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The Start of it All - 88%

TadakatsuH0nda, September 4th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1979, 12" vinyl, Sounds Marketing System, Inc.

From the Black World is a massive landmark in Japanese metal history. Nokemono were a band that appeared out of nowhere in 1978 and by 1979 released the first Japanese album that was heavy metal through and through, nearly a full decade after the Flower Travellin' Band helped influence the genre. There's huge significance here, because there wasn't another heavy metal band even remotely close to Nokemono's caliber in Japan at the time, (though Bow Wow already had 4 albums out, they weren't a metal band quite yet) Flower Travellin' Band were long gone, Action! were only in their early stages and didn't truly get going until the mid 80s, heck, Loudness' debut The Birthday Eve only appeared in late 1981, nearly a full 3 years after From the Black World. What followed this album was the formation of the entire Japanese metal scene.

You can picture the Japanese teens in 1978 being blown away by this home-grown band performing with a young Judas Priest (!) across Japan on their tour for Stained Class, and the impact that would have left on them, wanting to play heavy metal themselves. When listening to From the Black World, you can hear the bands that influenced Nokemono, for the most part Deep Purple and Rainbow, as well as perhaps a bit of influence from early Scorpions a la Taken By Force era, as well as Bow Wow's first few mid 70s albums when they were still a hard rock band, but more importantly you can hear bands that they influenced themselves. Despite being influenced by Bow Wow, Bow Wow would return the favor and emulate and improve on Nokemono's style on Warning From Stardust, when they became a heavy metal band themselves. I would also go out on a limb and say that X Japan took a good bit of influence from Nokemono too, for just a small example, listen to the opening to the track Ushinawareta Ai and then listen to Kurenai's intro; the similarities are uncanny and could easily be interchangeable.

Musically this album is all around excellent. It's exceptionally innovative and stylish, and has a huge NWOBHM feel, despite being such an early album from Japan of all places. Ace's vocals are very strong, with a similar delivery to Kyoji Yamamoto's style, but aren't as hyper, though still smooth and very nearly as good. Cherry's bass is played to excellence, taking on melodies constantly throughout and driving the music forward with as great of an effect as a bassist can possibly have without overwhelming the other instrumentalists, Popeye's drums are nimble and and slick and with an added cowbell on certain songs, it contributes largely to From the Black World's overall catchyness, but perhaps the best of all is the guitar work of Rolla and Buchan, with plenty of fantastic riffs throughout, their guitar tone isn't one that typically comes to mind for a metal album, as I'm more accustomed to hearing it on the rock albums of the 70s, though it works brilliantly well. The whole band's chemistry is crazy tight and every member compliments the others.

One of my favorite things about this album is the production quality which is good enough to beat out a large portion of the Japanese metal albums of the 80s and early 90s. This is a 1979 heavy metal album from a (at the time they were recording this) fairly obscure band in Japan, and everything is leveled beautifully, the instruments are very clear and it's evident they put plenty of effort into these aspects. If I had any complaint at all about this, it would be a couple of tracks sounding awful similar to others on the album for example Ari Jigoku sounding like Run Away, though this is made up for firstly by them both being great fun songs, and secondly they're both at opposite ends of the album.

All in all, From the Black World is an album that deserves and needs to be remembered. Before there was Loudness, Earthshaker, Anthem, and X, there was Nokemono; without this band the Japanese metal scene would likely sound entirely different that it currently does. If you want to hear not only a solid early metal album, but one that helped define Japan's early metal scene, as well as if you're a fan of Bow Wow's style, this is most certainly an album you won't want to miss out on.