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After three albums full of rockers and some heavy metal classics, Bow Wow decided to chill out with this one and go for the soft stuff. No, they haven’t sold out, but thus far this is their lightest album (making it their lightest ‘70s album). Regardless, the style still hasn’t changed much from the optimistic hard rock / heavy metal that has made up the band’s sound since the beginning. They’ve all gotten better at playing their instruments and the songs themselves have shown proper development, but it’s all starting to sound pretty alike. So with this in mind, going the mellow route isn’t a move that warrants bad music, but it’s not the typical stuff that I listen to.
Now although I love metal, I do need to show some love where it’s deserved – metal or not. This album as a whole isn’t heavy metal – this is hard rock, and even then it becomes as light and almost as poppy as The Beatles. Hearing songs like “Sabishi Sa Ha Shira Nai,” “Harii & Karen,” and “Koko Kara” is like sleeping outside in the grass or on a beach without a care in the world. It’s almost as if the band didn’t have a heavier past and are looking ahead, with the only thing remotely heavy being the solos. The production for this one is unchanged from Charge - the mixing among the instruments is equal and the warm tone is incredibly relaxing.
The album is packed with blissful tracks that revolve around love, relationships, people, feelings, something about a knife, and the like. Doesn’t matter too much since you can’t understand anything not in English unless you know Japanese, but even then Yamamoto isn’t exactly the clearest singer. His vocals are unchanged: low cleans that still retain every bit of youth Kyoji ever had. Compared to the shouts and warbles that would come out of him on the previous albums, I don’t think I heard more than five instances where he attempted them with this one. This is a soft album, so the music doesn’t really call for any of that.
The addition of keys and synthesizers is also interesting, and they aren’t wasted on overdone, sappy melodies or wank sessions. The songs that feature them the most are “Ban Ka,” “Itsumo No Basho,” and “Kaze Ga Fuku,” with the latter two having some kickass moments near their endings that sound out of this world. Otherwise, most of the nods are given to the solos once more – with guitarists like these, I couldn’t see it any other way. Although the music is lighter, Kyoji and Mitsuhiro let loose some solos that twist and convulse like the previous albums, although still manage to keep things within the same tone.
The guitars, while a big piece of the music, are restricted to some riffs and mostly clean leads, mellow sections, and atmosphere layering. Solos are the drivers, and the bass guitar and drums are the road pavers – if that made any sense. For a ‘70s album, it no doubt captures that late ‘70s essence: chill atmosphere, placid tones, groovy vibes, carefree attitude, and the general laidback personality. The bass guitar rumbles louder than ever, but not aggressively; groove is the key, and these lines are slick and smooth to keep everyone calm. Drums do the same, with quieter crashes and drum bass sounding like heart beats. I still can’t believe they haven’t got that drum bass blasted up to its proper volume, but I guess this wouldn’t be the best album to do it on.
Overall, Guarantee isn’t guaranteed to please any metalheads at first; I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone is put off by it, either. For those into lighter rock or hard rock in general, then this is a walk through the park. I know the band wouldn’t stick to this particular style, but for now it works and I can’t complain too much. Some will like it, and others won’t, and that’s all cool as long as you give the band the attention they deserve. It’s been over thirty years since this was released, and even though these songs could of (and probably were) hits in Japan, they have little breathing space elsewhere. Sad, but at least it remains a piece of rock history to appreciate.