SummaryMore pros than cons
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Although progressive/power metal veterans Saber Tiger have been doing their thing since the early 80’s, it took them 11 years to finally release a debut (which is also their best work to me, but I’ll save for another review). Weirdly enough, the band followed up with many albums that lacked in terms of quality and I’d argue that these guys have been at their most consistent since the last decade or so – one that, indeed, started once Decisive got released.
Decisive isn’t an archaic power metal album nor an over complicated progressive metal record, but serves more as a sophisticated power/progressive metal hybrid that doesn’t forget to blow the god damn roofs off. There’s a clear emphasis on meaty riffs that race all over the place and despite plenty of chugging guitar sequences, the guitarists rarely abuse this technique – resulting into an album that’s rather comparable to Jag Panzer’s Mechanized Warfare and even specific tracks bring to mind some better-known bands. With those Iron Maiden-esque guitar licks, “Angel of Wrath” could have easily appeared on a Pharaoh album and “Cross Your Heart” rhythmically grinds onward not unlike something you may have heard on Angel Dust’s recent records.
Make no mistake, Decisive sounds quite distinctive for the most part. “Avenger” was my introduction to this band and you can bet that it had some serious impact; from those groove-laden verses to that chorus where the riffs appear like a rollercoaster, Saber Tiger demonstrates their flexibility with grace. Vocalist Takenori Shimoyama must have discovered the fountain of youth at one point, as he wails and soars with more conviction than he did during his younger years. Confident, dominant and not afraid to demonstrate (as opposite to showing off) his range, this makes he’s the best singer Saber Tiger ever had. “The Hammer” leans more towards the simplistic power metal side of things, but that would only be problematic if the song had no value. With a cannon shot of a verse, it gradually gets more intense over time; welcoming an incredible pre-chorus before its actual octave-rising chorus itself gets presented with grand majesty. Even “Light-Thunder Light”, which originally appeared on Saber Tiger’s debut, sounds like an upgraded offering of explosive speed/power metal with far better vocals than the original possessed.
What strikes me as odd is how Decisive takes a brief, if serious turn in the wrong direction at one point. “Virtual Unreality” sees the band adopting this pseudo-tough attitude and the results are abysmal; you end up with some of the most uninspired vocals lines and some dumbed down generic riffing that makes me wonder if I’m still listening to the same band. “Bionic” and “Defying Gravity” sound like groove metal experiments gone wrong – the former at least sounds better from a vocal point of view, whereas the latter sounds like Saber Tiger imitating Sepultura circa Chaos. A.D, but even lacks the energy that aforementioned album did possess. As you might expected, having three fillers in a row messes with the album’s flow; it’s definitely an unnecessary disadvantage.
Anything else Decisive has to offer makes this album worthy, however and even when Saber Tiger show their vulnerability, things pay off. “Reminiscence” carries some booming chords of emotional weight along, where the sensitive vocal delivery makes it an enjoyable, if unexpected ballad of sorts. At last, it’s worth to mention the production of Decisive is by no means my favorite, but I’ll take it for what it is (Paragraph IV sounds more organic, whereas Bystander Effect sounds even louder, for instance). Guitars feature a punchy tone and that’s perhaps not too unexpected for this kind of progressive/power metal. Swinging drums sound massive, even if they’re more note-worthy cause of the tone itself than because of technique and even the bass slaps hard from time to time. Anyway, any fan of heavier progressive/power metal should enjoy Decisive, even if it’s not exactly perfect.
Release date: August 3rd, 2011
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