Anthem - 1985 – Nexus/King
Tightrope - 1986 – Nexus/King
Bound To Break - 1987 – Nexus/Restless
The Show Carries On (Live) - 1987 – Nexus/Restless
Gypsy Ways - 1988 - Nexus
Hunting Time - 1989 - Nexus
No Smoke Without Fire - 1990 - Nexus
Domestic Booty - 1992 - Nexus
Last Anthem (Live) - 1992 - Nexus
Heavy Metal Anthem - 2000 - Victor
Anthem Ways - 2001 - Nexus
Seven Hills - 2001 - JVC
Overload - 2002 - JVC
Live Meltdown - 2003 - JVC
Eternal Warrior - 2004 - Victor
Prologue Live Boxx - 2005 - Nexus
Immortal - 2006 - Replica
Black Empire - 2008 - Victor
Heraldic Device - 2011 - Victor
Burning Oath - 2012 - Universal
Absolute World – 2014 – Thunderball667
Trimetallic – 2015 - Thunderball667
Engraved – 2017 – Universal
Explosive!! - Studio Jam - 2020 - Ward

S= Eizo Sakamoto>>Animetal, Eizo Japan, Jam Project, Solo - Yukio Morikawa>>Hollywood, Sonic Squad, Powernude, Goldbrick - Marbles, Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz>>Graham Bonnet>>Elektric Zoo, Michael Schenker Fest, Alcatrazz, Solo - Animetal, Katsu Ohta, Solo, Eiza Japan>>Eizo Sakamoto>>Animetal, Katsu Ohta, Solo, Eizo Japan – Hollywood, Sonic Squad, Powernude, Goldbrick, The Man>>YUKIO MORIKAWA>>The Man
G= Answer>>Hiroya Fukuda>>Eiza Sakamoto, Finger, Solo - Hurry Scuary, Solo>>Hideaki Nakama>>Solo, Hell 'N' Back – War Cry, Sonic Squad, Hollywood, Eraserhead, The Man>>AKIO SHIMIZU>>Sonic Squad, Hollywood, Eraserhead, The Man
B= Black Hole, Naoto Shibata Project, Sly, Loudness, Saber Tiger, The Man>>NAOTO SHIBATA>>Black Hole, Naoto Shibata Project, Sly, Loudness, Saber Tiger, The Man
D= Takamasa 'Mad' Ouchi>>5X - 5X>>Takamasa 'Mad' Ouchi>>Solitude, D.T.F.M. – Flatbacker, Ezo, Loudness, Saber Tiger>>Hirotsugu Homma>>Naked Machine – Yasha, The Man>>ISAMU TAMARU>>The Man

Very 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 and his being the eldest of the four members, as well as his endurance, pushed him into a leadership position eventually. The early members had the following nicknames: Shibata was Magnum, singer Toshihito was Anvil (and also ‘Tony’), guitarist Koyanagi was Raven and ‘Mad’ Ouchi was Raven. Bassist Shibata and drummer Hirotsugu Homma were in Loudness during the down years later. The former had initially joined Sly before quickly backing out.

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. With Maeda on vocals the band recorded a two-song demo featuring Warning Action and Wild Anthem 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. 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.

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
Cannot move
You stole my soul
It is all upside down tonight as well
Cannot return
Set me free baby
I want you to set me free

Yes, I know

Original Version:

Ah! 光なき世界に1人
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! 明日なき世界に1人
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

全てが今ではinside out
You stole my soul
全てが今夜もupside down
Set me free baby
I want you to set me free

Yes, I know


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”

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”

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”

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 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 Bassist Naoto Shibata, singer Yukio Morikawa, guitarist Akio Shimizu and drummer Isamu Tamaru can be found at the below links.




Twitter: @anthem_official

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?
柴田直人: 確かにRushからのインスピレーションはあったね。80年代の日本では“Anthem”という言葉があまりポピュラーではなくて、意味を知らない人が多かったんだ。

METALLIAN: Anthemと日本文化についての質問になりますが。Loudnessやその他の日本バンドもそうですが、なぜ外国人ボーカルを起用することがあるのでしょうか?ファンにとっては理解しがたい部分もあります。何故ならメタルファンであれば言語に関係なくアルバムを購入します。レコード会社からの圧力なのでしょうか?
柴田直人: 日本のバンドのどのくらいが外国人ヴォーリストを起用しているのかはわからないけど、やはり言葉の問題が大きいのだと思うよ。当時の若者の殆どは英語の歌詞によるロックミュージックを聴いて育ったんだ。だからミュージシャンになり自分達で音楽を作るようになった時にはどうしても英語の歌詞の方が自然に感じるんだと思う。しかし残念ながら多くの日本人は英語を話す事がそれ程得意ではないんだよ。 僕は日本語での表現も大事にしたいという考え方だから、日本語と英語を両方使い、混ぜた歌詞を書くようになっていったんだ。

METALLIAN: 対照的にAnthemは海外でのインタビューやツアーまたはウェブサイトを通して、世界中にもっと知られていてもおかしくないのですが、これは日本国内で充分に成功していると判断され、海外進出に関しては軽視もしくは二の次にしているのでしょうか?
柴田直人: いやいやそうではないんだよ(笑)。僕にとって1番大切な事は自分の作りたい音楽を追求すること。決して妥協せずに自分や自分達の表現を研ぎ澄ましていくことだったんだ。それにどの国に於いてもロックミュージシャンを職業として暮らしていくには確固たる活動ベースが必要だ。バンド活動をきちんと維持していくには長期的な視野を持ちながらしっかりと稼いでいかなければならないだろ?
なかなかその事にエネルギーを使う余裕が無かったんだな。 今のラインナップに満足している事もあって、ここ数年、国内も海外も自然に考えられるようになったよ。

METALLIAN: 数年前に結んだニュークリアブラストとの契約ですが、まだ継続していると考えてよろしいでしょうか?どのような活動が保証されているのでしょうか?
柴田直人: 僕はそのつもりでいるけどね。出来るだけ早くニューアルバムの制作にも取り掛かるつもりだしね。でも、このコロナ禍でヨーロッパはもちろん世界中が停滞しているから、音楽業界にもいろいろな変化が起きている。先の事は断言できないが、世界に向けた発信は継続していくつもりだし、延期となっているヨーロッパツアーも2022年には可能になるはずさ。

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。
柴田直人: おぉ、そうなんだね!派手なタイプの曲じゃないのに選んでくれて嬉しいな。僕も好きな曲の一つだよ。森川がとても素晴らしい歌を歌ってくれたのでイメージ通りに出来上がったんだ。

METALLIAN: 常々不思議に思っているのですが、5人目のメンバーは存在するのでしょうか?ライヴでキーボードを担当しているのはどなたでしょうか?
柴田直人: 僕らのライヴではキーボディストはいないんだ。シンセなどの音源を同期させて流しているのさ。

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: ヘェ〜そうなのかい?その曲のことは全く知らないからなんとも言えないけど、音質なのかフレーズなのか、とにかく作曲途中できっと偶然同じようなイメージが浮かんだのか、共通の音楽的な影響があるのかもしれないな。

METALLIAN: 直人さんについてお尋ねします。数年前に病気の診断がされましたが、最近の調子はいかがでしょうか?
柴田直人: 心配ありがとう。2013年に胃がんの手術を受けたが、ステージ1だったこともあって完治したんだ。今は全く治療も必要ないし、体調も心配ないよ。人生感が少しかわったけど、少し前から始めた世界への発信も、この事に関係があると思うよ。

METALLIAN: その直人さんのニックネーム'Ski'はどのような経緯でついたのでしょうか?
柴田直人: そのように呼ばれた事はないから、たぶんどこかにあった日本語の文章の誤変換じゃないかな。

METALLIAN: 昭男さんにもお聞きしたいです。帽子はどこで購入されているのでしょうか?またおすすめのブランドがあれば是非。
柴田直人: 清水に聞いたけど、基本的にはインターネットで見て気に入ったものを買っているそうだよ。

METALLIAN: Anthemと勇さんの出会いについてはいかがでしょう?ドラムモンスターである彼はAnthemと出会うまで、それほど知られていませんでしたよね?
柴田直人: 彼が“夜叉”というバンドにいた時に共通の知り合いから“なかなか良いドラマーがいる”と紹介されたことがあってね、その時はそのまま終わったんだ。

METALLIAN: AnthemとLoudnessは何年も同じシーンで活動を共にしてきていますし、様々な交流や絡みはあるかと思います。今現在の彼らとの関係はいかがですか?お会いすること等ありますか?
柴田直人: 音楽的には僕らとは全く違う表現方法をとるバンドだ。でも彼らは皆尊敬に値するミュージシャンだと思うよ。僕は一時期LOUDNESSを手伝っていた事もある。

METALLIAN: YouTubeに公開されている、小さめのライブハウスでの最近の演奏動画を見ました。この場所はどこですか?現在もこのようなライヴハウスで演奏されることもあるのでしょうか?このライブハウスでのDVDがあれば是非購入したいのですが。
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。 レコーディングスタジオで撮った1st Album完全再現と、小さなライヴハウスで撮った当時の最新作の完全再現がパッケージになっているよ。

METALLIAN: これからのアンセムの活動予定についてお聞かせください。(ツアー、アルバム、他など)まだカナダにいらしてないので、渡航許可が出たらすぐに私が日本へ飛んで行きたいと思います。
柴田直人: カナダかぁ、カナダでプレイしたいな。

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。





Twitter: @anthem_official

If you enjoyed this, read Loudness