well.

Set included: Dawn Of Creation, Prophecy, Eat Me Alive, Between The Hammer And The Anvil, Devil's Child, Breaking The Law, The Hellion, Electric Eye, Rock Hard Ride Free, Painkiller, Hell Bent For Leather


The multinational, Danish/Swedish/American/Russian ROYAL HUNT were among the first bands kicking off Friday, playing their melodic/neo-classical metal on Sweden Stage, which later welcomed Fastway, Carcass and Ministry. This stage is quite small, but if you have imagination you can do plenty with it like Airbourne already proved on Wednesday. Royal Hunt wasn't keen on climbing up anything though, or doing anything foolish anyway, but instead on the sunny morning starting at twelve o'clock they gave the small crowd a relaxed show. So relaxed in fact, that the crowd didn't feel any need for interacting with them. The bass was thumping new rhythm to our hearts, and that was most likely a good thing, since the show failed to keep your senses sharp. The band seemed happy though, and besides the bass the sound was clear and fine.

The new vocalist Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen) split opinions into two camps. He's given voice to Malmsteen-classic "Trilogy" (1986) with "You Don't Remember, I'll Never Forget", still one of my favourite Malmsteen albums, and his work on solo albums and other projects has been impeccable. He's one of those singers you recognize from far, and this might just irritate those against him. Although a good vocalist, with Royal Hunt and his range though, the band skipped many great songs or otherwise tuned them to his voice. Although I like Boals, I prefered John West or D.C. Cooper. The band has had their share of vocalists, not forgetting Henrik Brockmann, and lately they've been getting help from Mats Leven too, with Boals on other duties. While Boals isn't equivalent to West or Cooper, he did fine with what he had. Vocals are what make Royal Hunt, and the background singers strengthen this crew. In Sweden there were two female vocalists, who really shined with clear and high vocals.

Meanwhile, forgetting the importance of vocalwork in the band, keyboardist André Andersen is the man to take note of. The force behind the band, Andersen can both write great music and also entertain his fans. Capturing the American grandiose way to his performance, he's very open and stylish in everything he does, also being very dedicated to his playing. There's no chance missing his presence on stage. He's not in-your-face, but a happy-go-lucky kinda guy, that unintentionally gets a lot of attention on the side of the stage. Per Schelander on bass is another happy dude, while drummer Magnus Ulfstedt and guitarist Marcus Jidell kept the package tight. They were good, but not nearly as inspiring as in Helsinki in 2007.

Setlist: River Of Pain, The First Rock, Message To God, The Clan, Tears Of The Sun, It's Over, The Mission, Never Give Up, Can't Let Go, band introduction, Cold City Lights, Last Goodbye, Flight.

One of the bands Finland never had a chance of seing live is TESLA. These Sacramento, US-rockers with a twist of southern groove debuted in 1986 with "Mechanical Resonance", which ended up being one of their finest albums. Since then they've kept growing musically, but also staying true to their origins. I always thought Tesla was timeless, they never jumped on the bandwagon, but always did their own thing. Their latest albums have also presented a sound so familiar for them, although with a more modern approach. Having waited for over two decades to see them live proved they were still timeless, they're a band that has its feet firmly on the ground, and that must be the essence making them so unique.

Tesla is a modest band, which immediately showed in the way they began their set. Close to the stage I kept viewing what was happening there, but even so they surprised us by appearing out of nowhere, silently going straight off to "Cumin' Atcha Live", a fast rocker from their debut album. "It's been a long time, too long", stated singer Jeff Keith, the raspy vocalist celebrating his fifties last October. Sweden has had the luxury of seing the band before, now for the second time. Tesla are easily approachable by fans, they get close to their audience and chat with their fans, like after doing "Love Song", where Keith spoke about love and the crowd cheered. He was on the right track, although their audience was well warmed up from the moment they started. Having a background with southern styles and the unplugged album "Five Man Acoustical Jam" (1990), Tesla was sure to jam on stage. They jammed some in the beginning of the set and in the middle, but didn't make a spectacle out of it, it all adjusted well in the set.

With the ramp on stage that reached the middle of the audience, the guys could pull some stunts, although Tesla was somewhat lazy to sweat out and rock hard. Their new addition, guitarist Dave Rude, had more to offer though. Him being the youngest of the group it makes sense he's the guy that rocks most in Tesla, and there's no trace of arrogance. Rude is a great guitarist, that together with Frank Hannon played great duets. The band, with Brian Wheat (bass) and Troy Luccketta (drums), is very heartwarming, even Keith with his harsh vocals, which I've always loved. Their DVD of the acoustical jam tells a lot about Tesla what they are live, although the only acoustic part in Sweden was Rude playing acoustic guitar in "Miles Away", followed by their huge succes ballad "Love Song". I awaited to hear "Paradise" as well, which follows "Love Song" on the album "The Great Radio Controversy", but was sad to notice they decided to skip it. Oh well, "Love Song" moved me nearly to tears, so it was a perfect moment, it's a beautiful song and the speach that followed by Keith was also touching. If anything else than "Paradise", I missed the absence of original guitarist Tommy Skeoch. Nowadays original lineups are hard to come by. Still, Rude fits in perfectly and is a lovable person. Sweden Rock still tries their best to bring us a few original lineups per year, but this is Tesla today, and it rocks.

Setlist: Cumin' Atcha Live, Into The Now, Hang Tough, Heaven's Trail (No Way Out), Signs (Five Man Electrical Band), Miles Away, Love Song, What You Give, Rock Bottom (UFO), Little Suzi, Modern Day Cowboy, Edison's Medicine (Man Out Of Time)

JOE SATRIANI began right after Tesla on Rock Stage. This stage presented Birth Control, Hanoi Rocks and Saxon also on Friday. At three o'clock in the afternoon the festival was yet again having a great warm sunny weather, it hardly rains in SRF. The last time I remember it pouring down was during a Nightwish show a few years back. In the blazing sun it's not easy to rock your heart out, and Satriani's show isn't really something to spill your energy into, although his instrumental guitar-oriented music is catchy and groovy, and his show was blessed with a grand sound. Airguitar was definately played here.

Those who are too young to know this 52-year old guitar hero, who masters at least Legato, two-handed tapping and arpeggio tapping, sweep-picking, volume swells and harmonics, you might be interested in the fact that he taught the younger generation most guitar tricks. Guitarists like Kirk Hammett (Metallica), Alex Skolnick (Testament) and Steve Vai (Vai, David Lee Roth, Alcatrazz) learned from him, and you know where Joe's help has gotten them. Guitarists are actually an inspiration to the non-musicians too, so Satriani's debut "Not Of This Earth" (1986) already caught a lot of attention. While being a shredder most of the time, his music has something for everyone, even jazz. Still it was hard to believe his show filled the area, it's not like he's on constant radio rotation around the world, although he's also known from the G3-project, playing concerts with such great guitarists like Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Satriani released his latest album, named after his nickname Satch, "Professor Satchafunkilus And The Musterion Of Rock" just before the SRF date and decided to kick the show off with a track off it, "I Just Wanna Rock". The chorus has a heavy punchline, a vocal section done through a voice box that drew attention, but most of the 80's spirited crowd demanded for old hits, and soon the band (with Galen Henson, Stuart Hamm, Jeff Campitelli) played "Satch Boogie", a very groovy song. Satriani was very cool on stage, playing perfectly, not once taking off his black sunglasses or neither doing much song introductions. The very professional show had flamboyant sounds, but was somewhat dull with little confrontation with the crowd. Being the guitar hero he is, you'd expect a lot of solos and jams, but he was no Malmsteen, who overdid the guitar hero thing last time in SRF. There was one shred section, which even included extra shredding in the middle that doesn't belong there. The show succeeded where most instrumentalists fail at, Satriani accomplished to combine insane virtuosity, quiescence and a covert spirit in one show and kept his crowds interest till the very end.

Set included: I Just Wanna Rock, Satch Boogie, Ice 9, Flying In A Blue Dream, Always With Me Always With You, Surfing With The Alien, Super Colossal, Summer Song

Right after Satriani another guitarist was in the spotlight. ACE FREHLEY, the original lead guitarist of KISS, wasn't inspiring and not exactly the virtuoso that Satriani is. He attracted Kiss fans of course, and kept them satisfied with a category of Kiss songs, playing a steady set together with Anthony Esposito (bass, Lynch Mob), Derrek Hawkins (guitar, ex-Stabbing Westward) and Scot Coogan (drums, Brides Of Destruction). We also bumped into a Frehley-clone in the crowd, Kiss fans love to dress up, and it brings a nice touch to festivals typically flooded with humoristic costumes.

Set included: Shout It Out Loud, New York Groove, Strange Ways, Parasite, Snowblind, Deuce, Love Gun, Cold Gin

The Swedish sensation THE POODLES played on the smaller Zeppelin Stage, which was also visited by MUCC, Shakin' Street, Axewitch and Svölk that day. On this stage The Poodles was the most popular, playing to a packed crowd, which was fully participating to the whole show. All the great feedback they got was well earned, showwise. Singer Jakob Samuel was kicking like David Lee Roth into the air and the band (with Henrik Bergqvist-guitar, Pontus Egberg-bass, Christian Lundqvist-drums) knows what entertainment means, they're on stage with full force. Their repertoire includes a whole bunch of melodic hard rock songs, now performed without the choirs, which made them sound flat and not too flattering, but the songs attract attention alone with the sing-a-long parts. The band is very visual. Their 80's influenced, glam-and hard rock cannot be played without the right outifts, which already in the 80's were cheesy and still are, but have always been real eyecatchers. The Poodles was dressed in meters and meters of fringes, studs, leather and whatnot, in black and white. Although it was cheesy, they were still gorgeous, and Jakob showed off his outfit with extra long fringes on his sleeves.

As mentioned, soundwise the show didn't please, and Jakob's vocals were doomed to disappear under the rest of the noise at times. People didn't seem to mind though, they enjoyed what they got and sang along loudly to the catchy choruses. The newest songs from their second album "Sweet Trade" (2007) got a great response too, especially "Seven Seas", which has gotten more attention with its video. Bergqvist, who played his first show with The Poodles here, fit perfectly in the band, although many missed Pontus Norgren. André Andersen (Royal Hunt), Mat Sinner and Ralph Scheepers were seen in the crowd, so this partially humoristic act attracted many. An hour went by real fast with these guys, and before sneaking off stage only for a following encore, their Swedish Melodifestivalen song "Night Of Passion" was played with introduction "we're gonna play a song that has meant so much to us during the past two years". It meant a lot to the fans too, it was this song everyone was waiting for and it nailed their show. Their encore with "Line Of Fire" seemed lame after this "passion rush".

Set included: Lie To Me, Metal Will Stand Tall, Thunderball, Shadows, Without You, Streets Of Fire, Crying, Echoes From The Past, Seven Seas, Night Of Passion, encore: Line Of Fire

Glam rockers HANOI ROCKS and the death metal/grindcore act CARCASS shared the same schedule, so I checked out the beginning from Carcass on the hilly Sweden Stage. These bands definately weren't sharing their crowd, Carcass fans were all dressed in black looking mean, while the Rocks-crowd wore neon colours and all the fluff that follows the glam rock territory. Any which way, I felt right at home in both crowds, although prefered the less harmless atmosphere in the Rocks.

This was CARCASS' first reunion show, which made it all more special for fans, who were packed with testosterone, they loved to show off their fists and scream out loud in ways, that in a normal environment would simply sound threatening, but of course the response varied where you were watching the show from. Carcass seemed happy on stage whatever the response was. The front rows cheered to the band that isn't visual like The Poodles. They blast off their brutal metal in their jeans and worn t-shirts, only doing some moshing with their dreadlocks, which is already impressive per se. The aggression is enough for their crowd, and Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, Daniel Erlandsson and Michael Amott form a tight group that, if you're dedicated to this genre, will swipe you off your feet. Ken Owen, their original drummer, also appeared on stage. The band mostly concentrated on their "Necroticism-Descanting The Insalubrious" (1991) and "Heartwork" (1993) albums, which were groundbreaking albums in their time. And yeah, those titles are as real as their more obscure song titles like "Incarnated Solvent Abuse", "Inpropagation", "Carnal Forge", "Corporal Jigsore Quandary" or the more plain "Buried Dreams", which were at least heard in Sweden, together with their clever pun "Keep On Rotting In The Free World". Alrighty, enough pun for me, so let's check out the rockin' hanois, and see if MIKE MONROE was gonna rip his crotch today.

Nah, wipe that smirk off your face, Mike's split is perfect, he's very flexable. Looking at the whole Sweden Rock this year, HANOI ROCKS ended up being one of the best bands in the festival. Why's that, you may wonder. If you're not familiar with the band, you should know that Mike could perform all by himself and create an awesome show by himself too, if that should ever be the case. He's nearly as good a showman as David Lee Roth. It's rare for a Finn to show such charisma, but some people do have the courage to show it. This is one of the reasons Hanoi Rocks has kept their fans, they would never throw a boring show. There were a lot of people curious to see them live in Sweden, they had a huge crowd. And like expected, the show was very energetic. Mike performed and fooled around with his feathery outfit, did his splits nicely and Andy McCoy on guitar was having a great day, backed with Conny Bloom, Andy "A.C." Christell and George "Jolle" Atlagic. One of the reasons someone might not like them is the arrogant attitude they have, but on stage it has its advantages. Pissing off old fans though is a complitely different case, but I guess most people enjoyed their exuberant ceremonies in true glam rock style, with so many classics performed.

Set included: Malibu Beach Nightmare, Street Poetry, A Day Late A Dollar Short, Fashion, Don't You Ever Leave Me, Tragedy, Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Up Around The Bend

"Takes balls to be in Sweden Rock", said one legendary rock vocalist on Festival stage, holding, well, just a balloon in his hand. Well well well, if it wasn't the mighty WHITESNAKE up next, the veterans of Sweden Rock. They've been to SRF in 2003, 2006 and now again, and I've seen them each time. The universal festival rule is now band recycling, usually the same bands tend to visit festivals every two years, which is a bit too often, since you also get to see the bands on their own tours. And each time Whitesnake visited SRF, they played on the same stage as well. Visiting the festival so often has snatched some from the magic these snakes usually have, I didn't feel as excited seeing them again as before, although their set included only good songs, and as much as five new good ones as well after releasing a new album this year, which gave this show something to look forward to. The show included typical curse speaks from David Coverdale and solos from each members (Uriah Duffy-bass, Chris Frazier -drums, Timothy Drury-keys, Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach-guitars). Coverdale had quite a few spots for a rest, while the guys went on with guitar duets and all the same solos we've heard so many times already.

Coverdale still has his magic left though, it's always nice to watch and listen to how he takes his crowd. Even if you don't like his stereotyped speaches, he does come up with some bits of new stuff nearly everyshow. The balloon thing was new, and the introduction to "Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City" with "you were probably conceived when this song was written" sounded new too. New was also their drummer Chris from Steve Vai and Edgar Winter bands, now replacing Tommy Aldridge. I didn't write down any notes about him, I just remember the band being as tight as always. Tommy had his own nice tricks on stage to remember him by, when Chris seemed more focused on playing than fooling around. But Coverdale just loves to be the little trixter. "In the blue corner we have Lord Of The LesPauls", he introduced Doug. Coverdale always has something cute to say about his fellow bandmates. While the band was introduced, Uriah Duffy came on stage with his son Shilo, who was travelling with the band. A nice touch to the show that was as professional, energetic and pleasing to the eyes as always. The only bad thing was Coverdale's raspy sound, his vocals weren't in the best shape. "Be safe, be happy" he reminded after their biggest hit "Still Of The Night", as people started pushing towards the next show. Whitesnake's show ended at half past nine, which is early considering their earlier visits here, but there was still Def Leppard, Saxon, Negative and Ministry to come. We caught Saxon and the Leps. Here's a game for ya; how many "love" words can you count on Whitesnake setlist below?

Setlist: Best Years, Fool For Your Loving, Can You Hear The Wind Blow, All I Want All I Need , Love Ain't No Stranger, Lay Down Your Love, Is This Love, guitar duet, Blues For Mylene, Snake Dance, A Fool In Love, band introduction, Ain't Gonna Cry No More (acoustic), Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City, Give Me All Your Love, Here I Go Again, Still Of The Night

SAXON was no surprise to those, who've seen them in the past few years. These englishmen rock it hard, they're like a freight train blasting through your living room, except this is a huge festival ground, but it seems small when these guys start their engines. The band is loud, though not as loud as Manowar, but within comfort limits. They're a dynamic pack, though a bit lazy actionwise in Sweden, but played their set through as firmly as only a professional band like them can. One thing greater in Sweden compared to their club shows was the lightshow, and the timing on it was perfect to the songs. In an hour and a half we were treated to a catalogue from Saxon's career, "Denim And Leather" and "Ashes To Ashes" were two very powerful songs in the set. Like Whitesnake, Saxon is a common visitor here; 1997, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008.

DEF LEPPARD's visit to SRF was their second one, so they're still novice to the festival. Their first visit in 2006 showed how yet another legendary band from the 80's can still be a very stable live act. That hasn't changed in two years, but what bothers the veterans is the vocals of Joe Elliot. Being yet another disappointment in the vocal department, which also included Stephen Pearcy, David Coverdale and Hannu Leiden, 80's ain't what it used to be, but at least they tried their best. Elliot's dry vocal performance didn't bother too much though, he could do most of the songs with the scruffy voice he had, and still roll with an amazing warmth and ambition, something new bands can learn from.

One thing you'd expect from dinosaurs like the Leps is an explosive start for the show, and it was explosive. The AC/DC intro "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)" continued with an explosion and cuts from Lep songs were aired. Soon the band blandly walked on stage and immediately began with "Rocket". If you missed the intro, you might've pissed your pants when the "Rocket" began, it's a chunky start for a show, and the band sounded and performed with a massive feel. Being the nice guy Elliot is he took time for a few short speaks to thank the bands who played in Sweden on the same day, and the fans who had strength to stick around for them. Steve Lee from Gotthard was one who was still there, and could hardly watch the band in peace, as his fans were eager to pose in a photo with him.

One of my everlasting faves from the Leps is "Love Bites", and it was great to hear it live, but unfortunately Elliot couldn't perform it well and with demanded feel, the whole performance was very passive and included a lengthy guitar part in the end. What followed was some bass work from Rick Savage, which turned into a strangely funky beginning for "Rock On". Savage had a lot of toys on stage, switching bass every now and then, and Rick Allen had insence sticks burning on his drum kit, but that was all the glamour they had, apart from the red theater-like curtains in the back and the great lightshow, counting on their classic songs to do the talking, and why not the guitars from Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen. Time will tell when Leppard will visit Sweden again, but the concluding speak for the show from Elliot gave fans some hope: "Till next time, and there will be a next time. Until then don't forget us and we won't forget you".

Setlist: Rocket, Animal, C'mon C'mon, Foolin', Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes), Make Love Like A Man, Nine Lives, Bad Actress, Love Bites, bass solo, Rock On (David Essex), Hysteria, Armaggedon It, Photograph, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Rock Of Ages, encore: Let's Get Rocked


What would wake up better than GOTTHARD? Eventhough this Swiss act has been in Sweden Rock before, I'm still not getting tired by them. And just when I've been praising them being an awesome live band, this show wasn't as lively as usual. Sure they were better than many other bands and the amazing duo Steve Lee (vocals) and Leo Leoni (guitar) was once again glowing on stage doing a fiery job, immediately charming everyone around them. The day was turning out to be one of those sweaty ones not many festivals other than Sweden Rock can offer, so maybe that and the morning slot were sort of turn-offs for the band, who weren't in their normal form.

The setlist with small adjustments wasn't an average Gotthard setlist, but even the slightest change reflects into everything. From all the great albums the band has recorded they've never recorded a bad song, but there are some that just aren't as inspiring live as so many others, and this setlist could've rocked more. If your eyes were stuck on Lee and Leoni all the time and this was your first Gotthard experience, this was probably one of the greatest rock shows you've ever witnessed, with Lee swinging his mikestand up to heavens and Leoni posing legs wide open, hanging his guitar in solid position between his legs and then playing it behind his neck. These two are still the stars of Gotthard show. Because bassist Marc Lynn had a motorcycle accident before their their summer shows, the band had to get a replacement for him from Nic Angileri, who gave additional smiles and energy for the show. Another addition was Nicolo Fragile on keyboards.

Gotthard are still one bouncy act, that unsurprisingly grows with success year by year. Even on their lame days they are an incredibly passionate force to their crowd, and again this year I didn't hear any bad comments about the band. On the contrary, even people who normally aren't into this sort of mainstream rock were astonished of what they just saw. Steve Lee and the band ended their 75-minute show with one last song after their return to stage, Lee thinking the crowd still deserved one more song, then giving away the infectiously catchy and sassy "All We Are". With "Lift U Up" before that, the end of the set was like quicksilver, fast, slick and fascinating. Anytime, anywhere, Gotthard!

Setlist: Master Of Illusion, Gone Too Far, Top Of The World, The Call, Hush (Joe South), I Wonder, guitar solo and jamming, Sister Moon, Anytime Anywhere, Let It Be, Mountain Mama, The Oscar Goes To You, Lift U Up, All We Are

As the rest of our crew headed over to see Apocalyptica, I had to see the Irish GLYDER for the first time. I reviewed their promo years ago when they still called themselves H*llyw**d, and was immediately hooked by their Thin Lizzy -sound and style. Singer-bassist Tony Cullen sings with similiar tone to Phil Lynott, his sound has that warm character you just gotta love. Now, many years later I was delighted to find Glyder from the Gibson stage, in a small but cozy tent, a band that has earlier actually warmed up Thin Lizzy itself. I found space from the front row, the crowd was very kind to everyone. As Glyder began, the party started in the tent. People danced and sang together like one family.

Cullen and his bandmates, guitarists Bat Kinane and Pete Fisher and drummer Davy Ryan were an entertaining act. They posses the warmth and laid-back attitude so common to Irish people, and were so active live, that they were quite hard to photograph. It was a lean but firm presentation with amazingly good sounds for the tent. The crowd loved them, and I was amazed by the amount who knew the lyrics and were singing along. Among playing "PUP (Pretty Useless People)", two of the most popular songs were off their "Black Tide Silver Path" -EP, "Stargazer" and "Die Or Dance". Most of the SRF crowd was watching Apocalyptica, and after the fine Glyder set I headed over to see the cellomasters.

APOCALYPTICA is a band that takes their work seriously. Live they are dazzling and their shows sound massive. Rock Stage is a stage, that presents massive productions like these together with Festival Stage. Saturday also included Avantasia here and Lizzy Borden and Ratt, whose shows were more focused on the songs. Apocalyptica instead gave their fans a show they can be proud of. They came off as a very multifaceted, masculine and flashy band, handling the instruments like warriors, spinning the cellos and their lion's manes continuously in the air and posing colourfully. They weren't speachless either, trying their English and Swedish skills to the crowd. The heat was pretty unbearable the whole day. It also affected Apocalyptica, who were sweating hard on stage, the heat was "making my head dizzy", as someone from the band put it.

One of the most intense moments of the show was, when Apocalyptica played one of their Metallica covers, "Nothing Else Matters" in the end of the set. It's rare to witness someone pour their souls into a song like these guys did with the piece. I was only able to watch the song kick off though. Played so serenely, passionately and beautifully, it was a tearjerking moment, reminding me why I haven't gone to any Metallica and Apocalyptica shows for so long. Music and especially certain songs have throughout the history of music been essential for men, taking us back to certain moments in our lives, a place you can escape to, or either return from your own will when needed or by force through media or events like this. A song can reflect to a great memory or a bad one, and Metallica's black album, their most succesful album ever, reflects badly to a time when I lost a dear friend of mine. This was another reminder for me to stay away from Apocalyptica and Metallica shows, even as great as both are.

Apart from the Metallica covers like "Seek And Destroy", "Enter Sandman" and "Creeping Death", Apocalyptica also played "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg and their latest hit "I'm Not Jesus", the whole show without any guest vocalists on stage, the cellos instead replacing some vocal lines. These Finns have grown quite a lot from the early days, they're a great band you should check out when you have a chance.

Another Finnish band, ELÄKELÄISET, was my saving grace from the plaintive offerings of Apocalyptica. A humppa band that has charmed the humour-loving Germans, was now spreading their blissfully wacky jamboree in Sweden. I'm not sure how much the audience really understood from the bands humour sung in Finnish, but the speaks were thrown in multiple languages, Swedish included. The band that calls themselves "pensioners", does covers from various bands, not just from the metal genre. Doing covers from bands such as Children Of Bodom, Nightwish, Iron Maiden, Neil Young, Bad Religion, The Scorpions, Pet Shop Boys and whatnot, the set closing "Hump" might especially ring some bells, makes you wanna...jump?! The whole sharade drops you down laughing, this was just the fix I needed.

With humoristical lyrics it would be good to capture all the lines live, but in a festival you can't hear it all. Instead it was mostly the choruses that made the crowd sing along, and it was no surprise the band lured down all the Finns in the festival. There were people foreign to Finnish language too that were singing along and everyone who understood even a bit was having a time of their lives. And it's not just the lyrical input from the band that is absolutely messed up. You can expect anything to happen on stage. The keyboardist can lean so badly on his instrument, that it makes his playing very hard, then pour beer on himself and some other band member suspecting no evil. The band introduction is as messed up as well. Martti Waris announced "I play bass guitar which I bought from the Lidl-market", a cheap market chain found in most European countries, and their drummer Kristian Voutilainen wanted to come clean saying "jag är än alkoholist", I'm an alcoholic. Everything doesn't always have to be that serious, and I definately want to see this band again that sings "olen humppaava Jeesus". Jesus can also have fun.

One of Sweden Rock's this years legendary bands was BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, who had a bad slot in the burning mid-afternoon sun. This was the best time for its fans though, who love to take their dose of music like siesta, relax with it. I didn't expect anything less than a professional setting, which it was, but at the same time BÖC was a boring act, who didn't perform at all. Younger rock fans were pleased to hear their "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", which has become even more popular after HIM covered it.

Saturday featured yet another Finnish band on the Zeppelin stage, where Eläkeläiset played before them. A legend of their own, one that has tried its wings in USA in late 80's, releasing "Indian Warrior" through Capitol Records in 1989, HAVANA BLACK gained a good fanbase in their glory days, but never made it in the States due to various reasons. Playing groovy southern rock and blues-influenced hard rock, it was great to see Petri Majuri, Crazy Heiskanen, Mikko Kierikki, Hannu Leidèn and Vänni Väänänen back on stage after twenty years, although I was suspicious about Leidèn's voice after recently seing his harsh performance in Finnish TV.

Due to the BÖC show happening meanwhile on Festival stage, Havana Black lost some of the potential crowd, but with the performance we saw, maybe it was good there was such a small crowd. The problem wasn't the band, but just as I had expected, the vocals. Unfortunately Leidèn fought with his vocals, and sang songs like "Lone Wolf" more cautiously than before and below the normal range. The band didn't seem to come to Sweden as winners, moreso you felt sympathy for such legends pulling it off with the shape Leidèn's voice was in, and being way too bland. The band performed really modestly, sort of a remnant of old Finnish mentality. Back in the day, even to this day still, Finns had a social preasure to keep a low profile of themselves. Even if you were a rockstar, it was best to be modest. The Havana Black crowd that mostly enjoyed the show were those, who remembered them twenty years back and had seen them live in their glory days. I was one of them, always loving their warm old spirit, but now they were just a shadow of themselves. I still wish all the best for their career, bands like these are rare diamonds in Finland. Too bad they didn't play their hit "Indian Warrior" though.

Set included: Lone Wolf, Love Is A Lie, Hoo Myself, Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac)

There were so many 80's hardrock bands that Scandinavia missed in their time, and RATT was one of them. Sure they visited at least Finland in the mid-90's, but it wasn't even close to the experience it would've been in their time. Knowing they were playing in Sweden it was still exciting to see how they were today with Stephen Pearcy back in the vocals, who wasn't in the band in their earlier visit. It was a hasty entering on stage from them, and sadly Pearcy wasn't in shape today. Although sort of typical from his voice, he sounded very coarse. But it wasn't just that, the whole performance seemed a bit poor and the chemistries weren't the best today. Hence the Pearcy announcement "who would've thought in twentyfive years we'd still be doing this" sounded ridiculous, did they believe with this act it was gonna last? Well, the set improved closer to the end, and if I had not seen their brilliant performance later in Rocklahoma, I could've sworn they were doomed even before they got into a good start again. Once again this proves you shouldn't judge bands based on one experience, everyone has their bad days.

The band began their set playing five songs in a row off their first EP, which was a special treat. Another album well presented was their "Out Of The Cellar", while a great album such as "Detonator" was only featured with two songs, and they could've played the energetic track "Dance" as well. Ratt also includes bassist Robbie Crane, drummer Bobby Blotzer and guitarists Warren De Martini and John Corabi, who are skilled guitarists. While they posses good looks and skills, it's still Pearcy that brings the final touch to the show and makes the show. It's his presence and character that really makes Ratt. That is what I missed in Finland, and was really disappointed him not being in the band back then. Being an old Ratt fan I would've been even more excited, if the original line-up could've been here with Juan Croucier and Robbin Crosby, who passed away in 2002. I was glad to hear them play "Givin' Yourself Away", which the band said was a first performance ever, but since the show didn't convince at all, this masterpiece sunk in like any other song in the set. What was surely a fine set of hits, didn't impress everyone this time.

Setlist: Tell The World, Sweet Cheater, U Got It, Walkin' The Dog (Rufus Thomas), You Think You're Tough, The Morning After, Back For More, Wanted Man, I'm Insane, Lack Of Communication, Lay It Down, You're In Love, Slip Of The Lip, Dangerous But Worth The Risk, Nobody Rides For Free (Ratt/Steve Caton), Way Cool Jr., City To City, Lovin' You's A Dirty Job, Body Talk, encore; Givin' Yourself Away, Round And Round

One of the biggest bands in SRF was Canadian TRIUMPH, reuniting after twenty years. They used to be huge in the States and in their homecountry, and have their fans in Europe too, who now saw them for the first time. First time, if you don't count guitarist Rik Emmett's visit in Germany a few years ago, where instead Triumph could've visited, a band I've been listening since the 80's. The area was packed with people as excited as I was, waiting to hear all the classics from them. Sadly the band had settled on a dubious set, that disheartened their fans. The very same set was heard in Rocklahoma later in the summer, and the reception from American fans was similar to Europeans.

The ghostly malevoice in their opening video ensured "this is your night of Triumph", but as it turned out it wasn't, for none of us. All the laserwork and great lights circling around before the band began really whipped up to huge anticipation, but the opening song "When The Lights Go Down" missed its dynamics. With only a handful of hits in the set the crowd was also gobsmacked by the reggae-influenced version of "Never Surrender". If the set had been better, an experimental twist like this would've worked, but as the set grew clearer to the crowd, smiles started changing to disappointments and some decided it was best to leave.

Instead of going with one of their biggest hits "Follow Your Heart", Triumph chose a Joe Walsh cover "Rocky Mountain Way". Like Europeans didn't know how to appreciate good hits or melodies. This change would've appealed more to the American crowd. I wasn't the only one waiting them to cover the "Surveillance" album, this album is a classic loved by many, but no, not a single song off of it. How wrong can you go with a setlist? Even as badly disappointed as so many of us were, you had to give credit to the band for the professional performance, and Emmet's vocals were still in great shape. The line-up in Sweden was drummer Gil Moore, bassist Mike Levine and guitarists Dave Dunlop and Emmett. The band seemed happy as they walked off stage and thanked the crowd, so who knows, we might catch more Triumph in the future. I just wish by then they would remember their younger fans as well.

Setlist: When The Lights Go Down, Lay It On The Line, Allied Forces, Never Surrender, I Live For The Weekend, Blinding Light Show, Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh), Magic Power, Rock And Roll Machine, Fight The Good Fight

If you love good 80's hardrock with catchy melodies, then the next place to be was in Gibson stage at H.E.A.T. show half ten o'clock in the evening. I lost all my buddies again at this point, who rushed to see Avantasia starting in fifteen minutes. I would find them later from there, but this was a show not to be missed either, and there was still time to catch Avantasia afterwards. I decided to squeeze myself in the front for the best experience and H.E.A.T. didn't let us down. They went with full charge, singing beautiful harmonies by singer Kenny Leckremo and the band (Dave Dalone, Eric Rivers, Jona Tee, Jimmy Jay, Crash) and firing away glimpses from the past, all those 80's influences that really get you hooked on this stuff.

Live H.E.A.T are a completely different case than spinning their debut at home. The guys in their age still have the enthusiasm for their work, so they really put a lot of effort into everything. They were like bullets speeding through the air, the rush beat us fast out of our juices, but every second was worth it. It's always amazing to see how a band lives through the songs, and the ballads from the band are quite hard to handle live with such dedication. When in an album they already have the classic ballad features, the warmth, catchiness, melancholy and the heartstriking lyrics one can identify with, live these features build up to huge emotional rides, and ironically there was someone crying during "Cry"!

When you think of how young H.E.A.T. is as a band and as individuals, you'd think there's still rough edges to work on, but what I found was a very tight band that seemed to know exactly what they were doing on stage. Sweden must be proud of them, and the guys should be proud they can already rock so professionally, taking even a small stage like rockstars. This was THE party to be in, I'm completely in love with these guys! We definately felt the heat!

Set included: There For You, Late Night Lady, Straight For Your Heart, Keep On Dreaming, You're Lying, Cry, Feel It Again

I've been waiting for this moment to come, like Gotthard sings in "The Call", one of the awaited moments in this years SRF was AVANTASIA. Who would've thought such a big production would ever happen, but here it was, not the easiest show to materialize with so many musicians involved. Many of my favourite singers were in this line-up; JORN LANDE, BOB CATLEY, KAI HANSEN, TOBIAS SAMMET doing duets with most of his guests, and ANDRE MATOS filling in the duties of Michael Kiske. Backing vocalists were AMANDA SOMERVILLE and CLAUDY YANG with the band; Oliver Hartmann, Michael "Miro" Rodenberg, Felix Boehnke, Robert Hunecke and Sascha Paeth, who in Sammet's words looks like Slash, and thanks to him, made Avantasia happen. "The Scarecrow" -album was well covered in SRF, and includes the musicians mentioned above, along with Eric Singer, Roy Khan, Henjo Richter, Alice Cooper and Rudolf Schenker, who also couldn't make it here.

This was the second show from Avantasia, and what should've offered the crowd a show of a lifetime, didn't go down perfectly. There were unfortunate technical problems, leading to lost vocals very important for a concept like this, and the band seemed out of form at first. Maybe the practice wasn't possible for a rare production like this, which was about to hit three continents and less than twenty shows. And because the Rock stage ground filled with around 30, 000 fans, the visibility to the stage was limited, another factor making it hard to enjoy the show, but I tried to concentrate on what I was hearing when the visibility was gone.

The show began with Sammet rushing on stage like a thunderbolt. He was loudly welcomed, and his performance shined confidence and his typical traits, he was just the Sammet we've become to know. He sang well as usual, doing "Twisted Mind", and next a duet with Lande on "The Scarecrow" and "Another Angel Down". Lande was his normal self, though vocalwise slightly rough and doing an average job. It was Matos that really pulled it off, taking the stage next with "Reach Out For The Light". He's got the greatest voice with a lovable charisma, that radiates warmth all the way to the crowd. After another great singer and an adorable person Catley performed his "The Story Ain't Over", Matos continued with "Shelter From The Rain", and he was the first to suffer from technical problems. When his vocals were heard again, he finished the song with Catley.

"Avantasia", still the best song from Avantasia and on everyone's wishlist, was sung by Sammet himself, this version being just decent and uninspiring compared to the blazing version Edguy has shaped their performance into. Next it was time to raise your hands for a song about penises going to heaven! Here we went again, Sammet ardourly getting to his filthy humour again, and the show turned instantly into a rock carousel, which I had nothing against of. The song was "Serpents In Paradise" and the show took a more powerful turn with Sammet singing with his various styles and just being the power metal singer he is and the easygoing performer.

The dirt-talk didn't end there, no. Sammet introduced us next to a song about blonde girls with giant tits. That was "Promised Land", sung with Lande. As I had only heard the album once before this show, the climaxes were few, but it was very clear this was Sammet's work. Forgetting the problems they encountered it was still great to witness this gigantic rockstar gathering, that had its moments. As the rock legend Alice Cooper couldn't make it to the show, his part was sung by Kai Hansen, who was a majestic sight on stage in his top hat. "The Toy Master" was more of a theatrical performance than anything else, but entertaining and Hansen's vocals were as good as always. "Farewell" was the melancholic piece of a show, that was more based on power hymns and racing rhythms, and Sammet sang it together with Somerville, who's beautiful voice unfortunately faded mostly into the background from the loud band mix. Somerville performed somewhat theatrically, which fit well into th is rock opera style assembly.

The final touch for the show came from "Sign Of The Cross/The Seven Angels" -medley, which gathered the whole crew together on stage. It was another historical moment, and you didn't know where to look and what to listen. Every singer was running around everywhere on stage and the band was restless and excited too. Putting all their effort into this last bit they sealed the show with a festive impression. After the last bows and a pose against the crowd they left the stage, only to be escorted out with enormous cheers. Avantasia had all the elements for a headliner, this is where Sweden Rock should've ended this year.

Setlist: Twisted Mind, The Scarecrow, Another Angel Down, Prelude, Reach Out For The Light, The Story Ain't Over, Shelter From The Rain, Avantasia, Serpents In Paradise, Promised Land, The Toy Master, Farewell, band introduction, Sign Of The Cross/The Seven Angels (medley)

"Oh my God look what the cat dragged in" was for some an appropriate line to kick off a POISON show, as not all idolize this glam-hardrock band, that took their headliner spot on Festival stage before midnight. I was glad to see them live though, finally! Another band that never set foot in Finland, they're still idolized by those into glam and hardrock. C.C. DeVille, Rikki Rokket, Bret Michaels and Bobby Dall may not be the most compact and talented act in rock business, but they know how to have fun. In their genre this is what matters. As the foursome rushed on stage in the glorious lights and their non-typical glam wear, t-shirts and jeans was the wear tonight, the crowd instantly showed its colours, some left immediately, and those who knew the scheme welcomed the band singing to the lyrics from moment one on, seizing the party vibe.

The set was filled with songs off their first two albums, "Look What The Cat Dragged In" and "Open Up And Say...Ahh!", which was a fine set, but it wouldn't have hurt to have a few more from other albums as well. The start was great though with three party songs, and the band bursted with energy. One of their biggest hits, "I Won't Forget You" was not equal to their album version. This didn't sound like the sweet piece we've grown to love, it was just coldly executed with the whole idea of the song missing. A bad move followed, The Romantics cover "What I Like About You". I don't know any Poison fans who like this song, and most would've preferred to hear something of their own instead. The mood flattened even more, when a guitar solo followed from C.C. DeVille. The crowd shouted his name loudly though, but they could've skipped this part as well, they aren't a guitar band.

"Cry Tough" worked as another party track, and "Something To Believe In" was dedicated to a friend who'd passed away. This ballad brought back some of that missing feel that we were waiting for most of the time. Bret Michaels continued afterwards with his mouth organ, taking us to the groovy "Your Mama Don't Dance", which vitalized the crowd again to groovy dancing. Michaels sang the set through with ease, although maybe a bit too casually, but the main thing was the fun of it. Michaels still looks cute as a puppy, and he's one of those singers with the interactive ability, fans could easily relate to his act. Although Avantasia was a bigger success, Poison's headliner slot might've been due to the screen material blasting out of them, naked women rubbing their tits and whatnot. There was still great effects like lightshow, pyros and loads of confetti showered us finishing the show. "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" was the best moment of the show, and the shows perky start. Poison is a party band that answered well to this need, we had nothin' but a good time.

Setlist: Look What The Cat Dragged In, I Want Action, Ride The Wind, I Won't Forget You, What I Like About You (The Romantics), C.C. DeVille guitar solo, Cry Tough, Something To Believe In, Your Mama Don't Dance, I Need To Know, Rockett drum solo, Unskinny Bop, Every Rose Has It's Thorn, Fallen Angel, Talk Dirty To Me, encore: Nothin' But A Good Time

Sweden Rock history reveals which bands from this years lineup have visited SRF before, here's most of them; Saxon (1997, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008 ), Blue Öyster Cult (1998, 2008), Dare (1999, 2008), Five Fifteen (2000, 2002, 2008), Primal Fear (2000, 2008), Hensley/Lawton (2001, 2008), Hanoi Rocks (2002, 2008), Whitesnake (2003, 2006, 2008), Judas Priest (2004, 2008), Testament (2004, 2008), Def Leppard (2006, 2008), Gotthard (2006, 2008), The Poodles (2006, 2008), Fastway (2007, 2008), Korpiklaani (2007, 2008), Sabaton (2005, 2008), Mustasch (2001, 2005, 2008). The different band variations have also taken various musicians on their own to SRF before. Tobias Sammet has been in Sweden Rock with Edguy a few times, Mika Järvinen (Five Fifteen) with his Crazy Led, Sebastian Bach on his own and Kai Hansen with Gamma Ray, who was in SRF this year with Stormwarrior. Continuing with the policy of recycling will surely start showing in ticket sales, paying nearly 200 euros from the same bands seen before seems like madness. But one can't still forget what makes Sweden Rock so special, it's yearly special reunions are an attraction, and I hope Sweden Rock would keep their policy supporting the melodic and more traditional rock scene, we have too many festivals already filled with darker and harder metal.

This year we didn't spend much time backstage, and as soon as Poison finished their set on Saturday, we skipped the backstage fun and drove back to our ranch for a good night sleep. Well, that's what we'd planned, but soon found ourselves ending the evening in our ranch living room sipping the last drinks of the festival. It was a peaceful place, just us keeping company to each other, which made it also a bit scary. Visiting the ranch yard alone in the jet-black night or taking a shower in the second building alone at night set off the imagination. Did I see a zombie crawl there?! Nah, it was probably just a drunk buddy staggering around. If you weren't a nervewreck by now with your imagination, the monster-sized spiders in the showers should've set you shrieking the latest, like in the good old horror flicks. Oh, how I've always loved the countryside and its peace. Believe me, I always have, it's the freaking vivid imagination I can't stand!

Beginning our trip to Sweden with Korpiklaani on the same plane, we travelled back with Havana Black, with not much difference in the prevailing conditions. Some of us Finns were either drunk, still drinking or just tired yet again, and joining our happy choirs this time around was at least Crazy Heiskanen, who's laughter was echoing loudly aboard. If you weren't laughing already, this easily triggered it. What a ride and flight this year was again, it's always fun with Sweden Rock trips.

Inspirational acts of 2008; Airbourne, Tesla, Gotthard, Hanoi Rocks, H.E.A.T., Apocalyptica, Eläkeläiset.

Report by Satu Reunanen, satu [at]
Pictures by Satu Reunanen and Kari Helenius, carda [at]
(c)2008 RockUnited.Com