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Melody and heaviness in perfect balance - 87%

Agonymph, December 25th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD + DVD, Victor (Limited edition)

There has been a veritable cornucopia of female heavy and power metal bands from Japan these last few years. A few of them are good, a lot of them are too upbeat and poppy for my taste and then there’s Mary’s Blood. Armed with an array of excellent contemporary heavy metal riffs courtesy of new guitar sorceress Saki and the powerful, slightly gritty throat of the excellent Eye, the band created an almost-masterpiece with ‘Bloody Palace’ last year and almost exactly a year later, they released another fantastic record by the title of ‘Fate’. Another must if you’re into modern heavy and power metal.

Melody and heaviness are in perfect balance with Mary’s Blood. The bottom end is kept firm and powerful by Saki’s riffing and Mari’s not overly complex, but highly effective drum work and combined with Eye’s perfect amount of power, passion and grit, they sound a bit like a 21st century Japanese counterpart to Warlock. They have the catchy songs and the exceptional vocals in common, but Mary’s Blood is clearly a band of its own time and location. And interestingly, they have become a little bit heavier over time without sacrificing any of their memorable melodicism.

If there is something of a tried, tested and true Mary’s Blood formula, it is certainly well represented in songs like ‘Nautical Star’, ‘Counter Strike’, ‘Endless Tragedy’ and ‘Queen Of The Night’. Intense, but not too aggressive riffing, dual guitar harmonies, a chorus that I’d have sung along immediately if I spoke Japanese and plenty of room for Saki to show off her considerable skills. ‘Chateau De Sable’ even has her battling with former Seikima II guitarist Luke Takamura, resulting in a downright awesome solo section. And Miki ‘Sun-Go’ Igarashi from Japan’s original all-female metal band Show-Ya contributes to the album’s highlight: the wonderfully intense borderline thrash of ‘Change The Fate’.

Japanese bands have a tendency to experiment a little on their albums and ‘Fate’ is no exception. Their collaboration with Babymetal producer Yuyoyuppe raised some eyebrows and while the results are somewhat controversial, I think ‘Angel’s Ladder’ mainly suffers from its prominent placing on the album. Eye really shines on this very heavy stomper and it may not have caused as much backlash if it was placed later on the album. The breakdown on the other one, ‘Self-Portrait’, sounds a little strange at first, but you’ll get used to it, as the rest of the track is unmistakably Mary’s Blood.

As a whole, ‘Fate’ is just short of the brilliance and the perfect flow of ‘Bloody Palace’, but not by much. The playing is beyond excellent and Eye’s singing beyond even that. The ballad is even better this time around – the dark atmosphere and the guitar-oriented direction of ‘In The Rain’ work wonders – and the band is luckily still finding ways to keep things fresh. As long as that is the case, I see a bright future ahead of Mary’s Blood. And they deserve it, because they’re easily the most powerful of all the female metal bands coming from Japan the last couple of years.

Recommended tracks: ‘Change The Fate’, ‘Queen Of The Night’, ‘Counter Strike’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog

Chateau de Sable avec non Fromage - 88%

Liquid_Braino, November 8th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD + DVD, Victor (Limited edition)

One of the things I like about the Japanese metal scene is that oftentimes when a band gets on a role, it's like a time-warp to the pre-90's days when us Western types didn't have to wait a few years for our favorite bands to dish out a new full-length. Mary's Blood has been delivering the goods annually for the past few years, and right now I wouldn't have it any other way. Their latest, Fate, generally sticks to the formula of their last two albums, a sort of combination of doing what they do best, a bit of streamlining and a couple of uncharted explorations. In other words, if you like Mary's Blood like I do, then there's no major reason for this album to be a turn-off whatsoever. So raise that Bloody Mary high and suck down all those healthy nutrients!

Unlike the last couple of albums, Fate doesn't fuck around with an intro. Opener "Counter Strike" launches like a Mitsubishi F-2 Fighter airstrike on 'Brony Cruise 2016', with Mari bombarding her drumkit relentlessly and taking no scorched prisoners. The fact that it sounds somewhat similar to the Bloody Palace gem "Bite the Bullet" is no drawback since I fucking love that song too! If that wasn't enough, "Shall We Dance?" follows with another round of missile attacks, obliterating the floating wreckage and any clinging survivors. It sure felt great early on to know that the band has no intentions of slowing down, and in fact Fate is arguably their most furious release yet. Even upbeat mid-tempo numbers like "Nautical Star" and "Endless Tragedy" would up the ante in velocity to pure thrash for Saki's guitar solo eruptions. Girl has the need for speed I guess.

One thing I sense is the continuous shifting away from what normally constitutes power metal to a "jeans and leather jackets" style of thrash. Or maybe a "jean jackets and leather skirts" deal, but either way it's glossy but not bereft of fury and grit. The production is slightly cleaner than their last outing, but not at the expense of heaviness. The guitars are as bold and beastly as ever and the drums pound with authority yet without muddying shit up. No complaints in regards to the bass and vocals either. Considering how some of their past albums were mixed, listening to this album is like a gift to the fans for enduring some of those prior discrepancies in overall sound. Thank you so much Mary's Blood, even if your Azure EP almost ruptured my cranium.

Like much of their material, Fate doesn't ditch those tendencies of doodling about with variety. "Hanabi" is the album's party rocker representative, and will probably work better in a live environment with the crowd cheerfully yelling out the chorus while waving banners, circular fans or foam hands emblazoned with the band logo. The lone ballad "In the Rain" is actually a nice change of pace, not merely as a chill-out tune, but one that doesn't come across as the typical symphonic saccharine power ballad. It possesses a darker atmosphere, and the organ accompaniment is a refreshing alteration from the usual pseudo-orchestra. Unlike most albums from this particular scene, it's not the designated low point by any means. Oh, but there is a low point...

One of the big surprises with Fate was "Self-Portrait". A ripping thrasher after the poppy "Hanabi" was a jagged yet feisty and cool change of pace, but immediately after the second verse a chubby-ass breakdown barges in with an effect like suddenly being repeatedly bonked across the forehead by a flailing hippo dick. It's not that I'm unconditionally against this sort of thing, but it just doesn't suit Mary's Blood's style, man. I don't want no chug-a-slug bro-stomp damaging an otherwise corker of a thrash tune. Thankfully that was just a one-off metalcore-influenced shocker, but there was an even bigger bombshell named "Angel's Ladder" that I sure in hell wasn't ready for. Fittingly the only song here not written by an actual band member, it's got nu-metal swag featuring cock-blockin' beats and downtuned chuggage galore. If there's one thing I don't want while listening to heavy metal, it's a subconscious urge to moonwalk or spin around on my head like a retarded corkscrew. Amazingly enough, even this potential horror is reasonably salvaged thanks to singer Eye's glorious motorcycle-babe vocals and refusal to concede to wack rapping or whiny growls. The musicians also seem to come out of their stupefied trance on occasion, suddenly accelerating the fuck out of everything into a much preferred thrash-o-rama..

So yeah, a couple of issues, but all is more than forgiven when songs like "Change the Fate" and "Queen of the Night" are added to their catalog, two of the best achievements this band has ever dished out. The former track follows the ballad, and begins in a similar mellow fashion. But of course there's a wink in Eye's eye and soon enough the band goes completely full-ninja shithouse, breaking the fourth wall and grabbing my neck with its intensity. An absolute joyride of power-thrash filled with wicked licks and Eye being a bit angrier than usual, this is the sort of motherfucker to listen to when I'm tired and need inspiration to, you know, change my fate and shit. "Queen of the Night" is the mighty closer and the closest thing to a pure power metal track, yet it eschews the triumphant glory of majestic freedom and thunder for a more introspective and even solemn vibe. It's still fast as hell, but the chord progressions and melodies aim towards the melancholy side of things and a subtle piano adds an atmospheric effect like dewdrops on a sagging leaf. I don't even know what she's singing about, but the mood is there to an extent that I get all self-reflective. "I'm not a bad person, but I coulda been better" and other bullshit from the heart. Great tunes.

So outside of a couple of forays into "core" territory not unlike what Bridear did earlier this year, Fate continues Mary's Blood's trajectory of killer albums featuring some frisky feral fun-fests and outstanding musical chops to back it all up. Just check out that extended guitar solo break during "Chateau de Sable" to quash any ill-informed doubts. It's not quite at the same level of Bloody Palace, which is still in heavy rotation at my pad, but it is pretty damn close and least half of these songs are practically essential. I friggin' love Mary's Blood, and continue to praise the name of the band Destrose for having so many members quit to form wonderful splinter groups such as this one. I'll raise my glass of spiked tomato juice once again, as fate can sometimes be a good thing.