Anthem – Crimson & Jet Black (Reaper Entertainment)Friday, 21st April 2023
Pioneers of the Japanese metal movement from the 1980’s, Anthem may not necessarily be on the minds of most Western culture followers for their entire careers due to lack of proper label deals here – but it’s always a welcome sight to hear more studio records from this veteran force. A reintroduction of their material through re-recording classic songs in the catalog took place for 2019’s Nucleus – whetting collective aural appetites for the subsequent new record that we have now for Crimson & Jet Black. Like the soaring bird adorning the cover, expect potent bursts of addictive, guitar hero-ish power metal that checks off all the collective hook, melody, and harmony-laden boxes that make the band relevant even this deep into an already prolific career.
The instant appeal foundation lies in the fluid prowess of guitarist Akio Shimizu – his riffing attack at all speeds from moderate to high gear set to stun, beyond his arsenal of licks, runs, and tricks floating all over the fretboard during his solo sections. Just pick out any song to prepare for amazement, be it in an epic, Dio-era Sabbath template for “Roaring Vortex” or more Malmsteen meets Dokken-esque on the double kick driving “Burn Down the Wall”. All four musicians excel at their craft – serving the needs of each individual track in the best way possible, vocalist Yukio Morikawa wailing with bluesy charm on opener “Snake Eyes” while bassist Naoto Shibata and drummer Isamu Tamaru lead a marching gallop charge for “Master of Disaster”. Japanese scales come into play against a Rainbow/Gary Moore-like musical atmosphere for the exhilarating “Void Ark” instrumental, the grand feel plus musical interplay making this a highlight. Choosing to seek out co-production assistance from the renowned Jens Bogren gives the record the right modern touch, clarity with attack where true musicianship proficiency remains front and center.
For this scribe, albums like Bound to Break and Seven Hills still get consistent playbacks when seeking out Anthem – with Crimson & Jet Black probably gaining that same status as there’s plenty to savor long-term here. For newcomers this is an ideal record to start your journey, while the faithful or older followers of power/heavy metal have already committed to this purchase as a blind must buy.