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Unexpected restraint - 70%

colin040, January 13th, 2021

Perhaps Anthem were trying to gain (more) commercial success here, or perhaps they felt like relying more on the vocals than usual, but Gypsy Ways is the oddball in the band’s discography as it comes off surprisingly restrained. Arguably the band's most melodic album out of their early catalogue, this album concerns itself with a lot of hooks and catchy, vocal-driven choruses. That's not to say that Anthem's earlier records weren't about those at all, but let's just say that from a stylistic point perspective Gypsy Ways is somewhat more reminiscent of Judas Priest's anthemic 80's material than their rapid fire tunes.

As most of Anthem’s albums do, Gypsy Ways does start off with a serious bang, as the title track doesn't mess around; its cutting riffs match perfectly with newcomer Yukio Morikawa’s splendid vocals that make it as hummable as headbang-worthy track. Yukio Morikawa would be the definite Anthem vocalist to me; grounded, confident, classy and with a decent amount of range displayed through high wails and melodic harmonies, he’s just one hell of a singer. Strangely enough I can’t help but think that the track has an archaic feel to it for a speed metal number though; in terms of intensity it’s more reminiscent of Riot circa Fire Down Under than, say, Thundersteel. From there on, Gypsy Ways mostly slows down its pacing. Interestingly enough tunes like ‘’Silent Child’’ and ‘’Final Risk’’ become rather deceiving - the former opens up with some tranquil keys that foreshadow something balladic, yet it turns into a laid back decent galloper with an elaborated chorus and the latter introduces some so-so rocking riffs before turning into a decent slab of 80’s metal. ‘’Cryin’ Heart’’ is a surprisingly faster tune, even though it hardly feels intense; it's more of an melodic take on speed metal than anything else and doesn't stand a chance against the band’s intense speed metal demons such as ‘’Victim in Your Eyes’’ or ‘’Voice of Thunderstorm’’.

Obviously, the lack of many speed metal tunes isn’t a con of Gypsy Ways – it’s just that the record feels too lightweight for its own good from time to time. ‘’Shout it Out’’ is the ultimate 80’s tune that sounds as if it was meant to part of Anthem’s set list, yet the vocal-fronted approach doesn’t always work. Tunes like ‘’Bad Habits Die Hard’’ and ‘Midnight Sun’’ are led forward by Yukio Morikawa’s charismatic vocals, yet both tunes aren’t quite as hook-y and therefor don’t work as well as far as vocal fronted tunes are concerned. Although Gypsy Ways is arguably the band’s catchiest and most accessible record I’m just glad that this album was a one-off from the band. How Anthem managed to follow up with their most intense and best album one year later, I’ll never know - but I’m glad that they did. Anyway, Gypsy Ways is enjoyable for a lightweight Japanese metal record and you could do a lot worse if you’d ask me (take Hurricane Eyes by Loudness for instance, now there’s a stinker!)

This review was originally written for antichristmagazine.com

One of the catchiest heavy metal albums ever - 90%

kluseba, November 19th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Nexus (Reissue, Remastered)

Anthem had managed to establish itself as one of Japan's greatest heavy metal bands over the past few years and even had some minor success overseas, propulsed by the popularity of genre colleagues Loudness. Nothing seemed to stop the band when singer Eizo Sakamoto suddenly left because he couldn't handle the band's rise to glory. For most bands, such an important line-up change would have provoked a short break and decline in popularity but this wasn't the case for Anthem. They quickly recruited Yukio Morikawa, who had once competed against Eizo Sakamoto in an audition to join the band. In just a few weeks, Yukio Morikawa left his job in a sushi restaurant and became the lead singer of one of Japan's most popular bands. Only fourteen months after the predecessor, Anthem released Gypsy Ways and it would turn out to be the band's best album so far. The band's efficiency, motivation and resilience were absolutely stunning and an example to follow.

Despite the line-up change, Gypsy Ways is a logical successor of Bound to Break. The band went further away from its vivid heavy and speed metal roots to focus on more melodic hard rock and heavy metal anthems. Once more produced by acclaimed Chris Tsangarides, Gypsy Ways finds the right balance between smooth, melodic and accessible soundscapes and an organic sound chosen for the rhythm section and guitar solos. The songwriting is even more precise than before as this record includes ten potential singles that are extremely catchy and memorable. This doesn't mean that the tracks are bland, commercial and predictable. Anthem keeps things interesting as the record varies from power ballads such as ''Cryin' Heart'' over more rhythmic tracks like ''Bad Habits Die Hard'' to more atmospheric and sinister songs in the key of ''Legal Killing''.

Opening the record with one of the greatest tracks in the group's long career in form of the uplifting title track ''Gypsy Ways (Win, Lose or Draw)'' was a smart move, not only because it's an energizing track with an unforgettable chorus but because it showcases Yukio Morikawa's vocal skills. His predecessor had a rawer voice and less accurate pronounciation. Morikawa however was regularly compared to Graham Bonnet for his more clean, high-pitched and melodic voice and clearer pronounciation. While the predecessor had a voice that would please speed and even thrash metal fans, Morikawa represents the ideals of a skilled hard rock and heavy metal singer. It's a matter of taste whether you prefer the more unique Sakamoto or the more skilled Morikawa but from a technical point of view, Morikawa pushed Anthem to the next level and his vocal style suits the record perfectly.

Gypsy Ways might not be the most innovative heavy metal album but it's one of the catchiest releases of its kind and features ten memorable tracks with single potential that make this release Anthem's most consistent album at that point in its career. It's a big step forward for Anthem commercially, stylistically and technically. Any fan of melodic heavy metal music should call this release her or his own.

These guys really impress - 90%

maidenpriest, August 2nd, 2005

This album, released in 1988, was the first album for the new lineup of the band. After the shock departure of (due to stress and pressure to perform mounting on) vocalist Eizo Sakamoto, the band looked set to either disband or take a nosedive in terms of popularity. They did neither. Vocalist Yukio Morikawa, who had previously auditioned when previous vocalist Sakamoto Eizo got the job after the band narrowing it down to these two, was called back to see what would have happened had he joined.

At the time, Yukio Morikawa was known as ‘the local Graham Bonnet’, who, as we all know, has contributed vocals to some of the best Heavy Metal bands in history. Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group (MSG), his own band Alcatrazz, Impelliteri, and also, as it turns out, in 2000, Anthem (on their self-cover comeback collection, also highly recommended, ‘Heavy Metal Anthem’)! Anyway, back to the point. Yukio Morikawa, working at a Sushi restaurant at the time, had been compared to Bonnet. And rightly so. But we’ll get back to that.

This album would have shut up any critics who wanted Eizo back. Although as the first generation of Anthem (with Eizo) went on, the music style hardly changed, the quality of the songs had undoubtedly improved, from the self-titled album of ’85, through ‘Tightrope’ (’86) and finally ‘Bound to Break’ (’87). They even made a break in America, playing a tour with Racer X (!) in support. Eizo’s singing had also matured to a very impressive level, from an amateuristic attempt on the debut. He would be sorely missed.

The songs on this album are melodic but heavy, dramatic but catchy, and very atmospheric, a clear turn away from the out-and-out aggression of the first 3 albums. You could even say that the band came closer to achieving the sound of Bonnet-era Rainbow. From the first song to the last, however, the songs are heavy and with good riffs. Song by song:

1. Gypsy Ways (win, lose or draw) – a great opener, heavy, cool riff, with mournful, emotional singing from Morikawa. Nope, Eizo could not have pulled this off. A
2. Love in Vain – This song is even more melodic than the first, and what a melody! It’s a minor key song, heart-wrenchingly sad, and Morikawa makes you wonder why they ever chose Eizo over him (although Eizo’s aggressive singing does have it’s place on the aggressive previous albums) A+
3. Bad Habits Die Hard – This song is HEAVY! Although not as strong as the first two songs (lamentably, it’s a little repetitive and the melody is not that great), still a good song. B
4. Legal Killing – This song is heavy but aggressive too, with pretty heavy lyrics. B+
5. Cryin’ Heart – This is amazing stuff. Cool Japanese lyrics, great backing guitar and solo! Melody is good, really catchy. A great song, one of the best on the album. A+
6. Silent Child – Second great track in a row, intro sounds a little like ‘Will you be home tonight’ by Alcatrazz, although that wouldn’t be released for another 3 years. The melody on the bridge is so good, as well as the harmonized chorus. A
7. Midnight Sun – This is a good mid-tempo song, a new kind of song for Anthem, since Eizo was not suitable for ballads. Good song. A
8. Shout It Out! – Catchy, fun song. Good. B+
9. Final Risk – A speedy number, the obligatory ‘car song’, but with a twist. The chorus is really sorrowful, not the usual happy 'Highway Star' stuff, and Morikawa is really emotional. A
10. Night Stalker – Heavy, plodding rhythm on top of which Morikawa lays down a most impressive vocal track, powerful like Dio or Graham Bonnet. A

All in all, a great album, so right for the time too, as had Eizo not left at the time, he may not have performed as well as he could have, and the lineup of albums have produced not a single dud between ‘Tightrope’ and the last album of Morikawa-era, ‘Domestic Booty’ (what the hell were they thinking when they named that album?)

If you understand Japanese (or even if you don’t you can enjoy the impressive singing and brilliant songwriting) and like Metal in the vein of Accept or Bonnet-era Rainbow (bar ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Since You Been Gone’, ‘Down to Earth’ is so much more than those two tracks), you will really like this. Expertly executed Heavy Metal with a really great singer.

Special mention must be made of guitarist Hiroya Fukuda, whose guitar solos on this are special, irresistibly melodic and a real improvement over his previous efforts. And he doesn’t resort to neoclassical shred for impact, it’s just classic metal-style shredding all the way through from him, often with palm-muted riff sections in the solos, to add emphasis. Some of the soaring melodies remind you of Wolf Hoffman (Accept) or Michael Schenker (UFO, MSG).