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Action! > Hot Rox > Reviews > Tanuki
Action! - Hot Rox

Right Place, Wrong Time, Wrong Pants - 62%

Tanuki, June 9th, 2017

At this time I'd like to give a moment of silence to Action!'s unsung debut album Hot Rox, and I would appreciate if no one snickered during it. When you think of lewd, glam-inspired Japanese metal, you think of one letter: X. Not to imply X Japan's popularity is undue, but the profound success of their debut album could be viewed as the right thing, from the right place, at the right time. Not so fortunate was Action!, a similarly Kiss-inspired Japanese metal band whose debut album came around the same time as X Japan's blisteringly awful I'll Kill You demo. Despite that, their crowded stable of nine full-length albums, and a plethora of compilation appearances, Action! still isn't in as common parlance as other Japanese metal legends.

Not to be too crude, but Hot Rox is an apropos title for an album that left my balls bluer than the Cookie Monster's. Tracks pulsate with energy, atmosphere, and personality, but they're trammeled by straight-laced, predictable song structures. Some of the slower, major-scale tracks like 'Lady Love' and 'Slider' are especially guilty of this, sounding like paper-thin AOR in metal's clothing. The major-scale riffs are still catchy, in a shameful kind of way, but their scrawny frame will make you wish they were something so much more.

Enter 'Heart Panic', a track that grants your wish, storming out of the gate with high-energy riffs and harmonizing vocals, genuinely akin to that of the insta-classic 'Vanishing Love'. Lead guitarist "Mock" Yamane makes an admirable effort keeping this analogy alive, delivering stunningly well-executed solos as well as these energetic bouncing riffs. They can also be found in the eccentric 'Interceptor' as well as a series of well-controlled gallops in 'Game'. Another commanding presence in these tracks as well as the entirety of Hot Rox is drummer Hitoshi Motomiya, supplying some great double bass rolls and syncopated rhythms.

Not so confident was vocalist Yoshiro Takahashi, skittish and decidedly unambitious throughout the shuffling blues licks of 'The Dream'. Takahashi would eventually turn up the heat with a more engaging and charismatic delivery in future albums like the criminally unknown Warning in the Night, but that's small comfort when you're slogging through 'Remember' at speeds slower than continental drift. His energy and range are passable overall, just don't expect to hear anything like the scream in 'Sadistic Desire'. And that's really a microcosm of the entire album: passable, but don't expect anything crazy. You'll probably find Hot Rox to be a fun and enjoyable album, as long as you keep your expectations low. Hm, that sounded considerably less insulting in my head.