Today we’re getting really international here. Anthem is a Japanese Heavy Metal band, founded already in 1981. Their selftitled debut album was released in 1985, in 1987 they brought out Bound To Break, their third studio release and it was quite succesful in the USA. In 1992 the band unfortunately split up. In 2000, some former members came back together to record some old Anthem songs again with a guest-singer, Graham Bonnet from Alcatrazz. The feedback was great and lots of people wished for new Anthem-Songs – and they got them. Since 2001, nine new albums were released succesfully until 2017. However, through the whole time there was one big problem for the band. They never made it in Europe, and somehow the band’s releases were always just available as imports.
In order to change the situation in 2019, 38 years after the band’s foundation, and to improve their popularity in Europe, Anthem signed at Nuclear Blast. Then, they did it again, they recorded some old songs, but this time with the help of Nuclear Blast’s allround-recording weapon Jens Bogren. So on the 29th of March this year, Nucleus was released in Europe. The album is fully packed with 13 songs, including one instrumental, and a playtime of 63 minutes. Except “Ghost In The Flame” all songs have a playtime between roundabout four and five minutes. It’s nice to know that all the original songs are from the era after the split in 2000.
Anthem play fast and powerful Heavy Metal. You can compare them to bands like Iced Earth or Helloween, for example. Singer Yukio Morikawa sings with a clean high voice. During calmer sequences, he makes me think of James LaBrie, but in powerful parts that changes. I cant’t help myself, but some choruses made me think of some of the anime-series and their intros. Fast (double) bass and a hard-hitting snare characterize most of Isamu Tamaru‘s drumparts. In the mix, Naoto Shibatas bassplay has always enough room to be heard (“Eternal Warrior”). Finally, there is Akio Shimizu‘s guitar. Hard and fast riffs and even faster solos. He embellishes lots of his licks with harmonics, in this way he tries to keep his riffs interesting. However, he uses this effect in most of the songs, so in total it’s too repetitve, in my opinion, and starts to be annoying after a few tracks. The album’s overall sound is very modern, clean and somehow digital. For some listeners it could already be even too polished.
“Ghost In The Flame” is so far my favorite here. It’s the first song that’s slowing down clearly and sounds different from the others. Very epic, great guitar work (and less harmonics) with an orchestral outro. Nice one! And I think in the following track “Venom Strike” there is a very fast-hit cowbell. More cowbell!!!
While listening through the songs, I started to miss some melodies at some point. The songs usually based on riffs, but they focus on rhythm, not on melody. The guitars are great, I like the solos and the way the band leads us towards them, but maybe a little more lead-guitar would make the songs more distinguishable. “Omega Man”, the instrumental, gives us these kind of lead guitars I’m looking for in other songs as well.
I am quite surprised that I can’t hear differences between the songs, which means that all the tracks are quite homogenous. Usually, when you have some kind of “Best Of” you can hear a band’s development, or at least you can hear differences between the several tracks. I’m not sure if it is the re-recording and the modern production, or if it is just the way it is. You can listen through the whole album and think that it all belongs together just as it is. You can take that as a poitive or a negative feature.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
7 / 10
My favorite songs are “Ghost In The Flame” and I like the Instrumental “Omega Man”, which can also be found in the Transcended Review Playlist.