Review: Anthem “Tightrope” [Nexus]

Review: Anthem “Tightrope” [Nexus]

- in Reviews
Score
Summary
Their first triumph
80 %
User Rating : 4.1 (1 votes)
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When it comes down to Japanese heavy metal, Loudness are probably the first band you’d think of and while that’s understandable, I’ve always preferred Anthem in terms of hooks engaging songs. Sure, their songs are mainly in Japanese and while singing along would probably end up in disaster (perhaps not so much for your Japanese friend sitting next to you), listening to their early material is often a good choice regardless of what I’m currently in the mood for.

As with plenty of 80’s metal albums such as Restless and Wild and Defenders Of The Faith, Tightrope kicks off with high-velocity and by putting its best (and fastest) foot forward, even surpasses “Fast as a Shark” and “Freewheel Burning” in terms of speed and intensity. This blazing gunshot of an opener named “Victim in Your Eyes” almost feels like a pre-taste of Riot’s Thundersteel and with fast riffs flying into different directions, I could even forgive the “let’s repeat the song title over and over again” kind of a chorus (besides, that has been done before with success, think of the aforementioned “Freewheel Burning” for instance). Moving on, Tightrope reveals another side of the band, but don’t worry, you won’t find any silly ballads here. “Night After Night” wouldn’t have worked with Eizo Sakamoto’s earlier, unrefined vocals and it has those addictive melodic guitar lines floating around of the band’s most memorable choruses of the band’s career. That said, Tightrope is not without flaws and for an album that occasionally manages to blow the god damn roofs off, it certainly features some questionable compositions. The lightweight “Death to Death” and the rocking-albeit-not-rocking-enough “Finger’s on the Trigger” feel somewhat out of place and were reminders of Anthem’s early unrefined vision at this point.

For me the early Anthem albums were all about Hiroya Fukuda’s melodic, yet blitzkrieg and occasional referential guitar work and the constant shift of gears between high-intensity riffing and melodic phrasing made him such a great guitarist. Take “Driving Wire” for instance, which is another high-octane number and could easily be compared to Helloween’s earlier rapid-fire compositions when it comes down to its rapid fire pacing. Anthem don’t rely on any elaborated choruses here, but the masculine background shouts make a notable difference and with riffs this good why would you care? “Tightrope Dancer” obviously nods towards Judas Priest’s Screaming for Vengeance (“Electric Eye” to be specific) – but if you’d find that to be problematic, you might want to stop listening to heavy metal altogether. Eizo Sakamoto’s guitar bits soar with class here and Eizo Sakamoto’s improved vocals certainly pay off here; he sings his heart out while occasionally wailing like a banshee in the night, making him an ideal choice for Tightrope. Whereas successor Yukio Morikawa would sound more like a proper heavy metal vocalist, Eizo Sakamoto sounds like a youthful bloke who relies more on attitude and vocal strain than technique, but that’s hardly an issue for me.

So, hook-driven, yet intimidatingly fast at times, Tightrope would mark the start of a consistent era of Anthem and fans of the heavier 80’s outputs of Judas Priest, Loudness and comparable fans should certainly have a great time here.

Release date: April 21st, 1986

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