Monday, March 30, 2009

Anthem - Anthem

I hate this album. It has given me the auditory equivalent of blue balls in needing the rest of Anthem's discography. With more oooohs, aaaahs, screaming, wailing and thumping than a seven day sex spree, Anthem's eponymous debut album is a must have for anyone who loves classic riffs, memorable guitar lines and the 80's style that made bands like Accept, Scorpions and Saxon so damn great at their peak. While not quite as savory as country-mates Loudness, Tokyo's Anthem are capable of inducing a trip to the chiropractor and a definite need for tylenol to take care of those sore arm muscles after having your fist raised to the sky for the duration of this album. The need to bang your head, try to sing along to the mostly Japanese lyrics and play air guitar while doing David Lee Roth styled jumps off your parent's furniture is reason enough to find a copy of this underrated gem and invite the local metalheads over for boozing.

Eizo Sakamoto's vocals are genuinely top notch. He's got range, attitude and a penchant for great catchy vocal ideas. Mixed within his traditional metal vocal onslaught are ballsy yet catchy engrish phrases that no self-respecting fan of metal could help but yell at top volume. Screaming lines like "Wild Anthem, Please Give Me Action" is both invigorating and necessary to help let out what I assume are repressed metal moments I never had due to a later-than-preferred birth date. Most important about Anthem's lyrics is that they are fucking fun! Trying to match Sakamoto's soaring voice while driving home from work makes me want to sew a replica of Ross The Boss' costume that he used in the "Gloves of Metal" video and run screaming down the street. Sakamoto balances his over the top metal vocals his excellent attitude, a bit of snarling might and catchy melodies with Anthem's powerful heavy songs.

Hiroya Fukuda's guitar playing is another stand out aspect of this album. Aside from having a classic tone. he also has a classic style. Much like Loudness' Akira Takasaki, it is easy to say that he has taken large influence from Eddie Van Halen. In the case of Anthem however, Fukuda is very likely influenced more by Takasaki himself considering how known Loudness were by the time Anthem's first album was released. Fukuda is not quite as "wild" as Takasaki on albums like Thunder In The East or Lightning Strikes though at times he shares a habitual use for screaming notes and insane note bending like ......Takasaki. His rhythm playing is spot on and he isn't afraid to add flourishes such as in "Warning, Action!" and "Shred," which appears as a bonus track on my copy along with "Steeler" and "Ready To Ride." "Steeler" and "Shred" are the better two though "Ready To Ride" shows a definite adoration for Manowar with a riff two thirds of the way stolen from the intro to "Fast Taker." Fukuda shines in his solos and rips through memorable leads continuously throughout the album. "Star Formation" has a particularly well composed solo though the solo in "Red Light Fever" is my personal favorite. "Lay Down" shows Fukuda experimenting a bit with an atmospheric prelude before an out of control solo in that track.

Naoto Shibata and Takamasa Ohuchi supply the powerful rhythm section on bass and drums (respectively). Though the album's focus is squarely on Sakamoto and Fukuda, it would be a drastic mistake to ignore the importance that these two play on making this disc work. Shibata is necessary to drive this album forward as his bass playing is always audible and fills in some of the albums thin production. At other times, such as in album highlight - highlight for me at least - "Warning, Action!" he plays a more lead bass role and really helps some fill riffs and bridges to pop. He also lays down a sweet bass solo amongst his walking bass lines in "Racing Rock" which would otherwise be a track of filler for me. Ohuchi is accurate, on time, and interesting. He doesn't do anything absurdly technical, never really astounds but is always playing and doing something. He plays a lot of fills and never in places they don't fit. I adore Ohuchi's drum tone, it reminds me of my days playing as a garage band.

This album also contains a verifiable strong lineup of songs. With strong songs like "Wild Anthem", "Warning, Action!", "Star Formation", "Red Light Fever", and "Blind City" there are tracks throughout "Anthem" that will surely grab your attention instantly if you can get around some of the Japanese vocals. The problem is that these strong tracks make weak tracks like "Turn Back To The Night" and "Rock N Roll Stars" stand out. Ashame too because "Turn Back To The Night" has the best production on the whole album. I say this because the guitar tone can at times sound a bit thin. Not a thin that would make you want to not listen but a thin in that the volume and mastering just didn't do much to bring those instruments up front a bit more. I also seemed to find spots where I got a strange volume fluctuation? If anyone else notices this it would be interesting to hear from you so I know that this isn't just a problem with my disc.

Check this out. It's is a great album and an unknown relic that is worth hearing for anyone into Loudness, classic heavy metal or Japanese Metal. It's an album that has made me a fan of Anthem not for the sweet riffs, excellent vocal melodies, gimmicky engrish, bass fills, old-school production job (where each song has a slightly different sound), or ripping solos but because its a damn fun album with memorable songs, fine musicianship and nostalgic feel. On to Tightrope!

No comments: