Since the famous Japanese power/speed metal band Sex Machineguns is on hold since the departure of drummer Ken’ichi, the two remaining members Achang and Shingo decided to go on hold and form a new band called Maintenance (which is the most accurate translation I could think of for “ザ☆メンテナンス”). The band released its debut record in 2013, entitled Under Construction (or more precisely “工事中”). The cover artwork features a work sign and the likeness of a construction worker as well, making the imagery complete.
Actually, this record could have come from the original band (Sex Machineguns) and features ten fast-paced and joyous anthems somewhere between power, speed, and thrash metal. Clocking in at forty minutes, the band even comes around with a few strangely humorous topics in their unique lyrics. It’s easy to hear that the energizing quartet has a great chemistry and also a lot of fun.
This kind of approach has its obvious flaws and strengths. A clear negative aspect is that many of the ten tracks sound quite alike, and a truly experimental or outstanding song is missing here. This doesn’t mean that the musicianship isn’t great or that there are fillers, but the record is missing an obvious live anthem or hit single. The band missed the chance to create something fresh with its new band members. This release pretty much sounds like a Sex Machineguns record released under a different banner.
On the other hand, the album is quite straightforward, and doesn’t waste any time with overambitious introductions, instrumental transitions, or hidden cover tracks as some colleagues tend to do these days. Forget about half-hearted ballads, intellectually inspired lyrics, or progressive experiments. Even from the shortest to the longest track here, there aren’t too many differences.
The shortest song on the album clocks just below three minutes and is called “Blue Whale”. This track has a heavy/thrash metal approach with a few simple sing-along parts reminding me of American big four thrash metal band Anthrax, Japanese legends Loudness, the British icons from Motörhead, or the Canadian speed metal institution Razor.
The longest track is the hyper-fast and extremely aggressive five-minute madness “Emergency Alert”, which comes around with tinny drum play, bumblebee guitar tones, a few fast and funky bass guitar licks, dirty and raw vocals, and a chaotic mixture of background shouts, vocal samples, and siren sounds. This track sounds like a mixture of Metallica’s “St. Anger”, Slayer’s “Reign In Blood”, Stormtroopers Of Death’s “Speak English Or Die”, and maybe System Of A Down’s “Toxicity”. To keep it short, this track is absolutely stunning and my personal highlight on the album.
If you like any of the aforementioned bands, and if you are familiar with the extreme and uncompromising sounds of Japanese music (where anything can peak the charts – from psychedelic piano ballads up to unchained metalcore headbashing), this release is for you. Under Construction is a powerful, fun ride for heavy, thrash, and speed metal fans. It’s nothing groundbreaking or original and has a few obvious flaws (such as the extremely edgy and raw production, which is absolutely authentic but hard to digest), but for what it is, this release is quite amazing. Sex Machineguns are dead, long live Sex Machineguns!