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Charge It Up - Play It Loud - 87%

OzzyApu, June 8th, 2010

Just when 1977 was looking to finish, Bow Wow advanced with their third rocker, Charge. This aptly titled epic features more of the hard-hitting heavy metal that made the first two albums ones to appreciate. While a step down in terms of heaviness, it manages to mold both hard rock and heavy metal together better than the debut album – all in the name of Black Sabbath. The self-titled full-length cruised with joy, the sophomore tore fans up, and this one gives the best of both.

The four musicians of Bow Wow for this album, conveniently featured on the cover in a not so convenient plaster, weren’t showing what they were capable of on the previous albums. It would sound like years passed for them to reach this point, but in fact it has been roughly a year by the time this album was released, and already there’s a considerably amount of improvement. I’d mark this album as the breakers from zeroes to heroes for Bow Wow, and from here on out they’d be known forth as the Japanese band (in Japan and at the time).

Production for this one more balanced, with Niimi’s drum kit sounding like a genuine kit. They still didn’t fix the drum bass issue (the fact that you can’t hear it), but everything else on the kit sounds natural and cold. The patterns he employs are catching up to the guitarists, with attention given to nice pacers and swift stampedes. The bass guitar follow the rhythm as usual, and this time Sano’s lines are louder, so it’s a part of the music rather than a piece of the music. The guitars haven’t been toned down, but there isn’t a conflict whatsoever; you can literally hear the bass running alongside the other instruments with clean rumbling.

For the guitarists, proficiency is the key with the solos they’re now writing; Tony Iommi would be satisfied, I tell you. From “Must Say Adieu” to “Blue Eyed Lady” and all the way up to “Behind The Mask,” we got twisters, benders, morphers, duals, and flashy solos that sound authentic and tireless. I never heard a dull moment with these solos because the guitarists aren’t busy jerking off their guitar necks, but crafting something that reinvigorates the body and mind. Some of the songs mentioned though may be a bit murky in terms of quality, especially with the execution of the vocals like on “Jet Jive” and “Heavy” – for the latter, why the hell did they drag the vocals with the stupid electronic overdub?

For Yamamoto, the steps have been considerable, even though it doesn’t sound like a whole lot has changed. The songwriting still consists of the usual short rockers, a soft track or two, and a track that ends up becoming one of my favorites from the band. Kicking off with “Jet Jive,” I wasn’t too impressed overall, mainly because it sounds kind of rushed. Maybe that’s a bit harsh; I guess I don’t like the style of it – hard rock with a lot of joy and vocals that are way too joyful for their own good. Kyoji still sings with a clean, heavy Japanese accent that can be pretty laughable at first, but more efforts are made for shouts.

Kyoji’s accent makes the parts sung in English to be a bit amusing at first, but at least the man is trying and putting a lot of energy into the performance. With stuff like “Jet Jive,” it’s pretty nasal, unlike “Sister Soul” and “Rock And Roll Kid” where the vocals are low cleans; most of the album takes this approach, too. “Fallen Leaves” is the separate ballad, but even then Kyoji has focused, poignant, thick cleans as opposed to the nasal stuff. One thing’s for sure, you won’t feel intimidated by his singing…

…except on “Must Say Adieu,” which is the longest, heaviest, and best song on the album; what a way to follow-up on “Jet Jive.” For this second track, the surf rock riff blasts things off, and Kyoji does grunts, warbles, wails, screams, and shouts with his roughest performance yet. Yamamoto and Saitou blaze through with dual riffs tearing the place up into a festive fire, and then it breaks into one of the best bridges I’ve ever heard in heavy metal. The ground is given to Sano for grooving bass solos and to kick off the rhythm with Niimi. The dual guitars unleash short bursts before hopping on board and decimating the entire thing with solo after solo like a jet bombing run.

For those looking into the band, any of the ’70s albums are good starting points, but even then you might as well just start at the beginning. This makes the debut sound years away, even though the hard rock / traditional heavy metal style has barely changed at all. Nonetheless, the implementation by all the members remains undeterred while the creativity is still alive. Charge is a worthy follow-up to the heavier sophomore album, though any more albums just like this may be a little too much of the same thing. I know the style is different with Vow Wow and the newer era of the band, but I’ll just have to wait and hear with the rest of these early birds.