HistoryVery much like Loudness, Anthem absorbed some hard rock and heavy metal influences such as Rush, became an insiders' item, signed a 'Western' deal, brought in an Anglophone singer and found out that the original line-up sold more and retreated back to Japan! The band was formed as early as 1980 in Tokyo, but was only able to release its debut some five years later. The band was named after Rush’s 1975 song from the Fly By Night LP. The Anthem debut was licensed by Roadrunner in Europe.
Contrary to common knowledge, eventual band leader Shibata Naoto – who had fiddled on guitar as a teenager - was not in the band on day one and was the last of the four original members to join. His experience with Black Hole (he had also been in a Wishbone Ash covers’ band) and his being the eldest of the four members, as well as his endurance, pushed him into a leadership position eventually. Two members from Black Hole ended up in two different X-Rays. The early members of Anthem had the following nicknames: Shibata was Magnum, singer Toshihito was Anvil (and also ‘Tony’), guitarist Koyanagi (ex-Jyunihitoe and later in Sabrina) was Raven and Ouchi was Venom. Jyunihitoe is the twelve layered kimono of the Heian era. Bassist Shibata and drummer Hirotsugu Homma were in Loudness during the down years later. The former had initially joined Sly before quickly backing out and opting for Loudness.
Like most bands of its time in Japan, Anthem plays above average and classy HR/HM.
Anthem was discovered at a battle of bands by management in its early days. The early singer was Toshihito Maeda who left in 1984. He was later heard with the band Dancer and even later in Groove Master and TYO. With Maeda on vocals the band recorded a two-song demo featuring Warning Action and Wild Anthem – a name that would become the band fan club’s newsletter name later in the ‘80s - in 1984 that showcased his vocals having a higher pitch than his two successors. Other early tracks are I Can’t Take It and Running Fire. These were made available on the Official Bootleg compilation in 2005. The band and the song Warning Action appeared on vinyl on the Heavy Metal Force compilation courtesy of Explosion Records in July 1984. Sakamoto Eizo took Maeda’s place, but was replaced, in turn, by Morikawa Yukio in 1988. The band had a 1985 EP called Ready To Ride and already included English versions of several songs from its debut here. The two unreleased tracks were eventually added to the re-release of the Anthem (debut) album. Album number two was 1986’s Tightrope. The band was contracted to contribute to the soundtrack for Dragonslayer’s Xanadu, a contact and skillset that would come in handy in the later more lean years. The band was also working with Azuma George as “supervisor.’ This man would also work with Loudness and even found the Killer guitar company with Loudness’ Takasaki Akira. Anthem appeared on Japanese rock television playing songs with accompaniment of a foreign horn section. Nobody knows why. Vocalist Sakamoto left after Bound To Break. It was announced that he was burnt out by all the touring, but watching the band’s interview on The Show Carries on reveals that he had decided to depart prior to the recording’s completion. The man who would go on to work at an eyeglass shop was either suffering stage fright or was ill or both as those things could be construed as being the same thing anyway. Sakamoto would relay that he wanted to branch out into different genres. Hiroya Fukuda left in 1990. That year was also haunting for the band due to a show with Saber Tiger and Tilt at Hokkaido’s Penny Lane 24, dubbed Hard Shock ’90, going awry. The band and its equipment were stranded before getting on the ferry to the island due to the cold wintry weather and rough waters. The Japanese Emperor’s parade that week had caused several pieces of equipment to not arrive by air freight and be delayed as well. After trying, and failing, to get on a second ferry the band returned the next day and finally arrived on the island without equipment. The promoters promise rental equipment after the band ponders cancelling, but the band is dissatisfied with rental equipment that arrived late and before show time. The show went on nonetheless.
Fukuda’s departure was because he suffered from hearing loss. Guitarist Hideaki Nakama of Hurry Scuary, who had released a solo album, joined and was only heard on a compilation CD/side B of a single. Japan’s answer to Yngwie Malmsteen lasted less than a year and left due to musical differences in November 1991. He was reportedly also frustrated by a lack of progress by the band commercially. He took leave of Japan and moved to California to form a band. The unknown Akio Shimizu took his place. Yukio stayed until 1992, which was the year the gang broke up. That means Shimizu had one Anthem record to his name to date before the break-up. The group issued Last Anthem to mark the occasion. The band’s former vocalist is known for his anime/metal hybrids, but Shibata’s Project was also reinterpreting anime and game music. Shibata worked on computer video games composing and arranging and re-arranging music for games like Perfect Selection Dracula Battle, with guitarist Shimizu Akio, by his side. Takahama Yusuke was on synthesizer. Takahama would not only release singer Sakamoto Eizo’s music on his Target Entertainment, but also play keyboards on later Anthem albums as needed. Yukio and Akio founded Hollywood and Sonic Squad together. As mentioned, two members also spent time being ‘mere’ musicians in Loudness as well during this decade. Loudness was the rare Japanese band to keep on trucking whilst the entire scene had collapsed and most bands broken up. A reformation occurred in 2000 and Eizo was on vocals. First though was the self-cover record Heavy Metal Anthem featuring older tracks and Graham Bonnet. This line-up played shows. Coincidentally, Yukio had been lending his vocals to Rainbow covers recently!
Seven Hills was recorded in California, USA with Eizo Sakamoto on vocals. Newcomer Homma was on drums. The act had a Japanese-only DVD called The Show Still Carries On in 2003. The new version of The Show Carries On was dubbed The Show Carries On! - Complete Version and was a fuller version of the 1987 album released in 2005. This 1987 recording had also been re-released with bonus tracks as Back Then in 2001. Prologue was a three-disc set from three different concerts in 2005. That year was the band’s official twentieth anniversary, and as something that would become a ritual, all past and present members gathered on stage to the fans’ aural and visual satisfaction. All this was immortalized on the 20th Anniversary Tour DVD. A bonus DVD of 2005 was included by Replica for the European release of Immortal. In 2009 Eizo Japan, was a new project featuring Anthem singer Eizo Sakamoto and Area51 guitarist Yoichiro Ishino which was dedicated to playing metal covers of popular anime themes. The band has released part 2 of its debut in Japan. The Live Immortal DVD was issued in 2009. Burning Oath was not Victor/JVC any longer, but on Universal. It was Homma’s last. His departure was attributed to several motorcycle accidents. Homma would reportedly maintain his drum sponsorship and teach on the stool. Homma and, his replacement, Tamaru would share drum duties on Burning Oath. Anthem had had to postpone its Japanese tour of early 2013 after bassist Naoto Shibata was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The band's next show was now Ozzfest Japan on May 11 and May 12th at the Makuhari Messe Arena, near Tokyo. Anthem's latest studio album, Burning Oath, was issued in the autumn of 2012. Eizo left in 2014 and was replaced by predecessor and replacement, Yukio, again. With us still? Yukio Morikawa re-joined in 2014. Absolute World was the result. The group signed with Nuclear Blast Records for the European territory in 2018. The first release under the new contract would be a greatest hits album called Nucleus featuring re-recordings of the band's better-known songs sung in English. Shibata published an autobiography with an emphasis on his life in Anthem in that year. The band ventured outside Japan to play at Keep It True XXII in 2019. The Man was a side-project of the members and Gargoyle’s Kentaro. Later, Masatoshi Ono (Garnerius), Yuki (Garnerius) and Kishi Shima (Concerto Moon) would also be guests. The cover band issued a live album. The Man is an anagram of Anthem. Also, re-treading old hits was 2020’s Explosive -Studio Jam- which featured Graham Bonnet (again). The band announced acoustic shows in Japan for early summer and Anthem Vs. Anthem 2001 shows featuring older members in early autumn 2021 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its reformation. Interestingly, Fukuda and Sakamoto had announced they would play together in an unnamed act. Fukuda was playing several solo shows in July 2021. Anthem 35+ was a DVD of the band’s 35th anniversary shows, which took place in mid-2021 after being postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic. Eight current and former members took part including the late addition of Hiro Homma. Graham Bonnet was scheduled, but could not attend due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The band’s recordings for a new album had also been delayed for the same reason. The band was booked for the Headbangers Open Air festival in Europe in 2022.
Anthem – Love Of Hell
English Translation Version:
Ah! alone in the world without light
Ah! burned your heartless smile
Your lies will kill my heart day by day
Cannot reach the Innocence even though I reach out
Your sigh will keep on licking up my heart
The evil mirage that cannot be separated
Ah! alone in the world without tomorrow
Ah! dance your fearless flame
Your eyes can fake me straight in my face
However repeating no pain bleeding
Oh, my mind is bound in chains, all the way
Falling again to a loneliness dreamer
I don't care, destination love of hell
Please save me once again
I don't mind, destination love or hate
Please save me forever
It is all Inside out now
You stole my soul
It is all upside down tonight as well
Set me free baby
I want you to set me free
Yes, I know
Ah! 焼き付いたお前のheartless smile
Your lies will kill my heart day by day
Your sigh will keep on licking up my heart
Ah! 舞い踊るお前のfearless flame
Your eyes can fake me straight in my face
Oh, my mind is bound in chains, all the way
I don't care, destination love of hell
Please save me once again
I don't mind, destination love or hate
Please save me forever
You stole my soul
Set me free baby
I want you to set me free
Yes, I know
ANTHEM – ANTHEM – KING/NEXUS
Anthem, the self-titled debut for one of Japan’s mainstay heavy metal bands, was issued by major independent label Nexus in 1985. Nexus is the metal sub-label of King Records. The album is rough around the edges and imperfect, but it is a contender in the outstanding music sweepstakes and a worthy album to own. Nonetheless, it looks like, unlike other countries’ bands, J-Metal groups’ debuts are not always their sole good albums. Did anyone say Van Halen?
The brash and youthful album comes with energy, several speedy cuts, wailing vocals and a commitment to heavy metal that is both driving and melodious. These last qualities will prove to be something of an Anthem attribute over the years.
The album contains ten tracks – although a 1992 Japanese re-release would add the songs Shed and Ready To Ride from the Ready To Ride EP of (also) 1985 as well. Shed would also appear on The Show Carries On live album and video. The songs Wild Anthem and Warning Action, which alongside Steeler are the album’s strongest, were already heard on the band’s sole demo from 1984. That demo featured departed singer Maeda Toshihito who in the interim, and for this album, had been replaced by Sakamoto Eizo. Wild Anthem and Warning Action are the earliest Anthem tracks immortalized on a record. The band regularly plays them to this day and well it should.
The album kicks off with the aforementioned Wild Anthem, which is a superior metal anthem in any country on any day. The song is an Anthem favourite to this day. The first song of the first album establishes Shibata Naoto’s distorted and crunchy bass sound. The song supplies a main riff that is as memorable as is heavy and contains a perfectly metallic use of the tremolo. Wild Anthem is a perennial favourite at Metallian Towers for a good reason. It starts in loud anthemic mode, is fast, heavy and catchy. This is the perfect start to a long-term career. Red Light Fever is up next and, assuming it is about nervousness while recording music, is a perfect title for a song on a debut album. It is a good cue to mention the lyrics. They are inconsequential. Like most Japanese metal bands they mix Japanese and English and do not say much. This habit of mixing Japanese sentences with English words and choruses is neither exclusive to this album nor Anthem in Japan. Anthem’s lyrics are assigned second-tier status here and elsewhere and reading them tells me little about the band’s thoughts. Despite the monicker’s allusion, Anthem is not Rush. Well, no kidding. Red Light Fever is fast and the solo hints at a healthy dose of Van Halen influence. Notwithstanding the breakneck speed this one is not a favourite of mine despite the track being something akin to what one could expect to hear on a Loudness album of the era. The vocals remain in the forefront in the mix. Lay Down is next. The lyrics, “Lay down/Lay Down” are etched in my brain by now. There is a heavy riff here and the song is worthy of an arena sing-along, but there is not much of a song here as the track is repetitious and monotonous. Racin’ Rock (What, the ‘Racing Rock’ style of music was already taken?) is fine and a hard rocker. Eizo exudes attitude as always, the guitars go wild and, this reviewer has to listen to the album specifically for that purpose to swear by it, one hears Anthem’s first ever bass solo on this track. There you go: An Anthem first. Ah, here comes Warning Action. It is a speed fest. The metal guitars throw one crazy riff after another, the vocals scream to hell with abandon and attitude and what is more it makes the listener yearn for more tracks written by Eizo and Naoto. The opener Wild Anthem was also penned by the same duo. This song is in a rush to go places and pushes the speed limit. The energy and the partly tapped extended guitar solos, and those riffs mentioned earlier, make this sound perfect for the soundtrack of a super-fast car racing film. “Warning Action! HEY!!” This one goes on the Repeat button! Turn Back To The Night is two things. It is an opener to Side B and also a puzzle lyrically. ‘The Time To Start Moving is Now, But There Is Nothing To Pull….’ !? The song is musically heavy metal through and through. The bottom-heavy track, with a plodding rhythm, the extended gifted guitar solo with Eizo's shrieks on top make this a winner too. The J-Metal melodies that run through songs like this are a staple of the band and era. Rock’N Roll Stars sing the band next and ‘screw that’ says this reviewer. You are heavy metal stars. That would be a cut above crap ‘n roll. Regardless, this song is rumoured to be one of the band’s first compositions. Lay Down told us to “Lay Down/Lay Down” repeatedly, Warning Action ordered us to “Get Out” and Rock’N Roll Stars insists we should “Get Down/Get Down.” Star Formation begins with an effective riff before giving way to a weaker song that is dominated by the vocals. The solo stands out again, which is a motif with this album, but ultimately it is not superb, which makes an ordinary song even more ordinary. Eizo’s vocals are gasping for breath in his own signature style. This actually lends itself to making the band and album somewhat distinct. Blind City is of a simple construct and has a wailing high-pitched solo, a clear bass underneath that is not so much good as is pumping and a firm backbone for the track. This too is a habit that would become an Anthem staple. Listen towards the song’s end and at the 31:40 mark and the bass guitar does something unusual – if that is the word. Star Formation is such a Japanese HR/HM song. It could have been an early Loudness track or even an Earthshaker tune. The third of the best three tracks on the album is next. Closing track Steeler is almost a speed/thrasher with some very nifty chords and tempo changes. These boys could play and especially the ripping solos on top of the crushing riffs on Steeler are what make this album such a winner despite the filler tunes sandwiched in its middle.
A few additional words need to be said about Sakamoto’s vocals on this album. The vocals are very Japanese. This style and tone are similar to what other Anthem contemporaries, like Earthshaker, Loudness and 44 Magnum offered. The vocals are somewhat hoarse, offer a limited range and like to chant, qualities that are practically the hallmarks of Japanese heavy metal. Sakamoto exudes abandon and energy and does well when he lets loose his wailing screams. Hear a good example in the middle of Lay Down. Nonetheless, it is amazing that this was a singer with no previous experience who had joined the band a mere three months and before recording having been a college student.
The album’s cover artwork seems to depict a chunk of a meteorite struck by a power source and creating an explosion. There is pink mist and a glowing rock formation present. It is as unimportant as most other Anthem album covers as this is something the band never seems to have paid much attention to or actually deliberately paid particular attention over the years to consistently ensure no cover artwork stands out.
Azuma George (i.e. Adzuma Jooji) the guitarist for Laff and FiveX/5X is credited with production here and it remains unclear what that exactly means as this man seems to be a metal entrepreneur wearing multiple hats in Japan. He would go on to be credited with supervision in subsequent Anthem album. The same man also worked with numerous other bands not the least of which would be Loudness. Azuma also established the Killer guitar company with Takasaki Akira of Loudness. Loudness had to be mentioned several times in this review as the better-known of the Japanese heavy metal bands, which had already released five albums by the time Anthem was released. With that said, there should be less of a need to mention Anthem’s contemporaries as time goes by because Anthem establishes and somewhat matches anyone and everyone. At that junction, mentioning Loudness would be valid, but somewhat lazy.
The debut album from July 1985 is really good. It features three of the band’s best tracks, is pure metal and most importantly sets hallmarks for the band from day one that the Tokyo-based quartet adhere to going forward. The three classic tracks are worth the price of the album alone. The vocals exude power and emotion without leaving their range confines, the bass is distorted and fills much space, the drums of Ohuchi Takamasa are competent if never at the forefront and the guitars are heavy Japanese steel. The band is powerful, driving and punchy, the melody and metal are omnipresent, and the lyrics are secondary as is the cover artwork. The trademark amulet-like ‘A’ in the band’s logo is already present here – although it disappears in 1989 and most of the ‘90s before making a comeback later.
Anthem has set the tone and there is more where that came from. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – TIGHTROPE – KING/NEXUS
Tokyo-based Anthem’s second album Tightrope arrived less than two years following the band’s self-titled debut and it is another solid offering of heavy metal. If the debut introduced the band as a reliable and superlative formation, surely a sophomore record like this telegraphs that the band is more than a flash in the pan and here to stay and stay with killer metal.
Tightrope is not quite its predecessor, missing the one-two-three punch of Wild Anthem, Warning Action and Steeler, but it is a contender and powerful nevertheless.
The album kicks off with another fast barnstormer. Anthem likes to start things with a bang. Victim In Your Eyes throws in a trademark J-Metal melody at the 2:10 mark, but the main thing that this song achieves is that the listener hears singer Sakamoto Eizo not so much having changed his vocals as moulded them into something more controlled, focused and compact. The singer still sings his heart out in rasps, but the impression is that the guy has been working on his technique. The ‘oohhhs’ and ‘aaaahhhs’ have multiplied on the album, but the opening cut itself has a formidable delivery. The lyrics are still what they were two years prior. They are not much more than catchphrases and Sakamoto seamlessly and without any sense of irony mixes English and Japanese as if it were the most normal thing in the world. The drums mimic an army marching as the guitars wail along with a crushing solo that is entirely too short. From this album the second track Night After Night has become a staple of the band’s repertoire and for good reason. The hook is immediate. Death To Death stretches those vocal cords including starting the song with a growl. The solo is good albeit short. This dynamic song demands to be played at a loud volume. The title track is called Tightrope Dancer, “Dancin’ On The Blade/Searchin’ For Glory’ and closes Side A of the record. Not sure what that ballerina on the cover is doing on a not so tight of a tightrope in the middle of hell though… well, she is searching for glory… Driving Wire is a favourite. It is a speed metal number with razor sharp riffs that stand for metal and a vocalist that somehow keeps up with it all. That ‘drive’ in the title is not a coincidence. The quartet must have consumed three bowls of doyo no ushi unagi early to have the energy to deliver stuff like this. The guys were not copying Accept, but this track is in a similar vein to the Germans’ speedy numbers. The drummer is smashing his toms to pieces, but the production does not want you to know it. Cool backing chants! Finger’s On The Trigger is up next and has a melody that is a little too obvious. It is by no means a bad song, but is certainly nothing to write home about. It is the weakest track here, although it is abetted by the banshee screams tagged on. Light It Up begins with a rhythm that is reminiscent of a slower version of Motley Crue’s Red Hot. The guitar effects are early Saxon-ish as, on the music front, the song owes its characteristics to NWOBHM. The vocals are rougher than many NWOBHM deliveries however. At six minutes this track is the album’s longest (the entire record is 36 minutes) and is also one – yet another Anthem/animation connection – that appears on the soundtrack of Devilman: The Birth. Maybe it is time to point out that it is difficult to like the drum sound on the album, but one has to make an allowances for this being 1986 after all. The cymbals fare better than the toms or the snare. Black Eyed Tough (“… I’m A Black Eyed Tough”) has a coarser guitar tone and the energy is something to behold. The vocals carry an attitude, the cymbals crash in fast and the guitars cut like a knife. The track has one of these false endings designed to throw radio DJs off!
Tightrope was issued as LP and cassette in the spring of 1986 so when it came to the CD version’s release Nexus came up with the sleazy Back Street Groove as a bonus track. The track includes a dub of car horns blowing which is as rare in japan as is this track. Yet another CD release in the 2000s tagged yet another bonus track, Still I’m In Chain.
As mentioned, the production for Tightrope is satisfactory, but somehow not doing the band any favours either. Nexus had found some money to get sound engineer Ken Kessie to tape, mix and master the record. So bear with me here. Anthem’s manager/agency owner was one Itoh Masa (Itoh Masanori) and he had been working with Japan’s Earthshaker for the last few years. Earthshaker had hired and used Kessie as an engineer on its 1984 album Midnight Flight, an album which was produced by Itoh. Y&T, whose Earthshaker album had obviously influenced the Japanese act Earthshaker, had used Kessie on that album back in 1981, but that is another story. The gambit backfired when the manager and bassist Shibata disliked the mix and demanded it become more rough and tumble like the original rehearsal tapes. This was done to the engineer’s unhappiness and the band’s insistence. It should be pointed out the Kessie, who died some years ago, was basically a pop music producer and not a heavy metal expert. In short, outsourcing production to the USA did not pay off, but Anthem would not learn. Kessie himself would go on to work for J-pop star Amuro Mamie and Suzuki Ami later no less. No joke.
Album number two was licensed in the USA by Restless Records and in France and Europe by heavy metal record company Black Dragon (Exxplorer, Manilla Road, et cetra) Records. The relationship with Restless would continue, but this was Black Dragon’s only record for a Japanese act.
Back in Japan, the band toured up and down the island and hit every city, town, village and rest stop in-between. These and a run of three concerts at the medium-sized venue Shinjuku Loft in Tokyo meant only one thing: Anthem had arrived. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM - BOUND TO BREAK – NEXUS
It is quite a feat to record a third album, improve your sound, maintain your commitment to heavy metal and, in the process, not lose the music’s charm one iota.
And right away one can hear that not only the band has added more layers, but also one can actually hear them clearly. Bound To Break is more multi-layered and complex power metal than the band’s first two albums. Does it lose its speed and heaviness as a result? Not really. This is Anthem after all. It is not quite as fast as Victim In Your Eyes or Wild Anthem from the previous records, but boy listen to the guitars go off in all directions in proto-Painkiller style and that chugging bass sound. The tempo changes are worth the asking price for a CD here. The dangerously good guitar races against and competes with itself in solo after solo and riff after riff. The better sound also means it is farewell to muddy or buried drums. It is not perfection, but close to it keeping in mind that this is 1987 after all.
Bound To Break is a very good album yet runs out of steam in the middle of Side B somewhat. Bound To Break, the title track, is the first entry – a song that is a band staple to this day – and is a fast metallic attack, which is an Anthem pattern for its album openers. It is contagious, uplifting, speedy and features slick guitars. An effect towards the song’s end indicates that something actually breaks. What a heavy metallic ride this is. Empty Eyes bares the better sound even … better. It is on this track where each instrument's distinctiveness can be heard. The drums could be heavier sounding but everything is at least clear and the snare is crisper than the last two albums. The bass is really audible. Empty Eyes hurls the speed and the heaviness without leaving the catchiness behind and here is something else to stick in your CD player for those who love heavy metal guitars and have worn out their Judas Priest albums. Know that this is world-class metal with an original virtuoso solo that veers towards the Classic before going technical. This is heavy metal guitar, boys and girls. The vocals are doubled up towards the song’s end.
Perhaps this is a good time to speak about the producer. The band employed the Briton Chris Tsangarides, who had worked with Judas Priest in the mid-‘70s sure, but more recently had turned the knobs for Anvil. The extra time and expense paid off. The Show Must Go On! (or The Show Must Go On ! [notice the space] on the vinyl’s centre sticker) Is the first Anthem album with lyrics entirely in English. The previous track, Empty Eyes, like Red Light Fever or Rock’N Roll Stars from 1985’s debut, was 90% in English, but did preserve a few Japanese lines. This one is purely written in English and Sakamoto’s pronunciation is surprisingly good. Both Sakamoto and producer Tsangarides are credited for the words on this one song so the language is unsurprising in that context. It was reported that Sakamoto was not only handed a new wardrobe, but was also given a vocal coach before the album’s recording. Sakamoto denies the vocal lesson part, however, so this report is apparently wrong. Personally, nothing on the first two albums and EP tell me he ever needed one. This song is likely aimed at the live environment. It is not as good as the previous two tracks and bends lighter, but it is still heavy and positively memorable in the way it is constructed. The guitars are still on a roll and drift in and out of the comfort zone of something standard with ease. Rock ‘N’ Roll (unlike Rock’N Roll Stars there is space after ‘Rock’ here) is next. Grammar aside, more pertinently, the chorus of “Rock You… Rock Me…” is reminiscent of Helix’s song Rock You with its chorus of “Whatcha Gonna Do? Rock You,” which means that the Japanese have the upper hand in the English language spelling and grammar stakes over the Canadians. Soldiers is another first. It is Anthem’s first socially conscious lyrics. Lines like “Conquest Nightmare/I’ve Had Enough.. Oh, We’re Soldiers” leave no doubt. If only Japan’s right-wing LDP/Jimintoo would pay attention. There is a wonderful melody here that bands have forgotten how to construct. It is not the same melody, but the delicate and harmonious sound and melody takes one back to Eliza’s Scorpion from 1986 and songs of that ilk. Listen intently and one hears a buried vocal track on this song at the 17:50 mark of the album. These are followed by a progressive guitar riff, sentimental backing vocals, an early Iron Maiden-esque guitar rhythm and a continuously warm bass sound given room to breathe that, in tandem with the rest of the song, slows down only to cascade back up. This is an incredible track that, when you think about it, really has it all. This one, like the title track, was entirely written by bassist Shibata Naoto. Limited Lights with its prominent synthesizer and effects is a first instrumental for the band and unusually kicks off side B. These instrumentals were new to Anthem, but would go on to become another band staple. Limited Lights may have been a touch inspired by the quieter moments of Orff’s Carmina Burana. Or it could be an audition for a sci-fi anime! It is basically an intro for Machine Made Dog, although it is not as it appears before Wild Anthem in a later video called The Show Carries On. Machine Made Dog is reminiscent of Udo’s Holy, which would follow this album by 20 years. It is a slower sing-along track, but is not slow. Machine Made Dog is more elaborate and gives each member room to shine. It is a proficient performance, but not one of the band’s better songs. It comes with a catchy chorus and heartfelt singing, but that is where it ends. Machine Made Dog and Driving Wire were featured on Medusa/Restless records’ Heavy Metal Machine – Pull One compilation in 1987. Was Machine Made Dog chosen because of the compilation’s name or even inspire it? Other bands on this sampler were Wild Dogs, Montrose and D.C. Lacroix among others. Machine Made Dog may allow each member to shine, but that does not extend to the title or the lyrics. “Machine Made Dog”? The machine made the dog and then the dog… well, who knows? Lyrics, like cover artwork, are not Anthem’s forte. No More Night (so day?) and Headstrong are merely OK and somewhat filler. These are slow to mid-paced songs searching for a tune. Like Machine Made Dog Sakamoto keeps repeating the title “Headstrong/Headstrong/Headstrong…” The Accept-like song itself is not bad at all, but the chorus is cheesy. Fire ‘N’ The Sword (was the band paying the pressing company by the letter and spelling ‘and’ costly?) is not a Riot cover version (although the name makes it sound like one) and again delivers on the promise of good guitars and drum work. The guitar has a Heart/Barracuda heaviness to it. The guitar licks and tremolo are heavy power metal, which elevate this track from the pedestrian. Guitarist Fukuda Hiroya is going wild. The Snare sound is the best the band has had to date.
This album is frontman Sakamoto Eizo’s last studio album - for a while anyway. It is baffling that someone who had just released his best work, and given his best performance yet, would leave, but rumour had it that he was afflicted by stage fright and illness. Likely, the aforementioned management and label pressure was too all too much. Sakamoto himself says he wanted to sing in different genres and go into a poppier direction. Regardless, three great albums in a three-year tenure is nothing to sneeze at.
The band’s music from this album, namely the song The Show Must Go On!, joins music from its predecessor album on the Devilman anime. The album was praised by Burrn! Magazine upon release in 1987 as being nearly perfect. Don’t hold that against the band. It is actually praise-worthy. It afforded the band a trip to the USA for several shows with Racer X and Commander courtesy of its Restless Records’ release. Not only it is impressive in its own right; it is also notable when one thinks about how Bound To Break was released 35 years ago and is still a better record than so many others released since. The lyrics to Show Must go On! explain the band does not need money, but this album could easily sell more copies than other Anthem releases to date, have the band play to bigger crowds and secure a larger mindshare. This album was bound to break the band big. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – GYPSY WAYS – NEXUS
The year is 1988 and on the one side Metallica’s 1986 Master Of Puppets is converting fans to thrash metal and on another side Guns N’ Roses’ 1987 sleazy blockbuster Appetite For Destruction is transforming the scene’s sensibilities everywhere.
What does Anthem do? Deliver unapologetically solid heavy metal the way the gods intended it to be. Gypsy Ways is the band’s fourth album in four years and nothing is amiss. In fact, the Japanese quartet would be forgiven for missing a beat here; not only was the metal scene changing, but also they had lost singer Sakamoto Eizo three months prior to recording and replaced him with a new frontman, namely Morikawa Yukio. Perhaps coincidentally, or not, Morikawa’s voice here is reminiscent of the band’s occasional other vocalist, Graham Bonnet. As everyone knows - well now you do – the Japanese are not into letting speed bumps slow them down and the band and Morikawa deliver like veterans who have had years to gel. It is impressive. Morikawa has big shoes to fill and in short order, but what is surprising is how the vocalist, despite being the new man, carries the album forth and the guitars feel comparatively subdued.
Gypsy Ways is not quite as guitar-oriented, wild and speedy as its predecessors, but everything in this world is relative and the album still delivers more genuine heavy metal than most bands deliver in a lifetime – or in two lifetimes if all you have is albums by Finnish acts. As recent as the new singer was, Gypsy Ways, issued in May 1988, was preceded by the Gypsy Ways special EP, which while not featuring any exclusive tracks, was a four-song appetizer for the full-length.
The album’s cover features a hand holding burning feathers. This obviously ties in with the record’s title. Burning feathers was a witch's ritual. The mythical Icarus, son of a craftsman, whose burning feathers mid-flight lead to his crashing is the second thing that comes to mind when pondering the implications of Anthem’s cover artwork. The band has never been one to be heavy on symbolism or meaning, but the title and the lyrics reference gambling (“Win, Lose Or Draw”), lady luck, desert and gypsies. ‘Haku-shi ni modosu’ (‘白紙に戻す’) is a Japanese phrase literally translated as ‘return to the white paper.’ It means ‘making a fresh start’ or ‘restarting from a blank canvass.’ It may be more than coincidence if this title and symbolism are deployed with the departure of former singer Eizo and introduction of his replacement Yukio. Otherwise, what do a bunch of Japanese know about the ways of the gypsies? Apparently enough to tell us that a new singer and some hocus pocus is afoot.
The title track Gypsy Ways (Win, Lose Or Draw) kicks off the album with a driving guitar riff, an enigmatic effect, a warm and heavy bass sound, catchy riff and soaring vocals enhanced by, in turn, echo and a reverb. The line-up has changed, but Anthem clearly marches on. Like a heavy metal Led Zeppelin the ending melody could also have been a heavier version of something out of Perfect Strangers. Love In Vain is more melodic. The punchier snare sound makes clear again the band has made the right decision to record with Chris Tsangarides. The production is punchy and rich for 1988. Bob Ludwig, who had worked with Accept, Def Leppard and others in the US, is in charge of mastering again rendering Gypsy Ways another multinational effort. Bad Habits Die Hard begins with one of those trademark J-Metal effects that Earthshaker and Loudness have utilized and is a mid-paced heavy metal track. Ironically, it is the one track with all-English lyrics whereas other songs mix Japanese and English as per Anthem and other Japanese bands' habits. Yukio distinctly emphasizes his "s' for some reason. If you listen carefully the vocals carry some effects and are recorded on multiple tracks. So far, this album has not been as guitar and speed-oriented as its predecessors, but as short as it is the burst of a solo here is impressive. The drums here are like cannon volleys. The tremolo action is nifty. Legal Killing Fire is the track after the cannon drums and sounds more ordinary, but there are the screeching guitars, a tight rhythm and distorted bass on a track that perhaps (like Soldiers on Bound To Break) is a rare Anthem nod to socially conscious lyrics. The songs ends with an ominous “fire fire fire..” reverberating through the speakers. Legal Killing was somewhat restrained, but Anthem lets loose on the next track, Side A's closing cut Cryin' Heart. This is a simultaneously catchy and powerful heavy metal anthem. Perhaps more than any other this track proves bassist Naoto and group made the right choice with Yukio as Eizo's replacement. Pounding drums and powerful vocals propel this song into the annals of Anthem and metal history. Two and a half minutes in and guitarist Fukuda suddenly wakes up and makes up for lost time by blowing the cobwebs off any and all speakers within 600 Shaku. The drums somehow sound different with a heavier pounding approach. It is like the Flintstones are going for the artillery technique. Silent Child is a nondescript hard rock tune that is more bottom-heavy than its neighbours. The vocals are tasked with carrying the melody, the drums the heaviness and the guitars remind one of a Loudness rhythm. Midnight Sun begins with a whammy effect via a synthesizer, which is unusual for Anthem, and extra melodious vocals. The bass is audible but lacklustre. In fact, the song with a sudden tempo change sounds like a B-list Rainbow song from the Joe Lynn Turner era. It may be about Yukon or Northwest Territories, who knows? Seriously, the last time I was in Yukon the hotel, proprietor and half the guests were Japanese and the TV room was equipped with Evangelion anime DVDs. No joke. The guitars come out of their shell on this more restrained of Anthem albums. Shout It Out! Is a hard rocker designed for the live environment and sing-alongs everywhere, but where have I heard the “we don't need no mind control” line? Perhaps that is an unfair comment because how many times have how many bands sung “I love you” or “be my baby, babyyyyyy”? Final Risk appears one slot too early and is Anthem’s car tune. Potentially sponsored by Fuji Heavy Manufacturing Concern, the makers of fine Subaru cars, this song’s guitars are like fireworks. The end effect may hint that the band was engaged in a video game race than an actual car race. This is 1988 and closing track Night Stalker is Ozzy Osbourne's The Ultimate Sin from 1986 musically. Elsewhere, Chris Tsangarides would helm Judas Priest’s Painkiller album containing the song Night Crawler in a scant two years. The lyrics command the listener to hit ’play’ again and again because, “There is no way out/no way out.” Incidentally, the subsequent re-releases of this album bear no bonus tracks.
The band - except for singer Yukio - is back playing several American shows at the time of this record’s release, but by the time Gypsy Ways is done there have been four outstanding albums and Anthem has not appeared live anywhere else. It is not that Anthem is the sole Japanese band that has not toured Canada, Europe, Australia or the rest of Asia. It is that, despite the possibilities made known by Loudness, Anthem is so good and still had not toured elsewhere.. The good news is that it does not affect the music. The bad news is that unless one lives in Japan there are no opportunities to see the band. Anyone up for seeing Kiss or Mötley Crüe again on the latest of the most recent of the newest farewell tours?
Oddities abound as after three albums, and more relevantly, the 1987 mini-tour of USA Gypsy Ways was like its predecessors not on licensed to Medusa/Restless for the USA. Diehard Sakamoto fans maybe?
Gypsy Ways is a reassuring album that is more mid-paced and less flashy than its predecessors, but, in addition to several impressive tracks, points at a confident singer who does better than he should for a first recording. As such, Anthem listeners may take two things away from Gypsy Ways. There is a good heavy metal album here to enjoy. Moreover, there is life after Sakamoto Eizo. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – HUNTING TIME – NEXUS
Anthem’s fifth album is called Hunting Time and, yet again, was released on May 21st. The predecessor album was issued on May 21st 1988. It is only five full-length albums so far, which in the grand scheme of things is not a whole lot, but it feels already as if Anthem is a veteran act. The quartet has established itself and its sound as one of consistency and high quality. Could it live up to the expectation?
A hunting time is symbolized through chess pieces on the cover, which is less abstract than albums past. The band has deemed it necessary to invite keyboardist Yoshitaka Mikuni from the Gypsy Ways’ sessions back here. Read the review to be reassured, but spoilers alert; this is both a good album and heavy disc. Still, this is new-ish singer Morikawa’s second record for the band. How does the band do? Let us see.
The Juggler begins the album and itself begins with a beat reminiscent of music from a '80s’ TV serial - say The Equalizer or Knight Rider - or a song from the same era like Kim Wilde's Kids In America. In Anthem tradition The Juggler goes for the jugg, er, jugular and delivers in speedy fashion. Speaking of the 1980s, the band has switched to regal uniforms here, which many bands like Accept, Running Wild or Yngwie Malmsteen had dressed in around the same time. The juggler is a barnstormer in the skin of an energetic and explosive metal attack. The riffs are smoking, the guitar solo is blazing and frenzied, the bass in for serious business and the track, like any good track, only slows down when it ends. This album is already worth its asking price – if only all the songs were similar to this one- as the listener is treated to a dynamic song with all the flashy ebbs and flows of an Anthem winner. The title track is somehow more sophisticated sounding, but is no less both driving and melodic - the hallmarks of Anthem –and begins with a skilled high-pitched guitar effect before launching into the song proper. The melodic vocals are sung with emotion that oscillate between the shouted and softly uttered, the dual track vocals are on both the album's best and one of the band's best tunes. A tight bass guitar makes welcome intrusions and, oddly, if isolated and listened to intently sounds like Pink Floyd's We Don't Need No Education sped up. There are synthesizers in the background, but the guitar is thankfully looming, threatening and lying in wait in the background until when it explodes. What an incredible that solo begs the question: who writes songs like this? The guitarist Fukuda Hiroya suffered from hearing loss and would leave his post shortly however. Evil Touch follows and is not as impressive through no fault of Fukuda's. He is still ripping and blitzing. It is a fast and heavy track that is also catchy (“I need the evil touch!"), but the song hints at folklore and is not of great construct. The guitar sound is similar to that of Lovebites circa 2020. Tears For The Lovers is unusual style for Anthem. It is more of an earnest love song perhaps as the lyrics are strange. There is a tangible feeling to this one and the guitars are overlain by a slower vocal phrasing. There is not much else happening here and, for my money, the intro is better than the song proper. The song, if nothing else, showcases a successful drum sound for this record. Sleepless Night has energy and no one is on cruise control, but is below Anthem standards at the end of the day. It even has a keyboard break. Another track that is not one of the band’s better ones is again not for a lack of trying. The rhythm section holds it steady, the guitarist has written a decent solo and the singer wails. Jailbreak (Goin’ For Broke) and its rhythm guitar are patently J-Metal and with that keyboard in the background makes it all like an Earthshaker song to my ears. Let Your Heart Beat has a better identity and personality owing to the distinctive riff. This song is less heavy than average for Anthem. It straddles the line between hard rock and heavy metal, but is certainly in possession of a pounding main rhythm. The guitar certainly reminds one of Loudness’ Lightning Strikes. Bottle Bottom is faster and wilder. The song is presumably about a person who drinks out of anger and frustration. It is a wild track except for the one-dimensional drumming. Are You Ready (Outtake) is bonus track found on the 2005 re-issue of this record that was subsequently dropped from the even later re-release. It starts with a lot of promise. It is very Defenders Of The Faith-ish and intrepid, yet the chorus turns heads. It is as fast as the band gets, but is atypical and uncharacteristic for this bunch. It is pretty incredible until the keyboards sadly kick in. Even more strangely, this track was later recorded live for the Nucleus album! Certainly the vocals exert themselves with larynx stretches, grunts and screams all the way through - an energetic run here as the end to this edition’s song line-up.
Clearly, this album is a mixed bag for Anthem. It is not the group’s best, but it is still a good album from a band that cannot go wrong nevertheless. It is good enough for a listen, a purchase owing to its opening tracks and even worth having a Hunting Time 30th Anniversary shows for, which the band did in 2019! – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM - NO SMOKE WITHOUT FIRE – NEXUS
Anthem’s sixth album is out on the 21st of March 1990, exactly ten months to the day after its predecessor, and while it is not the band’s best it is genuinely good – as are all Anthem records. The one-year anniversary is not only a fun factoid or minutiae, but also a testament to the band's hard work album after album and year after year. What we care about the most, however, is that the metal is of high quality despite the tight time-lines.
This is not going to be one of the band's better ones, which is disappointing given how the band has had a stable line-up and the singer Morikawa Yukio is on his third act with the Tokyo-based heavy metallers. The superlative songs are here, but they are clustered and placed next to the less good. Read on.
A classy jacket all in black is matched by the four musicians clad in black leather posing in a black and white photograph. Smoke maybe black, but fire is not black and white, is it? Before proceeding it is noteworthy that the band did not use producer Chris Tsangarides for this album. He had worked with Anthem on the act’s last three records, Bound To Break, Gypsy Ways and Hunting Time, but was too busy with Bruce Dickinson’s Tattooed Millionaire and subsequently Judas Priest’s Painkiller to make an appearance for the Japanese. The producer is absent and the production taken over by Tony Taverner in England who had finished working with Wham and Vow Wow. Taverner would shamefully go on to work with, among others, Duran Duran. The guitars, bass and vocals do well in this production all the same. Unfortunately, Don Airey (Rainbow, Deep Purple, etc.) was added on keyboards. At least one does not hear him much on the opening track.
The opening track is Anthem. The quartet introduces the listener to Shadow Walk – clearly something different from ‘shadow work’ – and it is a kick off in a heavy fashion. Speed, a pounding rhythm section and soaring guitars that oscillate between metallic and melodic are what Anthem does best and these elements make this another of the group’s songs for the ages. Energy, power, exploding drums, whammy bar and musicality combine here and we are spared the keyboards by and large. Hungry Soul is chugging riffs, punchy sound and a killer vocal performance. It is a song for the brave. Definition of heavy metal; never mind the odd grammatical phrase like "You've Livin' In My Heart ..." Incidentally, the track was re-sung in English by Graham Bonnet later who changed this particular line to "you're living in my heart" Anyway, the wailing guitars on this song are especially admirable. Blinded Pain is a cut above at first listen. Its catchiness does not replace the heavy riffing and the solo is great. The song structure and the vocals are more melodic and go for a more heartfelt and sentimental approach. Still, one can hear the commercialism and soon realizes that the whole thing is constructed on Whitesnake’s Still Of The Night. The simple rhythm, the accessible structure and the unneeded dadadada keyboards of the song are all Whitesnake and worse it all ends awash in Don Airey’s dilutive handiwork. Do You Understand is a supercharged tune that closes Side A. The drums wallop and the guitars and bass solos have pace, but the lyrics are comedic to me personally. It sounds like a comic moment delivered by Long Duk Dong the number of times Yukio repeats the titular phrase. That said, the guitars wail, punch, run and impress. This is a more technical track yet the interwork of the instruments never subtracts from the heaviness. Surprisingly this track, now called Do You Understand? (with the question mark), is the opening number on a subsequent Anthem compilation. Love On The Edge begins Side B and one could swear it is a melodic pop song metallized. The heavy riffing belies a structure and vocalization that is essentially accessible for the masses. The cheap keyboards should have been kept out nevertheless. This one belongs to singer Yukio. The mix is also changed to favour the vocals above other instruments and push the frontman to the fore. Voice Of Thunderstorm is a cool title and features one of the more savage riffing and speedy contents of the album. It has one of those Anthem/Earthshaker/Loudness melodies that is so endearing to fans. Power & Blood is filler and boy smells with that Bow Wow/Magnum-ish keyboards no one wants to hear. Fever Eyes is merely an average song that is hard enough, but nothing to write home about. It is worth hearing because of the guitar break. The Night We Stand bears an unusual arrangement for Anthem and would be described as topsy turvy. It again features the keyboards and is an average song, which means the the second side of No Smoke Without Fire is inferior to both the record's side A and the rest of Anthem's repertoire. That the album, nevertheless, is a seventy out of a possible hundred marks speaks to the quality of the stronger songs. Guitarist Fukuda, a genius of six strings, left the band following this record. He had announced his intentions privately during the recording process. The band survived a vocalist change and prospered. That pattern is with any luck repeated after the guitarist’s departure.
A remastered re-release tagged an instrumental called ADD in 2005, which in a pattern similar to its predecessor Hunting Time was removed from the 2010 re-re-release. Incidentally, all songs on the record are by bassist Shibata. Kudos for the energy, but we could have done without the piano. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – DOMESTIC BOOTY – NEXUS
Domestic Booty is Japanese heavy metal band Anthem’s seventh album and has quite a legacy to live up to as the six preceding studio full-lengths have been exceptionally and consistently good. Unfortunately, Domestic Booty is a letdown. It is not very bad by metal standards. It is inferior for Anthem standards. The band breaks up after this record. This is attributed to the decline of heavy metal, in Japan and world-wide, which was a real phenomenon at the time. However, one cannot but speculate that the band’s decline coincided with the commercial trough thus compounding the quartet’s dilemma.
Domestic Booty begins with Venom Strike, the shrieks and wails of the guitar and it is headlong into speedy riffing. This approach and pattern, we have learnt by now, is standard Anthem. The sound, however, is thinner and stripped down. The band is back working with producer Chris Tsangarides and it sounds as if the parties have opted for a more ‘modern’ sound – something that this writer never thought suits a metal band. The reversion to their old producer may have been habitual because not only there was little wrong with the sound of the predecessor to Domestic Booty, namely No Smoke Without Fire, but also this detracts from Anthem’s punchiness. Still, Venom Stroke is a killer track that is simultaneously catchy and heavy. The drum sound does not pack a punch and - how modern - is powerless. The drums just rattle on. It is problematic especially when from start to finish one can hear the individual performers trying their best to deliver with power and energy and yet the end-result is hardly great. It is the song writing ‘s fault for sure, but the sound does not help much.
Renegade follows and luckily is another fast one with ripping guitars, but the other three do not keep up. This song is uninteresting as a whole. The blistering solos keep this thing resuscitated. Gold & Diamonds – much better than Diamonds And Rust anyone would tell you - is like a commercial Rainbow song... wait, what? Yes, a commercial Rainbow song. That is, while Rainbow had many superb songs, this Anthem track sounds like one of Rainbow’s second-rate B-sides. Anthem has paid cash to bring keyboard player Don Airey in for the session and the result is consistent awfulness. More on this in a moment. Mr. Genius is up next – he was patiently waiting single file in queue – and the band reports that “I’m get down, get down Mr. Genius!” Throwaway-track aside, next up is Heavy Duty, which is neither a Judas Priest cover version nor a particularly heavy song. A riff on this song is reminiscent of the band’s Shadow Walk song from No Smoke Without Fire, but the underlying structure of this song is Megadeth’s Symphony Of Destruction, which was issued after Anthem’s current record. Matters not for this is a boring song from Anthem. It is always a bad sign and indication of a lack of ideas when a singer goes 'aow' and repeats 'oh yeah' ad nauseam on a song, which Morikawa does here. On the other hand, Bruce Dickinson has probably made millions doing just that in the last twenty years so ignore me. Blood Sky Crying (another hyper death/black title from the band alongside the likes of Evil One, Black Empire, Love Of Hell or Devil Inside) starts with a heavy Classical intro a la Rainbow and features a ton of synthesizers. This is a pomp rock instrumental with a metal riff. Cry In The Night is next and contains the line, “Blood sky cries for you,” which signals that the aforementioned instrumental was an intro for it. The Dice Of No Mercy – hey, don’t look at me! Ask the band – is another listless song awash in keyboards, which is also repetitious. Devil Inside sinks even more and has a keyboard solo on top of the shameful and indifferent flat production. The singer Morikawa Yukio is exerting himself, but little comes out of it. Again, the band is putting in the work energy-wise, but the production and riffs are not helping. It is unfortunate because the drum sound aside, the track had begun well. Willesden High-Road (a street in London, England where Anthem recorded Domestic Booty) starts slowly with an acoustic guitar and a lead work reminiscent of say Scorpions, which is odd for Anthem in more than one way, including how this is the second instrumental of the record. Perhaps we know why the band disbanded now. It was not because metal was not selling anymore. It was because the band is tired and out of ideas or rather its newer ideas are not as good as its old ideas. This was guitarist Shimizu's first record with the band. As fate would have it his stay was short this round. The album ends with Silent Cross, which is a ballad.. yes, a ballad. Oh boy. It is slow and listless, has keyboards, nice solo, whatever.
When one thinks about it Domestic Booty’s album cover is the same as the band’s last one, No Smoke Without Fire. The mugshots of the four members adorn the cover. The eyes of the four were on the last one. Prophetically, however, the pictures are burning here. This would mark the end of the band.
Weak or inconsistent, Domestic booty is salvaged through the opening tracks which rescue Anthem's reputation and help this album not sink to lower grades. Bassist and band leader Shibata himself would join Sly and Loudness and Anthem would become history for now. In the meantime, a month following the release of Domestic Booty 900 kms up the coast of Japan a band called Saber Tiger would issue an album called Invasion. Not all was lost that year. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – SEVEN HILLS – VICTOR
Japanese heavy metal band Anthem, second only to Osaka’s Loudness and first in Tokyo the country’s capital, disbanded in 1992, but reformed in the year 2000. Seven Hills from 2001 is the band’s first record of new material post reformation and follows a compilation called Anthem Ways from earlier in 2001 and a waste of time self-cover version record called Heavy Metal Anthem with Graham Bonnet on vocals from 2000.
Morikawa Yukio was the band’s singer when Anthem hung it up in 1992. Sakamoto Eizo had sung on the band’s first three records and left in 1988. Yet here is Sakamoto again fronting the band making one wonder how Yukio felt about the whole thing. Anthem had brought back their older vocalist, but kept the newer guitarist Shimizu Akio who had replaced Fukuda Hiroya for 1992’s Domestic Booty. The band’s drummer Homma Hirotsugu is new however. He is new to us, but is not new to band leader and mainstay bassist Shibata Naoto who had been playing with the sticksman in Loudness for half a dozen years until 2001. Bassist same, old singer, newer guitarist and new drummer: with me still? The drummer would soon leave Loudness to exclusively be in Anthem and one wonders how the Loudness members felt about Shibata, whom they had housed on bass in their band, felt about it all.
The comeback album is called Seven Hills, which is a name accorded to Lisbon in Portugal, Rome in Italy and Tehran in Iran. Did the band have any of these places in mind? It is unlikely that the band had a place in Japan in mind although a spot in Saber Tiger’s backyard up in Hokkaido was accorded the name more recently. Either way, eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that contrary to first impressions there are a few hills on the albums’ cover. They are nestled at the bottom of the cover artwork. The problem is that they are inconspicuous and will mostly go unnoticed. An even bigger issue is how there are more than seven of them. In short, one has to either question the band’s power of observation or its arithmetic. More on the cover later, but for now notice that this is the first Anthem album cover that features a wide shot photograph and a vista.
The band had had UK-based Chris Tsangarides produce several records for it prior to the dissolution. He is not back. Seven Hills nonetheless is entrusted to another foreigner, this time he is Danny McClendon who had worked with 5X,Maki Carmen and to be sure Loudness who is in charge of the production. Indeed the producer had worked with Loudness on the albums that featured Shibata Naoto. Bringing him to work for Anthem is a good call as the sound is impressively strong and Tsangarides is not missed. It is only fair as Loudness had started working with Tsangarides following Anthem! Assistant engineer Andy Martin was the resident knob twiddler at TML Studio in Hayward, California, USA where the band recorded and mixed.
So, how is the music? It is Anthem being as sublime as they know how to be and better than where they left things off in the early ‘90s. The album kicks off with Grieve Of Heart, which was a familiar song to the band’s fans as it was the lead single for the record issued a month in advance of the full-length. Grieve Of Heart makes no sense grammatically of course. The band did not have anyone helping with the English titles evidently. They do now, but back then mistakes were more common than they are now despite insisting on combining English with Japanese lyrics. Grieve Of Heart, the single, was backed with the non-album track Can't get Away. Fans may notice that an upcoming album called Burning Oath will have a song called Get Away incidentally. The band presumably means ‘Grief Of The Heart,’ but that aside the guitars are flashier than recent past, sharp, more screechy and the licks electrify things. The quality solo of Shimizu is unmistakeable and the vocals, like the other instruments, are punchy and clear. The vocals are certainly more melodious than in the past, but this is not a knock against the album or song. The production courtesy of the ‘Loudness’ man helps as mentioned. It is an Anthem custom to kick off with a more energetic cut and Grieve Of Heart has power and feeling to spare. New drummer Hirotsugu punches hard and has a heavy sound. The backing chants fare much better than the useless background synthesizers. No kidding! Raging Twister is up next and the cover artwork makes more sense now. This guy usurps the album’s title by taking the lion’s share of the cover. The track is a sure winner that rages. The vocalization is different with more emphasis and a sing-along backing vocal track. It is mid-paced and places a bigger emphasis on simplicity and catchiness. The solo is melodic and no slouch whatsoever. Cool echo on the vocals by the way should you turn it way up. You are turning it up way high, aren’t you? XTC - one wonders what that could mean - is a hot track where the guys put pedal to the heavy metal and individually and collectively go for broke. The lyrics go, “Calling back, calling down with no sound,” but pay them no heeds. The royally attacking guitars come with what should surely be a difficult lead to play, but there is a letdown here. Did the band record in two places? XTC’s sound is quite average. The vocals are thinner and confined to one channel, the drum sound is not as good and sounds lighter to constitute what some would call a more modern production unfortunately. The vocalist sounds like he is giving his all, but there is not much to this song. Incidentally, the band audibly pronounces the title ‘ecstasy’ instead of ‘X-T-C.’ The Man With No Name starts very much like Dokken's Mr Scary, which is a song from 1987. This track is too close for comfort to that instrumental from the Back For The Attack album of the Americans. There is a loud and aggressive barbed metal guitar on this track that acts like a propeller. The rest of the song is fine, but not as good as the guitars. The backing vocals remind one of a '60s or '70s’ pop song - had to double-check that this was not originally a Bay City Rollers or Beatles' tune metalled up and frenzied by Anthem. The lyrics are not much more than a single line, “why don't you know…”' repeated again and again. The answer is then that he does have a name, but he just does not know it. The vocals recur with a slight delay underneath the main track. It would be fair to term this song a poppy, Dokken-inspired hard rock track. Lending credence to this are harmonized vocals and lead guitar. March To The Madness features a pseudo-Near East sounding melody buried somewhere in it, but fear not this is not crap and remains metal. The whiz-bang guitar licks and the whammy bar sounds great alongside. What an accomplished lead! The guitar production here is really great and helps the longer lead. The backing vocals have undergone some effect, while the vocals themselves carry a fair bit of emotion and melody. That said, criticism could be levelled at a track where the mix is uneven. The vocals are sometimes at the forefront and clear and at other times secondary. The song’s power quotient fluctuates as a result. D.I.M. 422 is up next and is an instrumental. Anthem had begun a tradition of including instrumentals on albums, but this one veers Neoclassical and then alternates with staccato metal chords to become something different for Anthem. The track is loud and fast regardless and has an energetic and prominent bass guitar as the number goes through twists and turns. The instrumental leads to Running Blood (sounds brutal!), which is a simple and effective heavy metal punch stripped to its bare knuckles. This is another good one. The vocals are outstanding and emotional and what a sharp guitar sound. The fast licks, which veer European in its solo average out the riffing, which is anthemic yet generic . The effects on the vocals are fine, but backing keyboards need to be deleted. They are unneeded and annoying. One of the reasons this album is better than the last collection of new material, the pre-split Domestic Booty, is that there is no Don Airey or equivalent watering things down. Freedom is loud and heavy granted, but the vocal lines and the song’s main rhythm are corny. They are not special. The vocals of Sakamoto are lower in the mix of a song that hints at that particular J-metal sound. This one contains an old Iron Maiden melody. See if you can spot it. On a non-musical note, the song’s title makes sense is appropriate for a band whose name is Anthem… Freedom.. Anthem.. Freedom. The other song title which is fitting for a band called Anthem is the aforementioned March To Madness. The all-too-short lead guitar here also veers into Neo-classical territory, which is still a rarity for Anthem. Japan is awash in this kind of a sound, but the old guard has largely stayed true over the years. The next track is the grammatically perfect Silently And Perfectly, which should have any listener in the USA confused and reaching for the dictionary (if they have one). The track musically is fine, but sounds like a filler somewhat. Now, mind you, Anthem’s fillers are better than anything Iron Maiden (say) has written since 1986 or so. This track features a heavy snare sound, screeching wah wah guitars and a heavy rhythm. The entire lyrics are the rare instance of Anthem writing entirely in English. As scarce, this is Anthem attempting at being articulate as it sure reads like bassist Naoto’s lyrics take a misanthropic view of things. Perhaps right-wingers need to read the lyrics and stare in the mirror (likely they own mirrors.. as far as reading…oh well). The track fades out like a pop song with Sakamoto screaming his lungs out. The Man With No Name came by earlier and it is the turn of The Innocent Man now. It has a wonderfully melodic lead interplay and still is a weak link because it is not much of a coherent song. It is more akin to a collection of riffs and solos and while most of them are actually worthy on their own, their amalgamation meanders. Moreover, the main melody is obviously softer and Americanized - like a distorted Lynyrd Skynyrd song. In what is becoming a refrain, the solo is the ingredient that somewhat redeems this tune.
Seven Hills is a heavier, flashier, harder and more energetic album than the boys’ last original outing, the keyboard-laden Domestic Booty. The Japanese quartet’s eighth album is not a disappointment at all to fans of the band's ‘80s’ material, heavy metal fans in general and the output proves that the Anthem that is back has legitimacy and is not rusty whatsoever. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – OVERLOAD – JVC
Overload is Anthem’s eleventh album. Issued in 2002, this album is the band’s second release of original and new music after the band regrouped in the year 2000. Overload is the one with the more heavy metallic cover artwork with what looks like a nuclear reactor, which jives with the album’s title. Nine years after the record came out and three hours’ drive up the coast the Fukushima nuclear reactors the Americans sold Japan would go up in smoke following a tsunami. Japan has many nuclear reactors and is one of the worst places on earth to install them. The tectonic plates shift constantly and earthquakes are common. What is Japan’s LDP/Jiminto, the usual governing party, thinking? Knowing those guys, they are thinking it shoves them harder, faster and longer up Uncle Sam’s ass.
Back from that remark to Overload, an album that is not harder, faster or longer. Unfortunately, and you have already noticed the grade, it is one of Anthem’s weaker moments.
Anthem has already had one middling effort, namely 1992’s Domestic Booty, and Overload would be considered the second in this undesirable, and thankfully short, list. To be clear Overload is not a bad album. Anthem just simply does not have those. Fifty means average. It is below average for the band however. Domestic Booty suffered from weaker song, a hint of lethargy and keyboards. Overload largely shuns the keyboards – sorry Don Airey and other piano interlopers –but has a few below average tracks that do not amount to much. On the flip side, the band delivers a few listenable Anthemic songs for fans as well. Incidentally, the glam metal band Action! Whose drummer would go on to join Loudness had an album called Overload as well.
The album’s opener Revenge begins the goings on really well. The lively sound includes multiple guitar tracks and harmonies yet it is soon clear that the music is under-mixed and rendered inconsequential almost. Anthem has had a tradition of starting its albums with a flashy fast cut, but Revenge is not quite that. This is a fine song, but it is not the rugged speedfest of yore. That itself may be a first for the band. The vocals take the Revenge. Speaking of which, The Voices is next (spooky, “I’m just a star man”/”As you know I’m a fake man”) and paradoxically the guitars come alive and can be heard. The drums have a thrashy pattern yet the keys are an unwanted add-on. Demon’s Ride has several Japanese phrases before becoming all English. On this one the guys deliver a chugging rhythm and a catchy highly melodic overlay. The voice is still dominant. Vocalist Sakamoto sometimes sounds like he is writhing in pain. Aside from that aspect, the simple construct does not yield much emotional response from one as a listener. In what could be a pattern the guitar solo is fast and adept meaning it rescues one from any doldrums. Rough And Wild Sounds like a Love/Hate song. This song, you guessed it, is an energetic rocker that is less heavy metal or Anthem and more Los Angeles circa the glam era - heck even the leads sound White Lion. Y&T wanted to Rescue Me once upon a time. Anthem would like to Rescue You next. This bass heavy song is faster. The blitzing drummer Homma is on a war footing and the star of this one. This track should have kicked off the album. Anthem has included instrumentals (D.I.M. 422, Blood Sky Crying and more) intermittently on its albums and one is sandwiched here among the other tracks. This one is called Ground Zero and is a fine effort. The tendency is there, but it does not veer Neoclassical earnestly. The band has done this before and the lyrics to the title track are separated out with Japanese going first; the English following. The same pattern is present almost on the following track Desert Of The Sea where the band mentions that “I am loosing my mind” oh well. It is hard and heavy, but hardly heavily memorable. Shimizu Akio throws a good lead whereas the backing chants are grating and need to go. The vocals are the weak link on this song. Come to think of it Desert Of The Sea Comes across as if the vocals and guitars are playing on different tunes. It is like a marital discord on tape with neither side willing to back down. Gotta Go’s riffing would sound familiar if you have heard Anthem before. There are some ‘martial arts’ sounding vocals on Gotta Go too. It is clear by now that Anthem should not have issued an album only one year after the last and waited another year or two. Anthem albums and songs are desirable and the band has never sunk to calamity levels so saying so feels strange, but the material is not up to the act’s usual standard. Nevertheless, the melodic lead is again to the rescue on this song. Eternal Mind is next and is the album’s closer. There are several dreamy/poetic phrases on this song like the 'Jealous moon' or ‘Over howling waves” phrases. Flight of fantasy takes one to the moon and earth, which orbit one another eternally, but never touch. Would that elicit jealousy?
It would be too easy to crack a couple of ‘overload’ jokes about this album, but it is not called for as the review explains what needs to be explained. The band ended up recording this one with a Japanese engineer (one who also worked with Action!) and entrusted Chris Tsangarides with only the mixing. The long-time producer was also absent on Anthem’s last record. His absence was not an issue on Seven Hills, but for whatever reason this record’s sound is less optimal and somewhat inconsistent. The band toured to support this record using the Live Meltdown Overload tour monicker and the result is the Live’ Melt Down live record of 2003. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – ETERNAL WARRIOR – VICTOR
Eternal Warrior is Tokyo, Japan-based heavy metal band Anthem’s fourteenth album. Here is the good and the bad news. The good news is that it is a good album and better than its predecessor, Overload. Anthem is still delivering heavy metal and has not bowed to trends or age. The bad news is that Eternal Warrior is not going to be the album that folks will eternally cite as a seminal work of the quartet. It has its genuinely sublime moments, but those are balanced against forgettable cuts.
The 2004 album’s first song is Onslaught, an appropriate name. Onslaught nods towards Judas Priest and the Painkiller era, yet as inspired as it is features those patented Anthem melodies. In other words, the song is heavy and melodic and what a ripping fast solo. It smoked several halls at The Metallian Towers with blazing effectiveness. This is stuff Metallian speakers love to radiate. Eternal Warrior, the title track, is solid, but not as well constructed. it is a simple song with a simple rhythm. The drums sound like Megadeth. Listen to the end. Nevertheless, it is not lacking energy. The song belongs mainly to the vocals, which is given lots of room to shine, but the extended soloing is a metal pleasure to hear. Who can say ‘no’ to speedy soloing after all? You thought the last one's guitar was screeching? Listen to Soul Cry and hear the guitars cry here. Obviously, singing about souls, it is a song exploring a fantasy topic. The hot riff should have come with a thicker sound; when the guitar chugs alone on its own it becomes clear how a fatter sound would have made this sound better. These first three tracks are the album’s crème de la crème and were all included on the Onslaught EP issued six weeks in advance of the full-length. The three would have been familiar to Anthem’s devotees by now. Of these the first two would be included on the 20th Anniversary tour of 2005.
Life Goes On is next and one would be hard-pressed recalling hearing anything like this from Anthem before. Not sure it is desirable to have more in the way of the slow gothic starts, but either way just when one thinks it could be an instrumental singer Sakamoto kicks in and puts in that much more feeling into his delivery. This song is overtly emotional with speed, graceful soloing and heaviness joining the distinct feeling soon. The unusual backing vocals and chants do not take away from the heaviness. This would be a successful experiment overall including the adventurous mid-section where the mysterious guitars return. Let The New Day Come comes next and is a hard rocker. The guitar solo in the second half is reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tears. Sakamoto Eizo on vocals exerts himself with a big ooomph at the end … wait for it. What follows is Distress. The song begins distressfully. As one listens to it the song comes across as something Prong would perhaps write. This, as readers know, is the first time in history Anthem and Prong were mentioned in the same sentence. Having said that, the main melody of this track is obviously J-metal and, what is more, the vocals soon set this slow song apart, not to mention a melodic and particular guitar solo that is up there with the best of them. Well done! It is time to start Bleeding next and heck the opening scream sounds like Yukio is doing just that. He insists that, “I’m much bleeding,” which may not pass the grammar test, but more importantly is worrisome – especially because “breaking” is soon added on top of the bleeding. Anyway, this red song is solid and features vocals that are somewhat adventurous. As Anthem fans know, there is a pattern of instrumentals on Anthem albums, which is where Omega Man comes in. This title was also a 1971 American film with Hollywood hyper criminal Charlton Heston in it. Further to the pattern, the track begins all metal before mixing a neoclassical inspiration into the fabric. This instrumental has a poor drum sound. Was that a drum machine? It is useless and hopelessly weak. Moving on from the flimsy drum sound we have Easy Mother. It may have made more sense if the title was ‘Easy, Mother.’ As it stands we may have a song about a skanky MILF or horny mother, who knows? Said lady seems to be addressed as a family member. The lyrics cover a shipwreck, stabbing and perhaps drugs. The riddle goes something like this: "Get me, Stab me, You're my easy mother." Eat your heart out Led Zeppelin. Track number ten and album’s closer is Mind Slide. The build-up is slow and steady for a quasi-ballad with heavy strumming, emotional singing, beautiful soloing culminating in a well composed song. Marks are only deducted for the droning keyboards.
Anthem had progressively used more westerners as production crew, including the taping, producing, mixing and mastering before cutting back to only mixing and mastering. This album was again mixed by Chris Tsangarides and mastered by Ian Cooper who had done the same for 2002’s Overload. Incidentally, Koike Toshiyuki then of Japanese pomp rockers Concerto Moon and Double Dealer contributed keyboards to Mind Slide and Life Goes On.
The album’s cover may be of interest to your local paleontologist. It looks like the skeleton of a reptilian dinosaur. Is there a message there? – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – IMMORTAL – VICTOR/REPLICA
Anthem’s 2006 album Immortal is a gerontophile’s dream. More on that in a moment (kinky for geriatrics? Skip ahead). The album was abnormally released on the 30th of August. Go over Anthem release dates and 21sts of the month are common. Day thirty of the month is not.
Immortal as a title is meaningfully not that far removed from the preceding album, Eternal Warrior. Both albums hint at age and address the title with their covers. The band itself is almost immortal at this point. Typically, bands which have released something like fifteen albums have either long run out of ideas, wimped out or started to collaborate with industrial/gothic/electronica/dance/yougetthepicture acts and became disposable to metal fans. Not so with Anthem. Immortal shows that the band is strong, committed and relevant. Yes, that includes the super sexy album cover that is gold to gerontophiles everywhere.
Having said that, how is the album for heavy metal listeners? The first song on the album is Immortal Bind. It is clear immediately that the sound has improved again after taking a dip on last two albums. The crew is the same as the last one. Immortal is ostensibly produced by band leader Naoto, mixed by Chris Tsangarides and mastered by Ian Cooper. IB is a fast cut with the most impressive instrument being the drum. There is a pattern akin to Megadeth’s Holy Wars on the drumming. The melodic vocals interchange with the shouted and aggressive. The singer wants to be immortal and is scolding someone for it. Well done Shimizu Akio with the ripping solo - well done Shimizu Akio! Soul Motor is straight out of the Defenders Of The Faith school of heavy metal and the high scream keeps up with the speed. Anthem of the 1980s would have kicked off the record with this track. It is a cross between Priest’s faster cuts and Motörhead, which is a pleasant surprise given how the title could have hinted at a sleaze or glam outing. This one could be Anthem's fastest cut. Mob Groove (ha?) is next "here in the mob groove" and "We're in the mob groove land" narrate the screams as the singer blows his guts out. This is another sublime metal attack with the hard riffing contrasted against the synthesizer sound. Why have the keys? Please tell me Shibata and crew. Excellent guitar tone throughout. Ignite is next and by now and for some reason that still doesn’t actually ring true to myself these name sound as if they are chosen for their modernity. True or not, the track is not special. Solid riffs, pinch harmonics and off to The Beginning, which is neither the beginning of the album nor the B side, a track that is very Anthem in that it is simultaneously tight, metallically hard and wonderfully melodic. This catchy track has singer Sakamoto committed and all in. Insomnia is worth mentioning because it is an instrumental and that itself is something of an Anthem tradition by now as well. Nimble fingers, agile notes and a fluid composition, but we already knew that. It is impressive nonetheless. Road To Nowhere is another track with an aggressive attack pose to it, while Echo In The Dark is both catchy and hard. The melodic chorus is accompanied by harmonic instrumentation. Road To Nowhere, the album’s closer, is a lie as this album leads to a compilation and the 2008 album, Black Empire. Regardless, this one is a screamer (yes begins with a scream) that could stem from a Primal Fear album like Black Sun. Primal Fear came after Anthem, but perhaps the comparison helps the reader.
The first three tracks are the aces on this disc, but they are not the only fine tracks. There are more.
Anthem set out to play six dates in November and December of 2006 in Japan in support of this album. However, those who like more can pick up the 2009 video Live Immortal that was recorded on this. There is also more of that sexy cover artwork zoomed out for more of the action. – Ali ”The Metallian”
ANTHEM - BLACK EMPIRE – VICTOR
Anthem’s conversion to black metal is complete. Black Empire is a brutal satanic assault upon Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and all that is holy. Right? Well, not really, but it was fun writing the sentence.
Black Empire kicks off with Black Empire and synthesizers and one’s first thought is of course, ‘oh no please no,’ because we are metal fans and the band obeys our command and quickly switches to multiple guitar tracks and a brutish scream preceding a tight Anthem song. Anthem is known for mixing Japanese and English lyrics consistently as if it is the most normal thing and the pattern continues here. The song contains a melody akin to a modern Led Zeppelin. The synthesizers persist intermittently unfortunately. In contrast the snare sound is present and heavy. The screechy heavy metal guitars fill the air done in sublime fashion and the rhythm is solid and tight. That holds true for the entire album. The inspired singing is a joy. The vocals include echoes, which is an effect that works. Heat Of The Night follows. The title is much of a cliché of course, but the faster hammering and flashy guitars and pounding rhythm section are not. There are rare backing vocals on this track. ”Touch my heat,” Sakamoto Eizo sings and one has to double- check the lyrics to be sure he is not in fact saying 'touch my feet.' Sorry, podophiliacs! Still, “touch my heat” is downright kinky itself, isn’t it? You is next and reads like Anthem is encouraging someone to get out of bed and go receive vocational training. This should be Anthem’s most popular song among parents of adult children who are loafers. Correspondingly, it is a crackling energetic hard rocker. Shimizu Akio is showing off and the listener is thankful for it. You is a catchy tune that should be used by colleges everywhere as their jingle. Back in the 1990s a Japanese college used a Saber Tiger song for its advertising. They could not wait for Anthem. Go Insane is next ensuring that no one in or outside Japan understands the band’s lyrics. The English and Japanese are, as always, mixed in lyrics that contradict its preceding song. Whereas the last one instructed people to get on moving this one reads like someone went to college, did not do well, has had enough and is hating life.
"Don’t need no acclamation, I go insane, I go mad.. don’t need no competition, don’t need no estimation…” Go Insane is an intrepid metal track on the front foot with good vocals, licks, screeches and tightness, which is fast becoming the adjective of choice for this album. The lead is fluid. What comes next diminishes the album and decreases its mark. Walk Through The Night is a cheesy ballad a la Tesla or Trixter. This commercial ditty alone is responsible for cheese forming on my ceiling. Anthem clearly trying to go cock rock "I love your smile" is horrible despite the nice drum sound and the distorted bass, but if I want to hear Warrant's Heaven then Warrant’s Heaven would be on the speakers. The keyboard sound makes Mirasaka fromage form on my ceiling and dangle down. The slow crooning exposes Sakamoto Eizo’s accent further. Emptiness World, which probably suffered in the translation process, has a militaristic start, but the band is not done yet with the corny puff pieces. Emptiness World is not a ballad, but the melody and commercialism run throughout. Think of this one as a pop song essentially. This is not a repeat listener either so how does Telling You (and not You, which was four songs earlier) fare? This one too is a commercial danceable rock tune that sounds like it could have been a Nazareth song. It even presents a poppy background chant. It is looking like Black Empire’s better songs are batched at the album’s beginning. This notion is proven correct when the instrumental Pilgrim begins next. Pilgrim is a balladesque instrumental with a pumping bass and Classical vibe that points at Yngwie Malmsteen! In fact, perhaps one should read the credits to double check that the ego from Sweden or Florida or wherever the dude is lounging next to a pool stuffing his face nowadays has not written the track for Anthem. Awake is not special. It is mid-paced to fast and cruises along. The promised Satanic content materializes at the album’s end with Perfect Crawler. With phrases like “Hell’s Bells” (capitalized by the band exactly as written here) or “Dear my evil” or “Proud us Lucifer” and “Evil Eyes” the song speaks for itself. Musically, it is a fine song with soaring vocals and even some cool guitar tapping.
It ends up that Black Empire has both the anthemic heavy metal one expects from the quartet and some soft poppy material including a bona fide ballad.
Elsewhere, the song Black Empire was re-recorded for a sampler called Nucleus in 2019. The band thinks highly enough of the track to make it the featured video clip for the compilation and film it with all four members dressed in black. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – HERALDIC DEVICE – VICTOR
It would be simplistic to throw shade at Anthem’s albums that came in this period at the time of this review because that, in my opinion, would imply a jaded listener with the luxury of songs like Wild Anthem or Bound To Break that preceded Heraldic Device or Destroy The Boredom and Pain that follow it to compare. The power and personality of Anthem is in full attendance here and Heraldic Device marks yet another auspicious album to add to the discography of this amazing band.
Heraldic Device of 2011 is the band’s last for Victor Entertainment, a subsidiary of JVCKenwood in Japan. Based on this music, the label should regret losing Anthem to Universal. Heraldic Device’s cover artwork is pretty brutal if one stares at it long and hard enough. Compare this to the ballerina from Tightrope for example. Although perhaps Hunting Time or Gypsy Ways are better contrasts because that ballerina was walking the tightrope over an inferno apparently. Beyond those comments the album was engineered and mixed by a Japanese crew and the results are mixed. The album has a tight chugging bass and a powerful drumming, but the first track’s drum tone is a disappointment. There is no power to it. The album unfortunately begins with a keyboard-heavy riff that is a pity because Heraldic Device is a good album that has lots to offer. Past some cool effects the guitars enter, followed by the bass, to cast the keyboards aside. This song contains intriguing backing vocals and a tone to which fans are possibly not used. The fast melodic solo is exquisite and if one were looking for a sign that Anthem has not lost its grip and is maintaining its zest for metal this would be it. Contagious is wow! This is a fast one. Could someone give me a name if there is a tighter band than Anthem out there? This one is akin to the best of Judas Priest with Sakamoto Eizo’s characteristic vocals. It is a great song and, among others, because Shimizu Akio wrestles George Lynch to the ground. He plays one of his better and more ripping solos on this, but frankly the starring role here goes to the rhythm section in general and the bass in particular. Go! goes and goes fast. The bated breath belting bellowing breathes roaring metal fire while the underlying rhythm is, dare one say it, so Motörhead-ish. Having said that, Anthem's melodic vocals make this go in another direction and the solo smokes again. Blind Alley is a rock song that takes one back to Loverboy or Survivor and cannot stand up to the preceding tracks. Skip this track. Rockbound has another incredible solo, yet the bridge and chorus and the stop and go composition is not the band’s best. Perhaps it is that title. It just is not a title one could admire or get behind – whatever it means to the band. Wayfaring Man is worth pointing out not just because it has a catchy melody, but because Rainbow fans would not be laughed at for asking whether Anthem has invited Ritchie Blackmore over for some stargazing at the gates of Babylon. Fans of Rainbow-adorned guitars and keyboard melodies could get behind this song. Code Of The Silence (not a typo) is an instrumental full of pinching and screeching guitars and additionally a thunderous bass. The note-perfect track is Shimizu showing off and why not? Do not miss the powerful drums however. The cymbals fare well here. In The Dead Of Night certainly is a disappointing rocker to which someone could ostensibly dance. The synthesizers are embarrassing the heavy bass sound and embarrassing in general. After consulting with several encyclopedic tomes at the Metallian Towers’ libraries and experts the consensus word for this track has turned out to be ‘filler.’ Likewise, In The Dead Of Night has Sakamoto pick up a pedestrian poppy rhythm to his vocals. The guitar solo is reminiscent of Loudness though. Some redemption. Remains is essentially a ballad, well almost, but the searing guitars blaze through it. Yes Eizo is crooning. Living Proof is hard and features patented heavy metal riffing despite its melodic nature. It is a good way to end an album. The energy level is back up here.
This album is good as is and a worthwhile purchase. It would have been better, however, if Takahama Yusuke the piano player was not employed. Unfortunately, the band would invite him back into the studio again and again.
Anthem album titles are usually an enigma. Heraldic Device is the album with a cover that is a Rorschach test (see my comment above). It has a couple of filler and commercial tunes, but by and large it is a good seventy out of a hundred record and one that turned up and loud can do beautiful damage. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM - BURNING OATH – THUNDERBALL 667/UNIVERSAL
Burning Oath was issued in the autumn of 2012, which is 15 months after its predecessor Heraldic Device. The latter album had followed its own predecessor, Black Empire, by three years. Anthem has a well-earned name for working hard, but even by their own standards they have outdone themselves. Burning Oath is released by Universal Music, which is the group’s new label home, following the Tokyo quartet’s departure from Victor. You want more? The group’s drummer Homma Hirotsugu is only heard on one track, namely Ghost In The Flame, and would officially leave the act right after Burning Oath’s release citing knee problems. The man had been Mari Hamada’s drummer for years and his exit is no small matter. Anthem used the unknown Tamaru Isamu for the other ten tracks here to good effect. Nonetheless, all this and a new album so soon invites the question. How good could Burning Oath be?
Evil One, or rather eeeeeeeeeeeeeeveeeeeeeeeel one, kicks off the album with a bash metal chugger that is tight, fast, rousing and which adds up to a great start to the record. Unbroken Sign, the de facto title track, is an amazing hard rocker with energetic drumming, powerful distortion and most of all soaring vocals that impress. Well done, Sakamoto Eizo who on his final record appearance with Anthem does not kick the can down the road and instead delivers like a fresh urchin right off the rough streets of Hyoogo he is from. Sakamoto toured for this, but left the band after to many fans’ dismay. It would have been perfection had the band skipped the wimpy keyboards however. The phrase “burning oath” makes an appearance on Unbroken Sign and the guitar solo goes for the jugular. Overture is the album’s first instrumental and likely inspired by the early works of MSG. It also sounds like the start of Lovebites’ Holy War. On And On, which is the title for a MSG song too, is an appealing title and evokes an image with the line, “Yes, I’m hungry like the wild fire.” If Lovebites picked up on Overture then Nightwish’s Bye Bye Beautiful has a beginning that is reminiscent of Get Away. This is a reminder of how Anthem could be so hard, loud and yet so catchy and even incorporate a sing-along chorus. The melodic solo is controlled and impressive. “Break away from Xanadu,” sings Sakamoto on a song that features a symphonic interlude. Struggle Action is difficult to hear without thinking of the song Go West whether you know it from Village People, Pet Shop Boys or the film Mountains May Depart. The melody and heroic vocals are quite comparable. The rapid fire solo is welcome. Ghost In The Flame, in contrast, is slow to mid-paced with a chugging bass riff that again ends in symphonic mode. The intriguing lyrics address a ghost when demanding, “I hope you'll kill me.” This is the song with the departing Homma on drums. Double Helix is another instrumental and the first time Anthem doubles up on these. It is a heavy/speed metal shredding instrumental. Shimizu Akio is great as is, but seemingly becomes better all the time. Fast forward to Dance Alone, a track the quartet favours to this day. It is fodder for remembering how no one else, but Anthem could come up with such a sweeping mixture of drive and melody. It is a patented Anthem track that has become a staple of sorts over the ensuing decade.
Indeed, Burning Oath is a typical Anthem album, which is a good thing. They have not delivered a disappointment even after all these albums and evidently have not become old and frail. The English is still suspect with lines like, “Take me to the rest” or “It's the world that I live on,” but, as mentioned, Anthem has permission to deliver as many of these as they like and leave wimping out to others. Sakamoto’s last is worth the purchase and listen, which means he left on a high note. – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM - ULTIMATE BEST OF NEXUS YEARS - NEXUS/KING
Ultimate Best Of Nexus Years is a 2012 compilation of Anthem, the Japanese band that has been around - a break or two notwithstanding - for thirty years, yet never quite made it inside or outside Japan. The group spend the '80s and early '90s on Nexus (a King Records imprint) before reappearing years later on Victor. The Nexus material is where this album dwells. Anthem draws many unfair comparisons to its better-known country-mates Loudness, which is something they must sure dislike. It must be an albatross to be compared to Loudness, but while some of it is inevitable, yet uninvited, some of it is with merit.
Formed sometime in 1980, the band is the contemporary of Loudness, but more than that perhaps named itself after a Rush song/Ayn Rand book. Famously Loudness was influenced by Rush itself. Moreover, like Loudness the band imported a 'Western' singer before discovering its folly (and management’s stupidity) and righting the ship.
Ultimate Best Of Nexus Years is a double-CD, which should you read Japanese contains a short biography, as well as lyrics and photos. Lyrics are mostly Japanese, but intersperse English liberally - or vice versa. Graham Bonnet was brought in once to (re)record with the band in English. While we are in this section, it is a good time to mention that the record’s cover artwork reminds one of no others than Emperor or Dissection.
The album progresses in fairly accurate chronological order with the group’s more popular cuts included. Disc one contains seventeen cuts, while disc two short-changes the masses with sixteen. The inclusion of Shed is a surprise. One supposes the band or label head honcho likes it. Nonetheless, they are all here. Wild Anthem from the debut, the Accept-tinged Warning Action!, Tightrope Dancer and Bound To Break. On this side, many songs are lacklustre with Warning Action! And Fire 'N’ The Sword standing out. Come the '90s/Disc 2 the band atypically improves. Gypsy Ways [Win, Lose or Draw] has the newish Yukio Morikawa stretch his vocals. Love In Vain is a good song, Cryin’ Heart puts on some emotional content and is catchy to boot. Shout It Out! Has a little bit of Queen’s We Will Rock You and We Will Rock You in it. The line “We don't need no mind control” is reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall of course. Hunting Time is the title track to the 1989 album - never mind that it was rerecorded with Bonnet a year later - and is speedy and aggressive. The pace has really picked up metallically here. A couple of slower songs soften up the middle before it goes boldly into metal territory again. Disc 2 is a keeper for sure.
The sound clearly does not grant the band a favour. The vocals consistently dominate and the guitars are underrepresented. The situation is almost acute in the case of the rhythm guitars.
Japanese heavy metal bands were the ultimate insider tips in the 1980s. This stuff was rare and precious. Oddly, this stuff is still rare and precious. I found this in a Yamamoto Music basement in Ginza, Tokyo. You hopefully won’t have to go that far. - Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – ABSOLUTE WORLD – THUNDERBAL667/UNIVERSAL
For once change is for the better. There was not much anyone could list that was wrong with Anthem prior to 2014’s Absolute World, but as good as Anthem has been until now, the Japanese quartet has outdone itself with Absolute World. The change comes with the return of singer Morikawa Yukio whose swansong with Anthem was 1992’s Domestic Booty. He replaced his predecessor Sakamoto Eizo again for this album. Moreover, drummer Tamaru Isamu, who was introduced part-time on Absolute World’s predecessor Burning Oath, is the permanent skin basher now.
This album kicks off with Shine On a simultaneously powerful and yet singsong track that packs a heavy chugging bass. Singer Yukio is back and has lost none of his vigour or Graham Bonnet-like roar. As mentioned, this is the first full album with drummer Isamu, who is a monster, but it sounds at time as if the bass is higher in the mix than the drums. Stranger is the second track on Absolute World. It is involved and energetic like the best Anthem has written. The metal fan in me loves these rapid-fire solos Shimizu Akio fires off. Pain: what a song. It has never been so exhilarating to receive Pain. Fast, heavy and crushing, the bass is loud, the vocals soaring and the guitar singing. Pain features incredible riffing and rhythm. Oddly, the pop-ish background ‘ooohhhs’ do not detract from the heaviness, which is counter-intuitive. There are old quotes from Deep Purple talking about how they did not know or anticipate how Smoke On The Water would be a hit or popular. Deep Purple was even dubious about adding Smoke On The Water to Machine Head. Not comparing Pain to Smoke On The Water song-wise, but needed to point out how Pain is song number three of eleven on Absolute World. This probably speaks to the album's depth of quality. Destroy The Boredom at two minutes’ long must be the band's shortest ever and at the same time most crushing. It is a simple and catchy boost of adrenaline juice for the metal head. My fave track here though comes next. It is the more sober Love Of Hell. Not a ballad and not the heaviest of metals – think Saber Tiger’s Misery or Accept’s Princess Of The Dawn - this song is just perfect from recording, sound and delivery to performance. Yukio hits the notes perfectly and has also done so live. The band is tight and original. This will pitch a tent in one's ear and not let go. Don't Let It Die is heavy underneath, but singularly melodic on vocals. Listening to it several times one notes how the song is more complex than the first listen portends. The ending synthesizers, however, were uncalled for. The title track of sorts here is called Absolute Figure and is an instrumental so fans have even less of a chance than ever to figure out what the title means. The next one is a weaker track and not just because it has a Led Zeppelin vibe to it. Sailing is out of place amidst its album-mates quality-wise. With that said, the shredding here is decidedly not of the Led Zeppelin variety however. Edge Of Time too is an average track for Anthem. Skip forward, though, and the album does end on a good note. Run With The Flash has contextual guitar playing that mimics running and at a fast clip at that. The keyboards at the end – and this writer mentioned this to Anthem’s Naoto - is the exact same as the Vow Wow song Hurricane.
This album is a heavy metal champion. It is the testament of Anthem. Even with two 'new' members in their ranks these guys are punchy and confident. For that, this album just rolled up its sleeves and delivered... like a "fearless flame." – Ali “The Metallian”
ANTHEM – ENGRAVED – UNIVERSAL
Engraved is Anthem’s 22nd album, which is an amazing feat in and of itself. What is more, much more important, however, is how the band has kept up its metallic chops and quality throughout the years. Engraved, heavy metal-wise, could well have been from a young band founded two years ago. The music is tight and mature, which combined with the dogged vigour makes Anthem something special. Much kudos and admiration must be accorded to main man and bass player Shibata Naoto.
Engraved’s content is both sublime and aggressive. There is a track called Keep Your Spirit Alive. That is it. The album’s best track Far Away goes, “Please don’t fade away/we’ll never die” and that could be all one needs to know about Anthem and its heavy metal really. Contrast the Japan-based quartet with acts the world over who wimped out, wussed out, brought a full-time keyboardist on, added a corset-wearing hussy, became mallcore and/or called rapping “progression” (and received 9/10 reviews from the usual idiots of the press) and it is clear Anthem is for real metallers and will never be hip for the scenesters. Not that Engraved is perfect, but let us tell it like it is.
Chris Tsangarides is back after skipping Absolute World from 2014 and one has to wonder why. He mixed and stripped down this modern sounding album, but Absolute World showed that Anthem does not need the man’s expertise. Nonetheless, the sound production and mix is quite fine here as most instruments can be heard loudly and clearly. The bass drums should have come out heftier. Engineer Kojima Hiroshi is credited here, a man who has worked with Anthem for years. If there is one main criticism here is the intermittent use of the keyboards. Anthem really needs to stop the use of background keyboards. They add nothing and, otherwise, fluff down the music. Thankfully, they appear intermittently and sparsely. So there is that at least. Just like Absolute World the band has omitted its complete name and logo and economized with the group’s trademark ‘A’ standing for the full thing. Absolute World looked afloat atop a body of water. Engraved seems to stand hovering atop a planet.
The Artery Song is track one on Engraved and points to the disc’s stripped down production complete with a clear sound, a great bass presence and singing performance by Morikawa Yukio full of gusto and power. The keyboards are certainly unwanted and have to go even if they are background static for Anthem. These courtesy of Yusuke Takahama have been wasting listeners' time for ten years. The lead guitar here is melodic and fast, but listen more closely and the sustain is something different for Anthem. Keyboards aside, The Artery Song was hard and heavy, but along comes Far Away, which has it all. The bass drums, the cool strumming, the incredibly catchy vocal melodies - but weirdly consider this: Anthem’s custom of half Japanese and half English lyrics means Japanese fans cannot sing along in English and foreign fans who cannot speak Japanese cannot sing along either. This constitutes the Anthem paradox - plus heart thumping screechy guitar and the amazing snare sound and … OK you get the picture. How can Anthem be so metal and yet so melodic simultaneously? This formula has a name and it is called The Anthem Equation.
The seamless transition between Japanese to English to Japanese continues on. Anyway, the opening track was good and Far Away is twice as good.
"Please don't fade away, we will never die" may he be singing here and hopefully he means it for the long term. Keep Your Spirit Alive is apparently recorded on less tracks. The vocals are dominant with the drums coming in a closed second. It is a modern production certainly, yet this listener is still wondering whether the sound is too clean or not. Fast solo on this song regardless. The strings are energetic and do their part with that ripping soloing. Linkage’s beginning is reminiscent of the song Night Stalker from 1988. It is a mid-paced track that is dominated by crunchy guitars and melodic vocals. Morikawa sounds like a singer in pain. It is going well until the keyboards chime in clanging for no particular reason. The pop-ish backing vocals are a contrast to the aggressive chants. The ominously-titled Midnight Growl is made of fast and crunchy guitars with pinch harmonics that alas are in not much of a song with the drums on repeat. Paint Myself comes after the Sacred Trace instrumental, with its guitar and drum interplay, and is a forum for Yukio to make up for the latter track and scream his lungs out. Reactive Desire follows and despite being hard not much is happening here beyond remarking how hard Isamu hits his drums. Is Frozen Fate a ballad? That is how it begins. It is not though and soon becomes what Anthem does best. One swears that underneath the drummer is playing thrash metal. The man has energy. In contrast, the melodious vocals are almost J-pop material. It somehow works. Don’t Break Away is a fun and upbeat song; alas, with disturbing keyboards that should go away. The Metallian Tower’s audio system needs to be programmed to omit the offending keys. It shall be done. The album ends with the title track – something Anthem not always offers – and one hears a repetitious synthesizer background amidst an otherwise strong track with amazing soloing. The toms and snare sound is great, but the cymbals disappoint. Their sound is neither delicate nor powerful. The aforementioned keys try to break out here to be more than mere background fodder, but thankfully do not succeed.
A good album with a couple of winners and a couple of fillers. Amazingly, Anthem delivers on the formula without becoming stale after all these years. – Ali “The Metallian”
Anthem has been a favourite at Metallian Towers for many years and to finally obtain the opportunity to interview the band responsible for songs like the superlative Love Of Hell, the enigmatic Pain, the smashing Steeler, the incredible Gypsy Ways, the ripping Wild Anthem, Blast with its contrasting heavy riffs and melody in one song or Cryin’ Heart with its killer guitar work, soaring vocals and contagious melody is an extra pleasure. Ali “The Metallian” had the opportunity to chat with Naoto Shibata the Japanese band’s leader and bassist and posed several questions personal to him that have been a matter of curiosity for years. Read about a band that is not just one of the better heavy metal bands from Japan, but one of the better heavy metal bands from anywhere… but don’t read too long because it is time to go buy an Anthem record or two. – 27.06.2021
METALLIAN: This is our first interview so thank-you in advance for answering given perhaps the general nature of the questions. I hope we will get the chance to do a more musically focused interview in the future. To start, we have always wondered whether the band's name was inspired by the Ayn Rand book or the record company of the band Rush or otherwise. Where does 'Anthem' come from?
SHIBATA: Certainly I had inspiration from the band Rush as you say. Most people did not know what ‘anthem’ means because it was not a popular word in Japan in the 1980s. I decided to use it because I also like the meaning and also because it represents a solemn image.
METALLIAN: So it happens that Anthem and Canada are somehow connected. Zooming back to Japan, this is going to be both an Anthem and a Japanese culture question since Loudness and others have done the same: since the band and Graham Bonnet have worked together why import a foreign vocalist? It is difficult for fans to understand. Metal fans will buy the album regardless of language. Is this something management or the labels push?
SHIBATA: I am not sure how many Japanese bands have had a foreign vocalist, but probably the biggest reason is the language barriers, I think. Most young people who have grown up with rock music did so in English in that era. I think that is why using English is a natural thing when one writes music as a musician. Unfortunately, most Japanese are not good at speaking English. At the same time, I want to cherish Japanese expressions as well, which is why I continue to use both, Japanese and English.
METALLIAN: Shibata’s answer is matter-of-fact and the explanation, but not only have Anthem and Loudness imported singers, but also Naoto was in Saber Tiger when they imported Ron Keel, Vow Wow had Neil Murray (and some other foreign person) on bass, but also pop bands like Namie Amuro regularly import characters like Lil Wayne or the women from TLC. In contrast, in my opinion, Anthem needs to be better known worldwide through international interviews and tours and an English website, but these are all lacking. Is this because Anthem finds enough success in Japan that working on 'exporting' the music is ignored or pushed to be secondary?
SHIBATA: No, no, no, that is not true. The most important thing is to pursue the music that I want to write. I want to never compromise as I shape my music. In any country you need a strong base of activities to live as a musician. You have to have a long-term field of view to keep making money, right?
We are always thinking along the lines of "having more quality" or "having a much better concert performance" without compromise. That is why we have been trying to get paid a guarantee as much as possible for our activity's cost. We are not giving up and do not refuse going out internationally. Nevertheless, it has been difficult to put my energy into activities outside Japan up until recently. At the moment I am very happy and satisfied with the current line-up of the band, which has given me the capacity to think about both activities in and outside of Japan more naturally than before.
METALLIAN: In the above context, the band and Germany-based company Nuclear Blast signed a contract several years ago. Is this still in effect, what does it cover and what does it mean?
SIBATA: Yes, I consider the deal still to be effective and I plan to proceed with production for the new album as soon as possible. Due to the pandemic, the music industry has been put on hold both in Europe and the rest of the world, which in turn has brought various changes to the industry as a whole. I cannot tell you exactly what will happen next, however, Anthem will continue to promote ourselves internationally and probably will be able to have our European tour in 2022 following its initial postponement.
METALLIAN: Shibata deliberately ignores the details in the question, which is his prerogative, but typically, rates and money aside, this information is good to know and not sensitive. No matter, let us move on to the next question. Naoto it is so difficult to choose, but to pick one song Love Of Hell is probably my favourite Anthem track. Is this song about a particular person? If not, could you say a few words about the track? Seems Naoto likes the choice…
SHIBATA: Wow! Is that true? I am happy to hear it because this track is not the ‘flashy’ type like many other Anthem tracks. This is also one of my favourite tracks as well. Thanks to Yukio’s great vocals, the song turned out just how I wanted it to be. In terms of lyrics, let's keep it a secret whether it is about someone or not (laughs), but this is a song that expresses the pain of one’s heart when you love and seek someone.
METALLIAN: Sticking with your music, I have always wondered whether there is a fifth unofficial member in the band. Who plays the live keyboards?
SHIBATA: We don’t have keyboards. We use backing tracks for keyboards at our shows.
METALLIAN: I have seen a live keyboardist on film before, but that seems to be a relic of the past. Speaking of keyboards, one notices that the keyboards in Run With The Flash are similar to Vow Wow's song Hurricane. Could it be that the same person played both?
SHIBATA: Really? I know nothing about that Vow Wow song so cannot say exactly, but it might be that they were both influenced by the same genre of music from a sound quality or phrasing aspect. Anyway, they probably came up with a similar style and sound coincidentally during the writing process.
METALLIAN: That would make sense. Give Hurricane a listen. It is not a bad song. Naoto, on a personal note you had a cancer diagnosis several years ago. How do you feel nowadays?
SHIBATA: Thank-you for your concern. I had surgery for stomach cancer in 2013. It was completely cured since it was discovered at stage-one. There is no need for any further treatments and there is nothing to worry about health-wise. I feel that my perspective towards life changed a bit after that incident and perhaps it connected to the fact that I started to look outside Japan more than before.
METALLIAN: This is a gratifying answer. Based on online references I move on to ask Shibata another personal question. It turns out he is unaware of the source for my question. While we are on the topic where does the 'Ski' nickname come from? I have seen it brandied about.
SHIBATA: I was never called that so it is probably a mistranslation somewhere from the Japanese sentence structure (or something)!
METALLIAN: That answers that. We have to throw in a question about Akio since we asked about you. Where does he buy his hats and does he have a preferred brand?
SHIBATA: I asked Akio the question, but he said that basically he buys them online and from wherever he finds good ones.
METALLIAN: (Jokingly) Potential sponsors need to act then! His hat in the promotional photographs of Nucleus was reminiscent of Meiko Kaji’s iconic one. So let’s move on to Isamu. How did Anthem and Isamu meet? No doubt he is a monster of a drummer, but was unknown prior to joining Anthem.
SHIBATA: I met him through a mutual friend who gave me a tip and said "there is a good drummer." This is from when he was in the band Yasha. This was merely a simple introduction at that time. Yasha broke up some time after that at which time Isamu was playing another type of music. He helped our band during a time when our previous drummer had to leave due to an accident. That was the trigger that initiated our relationship. He would join us later.
METALLIAN: Loudness came up earlier, but given how Anthem and Loudness have ran in parallel for years and of course, been connected in other ways, curious to know what your relationship with them is nowadays and if you socialize, et cetra.
SHIBATA: They are taking a completely different musical expression and approach than us. I think that they all deserve respect as musicians. I helped Loudness for a while as well. We don’t really have a personal relationship with them, but their current manager used to be an Anthem staff member so I always feel a connection with them.
METALLIAN: Again, on the personal interest side of things, there was a video on YouTube of a recent performance by Anthem in a small club. I tried to figure out where this was. I would like to buy this DVD if indeed it is an official release.
SHIBATA: It is a DVD/Blu-ray called【BLAZING FAITH〜revisited】, which was released in June 2015. Its package featured a complete reproduction of the first album and a complete reproduction of the latest work at the time we played live.
METALLIAN: Metallian Towers’ serfs have been dispatched to buy this as we speak. What is next for Anthem? Could you speak about your immediate plans?
SHIBATA: Canada...I would love to play in Canada.
We are going to have a completely unplugged concert called "Acoustic Anthem" this summer. This year is our 20th anniversary since our reunion so we also have a show-down tour called "Anthem vs Anthem 2001" at which we will be joined by previous members of different era.
At the earliest, I would like to begin recording new tracks at the end of this year, but it might only happen following the New Year.
The only question remaining is how to get Anthem to Canada then! Thanks go to Naoto for his time and answers. Further thanks to Eagletail Music in Japan and https://eigonaoshi.com/. Bassist Naoto Shibata, singer Yukio Morikawa, guitarist Akio Shimizu and drummer Isamu Tamaru can be found at the below links.
METALLIAN: まずはこの機会に感謝をさせて頂きつつ、今回は一般的な質問をいくつか。また後日インタビューの機会を頂ければ、そこで音楽に注視した内容を聞きたいと思います。さて、バンド名'Anthem 'ですが、由来はなんでしょうか？作家Ayn Randの著書もしくはバンドRushのレコード会社等から影響を受けていますか？
METALLIAN: 私のお気に入りを1曲に絞るのは非常に難しいところですが、1曲選ぶとしたらLove Of Hellです。歌詞は特定の誰かを題材にしているのでしょうか？この楽曲についてお聞かせください。
METALLIAN: キーボードについて一つ気づいた事が。楽曲Run With The Flashの演奏がVow WowのHurricaneに似ていますね。もしかして同じ人が弾いているのでは？
柴田直人: 2015年6月にリリースした【Blazing Faith〜Revisited】というDVD/Blu-ray作品だね。
今年の夏に完全にアンプラグドのライブ“Acoustic Anthem”を行うよ。今年は再結成20周年だから、秋は、当時のメンバーを引き連れた“Anthem vs Anthem 2001”という対決ツアーもやるよ。
Anthem has issued 16 studio albums and they are all good. Seriously. So do two things. Firstly, read this interview wherever you are. Read it at work, then read it at home again or vice-versa. Then read it again during a work meeting. Tell your boss you are reading an Anthem interview and he either understands and then all is good or he does not and that is your cue to resign and find a better job. Secondly, go buy an Anthem album or 16.
Many bands claim to be power metal. They are anything but. They have no power. Many claim to be heavy metal. Guess what? Yes, they are not. Anthem is the actual, true and bona fide metal band that delivers on every album. For what are you waiting?
Anthem bassist Shibata Naoto sits down with Ali “The Metallian” for an interview to offer an update on the band, its activities and next steps. Oh, regarding the above instructions, feel free to reverse the order of one and two above. – 08.10.2021
METALLIAN: Thank-you for your time and good to speak again, Naoto. Anthem is in the midst of the Anthem vs Anthem 2001 event and tour. Could you talk about this concept and what the fans are seeing?
SHIBATA: This year is the 20th anniversary of our reunion. We reunited in 2001. We planned this tour in order to show our gratitude to the fans despite being in this COVID-19 situation. Only one person could have such a crazy idea and that would be me (laughs). The ‘battle’ tour featuring the current Anthem line-up and the older era's features vocalist Sakamoto Eizo and drummer Homma Hirotsugu. Guitarist Shimizu Akio and I are on both teams so are giving two concerts a night!
METALLIAN: So what is the complete list of musicians participating in Anthem vs Anthem 2001 and, by extension, was there anyone you wanted to see participate who was unavailable?
SHIBATA: Shibata Naoto, Shimizu Akio, Morikawa Yukio and drummer Tamaru Isamu from the current Anthem and Shibata Naoto, Shimizu Akio, Sakamoto Eizo and Homma Hirotsugu from Anthem 2001 are taking part. All members could join this tour.
METALLIAN: Incidentally, are these shows being filmed and, if yes, what is the plan in this regard?
SHIBATA: Unfortunately, the 35th Anniversary tour which was conducted earlier this year is going to be released on video so the current shows won’t be on video.
METALLIAN: To jump back some years, there has been a report circulating - perhaps an urban legend - that I like us to finally and definitively clarify. Is the story that Morikawa Yukio originally auditioned unsuccessfully for Anthem in 1984 true? If yes, could you pick up on the story?
SHIBATA: It is true that Sakamoto Eizo and Morikawa Yukio were the finalists in the auditions. My impressions of them at that time were that Eizo was good at the Japanese songs, but Morikawa was not as much. Eizo was dressed up in a metal style and had long hair. Morikawa wore a leather jacket and leather pants and had a pompadour (known as regent hair in Japan). Those are the reasons why Eizo won that audition.
METALLIAN: The story corroborated and elaborated finally. Another older question that has been on my mind for years: What is the meaning behind the ‘Domestic Booty’ album title? This one has likely confused fans for years.
SHIBATA: There isn’t much of a meaning (laughs). My contrarian personality likes something that is not metallic either in title or in the jacket design. This title suddenly came to my mind as I returned from the recording sessions in London and I decided that this meaningless title should be a souvenir for our fans who are waiting for us back in Japan.
METALLIAN: Let us turn the questioning to your instrument. It has been obvious for years that your bass has a special and deliberate sound. To what extent is the bass guitar specifically tuned to compensate for the lack of a second guitar in Anthem?
SHIBATA: We always record with two backing guitars. That is why the bass guitar is always recorded in a fixed manner without many tricks. We have only one guitar at a concert so the bass approach will change completely. On stage, the bass is more like a combination of guitar and bass. It will take a very flexible standing position between the guitar side and drum side - depending on which part of the song we are talking about. I also tend to play the bass more freely when it comes to live shows.
METALLIAN: Sticking with the bass guitar, having listened to the band for years, to a listener it looks like it is an Anthem specialty that the fourth and third (E and A) strings produce a very distorted and heavy sound while magically the second and first (D and G) have a loud, yet funky and warm sound. How do you see this?
SHIBATA: John Wetton of King Crimson, Martin Turner of Wishbone Ash and Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple are influences on my concert style strongly so perhaps I am adopting their characteristic playing styles.
METALLIAN: Anthem has had several internal ‘side-projects,’ things like acoustic performances, re-recordings, English versions of albums and ‘live in studio’ recordings. On the one hand, as a fan, I look at these as diversions. On the other hand, every time an Anthem album of new music is released it is superb. So the question is this: do these digressions sustain and contribute to Anthem’s high quality and longevity somehow?
SHIBATA: These are a ‘fan service’ basically. They enable us to also introduce our musical roots. We want to make fans enjoy many things with Anthem’s music. Various projects make our music enjoyable and not boring. We are happy if you have a ‘wow, Anthem does fun things always!’ feeling.
METALLIAN: Naoto, Anthem’s most recent album of new material Engraved is four years old. Would you speak about new music, songs and a forthcoming album?
SHIBATA: We had to temporarily postpone the new recording sessions at the beginning of this year under the behavioural restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.
METALLIAN: Is there a schedule to record a new album?
SHIBATA: More musical ideas are coming now so we will resume our recording early hopefully. Ideally, I want to release it next summer but God alone knows what will happen.
METALLIAN: Thanks for the update. The Anthem website shockingly is offering relaxing camomile bath powder for sale. Surely, this makes no sense for a heavy metal band and Anthem!
SHIBATA: You need corresponding energy when listening to and writing metal music, right? Saving energy is the essential thing and is provided through relaxation. Bath time is very important, right (laughs again) ?
METALLIAN: I am not sure I am convinced; at least not until the yuzu variety arrives. On the personal interest side of things, how about a personal recommendation for a place to eat or have a beverage near you?
SHIBATA: I know many restaurants which are amazingly tasty and cheap. A tasty Tempura restaurant amazingly, a beef cutlet restaurant, a restaurant which has a dramatically tasty fried rice and a restaurant which has probably the most savoury hamburger in the world, et cetra. These restaurants are scattered all over Tokyo.
METALLIAN: Sounds like Naoto is the man to ask when in Tokyo. Finally, many – well everyone – consider Metallian to be the definitive source for arts, music and heavy metal in the galaxy. Why do you agree?
SHIBATA: Probably, readers can feel your passion for metal music intimately. You cannot attract and connect with people if you do not have that.
METALLIAN: Thank-you again for your answers and time.
The band's website is at www.heavymetalanthem.com.
Anthem's YouTube channel is at https://www.youtube.com/c/ANTHEMOFFICIALChannel/videos
多くのバンドが自らをパワーメタルと主張している。自分では何とでも言えるだろうが、彼らはそのパワーを持っていない。ヘビメタを主張する者も多いが、さぁここで何が起こる？そう、彼らもまたヘビメタではない。 Anthem こそが正真正銘、本物の、真のメタルバンドである。彼らのアルバムすべてがそう物語っているじゃないか？
METALLIAN:お時間頂きありがとうございます。またお話しが聞けて嬉しい限りです。今回はイベントツアーAnthem vs Anthem 2001真っ最中のインタビューにもなりまして、ぜひイベントのコンセプトとファンへのパフォーマンスについてお話し頂けますか？
METALLIAN: 最終的にAnthem vs Anthem 2001参加したメンバーは？加えて参加できなかったメンバーはいますか？
柴田直人: 今年行った35th Anniversary Tourが映像化されるので、残念ながらこっちのツアーは映像化の予定は無いんだ。
METALLIAN: 当時の詳細な裏付けがようやく取れました。これまた古い話になりますが、アルバムDomestic Booty。このタイトルの意味は？多数のファンが長年疑問を抱いているようです。
METALLIAN: ベースギターの話題をもう少し。長年バンドの音楽を聴いているファンにとって、4番目と3番目（EとA）の弦が非常に歪んだ重い音を奏でる中、2番目と1番目（DとG）は魔法の様にファンキーで暖かみのある音を出す事がAnthem特有かと思います。 これらについてはどう思いますか？
柴田直人: 僕ライヴは、John Wetton (King Crimson), Martin Turner (Wishbone Ash), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) などに強く影響を受けたんだ。だからきっと彼らの特徴的なプレイスタイルを継承していて、そうなってるんじゃないかなぁ。
METALLIAN: Anthemが行う国内向け「サイドプロジェクト」の数々。アコースティックパフォーマンスや再録音、英語版アルバム、ライブインスタジオ録音など多種多様ありますが、ファンから見るとこれらは気晴らしの様で、その合間に素晴らしいアルバム達がリリースされています。 それ故の質問ですが：この気晴らしがAnthemの高品質と長寿を維持させているのでしょうか？