Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 25: Snowy Shaw

Swedish artist Snowy Shaw is perhaps best known for his work as the drummer for King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. But he is also a vocalist and a multi-instrumentalist that has played with bands such as Therion, Memento Mori, Notre Dame, Dream Evil, Dimmu Borgir and many more. Snowy has also worked a lot as a solo artist. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson talked with Snowy about the five records that rocked his world.

“Five albums that have made a huge impact on me as a musician and been life-changing to the core. If only I had a penny for every time I have repeated this in interviews. An almost impossible task. With so many influential albums it is of course hard to pick out just five and if you’d ask me tomorrow the list might look a little different but the first couple are carved in stone as life-changing.”

KISS “Destroyer” (1976)

“To this day, this is still the masterpiece I use as a benchmark for everything I do. Or actually that whole sensation and wow experience it represented to me as a seven-year-old fan of horror and superhero comics. Prior to that, I listened casually to pretty much everything that the older and tougher guys in my world were listening to, like Deep Purple, Nazareth, Sweet, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and so forth. But it wasn’t until I accidentally stumbled over this LP at a local store that sold comic books, posters and toys among other things like LPs. At first, I didn’t even know what it was, a calendar from Marvel or something but one thing that I knew was that I just had to have it regardless of what the hell it was because it looked so amazingly awesome. Unexpectedly, on top of the visual impact, it turned out to be the most cinematic and fantasy triggering heavy rock music I had ever heard. All due to the amazing production of genius Bob Ezrin. It was like listening to the soundtrack of a dark action movie with layers of effects. Truly it was one of those before/after moments and from that moment on nothing else mattered. KISS was everything (for the next two years or so). We’re talking life-changing albums here but I’d go as far as to say this was a life saver. Hadn’t it been for this, I don’t think my life would have developed in the direction it did which eventually led to me becoming a musician myself. KISS gave me a chance to dream of something bigger and more fantastic than what I was destined for: working in the nearby Volvo factory. In fact, without my introduction to KISS and ‘Destroyer’ I might have ended up a criminal suburban junkie, in jail or dead.”

Manowar “Into Glory Ride” (1983)

“Although I was there from the debut, which I loved, but it wasn’t until here on their second album where they found their own unique and epic style and sound, although lots of people complain about the poor sound production and lack of low end. I guess they fail to fathom the sheer epic brutality that to me is Manowar. Must be false metallers or posers then… Gradually as the 80s heavy metal phenomenon progressed towards a more Americanised radio-friendly commercialised style by the mid-80s, ‘Into Glory Ride’ became my black bible, slightly ahead of ‘Hail to England’. It probably wasn’t until then I fully understood and took their motto of ‘Death to False Metal’ to my heart, wholeheartedly. To me they came to represent ‘true metal’. A powerful unit with strong integrity that followed no trends or fashion but their very own path. Eric Adams is probably my all-time favourite singer and warlord leader Joey DeMaio was my own real-life superhero. What KISS represented to me in the 70s, Manowar did in the 80s. Funnily how they would later totally rip off the artwork of ‘Destroyer’, which ruined it for me and I actually cried, I shed a tear. I sensed that this was the beginning of the end and sadly they would later become a parody of themselves. However, I still hold to this day this early period and ‘Into Glory Ride’ in particular as a sacred masterpiece and one of my biggest musical influences ever. In fact, it’s written in my testament that at my Viking funeral ‘Gates of Valhalla’ must be played.”

Uriah Heep “Sweet Freedom” (1973)

“As I just mentioned, I loathed the way my beloved metal music turned by the mid-80s, where the new trend for household names was to be more commercial and Americanised. With a few exceptions, I basically gave up on contemporary bands’ music but since I still had a huge hunger for new music that necessarily didn’t have to be new. Thus, I turned my eyes to older music I had previously kind of missed for being too young in the 70s. Such as Alice Cooper, Sparks and Arthur Brown but, above all, Uriah Heep. I had heard a few songs by them before but thought it sounded old fashioned and boring compared to Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Accept, etc. Once I did overcome the threshold of the rather poor sounding recordings, I discovered the most fabulous compositions. I may have my favourite highlights on other Byron era albums, like ‘Return to Fantasy’, ‘Look at Yourself’, etc, but I consider ‘Sweet Freedom’ their most even effort and, above all, it was my introduction to the wonderworld of Uriah Heep, undoubtedly one of my biggest musical influences. The title track is, by the way, another one for my funeral.”

Mercyful Fate “Melissa” (1983)

“Always in search for new heavier music, in 1983 I bought a compilation LP and there was a song called ‘Black Funeral’ by Mercyful Fate that I really found intriguing yet catchy, not to mention the impressive high falsetto vocals where he sang ‘Oh Hail Satan!’ and all that provocative and dangerous stuff. Me and my buddy Sharlee would try to pick out and play the song in our suburban rehearsal room. As this was long before internet, it wasn’t until later I read an article in OKEJ, Sweden’s main music publication, where I saw that they hailed from Denmark, our neighbouring country. My 15-year-old self also learned that their singer called himself King Diamond and was a real Satanist in evil-looking corpse paint and a mic stand of human bones among other scary things. Did that scare me? Nope! As shocking as it was, I immediately ran to the record store and bought ‘Melissa’, which I thought was incredibly mysterious and progressive with super complex time changes and I couldn’t understand for the world how they could remember all the parts. Little did I know then what time had in store for me. Only six years later I’d be replacing Mikkey Dee in King Diamond and a few years later be the only non-original member of the reunited Mercyful Fate. I would also persuade my best buddy Sharlee to swap to bass guitar so that he could join the groups. This and so much more, read all about it in the ‘Book of Heavy Metal’, my life story and autobiography.”

“Lastly, album #5 and here’s when it gets a little tricky. Should I go with ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ (Judas Priest, 1976), ‘Rising’ (Rainbow, 1976), ‘Mob Rules’ (Black Sabbath, 1981), ‘Restless and Wild’ (Accept, 1982), ‘Live and Dangerous’ (Thin Lizzy, 1978), ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ (AC/DC, 1976). I could really have picked any of them as life-changing albums depending on what day you’d ask but today I’m gonna go with Sweet’s ‘Strung Up’.”

The Sweet “Strung Up” (1975)

“This double album collection of hits and a rough live album helped lay the foundation of my taste and likes in music forever. Plus, Mick Tucker is probably my all-time biggest drumming influence and I learned playing by pretty much stealing everything from him.”