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Perhaps Anthem were trying to gain (more) commercial success here, or perhaps they felt like relying more on the vocals than usual, but Gypsy Ways is the oddball in the band’s discography as it comes off surprisingly restrained. Arguably the band’s most melodic album out of their early catalogue, this album concerns itself with a lot of hooks and catchy, vocal-driven choruses. That’s not to say that Anthem‘s earlier records weren’t about those at all, but let’s just say that from a stylistic point perspective Gypsy Ways is somewhat more reminiscent of Judas Priest‘s anthemic 80’s material than their rapid fire tunes.
As most of Anthem’s albums do, Gypsy Ways does start off with a serious bang, as the title track doesn’t mess around; its cutting riffs match perfectly with newcomer Yukio Morikawa’s splendid vocals that make it as hummable as headbang-worthy track. Yukio Morikawa would be the definite Anthem vocalist to me; grounded, confident, classy and with a decent amount of range displayed through high wails and melodic harmonies, he’s just one hell of a singer. Strangely enough I can’t help but think that the track has an archaic feel to it for a speed metal number though; in terms of intensity it’s more reminiscent of Riot circa Fire Down Under than, say, Thundersteel. From there on, Gypsy Ways mostly slows down its pacing. Interestingly enough tunes like “Silent Child” and “Final Risk” become rather deceiving – the former opens up with some tranquil keys that foreshadow something balladic, yet it turns into a laid back decent galloper with an elaborated chorus and the latter introduces some so-so rocking riffs before turning into a decent slab of 80’s metal. “Cryin’ Heart” is a surprisingly faster tune, even though it hardly feels intense; it’s more of an melodic take on speed metal than anything else and doesn’t stand a chance against the band’s intense speed metal demons such as “Victim in Your Eyes” or “Voice of Thunderstorm”.
Obviously, the lack of many speed metal tunes isn’t a con of Gypsy Ways – it’s just that the record feels too lightweight for its own good from time to time. “Shout it Out” is the ultimate 80’s tune that sounds as if it was meant to part of Anthem’s set list, yet the vocal-fronted approach doesn’t always work. Tunes like “Bad Habits Die Hard” and “Midnight Sun” are led forward by Yukio Morikawa’s charismatic vocals, yet both tunes aren’t quite as hook-y and therefor don’t work as well as far as vocal fronted tunes are concerned. Although Gypsy Ways is arguably the band’s catchiest and most accessible record I’m just glad that this album was a one-off from the band. How Anthem managed to follow up with their most intense and best album one year later, I’ll never know – but I’m glad that they did. Anyway, Gypsy Ways is enjoyable for a lightweight Japanese metal record and you could do a lot worse if you’d ask me (take Hurricane Eyes by Loudness for instance, now there’s a stinker!).
Release date: May 21st, 1988
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