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A worthy debut, after all - 76%

TitaniumNK, February 6th, 2012

I discovered this band not long ago, when I roamed on YouTube aimlessly. When I came across Katana, I thought they have a fucking cool name and found out that they play classic, '80s/Maiden influenced heavy metal. I said ''count me in'' and before you know it, I ended up with their debut album, ''Heads Will Roll''. It's not great, has some significant flaws, but damn, this band know exactly what heavy metal is all about - fun, passion and attitude. Katana has all of that, and aren't afraid of using them.

Like I said, the Maiden factor is very important for Katana's music. Several riffs and bridges (the best ones, actually) are bloody similar to Maiden's trademark riffing with a dead-on sense for melody. Likewise, Katana took lyrical themes from NWOBHM, glorifying liberty, rebellion and passion for living. Musically, this album resembles metal's most glory days in the '80s, and is yet another proof how supposedly surpassed and retrograde music can be powerful with modern production, and more importantly, way better than today's mainstream poor excuse for music. Other than '80s influence, you can clearly hear Hammerfall's influence as well, reflecting in Johan BernspÄng's voice (reminding of Joacim Cans) and anthemic, sing-along choruses that are present in most of the songs. With all that in mind, it's as clear as day that Katana's music is made to entertain, with no pretensions to be something it's not, and that's another plus for them.

But this kind of music is a double-edged sword. When it's good, it's mind-blowing, but when it's bad, it's bland and annoying. That's the trap that Katana didn't completely manage to avoid, since there are some great songs here, but some fillers as well. Luckily, on ''Heads Will Roll'' there are more good than bad songs, and after all you can call this a worthy debut.

First, the good aspects. The band performance is very convincing and professional, no half-assed delivery anywhere to be found. The lyrics, while dealing with stereotypical subjects, are actually good, especially the ones on ''Phoenix on Fire'' and ''Quest for Hades''. And finally, the highlights: ''Livin' Without Fear'', ''Phoenix on Fire'' and ''Heart of Tokyo''. All of these songs are excellent, with Katana's songwriting skills reaching its top - melodic, catchy, hooky anthems that are destined to be played live. Let's hope that Katana will be able to pull off more songs like these in the future. Also worth mentioning are ''Neverending World'' for the great chorus and interesting solo part and ''Asia in Sight'' for its unusual lyrical subject - it is actually about discovering of America (Columbus thought he discovered maritime way to India, thus Asia). ''Blade of Katana'' is good, has the famous ''certain lacking'' thing, but in the end it's good enough to improve the quality of this album.

The fillers have, as I mentioned, one big flaw - they sound like you've heard similar songs thousands of times before and are very annoying (Saxon mid '80s era annoying, yeah I know that's bad). Heavy metal shouldn't make you want it to end, but these tunes do. The infamous three are ''Across the Stars'', ''Rebel Ride'' and ''Quest for Hades''. The first two try to invoke trademark '80s heavy metal brilliance, but fail miserably, while ''Quest for Hades'' is very interesting lyrical-wise, but the music sounds rushed and as if its only purpose is to back up the whole lyrical story, instead of being the other way around. Still, despite the overall ''going through motions'' feeling, this song has several interesting ideas, and it probably could've been much better if the song concept was done properly. This is what you get when bands which shouldn't bother with epics because they don't know the first thing about writing them, actually spawn that kind of unholy bastard.

I hope that Katana will listen properly to their debut album, make some thorough analysis and fix the mistakes they made here. I have hope for this band, as they delivered some truly great music on this album, but be assured - they have to get better, otherwise they'll fall into oblivion very soon. With that ominous words, I conclude: this is one good debut, but the improvement is necessary as soon as possible for Katana. I'm waiting for their next move.