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Good live album, shame about the production. - 79%

maidenpriest, August 6th, 2004

Any true metalhead who hears Anthem for the first time will find it hard not to fall in love with this Japanese heavy metal band. It's not that the musicians are virtuosic (even though they are good musicians). The reason for their continued popularity in their home country and among some Americans (I imagine) is their SONGS. In a decade dominated by pomp, with the hair metal scene underway and many bands more concerned with their image than with the music, Anthem never let the rockstar lifestyle get to them and always gave no. 1 priority to writing and performing music.

In fact, when Anthem were on tour in America (with Racer X and Commander supporting them!) one night in a hotel room bassist & leader Naoto Shibata sat drummer Daisuke 'Mad' Ohuchi down and told him not to let the success get to his head and to stay calm. This, in the Rockstar hotel where fellow Japanese metallers Loudness were staying, as well as enjoyers of the Rock and Roll lifestyle, Poison! That is how Naoto Shibata works, and his absolute control meant that the success never got in the way of the music (despite Anthem being one of the first Japanese metal acts alongside Loudness to tour in America) and they never lost their identity.

Anyway, this live album was recorded on the aforementioned USA tour at the Country Club in California. Opening acts were Commander and Racer X, led by a young Paul Gilbert. Despite most of the songs being sung in Japanese, the reaction of the American crowd is really great, and the loud cheering in between songs and when song names are announced suggests that they had many fans on the West Coast. Being on the 'Bound To Break' tour, the album being their best yet, the band are in high spirits and the performance is powerful. Vocalist Eizou Sakamoto especially is great, he really puts his heart into the songs and his talk in between songs (We are Anthem, from JAPAN!!!) is fun. Drummer 'Mad' Ohuchi is also having a good day. Hiroya Fukuda, the guitarist, makes some mistakes but is impressive overall, and Naoto Shibata does a good job. So why the mediocre score?

The reason for that is the sound. Despite this record being produced by the legendary Chris Tsangarides of Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy fame, the sound is awful. It lacks any punch and the riffs are hardly heard. Disappointing because with a better mix this could have been something really special. With a good setlist including Machine Made Dog, Steeler, Soldiers, Bound To Break and other early classics, this is a good souvenir of a time when Anthem had a brief taste of international fame, and just like Loudness' EUROBOUNDS, it is important for its historical significance more than a live album recorded in Japan. So if you like Anthem, this is probably worth it, because the performance, though unpolished, is very powerful. Just try not to be put off by the poor mix.