Anthem – “Nucleus” (Nuclear Blast)
Oh wow man, if you want to know what real heavy metal is all about then check out this gem of an album! That’s right, this isn’t ‘true’, ‘classic’, retro’ or anything else but the real deal – and all played by one of Japan’s original HM bands – Anthem. Formed in 1981, the band rose to prominence alongside Loudness and Earthshaker, even at one time featuring Graham Bonnet (Rainbow, Alcatrazz) before taking a hiatus during the 90s grunge years. Since then they’ve made a return by all accounts, and now, after 20 albums, Anthem have decided to re-record this ‘best-of’ album with english sung versions of their greatest songs written post reformation in 2001. And man, what a monster it is – I mean, I knew these guys were good, but not this good! Still with original bassist Naoto Shibata, who along with the rest of the band put on an amazing performance across the 13 awesome songs here, with enough electricity to power Tokyo, “Nucleus” is the album they need to spread the word as their 40th anniversary looms on the horizon. With a definitive mix taking the winning elements of hard rock and heavy metal during the late 70s and early 80s, expect to hear the classic touches of UFO, Maiden, Riot, Scorpions – not to mention plenty of guitar god fireworks from the fiery dexterous axe of Akio Shimizu, who’s definitely earned my respect for his wizardry here. Right from the stunning ‘Pain’ with its chugging energy piping hot from that stoked guitar also firing plenty of melodic breaks to complement the moving soul of Yukio Morikawa before unleashing its own grace on the incredibly moving solo, the huge feelgood factor is hardly reflective of the song’s title, but certainly so of this highly pleasurable album. Then there’s ‘Venom Strike’ from 1992’s “Domestic Booty” album which is propelled by the fast double bass drumming of Isamu Tamaru who also classily blends in a cowbell as the sassy but catchy groove sets in through Morikawa’s vocals before Shimizu’s multiple solos of fire and ice just make your jaw drop. Best track for me was the neck breaking ‘Stranger’ with its powerful epic melodies driven by fast riffing and hyperspeed drumming along with Morikawa’s shining soul and deep harmonies – a complete heart attack, but then so was the rest of this album!