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Night of the blade, day of the disappointment - 78%

Gutterscream, July 30th, 2013
Written based on this version: 1984, 12" vinyl, Roadrunner Records

“…scream if you can, no one will hear…”

Somewhere within my metallically-mirthless heart is a narrow cave pocked with small and uncharacteristically cozy alcoves. Here my most meaningful (and often earliest) musical discoveries find solace for their honored and influential ‘lil heads. Here you’ll find Exodus’ “A Lesson in Violence” teaching kiddies its killing maneuvers while class failures are catapulted across the way to Hellhammer’s unconsecrated graveyard, “Triumph of Death”, for burial. Anvil’s “March of the Crabs” beachfront smells kinda fishy, but Thor’s “Lightning Strikes” next door fries it up to an aroma most palatable. Slayer’s “Crionics” and “Show No Mercy” upgraded theirs over time to include a huge loft, with the construction site lit up by Oz’s “Search Lights” to accommodate the flash-excavation by Sabbath’s “Iron Man” repulsor rays. In another, Voivod’s “Condemned to the Gallows” delights in its pardoned sentence. Black Death’s “Scream of the Iron Messiah” is awarded two; a song and title of this metal-to-the-core magnitude easily sprawls out over a single bed, and in reward for his successful investigative work, a playroom for PhantomOTO was carved out too. And yeah, Tokyo Blade’s got a song livin’ large here as well.

As luck would have it, I sunk my initial T-blade teeth into the juicy title track thanks to (yep, you guessed it) another local late-night indie radio show back around the time the lp hit the streets. With one lonely listen, there was little doubt that arson blast “Night of the Blade” was gonna head up the highlight reel for that particular show, a show I instinctively tape recorded, like many others, and with the song now trapped on cassette, I gleefully added it to my still-diminutive museum of underground metal that, quite frankly, wasn’t growing nearly fast enough for me.

With the quintet’s sophomore stab comes a seemingly abrupt change in vocalists. Alan Marsh apparently didn’t leave right after the release of debut Tokyo Blade/Midnight Rendezvous because, prior to Vic Wright’s arrival, this entire album had already been recorded with his vocals (to be coolly re-issued in ’98 as Night of the Blade…the Night Before) intact. Word has it Powerstation Records wanted the new lp polished with the pipes of a more commercially-viable frontman, but since it was ultimately released by Roadrunner/Combat, this connection seems kinda hazy. In any event, Marsh’s pipes were covered over by those of Vic Wright (Marsh’s backing vocals were left intact, however) and wha-la…the Night of the Blade fans have come to either adore or abhor. Okay, abhor may be too strong a word, but I know this lp isn’t favored by a lot of T-bladers. Can’t say I really blame them.

At least half of NOTB proves to be more the feather pillow endeavor soft with mainstream-motivated cushiness, everywhere near commercial and nowhere near cantankerous and with few plans to disguise it. Turns out the vocal change would be but one altered ingredient; here the band as a unit seems to switch much of its focus, now apparently driven by some future grandeur of aboveground recognition and/or perhaps a level of accomplishment that to them seemed more artistically acceptable to the masses. So lower their sonic amphetamine dosage they do. A softer heart prevails, and the mind soon follows. A reduction in intensity and aggression ensues with similar results in overall songwriting grit. Obviously bitten by the mainstream bug, it’s only right a headline should at least capture the excitement of what it's announcing, so here goes - Tokyo Blade: Musically Dressed for Big Time Success in ‘84. Yeah, real snazzy.

In time, this realization gave me understanding as to why the glorious building-shaker of a title tune didn’t springboard this lp into the universe like it obviously should have. Instead, to fulfill this supposed destiny is too-tame opener “Someone to Love”, a timid and toothless cat poised at the top of the dresser for that first predatory leap into semi-stardom. Courageously rescuing us from such a fate is “Night of the Blade”, sling-shooting the band’s fervor of old into dynamic and thrilling reverie, immediately reinforcing any faith that may have turn to run, but next comes yet another feline, “Rock Me to the Limit” (old habits die hard, like metal bands’ unending salutes to rock music), and memories remind me this mid-paced hopeful was awarded probably the most commercial airtime of the lot; then and now, it raises little ire in me. Following in these cat prints are “Lovestruck” and, partially, “Dead of the Night”, which finds some acceptance in both areas.

Unfortunately, only the title cut and mad rush “Unleash the Beast” are likened to the bruiser spirit that possessed the band only a year ago. It's these two songs that brawl a path to the front of the lp’s playlist. In-betweener “Lightning Strikes (Straight Through the Heart)” is fairly catchy, yet soft-handed and rides the forgettably conventional radio-friendly fence, and somewhat like “Dead of the Night”, “Warrior of the Rising Sun” seems kinda weak-muscled at first, but eventually rolls up its sleeves to reveal an overall hairier, more muscular, and more old fan-tolerant frame.

Next to Mr. Marsh’s curt and throaty style, there’s little doubt talented Vic Wright has a wider range, twice the cleanliness, and probably twice the training. Sometimes the more training a singer receives, the more structured and inflexible a singer becomes with often a lower headroom for adaptability, yet here Wright comfortably throws his upper register fairly easily around both the cottonballs and the cannonballs (especially the latter, where he seems more likeably animated and unhinged), and is a good sign that harder and heavier songs from the debut will be cared for.

For many fans of the debut, the lp’s nary-feral cats hit the ground hard and get injured skidding into the nightstand, however you can never dismiss the possibility some newer fans bought what this more refined, polished, and professional-sounding Tokyo Blade were selling. They did receive some minor attention rockin’ to the limit after all, so who’s to say (at this time) the future wasn’t smoothing out as they planned. Ah, the future.

I know...Thor? Really?

“…don’t stare into his eyes, ‘cos he’s the samurai…”

NWOBHM Gem - 96%

SlayedNecros, October 6th, 2005

This is a hidden gem from a godly period for metal. Tokyo Blade didn't receive much press or exposure, however with this album and "Midnight Rendezvous" they managed to release two of the best albums in the NWOBHM.

This album is energetic and catchy with just the right amount of crunch in the guitars. The tempos of the songs are varied from moderately-paced ('Someone to Love') to fast numbers ('Lightning Strikes', 'Unleash the Beast'). The vocals are in the higher range and fit the music quite nicely. The album is paced very well with the songs flowing together nicely. Just a fun listen for the old timers out there and a great find for any newcomers to either this band or the NWOBHM movement.

IMO, the whole album stands out, but some (seriously) choice cuts are the aforementioned 'Someone to Love', 'Lightning Strikes', and 'Unleash the Beast' along with 'Love Struck' and 'The Dead of the Night'. This band should've been bigger than they were, however better late than never. Get this album and enjoy a forgotten classic from a bygone era. m/

Rock me to the Limit!! - 83%

Demonic_Invasion, November 18th, 2004

Ok, first off let's just get the basic gist of this album in words so you know what to expect. This is a highly rockin' NWOBHM album. It rocks ok....hard and heavy. This one is a bit more commercial than the first two, but hey, it still kicks ass. Now granted, they were trying to make some money with this so they wrote some '80s rock/metal songs which could have been disastrous for the band if not for the fact that they fuckin' rule. The songs on this one that have a little cheese factor are still really good. "Rock Me to the Limit" being the best because it's so damn catchy. Lightning Strikes is good too, but it's a bit repetitive. But let's not forget the true meat of this album.

"Night of the Blade" is screaming metallic glory the way it was done before it was ruined. What a chorus and what an awesome band. "Lovestruck" has probably the coolest riff I have ever heard. It rocks, but with some heavy, heavy attitude. So to all these faggy glam bands (Poison, Motley Crue), Tokyo Blade proves that you can rock about love and still be heavy. God, what an awesome song. Samurai is good and reminds me of Thundersteel-era Riot. The Dead of the Night is probably one of the best songs ever written in the history of man. OH MY FUCKING GOD. It starts off with some laid back NWOBHM bluesy stuff, but then they rock you so hard that you fall off whatever godforsaken platform you're resting on. The lead in this song is the reason metal rules any other form of music. The energy, the skill...hell, the whole fucking cool attitude they have makes me smile 'til my face cracks. My god what a glorious bunch of fuckers these guys are.

If you listen to their earlier albums, you'll see where Holy Terror got most of their inspiration as they sound exactly alike with TB being the more rocking of the two. Great album, great band. It's a shame people cite Helloween and Hammerfall as good power metal when Tokyo Blade was doing it earlier and better than them. Hail to the NWOBHM the likes which will never be seen again because people have forgotten how to rock. Thank you vinyl for preserving the faith that I love so much. ROCK ON!