TERRA ROSA - THE ENDLESS BASIS - MANDRAKE ROOT
On the one hand, it is the 1980s when The Endless Basis was released, which was a glorious decade for heavy metal both within and without Japan. Just in Japan, bands like Loudness, Anthem and Majoran released magical albums that stand the test of time. It is unnecessary to drop names of all the wonderful metal albums that decade gave us elsewhere. On the other hand, The Endless Basis was a debut album, which again speaks for itself. Nine times out of ten any band’s best is its debut and things Van Halen downhill from there. The Endless Basis from 1987 is Terra Rosa’s debut and what a record it is - with a big caveat. Notice the rating? A ‘mere’ 70 is perhaps not lofty, but there is an explanation.
There is almost no gap and space within the grooves of this LP between the album’s opening song One Of Sections “Lap” and the second song Friday’s Free Fair. It is notable because it represents the type of power and urgency the listener hears on this album. It is emblematic of a record chock-full of powerful vocals by singer Akao, who could easily be mistaken for a man, if one did not know better and the founding guitarist Miyake who is exceptional. The man’s riffs, sense of catchy melody without sacrificing power and obvious Ritchie Blackmore influences leave little room for criticism unless originality is a factor, but candidly the compositions are so impressive that almost all is forgiven. ‘Almost’ because the quandary for a metal fan is the keyboards. They are there almost all the time. One even gets organ solos. Too bad. Such a fine album drenched in wasteful inanity. It is a sad fact of this album, and perhaps further indicative of the group’s influences, but let us put it aside and explore the record more.
The cover is reminiscent of Deicide’s debut or rather Deicide is reminiscent of this record. It has “terra rosa no ino’ (or ‘Terra Rosa’s stamp’) written in Kanji on its cover surrounded by a morbid scheme of beheaded plump faces. Perhaps the band is eschewing the meaning for its monicker and taking it literally as ‘earth drenched in red.’ Who knows? At first listen it is also obvious that Bow Wow influenced the band. The patented throaty Japanese vocals, energetic virtuoso guitars and mostly Japanese lyrics interspersed with English phrases enveloped within Japanese titles are all present. Yet, the quality here surpasses anything Bow Wow issued. The Osaka-turned-Tokyoite band shreds on track after track justifying us bemoaning the downward trajectory of musicianship and joie-de-vivre of metal in the intervening years. Friday’s Free Fair’s metal riff and a blast of vocals are only contravened by the oddball title. That lead guitar.. Wow! Akao does hint at Ann Boleyn of Hellion at times. The title track’s turn next and it is as close to Rainbow generally and the song The Gates Of Babylon specifically as it gets. Even the vocal harmonies bear some resemblance. Petrouchka is next and the lyrics do not offer a clue regarding the title. It has a phenomenal riff to start, but devolves into a slow and poppy song that could have come off a Craaft album. It is a song about “lovesick boys and girls” apparently.
Vision Of The Lake Bottom begins the second side. Included is an incredible Blackmore-inspired solo, but other than that and the unrelenting vocals and energy it should not be called a great song unto itself. The song stands out for its English-only lyrics. The accent, however, makes it little different from the other tracks in terms of comprehension and the grammar and word usage is all Engrish anyway. You be the judge:
Vision of the lake bottom run through the city.
Be quick get out from the boots.
A new day just begun.
Fatima, ostensibly an Arabic name, is an instrumental further not shedding light on the title’s background. This title may have influenced the Japanese band Fatima Hill to come up with its monicker less than a decade later. The track itself suffers at the hand of an organ. もの言わぬ顔 or “Monoiwanu Kao’ (‘The Silent face’) is a ten-minute album closer whose music box like melody is reminiscent of a horror movie. The more brooding vocals are the star here while the intricate and melodic guitars could have been played by Yngwie Malmsteen on Alcatrazz's Disturbing The Peace album from 1985.
The young band’s hard rock has lots going for it and creates a momentum that puts the boys and girl on a roll. Terra Rosa members are passionate for their art and clearly in tune with one another. There is an abundance of energy and a lust for art on this record that newer acts cannot match. The Blackmore and even some Malmsteen influences are overt and one has to recall that the latter man had his biggest impact in 1984 and 1985. The vocals are upfront and well audible, but the drums miss out in the mix and overall production. Indeed, this album was an independent recording and release initially before the and returned to the studio courtesy of its record company to re-do the whole thing except the drums! The vocals are beyond competent and a talent. Female vocals in hard rock and metal were not novel in Japan even back then when one recalls Rajas, Majoran or Honjo MIsako. Sadly, the line-up responsible for The Endless Basis was ended soon, but changing members or not, we all know debut albums have a magic all their own often not repeated. The band marched on nonetheless and is still going in one form or another today. - Ali “The Metallian”