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History & Biography


Released in the spring of 1992, Saber Tiger’s debut full-length album is a marvellous heavy metal album that should have propelled the band to great heights had it not been perhaps the band’s base on an island in Japan and the consequent Japanese lyrics. Neither of these factors should have hampered the band because heavy metal fans are adept at sniffing out quality and affiliated with the underground, but the factors apparently did impede a bigger audience. Still, the band did fine and is still going so it is not too all lost.
If there is one word to describe the Japanese quintet’s Invasion it would be ‘punchy.’ It is an album that is now 30 years old and has not dated except that the style is pure molten metal while today's bands often mix crap into heavy metal to their, and our, detriment. If another word were needed to describe this album it would be ‘energy.'
Invasion kicks off with a Storm In The Sand, a powerful and energetic start that conveys unleashed urgency in both its music and vocals, the latter of which wails with abandon. The switch between the English and Japanese languages is customary to the Japanese and almost second-nature. The rest of us just have to deal with it. Light-Thunder-Light, the follow-up, is even faster and more hectic. Much of its power also stems from the way Kubota Yoko projects her vocals. The solos of band leader and founder Kinoshita Akihito are loud, noisy, shredding and adept. This is the essence of metal as the guitars are everywhere and screeching fast. True to the title the song is rapid-fire guitar picking galore. Nasty Heart comes next. It is a more technical and simultaneously a more commercial track, which fits as a title given the proliferation of references to ‘heart’ or ‘kokoro’ (‘heart’ in Japanese) on this disc. Back To The Wall is exceptionally all Japanese lyrically except for a mention of the title at its end. It slows things down. It is crunchier and Yoko slow sings, which gives her voice an airy and deep effect. She is a credit to her profession with her heartfelt delivery. The music is sometimes tepid, but not in a bad way, as it tries to convey the right emotion here. The backing vocals, courtesy of Yoko herself, are almost affecting and, as such, somewhat commercial. The melodic solo lends itself to the song too. Fate contains some heavy riffing. The vocals sound a register lower on a song built around this revving riff that leader Kinoshita throws around as if it’s nothing to him. The fluid solo, the dual guitar lead trade-off and the catchy melody stick with you. Then comes The Bluster, which begins with drumming that sounds like Quiet Riot. This song was Yoko’s pick for her performance at the band’s 40th anniversary show last year. The vocals are compressed or processed at the end and the song is not one of the better ones here, but all in all is not bad. It is almost two songs in one between the chorus, bridge and solo where it changes dramatically before making a U-turn creative. At least it shows that the band is not lacking ideas. Under The Control is fast and up-tempo. It is produced with multiple vocal tracks and just like Misery later on the album Yoko puts her own backing vocals to use. She sings of the heart freezing which is my cue to notice that ‘heart’ word again. Liberate gets heavier and upfront vocals. Another song that is a must-mention is Misery. It may be considered a power ballad in parts, but is also a scorching heavy metal shred fest. It is tender and forceful simultaneously. The vocals and the added backing vocals are sung with supreme feeling and emotional content. Yoko is simultaneously a powerful belter, gritty and vulnerable. The shredding metal guitars and the bass are all over this thing. Listen carefully and the use of backing vocals is pure emotional punch beyond their limited contribution. What a way to end the album and the song when a fountain of heavy metal soloing and whammy bar takes over. This song was later re-recorded acoustically and with an orchestra following Yoko’s departure from Saber Tiger.
The debut album by Saber Tiger is a statement of intent. By this time, Saber Tiger had heard and noticed the successes of its countrymen Loudness, Earthshaker and Anthem and yet copied none. Is it not peculiar how these bands all achieved world-class heights with their music in Japan during the same era yet none copied the other? Saber Tiger’s debut could actually be compared to the music of Terra Rosa, another metal band from Japan with a female vocalist. Yet, the point of this review is that Saber Tiger is a superb Japanese band and Invasion may be its best album. You know what to do. – Ali “The Metallian”

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”

Saber Tiger has been around as long as Loudness and Anthem. That is a long time. Heavy metal fans have a rightful reputation for finding and knowing about even the most underground of bands from far and wide regardless, Japanese metal bands or otherwise, and certainly many world-wide know Saber Tiger, but still the band's lack of a bigger profile remains a fact. Perhaps it is the lack of touring outside Japan or lack of an actual record company in North America and Europe or perhaps the line-up changes of the past or the band's base on the island of Hokkaido that are to blame. Whatever the case, Saber Tiger needs a larger profile so Ali "The Metallian" is gratified to bring you an interview with the group's guitarist and founder Kinoshita Akihito. - 24.07.2021

METALLIAN: Akihito, it is nice to speak with you. Could we go back and understand the story behind the band's monicker and why it was picked? It is remarkable that another Japanese band in the '80s picked the same name, which is one reason to ask this question.
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: There were three of us when we picked it. It was original members Imai Masahiro on vocals and bass and Imai Koji on drums and I. We liked the sound of the name. It was also a favourite comic book of ours called ‘Saber Tiger,’ which was written by Hoshino Yukinobu. We noticed the band with the same name after we had begun our activity. People called them Yokosuka-Saber Tiger (after their town’s name) and us Sapporo-Saber Tiger. We also had a joint show at Meguro Live Station club in Tokyo in 1986 called Sapporo Saber Tiger vs. Yokosuka Saber Tiger. I heard that those guys were saying that they will change their name’s spelling if they lose to us based on our respective performances and they actually changed to Saver Tiger after that so they might have thought that they lost (laughs)!

METALLIAN: Oddly, the band did not utilize the imagery of a 'saber tiger' until years later on an album like on Decisive or The History Of The New World.
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: We have been using it since the Project One album, which was released in 1997.

METALLIAN: It is my cue to ask about the line-up changes, which were common during this period. These never cease with Saber Tiger sadly. Why so many changes? Akihito, would you say you are very difficult to work with?
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: I think that situation was specially the case until around the release of the Invasion album in 1992. I wanted to continue with the now previous members; however, there were multiple problems regarding music matters, members’ family and things like that. When I think back, Saber Tiger was more like a solo project. This was important for creating the music that I envisioned. That was the biggest reason for the line-up changes. We transformed into a bona-fide band after 1992, which reflects all the members’ intentions so our line-up will not change anymore.

METALLIAN: That is a confident assertion. On the topic of members, your current bassist Hibiki is working with your former singer Kubota Yoko. Did you introduce the two?
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: Not exactly, but Hibiki has been our long-time fan who shows up back stage at every concert. He was always very happy to see Kubota Yoko.

METALLIAN: Speaking of Kubota Yoko, Show-Ya, Carmen Maki and Honjo Misako aside, Saber Tiger was probably a forerunner of female vocalists in metal. How do you see this matter?
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: Kubota Yoko was definitely that. At that time, Show-Ya and Honjo Misako were already major acts and we were merely independent. That is why she was not noticed more widely.

METALLIAN: Akihito, coming back to you personally, you were reported to have had a stroke and be in a bad condition in 2011. Could you tell your fans what happened and how you are today?
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: That happened during the mix-down of the Decisive album in Germany. Luckily, I was hospitalized quickly and had mild sequelae. I could still play as Saber Tiger. This disease will not cure completely; however, playing the guitar is the best rehabilitation for me. I will not stop playing the guitar until my death so the band will continue come hell or high water. As such, I hope our fans will enjoy our music for a long time.

METALLIAN: Something we are curious about is a pattern with Saber Tiger of migrating from Japanese lyrics to a mixture of Japanese and English and then to English over the years. Was this a matter of ability, a subconscious or deliberate choice?
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: We steered to a world-wide and international orientation after 2011. That is why we started using English, which is more acceptable in foreign countries. Our singer Shimoyama also began studying English pronunciation again. We are a Japanese band so there are still many expressions that we need to use that are Japanese. I have heard that many foreigners accept Japanese lyrics these days. Moreover, Japanese fans want us to play in Japanese as well so we will probably use more Japanese lyrics going forward.

METALLIAN: Speaking of the world-wide community, for better or worse, internationally Japanese bands are often compared to Loudness. Is this irritating to you especially since Saber Tiger is the rare Japanese band that has tried to break through internationally? Also, do you believe the comparisons are valid? Do you see the same issue in Japan actually?
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: Not irritating. I respect Loudness because they are forerunners and the rare band who are still playing and for a long time. Their drummer is also our previous member… (laughs).

METALLIAN: That is not the first time Loudness has utilized Saber Tiger members either. Speaking of the state of things internationally, over the years Saber Tiger worked with non-Japanese record companies Deadline, Sliptrick and Into The Limelight that I am aware. I am not even sure if this last one even exists or released anything by Saber Tiger. Are these deals still valid and what is the plan internationally today?
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: I especially want to say thank-you to Sliptrick. We could have had international activities if we did not have COVID-19. We want to have tours outside Japan once situation is resolved. We cannot make any plans however now.

METALLIAN: The guitarist’s omissions in his reply probably speak for itself. Since the Obscure Diversity album is three years old could you update the readers on your next plans? Tracks like Crowbar Case need to be aired outside Japan.
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: Thank-you. I wrote the song The Crowbar Case so it makes me very happy to hear you reference it. This track became a demarcation point for us. Our activities outside Japan expanded with tours and festival performances after this release. I am very proud to have created this album with our members and staff. This album has very good and balanced tracks.

METALLIAN: Akihito, you still reside in Hokkaido. Could you recommend a restaurant or café from your area? Where do you think is a cool place to have a bite or drink locally?
KINOSHITA AKIHITO: I live in the Fujino area in Sapporo, Hokkaido. There is a cafe called Koharu-Dou which has good food and a nice atmosphere and is five minutes walking from my place. It is also an enjoyable salon where different kinds of musician and creators gather.

METALLIAN: We know now where we will eat when in Hokkaido, Japan. Finally, most important people agree that Metallian is the best website on the planet. Do you agree with everyone else?
Kinoshita Akihito: I did not know that so I will keep checking the website!

Singer Shimoyama Takenori, guitarists Kinoshita Akihito and Tanaka Yasuhara, bassist Hibiki and drummer Mizuno Yasuhiro can be found on the Internet at The band has 18 albums for you to explore.

ラウドネスやアンセムと並ぶ長い歴史を持つサーベルタイガー。地球の裏側で活動する地下バンドですらも、見つけ出し正当な評価を下してきた我らヘビメタファンにとって、サーベルタイガーは有名どころではあるが、詳しい情報がまだまだ少ない。海外ツアー、北米やヨーロッパのレコード会社との活動、はたまた過去多くのメンバーチェンジの影響なのか、よもや活動の地が北海道である事が原因なのか。なにはともあれ、更なる情報を得るべく我らがメタリアン編集長アリとサーベルタイガーの創設者であるギタリスト木下昭仁氏とのインタビューをここに大公開!‐ 2021.07.24

木下昭仁:バンドを作った時のメンバー(今井理浩vo/b、今井浩次dr)と3人で決めました。何となく響きが気に入っていたのと、当時見ていた星野之宣のコミックに「サーベル・タイガー」という話があって、それが好きだったせいもあると思います。 他にも同じ名前のバンドがあった事はバンド名を決め活動を始めた後に知りました。当時は横須賀SABER TIGER、札幌SABER TIGERと言われていて1986年に目黒LIVE STATION で「札幌SABER TIGER VS 横須賀SABER TIGER」で競演もしています。 向こうは「演奏で負けたら綴りを変える」と言っていたらしいのですが、後日SAVER TIGERになっていたので負けたと思ったのかもしれませんね(笑)

METALLIAN:アルバムDecisive や アルバムThe History Of The New World。なぜそれまではサーベルタイガーのデザインを使用されなかったのでしょうか?
木下昭仁:1997年リリースの「PROJECT ONE」からは結構使っています。


木下昭仁:引き合わせた訳ではないのですが、昔からHibikiはSABER TIGERのファンでLIVEの時は毎回楽屋に挨拶に来てくれる様な関係でした。Hibikiはとても喜んでいました。


木下昭仁:ドイツで「Decisive」のミックス・ダウン中に脳幹梗塞になったのですが幸いすぐにドイツの病院に入院する事が出来、後遺症も軽くてすみ今でもSABER TIGERを続ける事が出来ています。この病気は完全に治る事は無いのですがギターを弾き続ける事が今でも一番のリハビリになっています。ギターを弾く事を死ぬまで止めるつもりは無いのでバンドは続いていくでしょう。これからも私達の音楽を楽しんでくれると嬉しいです。




METALLIAN:アルバム、オブスキュア・ダイバーシティのワールドワイドリリースからすでに三年、この作品についての感想を頂きたいのと、今後の活動予定、次のアルバム作曲等はされているのでしょうか?ちなみに同作品内のThe Crowbar Caseは特に素晴らしい作品に仕上がってますね。
木下昭仁:ありがとうございます。The Crowbar Caseは私が書いた曲なのでとても嬉しいです。リリース後、海外でツアーやフェス出演等、活動範囲も広がり我々の分岐点になりました。楽曲的にもバランスの取れた良い仕上がりになったと自負しています。あの作品を完成させられたメンバーとスタッフを誇りに思っています。




If you enjoyed this, read Anthem

Saber Tiger