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Solid and Strong J-Metal - 80%

corviderrant, October 9th, 2008

Long running Japanese metallers, Anthem, made a very solid splash into the international metal circles with this album. I remember hearing the title track many years ago on my college radio station of choice's metal show and being very impressed with it. Listening to this again over 20 years after the fact reveals that this album is holding up pretty well and features some excellent tunes.

Chris Tsangarides' production is clear and just gritty enough to add to Anthem's thundering, vintage Judas Priest-inspired style--the title track, in fact, is very reminiscent of "Painkiller", funnily enough. To my surprise, the drum sound is not as humungous as 80s drum sounds grew to become, it's just right. There is enough American influence in the music, though, most notably in the big sing-along choruses, to catch the average listener's ear and be memorable. The guitar work has just enough technical proficiency to impress and features unabashedly melodic work as well, over a booming rhythm section that rumbles along in an unstoppable vein once it gets rolling.

A young Eizo Sakamoto sings his heart out as only he can on this album, with a slightly lower vocal style and sound than he currently features, and the lyrics are a mixture of mostly Japanese with the odd bit of Engrish for good measure, making for some both interesting, slightly cliched, and downright odd titles and lyrics--"Machine Made Dog"? Wonder what that one's about? So, on to the music...

The title track powers its way out of your speakers with a howling barrage of guitar whammy bar madness surging into a crunching verse riff that charges into the fray right alongside Sakamoto's raspy, gutsy vocals. The pre-chorus and chorus on this one are dramatic and exciting, too! "Empty Eyes" keeps up the metal with an uptempo double bass romp and another strong chorus that etches itself into your mind despite it mostly being in a foreign language. Other standouts include "Show Must Go On" (the sole English language tune that Tsangarides helped write, possibly due to the band's lack of English skills at the time, and Sakamoto is actually rather easy to understand on this one), which is a thick midtempo wall of riffing, and "Soldiers", another dramatic and actually rather moving tune.

Overall, this is a very well-crafted, well-produced album showing that metal and good music knows no language or national barriers. The songwriting is there, the musicianship is skilled, it's a shame that the language barrier probably kept more American fans from appreciating what Anthem had to offer. Too bad, 'cos these guys were and still are really good at what they do, no-frills melodic metal that is straight no chaser and just as good as any of their American counterparts. This is very worth downloading or seeking out in the used bin at your record shop, most definitely, so check it out if you can hang with 80s metal that features equal parts crunch and melody. You will not be disappointed, I think.