Very much like Loudness, Anthem absorbed some hard rock and heavy metal influences, 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. Bassist Shibata and drummer Hirotsugu Homma were in Loudness during the down years.
Like most bands of its time in Japan, Anthem plays above average and classy HR/HM.
The early singer was Toshihito Maeda who left in 1984. He was later heard with the band Dancer. Eizo Sakamoto took his place, but was replaced, in turn, by Yukio Morikawa in 1988. Yukio stayed until 1992, which was the year the gang broke up. A reformation occurred in 2000 and Eizo was on vocals. Eizo left in 2014 and was replaced by predecessor and replacement, Yukio, again. With us still? Good because Graham Bonnet was the singer on 2000’s Heavy Metal Anthem. This was a rerecording of older material.
Guitarist Hiroya Fukuda left in 1990. He suffered from hearing loss. Guitarist Hideaki Nakama was only heard on a compilation CD. In 2003, the act had a Japanese-only DVD called The Show Still Carries On. The new version dubbed The Show Carries On! - Complete Version was a full version of the 1987 album. Prologue was a three-disc set from three Different concerts. A bonus DVD of a 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. 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. Yukio Morikawa rejoined in 2014. 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.
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 Bund 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”