Blaze | ‘Blaze’
Straight away, no ballsing around, Japan’s Blaze launch straight into the most killer riff / vocal combo of the album with ‘On The Run’ featuring a huge Enforcer influence, a Swedish occurrence that will crop up frequently throughout the album.
There’s a timeless feel to the music here – it could easily be an album from the late 70s to mid 80s without any stretch of the imagination, with the vocals placing it straight in 1983 territory, the use of short harmonising backing vocals recalling Heavy Load to such an extent that ‘Place In The Sun’ could be mistaken for a lost track off ‘Stronger Than Evil’; it’s that accurate.
Granted, being Japanese, there are several issues with pronunciation that raise a wry smile, ‘Shittin’ on a new moon’ being an unfortunate highlight, and also in ‘Fool’s Mate’ where Kelly and Carrie are the same word, but instead of it entering comedy Metalengrish territory, it gets plus points for feeling and charm. There’s just no way you could take the piss out of guys who are rocking so hard and with such conviction.
You can easily ridicule that awful logo though, but the cover art is so simple that it works very effectively and is somewhat iconic, helped out in no small way by this white vinyl edition featuring an obi strip for no other reason than it looks Japanese. The inclusion of ‘Night Walker’ as a bonus track off the hard to find first single is a nice boon too. And yes, the name’s unfortunate, being that there’s already a Japanese Blaze, and they’re still going too.
All the same, I can easily predict in 20 years time this will be a fondly regarded classic, as vocalist Wataru Shiota has a fantastic ear for melodious singing, and the guitar riffing is so good. In fact, listening to them, the only way you’d know they were Japanese would be from the vocals. Change the singer and you could easily be listening to Vanderbuyst.
The rhythm used in the singing is quite unexpectedly snappy in places and suits the mid-paced drums in an oddly fitting way, especially in ‘On The Run’, which is quite like modern Swedish traditional HM. They wear their Scandanavian influences on their sleeve, and it’s no bad thing at all.
And in saying that, one has to wonder how much of the pronounciation is put on. In the very punky ‘Answer’, (basically the story of Maiden’s ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’), the line “Tell me, tell me why I should shoot. Tell me why I should kill” is quite clearly pronounced “Tell me why I shoot to kill”.
Perhaps it’s a merely a lucky coincidence, but it adds that extra bit of depth to the lyrics, bringing to mind that unashamed personal acceptance of guilt that Maiden also brought to the song. The Eddy Malm-style vibrato used on ‘The Night Speaks’, and particularly ‘See The Light’ is just fantastic, and pretty much sets these guys up with a guaranteed slot at some point on the Keep It True bill.
Indeed, the band bring a lot of the NWOBHM to the table with this album; you can hear Gaskin in there, there’s some Holocaust and a dollop of Satan. But the main influence is Heavy Load, and if you dig them even remotely, there’ll be a huge amount of fun to be had with this charming debut. This album suits repeated listens, and is the best thing I’ve heard come out of Japan in the past few years.
4.0 / 5 – Dónal McBrien ::: 24/07/12