Review: Saber Tiger “Invasion” [Tusk Force]

Review: Saber Tiger “Invasion” [Tusk Force]

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Score 88%
Taken by force
88 %
User Rating : 4.1 (1 votes)

It’s 1992 and Japanese metal is going through some undeniable changes. Anthem are standing on their last legs before collapsing and Loudness delivers a respectful comeback before turning into Heavy Metal Hippies. Yet this year also means something good for another (and dare I say underappreciated) band; after eleven years, Saber Tiger finally manage to release their debut… and it’s about time! Unlike your young Anthem and Loudness, Saber Tiger doesn’t owe too much to Judas Priest and instead of faithful heavy metal, the sound of Invasion is more comparable to that of US power metal than anything else. It’s as if guitarist Akihito Kinoshita witnessed the decline of this style in The West and decided to do something about it. You could clearly associate some of these tunes with earlier US power metal bands… but since when is that a bad thing? You can bet that this album ticks all the right boxes for me.

A quick spin reveals so much already, as “Storm in the Sand” falls somewhere between the Maiden-inspired melodic direction of Queensryche circa The Warning and the neoclassical, yet thoughtful direction of Helstar and with one stellar riff following up with another, Saber Tiger were beating those bands at their own game at this point. That said, the vocals might sound a little uncommon for this style – Yoko Kubota isn’t a bad singer at all and I’d compare her to Show-Ya’s Keiko Terada; sounding like a lower-toned (perhaps an alto?) belter. I also wouldn’t blame people for having to warm up to her voice; she’s sounds more like a rock vocalist than a metal vocalist and given the lack of any glass-shattering high notes, one might wonder if Invasion wasn’t actually with a male vocalist in mind. Moving on, other referential tunes include the battering “Fate”, which recalls a high-spirited Vicious Rumors before they discovered groove metal and the complex, yet hard-hitter “The Bluster” – which almost sounds like a sophisticated variant of Metal Church’s “Start the Fire” and includes one of the catchier choruses on the album.

There’s more than meets than meets the eye to Invasion and lot of that has to do with Akihito Kinoshita’s flexible composition style and there are times where the riffs aren’t exactly the main feature of each song. After a few riff-laden tracks, “Back to the Wall” departs from the record’s trademark style, into an atmospheric rock track than anything else. Yoko Kubota sounds a bit more in her element here than on the remaining tracks and relies on some nice harmonies, but most importantly, still remains supported by some fancy, if restrained guitar riffing. “Liberate” is an example of a lightweight metallic tune that I could have pictured as a Saber Tiger hit… but it’s a tune that I usually skip – it lacks some of the carefully-crafted riffing that raises my spirit… the tiger doesn’t really bite much here. The two surrounding tracks certainly make up for it, though, as they range from controlled aggression to melancholy. “Under the Control” sounds like a loop of twisted guitar riffs flying fucking everywhere; it’s one of the best examples of a stop ‘n go riffing approach that I can think of; making it one lethal creation of relentless progressive/power metal. “Misery” is another exception to the rule in terms of Akihito Kinoshita’s usual busy and forceful guitar work, but just like “Back to the Wall”, it fortunately pays off. Like a melancholic aftertaste, that colossal rise of lead soaring brilliance leads all the way up to Yoko Kubota’s most heartfelt vocal belts during its moving chorus – making it a wonderful nine minute finale of emotional power to end Invasion with.

Saber Tiger would have their ups and downs from here, but Invasion demonstrates the band at their hungriest. If you call yourself a fan of US power metal, then you don’t want to sleep on this album… so leave your room for once and go after it!

Release date: April 21st, 1992

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I have been listening to metal since the age of... 14 or so. Besides music, I'm also interested in boxing, fitness, meeting new people and enjoy reading about a variety of topics.

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