Review: Dancer “Violent Emotion” [Mandrake Root]

Review: Dancer “Violent Emotion” [Mandrake Root]

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Over the last couple of years I’ve become familiar with Japanese metal and I’m surprised by the amount of quality of obscure bands. Sure, you’ve got the Japanese veteran bands such as Loudness and Anthem, but several short-lived bands stand out to me as well. Think of Sniper, Wolf and in this case, Dancer. Now, don’t be fooled: this isn’t as dull as the artwork suggests and if you’re looking for a decent slab of Japanese heavy/power metal, then you’ve got come to the right place.

One might expect Violent Emotion to follow a predictable metal formula, where a variety of speedier tracks, stomping mid-paced rockers and silly ballads collide, but somehow that’s not exactly the case here. Way more unpredictable than your Thunder in the EastViolent Emotion offers a variety of tunes that spend most of their time in the mid-paced territory and despite its inconsistency, it’s quite an interesting album. The galloping title track gets introduced by Toshihito Maeda; a tenor who sounds like he actually shouldn’t be behind the microphone, but since he sounds enthusiastic, he often makes up for his lack of skill. “The Wonderer” is an explosive speed metal number and if you’re already familiar with Loudness and Anthem at their most relentless, then you should know what to expect: an adrenaline-fueled performance of crazy vocal wails and guitars that blast into the hemisphere as if there’s no tomorrow. To my surprise, I also can’t help but notice a fair amount of USPM injected into some of these songs. Behold how “Undercover of Darkness” rides on a spiking metal riff ala early Jag Panzer and thanks to that nifty main riff, “Gambler” recalls early Queensrÿche; even if instead of an intellectual and semi-progressive vibe, the track sounds as straightforward as the other heavier tunes.

Unfortunately, an occasional lack of metallic spirit causes Violent Emotion to become pretty bland. “Save Me” shows the first signs of decline and although the track features a decent main lick, you end up with some unimaginative verse riffs and a chorus where Toshihito Maeda sounds way too strained. “Time to Die” sounds like a piss-poor 80’s rock track and it doesn’t even feature a big chorus that I expected it to have. It’s a difference of night and day when compared to the actual metallic tracks and I always skip it. “Dancin’ in the Ruins” shows some signs of life again, but with a loud snare drum that unexpectedly dominates the mix, I’m having a hard time praising the track. Saving the most bizarre track for last, “Reminiscence” starts with some dramatic guitar wails that last briefly before the track reveals its balladic nature and while it’s not awful by any means, it doesn’t sound like something the band was meant to play. Toshihito Maeda doesn’t have it in him to carry a song like this and perhaps a great singer such as Anthem’s Yukio Morikawa could have made a difference, but alas, this track is another missed opportunity.

If Japanese metal is your thing, then Violent Emotion will certainly appeal to you, though. I could have done with a more consistent album and I’ll admit that once I’m in the mood for Japanese metal, Dancer aren’t the first band that I’ll reach out to, but with songs like “The Wanderer”, “Undercover of Darkness” and “Gambler”, this band has definitely shown what they’re capable of.

Score: 72/100 – Not as dull as the artwork suggests

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