CD/DVD Review: Triumph - Live at Sweden Rock Festival

Triumph – Live at Sweden Rock Festival
Metal Works/Universal
All Access Rating: B-
Triumph - Live at Sweden Rock Festival 2012
That other power trio from Canada, Triumph was never flashy or flamboyant. A band of the people that often found itself a punching bag for hostile critics who characterized their meat-and-potatoes hard rock as bland and uninteresting as drywall, the threesome of guitarist/vocalist Rik Emmett, bassist/keyboardist Mike Levine and drummer/vocalist Gil Moore began life in 1975 in an abandoned Toronto- area bowling alley. 
Uncomfortable with being tagged as the white knights of heavy metal, they preferred to be known as a straightforward hard-rock outfit whose tastes gravitated toward simple, heartfelt melodies and big, uplifting anthems. And that’s the way they went out, dying with their boots on, for all intents and purposes, when Emmett, an honest-to-goodness guitar hero, departed in 1988 – although Moore and Levine valiantly kept Triumph going well into 1993, before the disheartening dissolution of their label, Polygram Records, left them with little reason to continue. Dormant for years, the men of Triumph reunited briefly in 2008, not long after being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Shaking off the rust, they returned to the stage in June of that year – at the Sweden Rock Festival of all events, having never played the Nordic country, even during their 1970s and 1980s heyday, when all of their records seemed to go gold.
Released in 2012, coinciding with the arrival of fall, this CD/DVD package documents an inspired and solid, if sporadically flat and listless, performance that makes one wonder if they actually could have endured a full-blown, continent-traversing tour. Sagging noticeably when Triumph wanders aimlessly through the interminably dreamy, Yes-like labyrinth of “Blinding Light Show/Moon Child” and loses its momentum in an overly fussy, unsatisfying “Never Surrender” and a much too delicate “Magic Power,” the “Live at Sweden Rock Festival” set is buoyed by the sinewy, hard-charging “Rock and Roll Machine,” and “Allied Forces,” among other rougher cuts. As tough as longshoremen and just as vigorous, gnarly rockers like Triumph’s grinding cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” – which features an extraordinary, fret-scorching showdown between Emmett and guitar partner Dave Dunlop – and “When the Lights Go Down” are downright nasty, while a particularly muscular “Lay it on the Line” and the glorious showstopper “Fight the Good Fight,” perhaps the greatest motivational speech ever disguised as a classic-rock anthem, make you want to run through a wall.
Given ample opportunity to stretch out and solo like demons, while also delivering tightly wound twin-guitar leads that are well-executed, Emmett and Dunlop prove a formidable tandem, and their dexterity, finesse and rugged riffing are worth the price of admission. The DVD half of this set, however, is not; in fact, it’s damaging to overall impressions of the release. On screen, Triumph displays inconsistent chemistry and is ... well, rather dull, even as flash pots are set off to please a crowd that seems genuinely excited to see their heroes – possibly for the first time ever. And the press conference included on the DVD has such poor sound and is shot at such a terrible camera angles that it adds little to the experience. Still, this could very well be Triumph's last voyage, and if it is, it’s not a bad send-off. Still, some of that magic power they once possessed seems to have gone away.
      - Peter Lindblad

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