2019 is proving to be yet another year of phenomenal releases from those who set the scene on fire some 30+ years ago, what with the recent Candlemass return and new ones from Possessed and Saint Vitus (among others) are full of promise. It’s always astonishing, breathtaking actually, to see the demand in the West for the Japanese heavyweights who have been around for as long. Sure the names of Loudness and X Japan are well known to us but with the largely unchanged lineups of Earthshaker and Anthem still wielding steel of the heaviest caliber it’s high time their greatness reaches the furthest destinations. Thankfully Nuclear Blast have gone and done just that with this collection of post-2000s material from Naoto Shibata and co and, just like its album cover, the music on Nucleus explodes in all directions with relentless energy and immense glory.
Approaching 40 years (with a long eight-year break in the ’90s) as a staple of Japan’s heavy metal scene Anthem have largely existed in obscurity beyond Asia, a crime when you consider just how monumental their brand of music has been since their self-titled debut dropped back in 1985. Combining the majesty of classic power metal with something much heavier back then and still retaining that might to this day their music is beyond timeless, their craft and technicality still leaves many a determined follower of the riff in awe. With the return of Yukio Morikawa giving his updated, English-language spin on songs previously (mostly) sung by original vocalist Eizo Sakamoto, there is a surging dynamism reaching beyond the speakers; his voice projects a phenomenal regality perfectly accompanying Akio Shimizu’s jaw-dropping guitar work. It’s as refreshing as it is life-affirming; as electrifying as it is memorable – exactly how you demand music of this caliber – and boy do they deliver!
A completely re-recorded collection of songs from this century, Nucleus packages these gargantuan hits into a surprisingly familiar 63-minute slab of the finest power/heavy metal you’ve probably never heard. If you thought the Japanese versions of songs like ‘Immortal Blind’ and ‘Stranger’ were glorious enough you’ve heard nothing! It’s heart-pounding rhythms race back-and-forth with such youthful vigour you’d be hard-pressed to keep up as they stomp across ‘Black Empire’ and the wailing instrumental ‘Omega Man’; it’s an album where the mighty riffs come thick and fast, the vocals soar into the night sky, and the rolling thunder of Shibata and Isamu Tamaru wreak havoc. With the uproarious ‘Venom Strike’ being the oldest of the bunch (which opened 1992’s Domestic Booty) Anthem prove just how relevant their music still is, reminding us just how sorely needed they’ve been in the western hemisphere. Songs like ‘Eternal Warrior’, ‘Awake’ and ‘Unbroken Sign’ still sound huge with nothing being lost in the translation – if anything they’re stronger than ever before.
With each song comes the potential of new heavy metal, ahem, anthems to be chanted in the festival fields and in the streets worldwide – no one could ask for a better introduction to such a phenomenal band. Finally getting the distribution they’ve deserved since the very beginning, it’s time for a whole new chapter in Anthem’s distinguished journey soon to claim the souls of every human whose heart beats to the stomping rhythm of heavy metal. With each repeated listen Nucleus sounds incredibly fresh and never loses its impact from when it is first spinned. Giving these songs a whole new lease on life they show they’ve never lost their ingenuity nor their hypnotic power with age. It’s distinctly Japanese yet sounds entirely universal, as if it’s never been kept from us; the fact this may be the first time many a soul have listened to this band however makes this album such a special release. Personally, I cannot wait for everyone to hear this – rest assured it’ll knock you from here to next week!