Review: King Kobra – Sweden Rock Live (Deluxe Edition)

Review: King Kobra – Sweden Rock Live (Deluxe Edition)

Deko Entertainment (July 30th 2021)

Reviewer: Jason Hopper

King Kobra…one of those bands that just seemed to elude my ears for decades. In the late 90s, I decided to purchase their album ‘Thrill Of A Lifetime‘. I was less than impressed and decided to sell it. I then heard from fans of the band years later that it was a weak release and that they had better albums. I heard sporadic songs from their catalog here and there (‘Hunger‘, ‘Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)‘) but nothing that really grabbed me and made me want to check out another album from them. I am well aware of the members of the band and all the various bands they either previously played with or would go on to join years later.

When I heard that King Kobra was releasing ‘Sweden Rock Live (Deluxe Edition‘, a concert from their 2016 Sweden Rock Festival performance and featuring the vocal stylings of Paul Shortino, I figured now was a good time to check out not just a band with some remarkable musicians, but also a de-facto greatest hits collection. This is a remastered version of the album previously released in 2018 with three additional songs left off the initial release. After a full play through, never have I experienced a live album that started out so well and then suddenly takes a hard left turn into the town of Shitsville.

The first eight tracks sound great.  Tunes like ‘Ready To Strike’,  ‘Tear Down The Wall’, and ‘Live Forever’ all sound like a band starved from years of inactivity finally getting a chance to play some much loved tunes for a crowd who waited years for this moment. While I prefer the vocal stylings of Mark (Marcie) Free, especially on the tracks I was previously familiar with, Paul does a fine job onstage with the material. I even enjoyed the (abbreviated) cover of W.A.S.P.’s ‘Wild Child’, despite finding it odd that bassist Johnny Rod would choose to cover a song from his former band that he had no involvement in creating.

Track 9 is where it all goes wrong. The second cover of the set and once again an abbreviated version of a song, only this time, they choose to cover strictly the guitar solo portion of ‘Highway Star’. A great song, but the least exciting portion of the song to play to a crowd. This is immediately followed by another cover (Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven and Hell’) and is basically an a cappella version with one of the guitarists plucking a few chords and drummer Carmine Appice clicking some sticks together. Maybe it worked better in a live setting, but including it here is pointless. Almost as pointless as a drum solo track on a strictly audio release, which is Track 13.  No one, and I mean no one, listens to a audio recording of a drum solo and gets enjoyment out of it. It’s only appeal is visual.

Finally, there’s the special hell that is Track 12, the worst live song that was ever placed on an album release. ‘Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)’, which is one of the three new tracks and arguably one of their most well known songs, contains no lyrics by Paul Shortino. The only words in the song are from the background vocals from the other band members in the chorus. Being that I cannot see what is happening during the song, I can only assume the decision was made to have the crowd sing the song, which comes across terribly here, since they cannot be heard. What an absolutely wasted opportunity and confounding why they would include it here. It’s clear why it was initially left off the standard release.

Of the other two new songs added back in, neither did much for me. ‘Monsters and Heroes’, a tribute song to Ronnie James Dio, is the best of the three, but I did not care for the numerous tempo and time changes crammed into the song, making its flow clunky. ‘Runnin Wild’ closes the album. It’s an ok song, but I never found it a song suitable for Mr. Shortino’s vocals. It’s the type of song that needs a high energy performance, and he does not deliver that here.

Speaking of energy levels, another issue is the small talk between songs. On Dokken’s live Beast From The East album, Don Dokken said to the crowd, “Are you ready for a Rock N Roll party toniiiight?!”  Paul Shortino’s banter to the crowd consists of him complaining that he is cold…twice. His conversations with the crowd are listless, monotone, and uninspired. They do nothing to rile the crowd up.

If you are considering buying this album, the first half is all you need. 16 tracks with three covers, a drum solo, and a full lyrical song performed with no lyrics is just such a bizarre choice for a live set, but an even worse decision to make if you want to release it as a live album. Mr. Shortino’s energy level seems to greatly diminish on the second half of this album and so did my interest in this release.