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Eizo Sakamoto is apparently quite the busy veteran of the Japanese music scene, as vocalist for one of Japan’s longest-running metal bands (Anthem), as well as vocalist for Animetal, and now this solo effort that was released a couple of years ago in Japan. He of course mans the vocals on this album and proves himself an amazing, jaw-dropping guitarist to boot—the man can shred! He liberally mixes 80s hard rock and metal influences with a healthy amount of Pantera influence into the bargain on a couple of tunes to mostly very effective ends to make a surprisingly fresh and contemporary-sounding album that I ended up really liking a lot. I do have a soft spot for well-played and produced hard rock with commercial potential, believe it or not, and this album really shines despite most of it being sung in Japanese. Here’s a track by track rundown for y’all.
“Dr. Heavy Metal”: A catchy and surprisingly heavy number that actually reminds me of Nevermore traveling back in time to jam with Anthrax while they were at the height of their powers in the early 80s. I was thinking for some reason that this would be a glam record, but I was pleasantly surprised and proven wrong by this tune alone. In the 80s tradition, the chorus is memorable, but this is not even one of the better tunes on display here.
“I’m On Fire”: A cover of the classic Van Halen tune that is good but not great. His vocals are appropriate and do Dave’s howls justice, but this is not as good what follows.
“Evil Power II”: Talk about retro! This is a staggeringly fast, fluid, and proficient unaccompanied solo along the lines of Van Halen's “Eruption” and Racer X' “Frenzy” that amazes with his technical prowess. He takes no prisoners with this bit of flash.
“Ready For Love”: Despite the English title, it sounds like this is sung in Japanese. That aside, this is a crunchy 80s-sounding tune with ear-grabbing guitar parts on the verses and chorus as tradition demands. This really moves along and draws you in before you know it. Not to be confused with the classic rock tune of the same title by Free, obviously.
“Tsumibito Naraba”: Another Japanese language tune that is really groove-alicious and gets you moving! One of the best solos on the album tears your mind and eardrums a new one, and he shows off his acoustic guitar prowess in the beginning and end of this song as well. So far, this is a pretty well-rounded album, and the good production helps as well--it's not overly polished, which makes the album feel grittier.
“Man On Silver Mountain”: Hmmm….not so sure what to make of this one. A somewhat goofy feel undermines this number, which I’m not certain if this is a cover of Rainbow’s tune or not. Eizo’s vocals actually remind me a lot of David Bowie on this tune, singing in Japanese again, and while it ends up being rather amusing, I have to wonder just how drunk he was when he did this one!
“Iron Will”: More Japanese lyrics, with a very cool heavy intro that sets the tone nicely, and then segues into a poppy number with catchy shouts of “With Iron Will!” on the choruses.
“Holly Vice”: Probably the poppiest tune on this album, catchy but a little annoying—makes me think of “Miami Vice” for some reason. Sounds like something off of an anime soundtrack, actually.
“Take Her”: English language lyrics really ram home the story of this song about an unfaithful girlfriend, and the single-note riffing is excellent—so far this is my favorite song on this album. A driving beat and an especially memorable chorus (“Take her, she’s a little heartbreaker!”) make this tune really stand out. And did I mention he even tastefully sneaks in Edvard Grieg’s classic “Hall of the Mountain King” melody in the rideout? Too cool!
“Suizokukan E Ikou”: An amazing, machine-gun, wah-wah-soaked guitar lead opens this one, which is a little chaotic—it starts out slow and doomy, and segues into a thrashy verse that alternates between high speed and mid paced. A good little tune nonetheless, though.
"Crescent Moon" : My other favorite song on this album, it has an urgent feel similar to Queensryche's classic "Surgical Strike", only with infinitely better leadwork than that band has ever had. Nifty vocal effects on the pre-chorus parts, too, sounding like he's underwater.
"Adoro": The last tune rounds out the album with a heartfelt ballad that sees Eizo singing softly but passionately in Japanese again, building to a powerful climax, and making it work. This tune actually has a vaguely 50s feel to it, very Roy Orbison in delivery, and his last dramatically held notes really exude feeling.
I really dig this album, it reminds me of the glory days of early-80s metal when it was actually OK to have some crunchy riffing mixed in with the commercial potential. This would have gotten some serious airplay back then if all the songs had been in English. Highly recommended for fans of good melodic metal with heart and soul who don't care about language barriers! Give Sakamoto-san some props, y'all, he deserves them!