There is no better way to get acquainted with contemporary Japanese Heavy Metal than by listening to the brand new international edition of this precious gem from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Founded by guitarist Akihito Kinoshita in the far, far away year of 1981 in Sapporo, capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido (and land of the worldwide famous Sapporo Beer), Heavy Metal fitghers Saber Tiger have been illuminating the Japanese metal scene ever since, delivering classic and timeless metal music while at the same time having the potential to appeal to both traditional metalheads and fans of contemporary Power Metal, with even some progressive influences added in their music. The band may have been around for a long time, but there is a freshness and commitment to the music that belies their many years, and the band certainly sound nothing if not contemporary.
Brought into being in the same year as their famous compatriots Loudness and Anthem, their remote location and numerous lineup changes in their early days slowed down the band’s rise a little, but Akihito’s “never say die” determination has resulted in a legacy of first-class metal, with albums such as Timystery (1995), Decisive (2011) and more recently Bystander Effect (2015) becoming a must-have for connoisseurs of classic metal from the Land of the Rising Sun. It was only in June 2016 that the band played their first two shows on European soil, which finally opened the doors to introduce Japan’s best kept metal secret to the rest of the world, and in case you missed that, the international expanded release of Bystander Effect now in 2018 is your chance to get to know Saber Tiger, featuring four tracks originally sung in Japanese re-recorded with English lyrics, a brand new acoustic instrumental “Ship Of Theseus”, a new recording of their classic “First Class Fool”, and the demo recordings of the spectacular tracks “Sin Eater” and “What I Used To Be”.
Drummer Yasuhiro Mizuno kicks off the frantic and extremely sharp opening track Dying Breed, with both Akihito and his bandmate Yasuharu Tanaka slashing our senses with their guitars while lead singer Takenori Shimoyama gives a lesson in melodic vocals, followed by the exhilarating Sin Eater and its singalong lyrics (“I’ve lived ten thousand years / To give your soul relief / My feast of sighs and tears / Come, stay close to me / I bless your life and death / I curse your love and hate / Just pray for all your sins / Then I’ll devour”). This is a great sample of the always-fast-and-never-sluggish metal made in Japan, with both guitarists being absolutely on fire not only with their crushing riffs, but also with their sensational solos. And following such incendiary start we have Act Of Heroism, a thrashier tune showcasing an electrifying rhythm where Yasuhiro and bassist Hibiki provide a dense background for both guitars to shine with their refined techniques, sounding breathtaking from start to finish; and Dreadout, where those metallers keep pounding their instruments mercilessly, offering more of their upbeat metal music with a beautiful work done by both Akihito and Yasuharu with their razor-edged strings.
Albeit not as thrilling as the rest of the album, One Last Time still has its good moments, in special Takenori and his Scandinavian Melodic Metal-inspired vocals; whereas in Just-World Hypothesis they somehow managed to sound like a hybrid of Iced Earth and Avenged Sevenfold, with the final result sounding beyond interesting. Furthermore, Takenori, a true frontman with an incredible voice, puts his heart and soul into his performance, giving an extra touch of epicness to the overall result. In the amazing What I Used To Be we’re treated to everything we love in old school Heavy Metal, again bringing elements from Thrash Metal in its stunning riffs and solos, all embraced by its stylish lyrics (“I serpent blue / I’m dwelling in deep ocean / No fear but pain, violent emotions / Disgusting greed / And anger inside me is killing me / Life, death, live, die again / Life, death, die and live again”), and there’s no sign of the band slowing down or anything like that in the next tune, titled Shameless. Quite the contrary, Saber Tiger come ripping with another explosion of Heavy Metal made in Japan, offering five minutes of top-tier shredding and unstoppable beats and fills perfect for some insane headbanging.
After so many high-octane tunes, it’s finally time for Saber tiger to share some love and melancholy with An Endless End: Another Time, an almost pure Hard Rock power ballad that works really well in the beginning, but that falls flat after a while due to its excessive duration. Fortunately, in Devastation Trail, a song with a somber atmosphere and a huge amount of rage flowing, they get back to their belligerent mode, blasting furious riffs and solos together with intricate beats, all spearheaded by the piercing vocals by Takenori. And Yasuhiro ignites another metallic extravaganza named Afterglow, being quickly joined by the electrified sound of the guitars by the virtuosi Akihito and Yasuharu, with the musicality flowing smoothly and potently until acoustic guitars bring us a sense of loneliness in Ship Of Theseus, a beautiful instrumental outro boosted by the atmospheric elements meticulously added to its core essence. In addition, as aforementioned, we still have three ass-kicking bonus tracks for fans who can’t get enough of Saber Tiger, starting with First Class Fool and its insanely high amount of stamina, followed by the 2013 original “brew” of the thrilling tunes Sin Eater and What I Used To Be, sounding just as awesome as the final versions and making every penny you put into buying this expanded edition of the album worth it.
You can learn more about Saber Tiger through their official Facebook page, including tour dates, news and the future of the band, and listen to their sonic onrush of metal music on YouTube. In a nutshell, there is no better way to get acquainted with Saber Tiger’s unique brand of Heavy Metal than by listening to the international edition of Bystander Effect, available for a full listen on Spotify and on sale at the Dead Pulse webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon. Bystander Effect is a complete, detailed and extremely well-crafted album of pure Heavy Metal, courtesy of a band that lives up to the traditions of their homeland, being precise and focused in everything they do., and if you don’t feel the urge to visit Japan and learn more about their metal scene in loco after listening to Saber Tiger, well, I feel really sorry for your (boring) soul.
Best moments of the album: Dying Breed, Sin Eater, What I Used To Be and Devastation Trail.
Worst moments of the album: One Last Time and An Endless End: Another Time.
Released in 2018 Sliptrick Records
- Dying Breed 5:05
- Sin Eater 4:56
- Act Of Heroism 4:46
- Dreadout 4:58
- One Last Time 5:20
- Just-World Hypothesis 5:20
- What I Used To Be 5:41
- Shameless 5:05
- An Endless End: Another Time 7:52
- Devastation Trail 5:23
- Afterglow 4:32
- Ship Of Theseus 3:51
Expanded Edition bonus tracks
- First Class Fool 5:10
- Sin Eater (2013 Demo) 4:55
- What I Used To Be (2013 Demo) 5:44
Takenori Shimoyama – vocals
Akihito Kinoshita – guitar
Yasuharu Tanaka – guitar
Hibiki – bass
Yasuhiro Mizuno – drums