Tokyo, Japan, is renowned for many things; not only does it boast the most populated metropolitan area in the world (37 million in counting), but it’s soaked in rich, cultural history – however there’s one string on the bow that doesn’t get mentioned as often as it should. Japanese Heavy Metal. Most notably, three bands stand at the forefront as the pioneers of bringing shredding Metal to Tokyo’s streets; Loudness, Earthshaker, and Anthem.
It’s hard to believe that Anthem has been kicking it for almost thirty five years (possibly even longer, I’m only marking this date from their first release), yet despite their talents they aren’t the household names despite one hell of a catalog! You only have took at albums like ‘Hunting Time’ (if you’re into their older works), or even most recently with ‘Engraved’ to see how good these guys truly are. After serving for as long as they have, and getting on board with the stigma that has been seen a lot recently with re-recording past songs/albums, Anthem have delivered a ‘Greatest Hits’ album entitled ‘Nucleus’, which is most notable for the fact that (for the first time) these songs are being released in English! Maybe this is why they didn’t get the notoriety they rightfully deserved? Regardless, if you’ve never heard of these guys before, this is definitely a highlights package that showcases their talents superbly.
Immortal Bind opens the album, with familiar hard-rock melodicism that was displayed throughout the eighties. This is only further highlighted by the fact that (as aforementioned) the english translation now lends strength to the lyrical content. The vocals of Yukio Morikawa can be likened to that of DOKKEN’s Don Dokken, or even Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden in parts (no, I’m not kidding). His tones add depth to an already overwhelming array of blistering talent from Akio Shimizu on guitar, Naoto Shibata on bass, and Isamu Tamaru banging maniacally on the drums. If this is what they’re opening the album with, you know you’re about to experience something f***king magical!
The bell tolls with Black Empire, tempo dials up to eleven with Overload, and the instrumentals break out into all-out-assault with Stranger – if Anthem were a machine, this would be one that would never risk breaking down, or developing rust. After thirty five (or more) years, these guys are still exerting the same youthfulness they did when they brought their first album to the table.
Linkage boasts a heavier, bass-driven tone that hasn’t really been explored all too much up until this point – and it’s f***king brilliant! Obviously, long-time fans of the band would already be familiar with this side of the band, but for someone like myself who are listening to them for the first time, it’s definitely a sound that I can commit myself to completely. This also allows Morikawa to showcase an earthier tone, also, which brings the performance full circle. The diversity these guys have is masterful!
Credit where it’s due, Anthem have a firm grip on the shift between break-neck speed, and what would be perceived as a more ‘natural’ pace – Eternal Warrior captures his fact perfectly. One moment you’re listening to a well, rounded (and paced) performance, before Shimizu slaps your senses stupid with blistering riffs, and a jaw-dropping solo. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ghost In The Flame brings forth something that we haven’t seen yet; a slower, more ‘tame’ performance that, whilst still boasting powerful riffs that carry throughout, is moreso highlighted by yet another beautiful performance by Morikawa. How these guys haven’t garnered more worldwide acclaim is beyond me!
Venom Strike is aptly named, hitting you with a dose of high-octane instrumental poison that will have you at fever-pitch until the final note, with the antidote being Awake; grounding you back to reality with a more ballsy, hard-rock sound laced with familiarity.
Shimizu gets to work (in a big way) with Omega Man, bringing forth some riffs that are almost Dream Theater-like, in part. This is also the first time we are treated to a pure instrumental performance without vocals – and if you thought the exclusion of Morikawa’s voice would kill the track, then you’re wrong! These guys are masters of their craft, and this is (without a shadow of a doubt) one of the strongest performances on the album for that fact!
Pain and Echoes in The Dark are painted heavily in nostalgic eighties tones, returning to the earlier stages of the band’s sound – and thirty five years later they still don’t miss a beat. I know I’ve mentioned how long they’ve been in the industry a few times already, but that’s only to highlight the fact that even after all these years, they’re performing at the same level they were when they first broke onto the scene. That’s nothing to be scoffed at, that’s brilliant!
The album rounds out with Unbroken Sign, which maintains the familiar tempo and sound that we’ve bore witness to throughout the album’s duration. Similar to how they opened the album, they made sure every ounce of energy they had left (if that’s even possible) was put into this track. Smooth vocals. Superb instrumentals. The perfect way to round out one hell of an album!
If you’re a long-time Anthem fan, the re-recordings of these tracks is something you’re definitely going to want to listen to. If you haven’t heard of these guys before reading this review, than this is the perfect amalgamation of their history for you to soak in (before being turned into a fan, because they’ve definitely done that to myself!). As mentioned in the beginning of the review, the fact they’ve released these tracks in English for the first time not only strengthens the delivery as a whole, but also opens up their spectrum to a much larger audience. (Not to knock the songs that were performed in Japanese, because having just listened to those, also, they’re great to listen to). One can only hope this collection brings them to the frontlines of being able to, once and for all, conquer the world like they set out to do all those years ago.
You can order ‘Nucleus’ RIGHT HERE!