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Yes, so sue me, another stellar Animetal review! If you don’t like it, go read something else. Seriously, this is a pivotal album for the Japanese metal gods in terms of production and playing ability, and they cover some seriously obscure tunes on this one as well. Shows that only hardcore fanboys know of in both Japan and America (especially over here), that is, and as always the Animetal treatment really revs them up into totally different beasts than they were before. This was also the last album that longtime guitarist She-Ja played on before leaving the band to pursue his other project, Volcano, I believe. And what a swan song this album is for him.
It has to be said that the guitar parts aren’t as maniacal on this album as other albums of theirs are. She-Ja is more restrained on the lead front even though he gets his share of soloing in as always. But the melodies are fabulous, memorable and stirring as he strings the songs together in careful fashion with them. The usual twin-guitar harmonies are present in a somewhat more restrained manner also, not quite to the level of insanity that future guitarist Syuji would bring them to. The glassy clear production really enhances his guitar sound too.
And bassist Masaki—whew! This was the album on which he really started taking over on the bass front with his playing rising to an incredible level of ability. His breakneck slapping and popping, fluid tapping, crashing chords and jagged fills are all over this album, executed with equal parts sushi chef precision and vigorous devil-may-care attitude, yet he never forgets the bass’ function as he lays down a thick foundation. All with a perfectly clean tone, no distortion at all. The drums, however, have a distinctly triggered click to them, something I found bothersome. Hence, points knocked off for that little annoyance. Sakamoto-san as always does a great job with his vocals, layering call and response parts and harmonizing to nice effect, with what sound like several guest vocalists appearing on a handful of tracks.
The traditional (Japanese folks are all about tradition, don’t you know) opening instrumental, “The Three Musketeers of Hell”, gets style points for the title alone and starts things off in a nice way, with crunchy riffs and a stately melody, and as always segues into a high-speed opener, “God Mars”. And yes, the requisite amount of classic metal riffs rear their heads as always—in fact, “Ginga Senpuu Braiger” (“Space Gale Braiger”) starts and ends with the opening riff of Eizo Sakamoto’s “Take Her” from his album “Shout Drunker”! How cheeky of them!
“Time For L-Gaim” features strong guitar melodies and a great chorus in both Japanese and “Engrish” featuring football shouts of “HEAVY METAL!!!” book-ending the lines (the show is called “Heavy Metal L-Gaim”). “Ginga Renpuu” features two cartoon-character-sounding guest singers dueling and duetting who actually add an additionally frantic feel to the fast-moving song with their intense vocals despite their odd styles. “Ai Wo Tomoridase (You Are Shock)”, from “Fist of the North Star” is a powerful, jolting number with a sweet, melodic middle bit and one of the best solos on the album making its presence known right at the end. And these are just a few of the best tunes here.
At first I wasn't too keen on this album, but it has since grown on me to be just as essential to my sanity and listening habits as the rest of their albums. Now to try and score their two newest albums so I can gush about them too...as I probably will end up doing and not giving a damn what others think! =)