Concert Reviews: TONS OF ROCK 2023

TONS OF ROCK 2023 – Ekebergsletta (Oslo, Norway)

June 21-24, 2023

by Jorge Patacas

Tons of Rock festival continues to grow year after year and 2023 was no exception. Once again held at Ekebergsletta in the capital city of Oslo, the organization decided to add one more day, so it became a 4-day event instead of 3 as it used to be. This way, they managed to break last year’s record in terms of public attendance, gathering a total of more than 100.000 people of 72 different nationalities.
Three stages were built as in the previous edition, although this year the main stage was renamed Scream Stage, while the Vampire Stage became the secondary stage and the third stage located in the tent was renamed the Moonlight Stage. By the way, the stages are named after works by the painter Edvard Munch, one of the most important Norwegian visual artists.
In addition to the concerts, merch stands, the Tons of Art tent and all sorts of entertainment from arcade games to amusement rides, this year they added stand up comedy shows and panels where, for example, Behemoth’s Nergal was interviewed about his successful career.


The music started on Wednesday at 13:30 when the local band Black Debbath took the stage, like every year. The four-piece from Oslo set the right mood by opening the festival with their humorous and satire-laden lyrics that can be hard to understand for those who are not familiar with Norwegian culture, but if you are, they know how to make you laugh.

Legendary Swedish act Sator was about to open the Vampire Stage when it started to rain, but that didn’t affect the mood at all. The band has influences from hard rock, punk rock and rock and roll, and they took us on a journey through their career which of course included their hit “I Wanna Go Home” as well as other tunes like “Turn Off the News” and a cover of Gasolin’s “This Is My Life”.

Later on the same stage, melodic death metal pioneers At the Gates kicked off their show with “Spectre of Extinction”, “At War With Reality” and “To Drink From the Night Itself” from their last three releases, and then they surprised us by playing their most acclaimed album “Slaughter of the Soul” (1995) in its entirety! Yes, in the same order, including the epic instrumental “The Flames of the End” with the same lineup that played on the record. What an amazing performance!

Luckily the rain was gone for the day and for the rest of the festival by the time Generation Sex started their show on the main stage. There were a lot of people in the audience who weren’t familiar with the band’s name, but it’s actually a supergroup with a lineup consisting of none other than Billy Idol (vocals) and Tony James (bass), founders of the 70’s punk band Generation X, who teamed up with Steve Jones (guitar) and Paul Cook (drums) of the Sex Pistols, to celebrate the careers of both bands. All the members are almost 70 now, but they still captivate the audience and have fun on stage. They took us on a nostalgic trip opening with the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” in a set that featured absolute classics like Generation X’s “Dancing With Myself”, Pistols’ “Problems” and even their version of “My Way” sounded fantastic with Idol’s vocals that don’t seem to age.

Since the departure of Sebastian Bach in 1996, Skid Row have changed vocalists a few times over the years, but recently they have hired Erik Grönwall (ex H.E.A.T.) who has an incredible vocal tone that fits perfectly with this type of music. He’s also a good frontman and knows how to get the crowd on board, bringing a breath of fresh air to the band. This was borne out by their performance on the Vampire Stage, where they played classics like “Monkey Business” and the power ballad “I Remember You” which sounded fantastic and the audience sang the lyrics from start to finish. There were also a couple of songs from their new album “The Gang’s All Here” (2022) in the form of the title track and “Time Bomb”, plus a cover of the Ramones’ “Psycho Therapy”, closing their set with the anthem “Youth Gone Wild” from their self-titled debut album (1989).

The headliners of the day were Guns N’ Roses, who currently have four members of the classic lineup; Dizzy Reed on keyboards, Slash on guitar, Duff McKagan on bass and of course Axl Rose on vocals. The rest of the lineup is Richard Fortus (guitars), Frank Ferrer (drums) and Melissa Reese (synthetizers). Despite being a festival, their set lasted two and a half hours with a total of 28 songs and was definitely the longest of the entire event, so there was time for classics, newer stuff and even some rarities. They opened the set with “It’s So Easy” followed by “Bad Obsession” which they started playing on this tour after thirty years, and another surprise, the Velvet Revolver cover “Slither”. We already know that Axl can’t hit the high notes the same way as before, so there shouldn’t be any high expectations about that at this point. However, while he clearly struggled in some parts (the aforementioned “It’s So Easy” or “Mr. Brownstone” are good examples), he was better on others (“Pretty Tied Up”, “Estranged”). Other than that, he puts on a show, moving around the stage with endless energy and commanding the audience at will, sometimes even with a single glance or smile. He still has the charisma of the legendary frontman he is and the detractors can’t deny that. The rest of the band did a great job and Duff even had his time in the spotlight as vocalist during their version of the Stooges’ “TV Eye”, while Slash had his guitar solo right between “Civil War” and the classic “Sweet Child O’Mine”. “You Could Be Mine” was definitely the highlight, as were the covers of “Live and Let Die” (Wings) and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan) and the final song “Paradise City”. This concluded the first day, but it was just the beginning of the party!


One of Tons of Rock’s biggest surprises this year was Fever 333, who played early on the second day at the Vampire Stage. Musically, they mix rap verses over heavy riffs a la Rage Against the Machine with clean catchy Linkin Park-reminiscent choruses that fans in the crowd chanted, which also happened with their cover of Blur’s “Song 2”, but the intensity and energy displayed on stage was the most impressive thing about their show. Vocalist Jason Aaron Butler moved the platform where drummer Thomas Pridgen was playing, jumped over the amps, ripped of his shirt, and on the last song went to the sound/lightning desk area in front of the stage and jumped into the crowd who grabbed him so he could crowdsurf his way back while yelling the lyrics. And so the show ended. Wild! The interaction and response from the young crowd was incredible and it was a great way to start the day.

Immediately after, British act Asking Alexandria performed in front of a very enthusiastic, mostly young crowd on the Moonlight Stage. They opened with “Alone Again”, followed by “The Final Episode” from their earlier metalcore era and the audience sang and started circle pits on several songs during their set. Their sound contains metalcore/post-hardcore riffs, nu metal-inspired base, and elements of hard rock and electronica as well, while Danny Worsnop’s voice ranges from screaming to clean, melodic vocals, a formula that definitely appeals a lot of fans. Towards the end, the five-piece performed a new song called “Dark Void”, that will appear on their eight studio album which is due for release on August 25th.

Legendary technical thrashers Voivod delivered a short but fantastic show that was the last of their 7-week tour. The current lineup consists of the only remaining original members Michel “Away” Langevin (drums) and Denis “Snake” Bélanger (vocals) (joined in 1983) plus Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain (guitars) who replaced the late Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, and Dominique “Rocky” Laroche (bass) sounding as tight as ever.
It’s very difficult for these Canadians to come up with a setlist since they have sixteen albums to pick songs from, but we got to hear “Killing Technology” (still very relevant despite it being released in 1987), some newer stuff like “Sleeves Off”, closing their set with the old school thrasher “Voivod”, the first song on their debut album “War and Pain” (1984) whose chorus was sung along by a crowd that opened a circle pit in almost every song.

On the other hand, Soulfly had just kicked off their European tour in Oslo, something that had never happened before, according to guitarist/vocalist Max Cavalera. Before the band took the stage, the crowd was already chanting the name of Soulfly/Sepultura’s founder, confirming yet again that both Sepultura and the Cavalera brothers have a very loyal fan base in Norway. As soon as Soulfly took the stage and began with “Back to the Primitive”, the audience erupted with energy. Max is currently joined by his son Zyon Cavalera on drums, Mike Leon (ex Havok) on bass and the temporary member Mike DeLeon (Philip H Anselmo and The Illegals) on guitars. The set was fairly short, but intense and geared towards early stuff with songs like “Prophecy” from their 2004 release of the same title, “Tribe” and “Eye for an Eye” from their self-titled debut album and even the Sepultura classic “Refuse/Resist”. For the last track “Jumpdafuckup” which originally featured Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour) on guest vocals, Max brought the entire crowd to their knees to jump as he yelled out the song’s title and then the show was over in the blink of an eye. That’s how it is at festivals. Let’s hope they’ll be back on a headlining tour soon!

Clutch put on the Stoner share to Tons of Rock while the sun was shining. Since their bassist Dan Maines had to miss out some European shows due to a family emergency, the band performed with Fu Manchu’s Brad Davis who stepped in as temporary replacement.
The guys from Maryland delivered a setlist that spanned their discography including their most popular song, the slightly bluesy/southern rock-oriented “Electric Worry” from their album “From Beale Street to Oblivion” (2007) before closing with “The Wolf Man Kindly Requests…”.

Nightwish were to play their last show in Oslo before an indefinite touring hiatus, but had to cancel the day before due to vocalist Floor Jansen’s health issues, so local band Madrugada took over and played on the main stage. At the same time, Norwegian black metal legends Mayhem performed on the Moonlight stage. Following the same format of their recent shows, they divided their set into three parts where the stage lightning and outfits change in each of them. Severed pig heads wrapped in barbed wire and an altar served as stage decorations for a show that began with songs like “To Daimonion” and “Symbols of Bloodswords”. The band left the stage for the first time to return in black cloaks and perform songs from their masterpiece “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” (1994). “When it’s cold and when it’s dark, the freezing moon can obsess you” could be heard from the PA, it was the late vocalist Dead’s iconic intro from the “Live in Leipzig” album and this served as the intro for “Freezing Moon”. As usual, the cheering from the audience was loud, and there were many kids with their parents this time, something usual to see at Tons of Rock. They continued with “Life Eternal” and “Buried by Time and Dust” before leaving the stage once more. The intro of the “Deathcrush” EP (1987) called “Silvester Anfang” was coming out of the PA and now the lights turned red. Attila Csihar (vocals), Necrobutcher (bass), Teloch (guitars), Ghul (guitars) and Hellhammer (drums) returned to perform songs from the early days including “Deathcrush”, “Chainsaw Gutfuck” and a devastating version of “Pure Fucking Armageddon”.

Closing out the secondary Vampire Stage were Behemoth who had played at the festival before. As usual, they put on a great show using lots of pyros to create the right atmosphere and the crowd, both fans and curious, were sucked into it.
Their latest single “Once Upon a Pale Horse” was part of their set, as well as some of the most well-known tunes like “Ov Fire and the Void”, “Bartzabel” and “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”.

Just like in 2019, Danish rockers Volbeat headlined and created a party atmosphere. Their original mix of hard rock, metal, country a la Johnny Cash and folk really resonates with a lot of people and they already have an established fan base in the country. The guitarist Rob Caggiano (ex Anthrax) left the band just a couple of weeks before this show, so they played with his replacement Flemming C. Lund (The Arcane Order) who knew exactly what to do despite being in the band for only a short period.
Some songs from their latest album “Servant of the Mind” (2021) were performed, as well as fan favorites like “Lola Montez” and “Still Counting”, so the cheering audience was quite satisfied as the second day concluded.


The former HIM vocalist, Ville Valo, opened the main stage on the third day with a mix of songs from his debut solo album “Neon Noir” (2023) and HIM classics that brought a lot of nostalgia to those present, since the band split up in 2017. Fans sang lyrics to “Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly”, “Buried Alive by Love”, “Join Me In Death”, “Poison Girl” and “Right Here in My Arms” and smiles were seen both in Valo’s and the public’s faces as a kind of complicity between each party. He still has a great clean melodic voice and is backed by skilled musicians who sound great together. The solo songs are not well known yet as the album was released only a few months ago, but they got a good reaction from the audience as well.

Moving onto the Vampire Stage, the Norwegian band Vreid, which feature former members of Windir, put on a very strong show which included footage being shown on a big screen behind them, as they played some of their best material such as “Lifehunger”, “Solverv” and “Into the Mountains” to the delight of fans. These guys from Sogndal are close to their 20th anniversary with a solid career in which they developed their own style by pushing the boundaries of black metal to enter black n’ roll territory. During the concert they also introduced us to their latest single “Flammen” and we even got to hear “Noen å hate”, a cover of the Norwegian rock band Raga Rockers, who by the way, played at the same festival four years ago.

The British grindcore pioneers Napalm Death destroyed the packed Moonlight Stage with a very aggressive set (of course!) that included songs from different periods of their career. It was strange not seeing their iconic bass player Shane Embury on stage, who wasn’t able to tour this time, so as vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway would point out, they got Adam Clarkson from the band Corrupt Moral Altar to play his parts and he did a great job. While part of the audience just stood still the whole time (believe it or not!), others were doing moshpits and circle pits while the band played old school gems like “Scum”, “The Kill” and “Suffer the Children”. Yes, we also got to hear the one-second track “You Suffer” that once earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Surprisingly, they also played a slower but very noisy track called “Invigorating Church” from their latest release “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism” (2020) and ended their performance with the Dead Kennedys’ cover “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and “Siege of Power”, another old school track from their debut album “Scum” (1987). Another killer show by the legendary four-piece from Birmingham who have been around for over forty years and aren’t planning to stop anytime soon.

Up next was the mighty Pantera on the main stage. Back in 2022, there were all kinds of reactions when it was announced that the remaining core members, Phil Anselmo (vocals) and Rex Brown (bass), would be teaming up with legendary guitarist Zakk Wylde and Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante for a world tour. While many fans were very excited about this return, others were upset saying this was not the real Pantera, but the band promised that it would be a tribute that would do justice to the legacy of the late Abbott brothers, “Dimebag” Darrell (murdered in 2004) and Vinnie Paul (died of a heart disease in 2018). Setting aside the controversy, expectations were very high on this show as the band hadn’t played live in over 20 years, and that means there were generations who never saw them before, as well as the old fans who wanted to see their favorite band once again, maybe for the last time, so this was a very special occassion and a lot of people were already waiting in the front rows long before the start of the show while shouting the name of the band. Meanwhile Zakk Wylde came out with his phone to film the audience and a few minutes later, some old footage with Dimebag and Vinnie was projected on the screens behind the drum kit and to the sides of the stage. Finally, the banner with the Pantera logo fell and the opening riff of “A New Level” sent the audience into frenzy. Lots of crowdsurfing, singing and headbanging from start to finish and a lot of emotions went through when they played all time classics such as “Mouth for War”, “Becoming”, “I’m Broken” and “5 Minutes Alone”. Anselmo was in a very good mood and asked how many in the audience had seen them in the 90s and there were actually more people that had never seen them live. He is singing much better than in recent years, Rex provides the groove with his bass as always, Zakk respectfully plays the riffs and solos in his own style, while Charlie, who is already 60 (!), does a fantastic job playing Vinnie’s parts. They were definitely right with their promises here!
We got to hear the recorded intro to “Cemetary Gates” as some more footage from their old home videos played on the screen and when everyone thought they were going to play the rest of the song live, the fast-paced “Fucking Hostile” was played instead. “This Love” followed, another classic from their masterpiece “Vulgar Display of Power” (1992), and right after dedicating a few words to their Norwegian friends in Satyricon, they unexpectedly continued with one of their most aggressive tracks of their career, “Suicide Note Pt. 2”. Unbelievable!
Sigurd Wongraven aka Satyr from Satyricon, was at the festival with his family and joined to sing “Walk” with Anselmo while the audience sang each word as loud as possible in total ecstasy getting a memory for life right there. “Cowboys from Hell” put an end to what was without a doubt one of the best shows of the entire festival.

But there was still more. The French metal titans Gojira were up next on the Vampire Stage performing in front of a massive crowd as expected. Inspired by groove, death and progressive metal, Joe Duplantier (vocals and guitar), Mario Duplantier (drums), Christian Andreu (guitar) and Jean-Michel Labadie (bass) put on an intense show both musically and visually showing different images on the screens that matched the songs being played. They sounded very tight throughout the set, which featured some fan-favorites like “Flying Whales”, “The Art of Dying”, “Another World” and “Stranded”, where confetti was thrown into the crowd. Technical guitar riffs and bass lines, energetic drum beats and intense vocals along with the visual effects were the recipe for an impressive show.

The last band of the day was Ghost, who became very popular in just a few years thanks to very catchy songs and a strong visual component that keeps changing with every record. Founded by Tobias Forge (Papa Emeritus) (ex Repugnant, ex Subvision) in 2006, he managed to keep the band going despite many lineup changes within the anonymous “Nameless Ghouls” (this is how the other band members are known) that now look like steampunk ghouls.
The beginning was with “Kaisarion” from their latest album “Imperia” (2022) followed by one of their sing-along hits, “Rats”. During “Miasma”, the character of Papa Nihil who was “killed” at the final show of the band’s previous tour, was wheeled out onto the stage and brought “back to life”, playing a saxophone solo. A very theatrical show as usual (flames and confetti included) that was very entertaining, but despite the great atmosphere and sing-along hits such as “Cirice”, “Dance Macabre”, “Mary On a Cross”, “Year Zero” and “Square Hammer”, for some reason it felt a bit short.


For us the last day started with the Norwegian black/thrash outfit Aura Noir, who delivered a very powerful performance on the Moonlight Stage. Most of the festival goers who are into extreme metal were in the tent and the atmosphere was perfect for listening to gems like “Black Metal Jaw” or “Conqueror”. A pleasant surprise was Jimi Hendrix’s cover, “Manic Depression”, performed in their own style which worked very well, while the finale came with “The Stalker” from their album “Hades Rise” (2008).

The Norwegian hard rock legends Stage Dolls are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, so they were playing a very special set with their best songs when we approached the main stage. The last three songs performed were their hit “Love Don’t Bother Me”, the Def Leppard-esque “Still in Love” and “Soldier’s Gun” to an audience that was clearly enjoying themselves, many of them were fans who have been following the band since the 80’s, and that was wonderful to witness!

The doom metal masters Candlemass and melodic death metal pioneers In Flames were playing at the same time on two different stages, so we got to see a bit of each performance. The former opened with their classic “Mirror Mirror” followed by another anthem, “Bewitched”, which was cut short so they could play a bit more songs in the little time they had. Personally, I’ve seen them quite a few times now and they never disappoint, no matter how many years go by, they still deliver an incredible dose of doom metal. On the other hand, In Flames, who played a set with a lot of old school melodic death material last time they played in Oslo late last year, this time they opted for a set with a bit more modern stuff just like they did when they played Tons of Rock in 2019. Songs like “The Mirror’s Truth”, “Alias” and the catchy “I Am Above” were all there and especially a new generation of fans went crazy over them. By the way, this is the first time they’ve played Norway with their current session bass player Liam Wilson, who recently replaced Bryce Paul.

One of the projects of Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, Puscifer, was next on the Vampire Stage. Unsurprisingly, it was a very theatrical performance where Keenan and co-vocalist Carina Round appeared on stage with strange make-up and hairstyles and dressed in dark suits and ties like some kind of agents out of movies like Men in Black. There were also aliens on stage with lightsabers chasing them while they ran after each other.
Musically they’re a weird but solid mix of genres that fall somewhere between alternative rock and synthpop. Very experimental and visually bizarre, but at this point, it should come as no surprise how creative Keenan’s mind can be.

The legend himself Iggy Pop, who is now 76 years old, delivered a fantastic performance on the Scream Stage. He can still sing the same way as before and treated fans with one classic after another from his solo career, as well as material from The Stooges with impressive energy and audience interaction. Early in the set, we got the Stooges’ “TV Eye”, also performed by Guns N’ Roses three days before, “Raw Power” and “Gimme Danger”. But the highlights were definitely the super catchy hit “The Passenger” (with trombone and trumpet included!), “Lust for Life” and the influential “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. Instead of another classic, he chose to end the show with “Frenzy” from his new album “Modern Day Rip Off” released this year. Amazing show!

Genre variety is taken seriously at this festival and that was clear when just after Iggy Pop finished his show, the Swedish heavy/power metal masters Hammerfall performed to a packed Moonlight stage. This was a show for the books. Joacim Cans (vocals), Oscar Dronjak (guitars), Pontus Norgren (guitars), Fredrik Larsson (bass) and David Wallin (drums) owned the audience. Everybody was singing along the catchy choruses of such heavy metal classics as “Blood Bound”, “Renegade”, “Last Man Standing” and “Let the Hammer Fall”. The energy was unique, even more so with the last song, the catchy “Hearts on Fire”. Great setlist!

The headliners were the Norwegian act Kvelertak who always put on a wild rock show full of energy and attitude, and this time pyros too. The fans were constantly crowdsurfing and it was certainly the largest number of people being sent over the barricades in the entire festival, so the guards had a lot more work to do during this time. It seems that people wanted to give it all knowing that this was the last chance in this year’s edition. The band performed the singles “Krøterveg til Helvete” and “Skoggangr” from their new album “Endling” and some of their best songs including “Kvelertak”, “1985”, “Crack of Doom” (originally in collaboration with Mastodon) and “Bruane Brenn”, closing with “Bråtebrann” where vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen (who took over after Erlend Hjelvik’s departure) launched himself into the crowd and at the end of the song there were fireworks concluding another successful edition of Tons of Rock. Once again it was confirmed that this is the biggest festival in the country, with excellent organization and logistics, and they have no plans to stop growing. Next year is their 10th anniversary, so we’ll see what surprises they bring. See you there!


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