SABER TIGER – THE BEST OF – DEADLINE
As the album’s title suggests you would have to be hiding under a rock – or to not be Japanese – to have not heard of Saber Tiger. The band has been active since 1981 in Japan’s land of superior sushi and miso ramen, Hokkaido. This compilation is supposedly part of a new focus by California’s Deadline Music to seek out and issue Japanese metal in the USA (and Canada).
Likely much to the chagrin of the band it is not easy to avoid the ‘L’ word when discussing Saber Tiger. Saber Tiger was formed around the same time as Tokyo’s Loudness, the infinitely better-known Japanese heavy metal band, plays solid heavy metal with impressive lead guitar flourishes and possesses a throaty vocalist. The last quality was often heard in Japanese metal as early as Bow Wow. The groups are completely distinguishable, but the comparisons are unmistakable. Saber Tiger’s founding lead guitarist Akihito Kinoshita is not an Akira Takasaki, but he is no slouch either. The vocalist on these songs is Takenori Shimoyama, which is the right time to mention that despite the album’s title the material stems from the group’s more recent releases. For, in fact, Saber Tiger has had more singers than there are microphones and more drummers than there are drums in Hokkaido!
The album kicks off with the song Messiah Complex (probably about American politicians and capitalists), which is the title track to the 2012 album. It has the macho sound metal fans appreciate less, which shows up again on the track Bionic from the Decisive album, but these do not constitute the bulk of the material. The songs are mostly high quality solidly heavy metal material perfect for any fan of true metal who nonetheless can do without higher pitched vocals. The Hammer is not accidentally entitled. The drum/guitar jab attacks the listener. At The Front unleashes the toms and its solo stands up to any anywhere. Painted Red is a more commercial composition whose lead guitars nonetheless blow the cobwebs off of any cheap Chinese made speakers. Reminiscence is the obligatory slow song whose lead guitar ironically is very Akira Takasaki. The melody and feeling is impressive. Angel Of Wrath could have been a speed metal anthem, but the band does not sustain the speed. The vocals and drums are very serious in punching at the listener however.
The Best Of Saber Tiger showcases a true heavy metal band whose talent and songs exceed its popularity. The disc and songs are well produced and well presented. Exceptionally for a Japanese act, the band has included a lyric sheet and even included Japanese translations of the songs. The cover hints at white metal, but that is about it. Closing track Dividing Line, which has an advanced arrangement and dual guitar assault a la a modern Michael Schenker, mixes English and Japanese lyrics for a distinct feel. Saber Tiger is a nugget of sorts and one that gets better with each successive listen. – Ali “The Metallian”