アンセム / Anthem - Anthem (1985) - Not bad for a first strike - 72% (09/09/12)
Anthem is a Japanese heavy metal band that kicked off its career with this self-titled release back in 1985. The guys from Tokyo play traditional heavy metal with a lot of passion but fail to write really addicting, gripping and outstanding songs on their first strike. The record has many repetitive passages and a lack of originality. They clearly don't come close to the quality of their genre colleagues Loudness who are often mentioned as references. Nevertheless, these guys have still enough talent to sound promising and create an enjoyable listening experience.
The most outstanding parts of Anthem are definitely the vocals. They are quite unique and varied and always sound a little bit over the top. I would describe them as truly emotional and sometimes even hysterical. One also gets a couple of truly well performed guitar solos on this release with many interesting ideas such as unique distortion sounds giving the tracks a more progressive vein at some points. Sadly, the production doesn't do the great guitar performance justice and sounds a little bit thin and especially the riffs suffer a lot from this. The rhythm section is tight but not spectacular at all. The bass guitar as well as the drums and precussions are just there to build the backbone of the songs without feeling the need to stand out. That's why many tracks sound a little bit too similar on this release.
As highlights on this debut release, I would definitely cite the crushing "Warning Action" and the energizing album closer "Steeler" that convince with incredible guitar solos in quite fast paced and energizing tracks. This pitiless but still emotional speed attacks are definitely worth to be checked out.
There are also a couple of tracks that have a slightly progressive vein thanks to distorted guitar sounds and some unexpected slow breaks that interrupt some heavier and sped up passages. These songs would be "Red Light Fever" as well as "Turn Back To The Night" and especially "Star Formation" which is another album highlight. The hectical and progressive passages of these three songs make me think a little bit of Voivod while the catchier moments such as the main riffs or the choruses are comparable to what more traditional genre colleagues and inspirations such as Aria, Judas Priest or of course Loudness had created around the same time.
The catchiest tracks on this release are "Lay Down" and "Blind City" in my opinion. They are quite easy to follow slow to mid tempo tracks with solid hooks or sing along passages. The latter track reminds me positively of early Savatage thanks to some energizing heavy metal riffs, a couple of technically well done breaks that prove the musical talent of this young band as well as some energizing guitar solos once again. The most stunning aspect is though the rough but always emotional vocal effort in this song that makes me think a little bit of the legendary Jon Oliva in his early years. That's the moment where this band really gives me some solid goose bumps.
In the end, this release is all but a weak album and has many promising moments and well executed tracks. The biggest problem in here is the lack of originality at some points, a clear guiding line and some experiments that would have freshed up this release a little bit. As this is a debut release, this factor is nothing surprising and tolerable at a certain point but the band already sounds a little bit too old fashioned at some points even though they prove that they are able to do better, especially from a technical point of view concerning the great guitar play and the variable vocals. That's why I'm positive that they could have already done better than this and probably didn't put enough effort into the final release. I would somewhat compare this album to a rough diamond that has not been cut, shaped and polished yet to truly shine.
If you are a genre fan and want to purchase this rare Japanese gem, be sure to get the limited edition with the very solid bonus tracks "Ready To Ride" which is a quite catchy mid tempo banger that should have made on the debut record as well as the less spectacular but still classic vintage heavy metal track "Shed".« Freelancers (2012) - There is not much content in this - 4/10 (08/09/12)Oomph! - Des Wahnsinns fette Beute (2012) (9,5/10) »