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ANTHEM Nucleus

By George Mihalovich, Pure Rock Patroller
Monday, April 29, 2019 @ 6:06 AM


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ANTHEM
Nucleus

Golden Robot Records




Japan has maintained a fan base for imported and domestic heavy metal and hard rock artists beyond that of many other countries or regions. The continued success in Japan of many acts long past their commercial peak elsewhere is well-documented as well as the retained status of the "guitar hero" either as part of a band (DOKKEN - George Lynch, EXTREME - Nuno Bettencourt and MR. BIG - Paul Gilbert) or as a solo artist (Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Richie Kotzen and Tony MacAlpine).

Along with the strong consumer market, Japan also has a thriving metal scene that is somewhat underappreciated. Yes, LOUDNESS is known and loved internationally and EZO had their moment in the 80s but there are many other traditional metal bands that continue to release quality albums and perform on a regular basis. Obvious examples are CONCERTO MOON, SABER TIGER, DOUBLE DEALER and of course, ANTHEM (who haven't been in continuous operation for quite as long, but are basically contemporaries with LOUDNESS).

Why are these bands flying under the radar? Aside from low music sales in general (resulting in very little motivation for labels to invest in global releases), one of the barriers of entry into the broader marketplace is the fact that many of these bands either sing exclusively in Japanese or utilize a hybrid of English and Japanese lyrics. No matter how good they are, native language albums struggle outside their home countries or territories because English is widely regarded as the lingua franca of metal.

This seems to be one of the issues that ANTHEM is trying to address with Nucleus, a greatest hits collection rerecorded with English lyrics. The result is a polished melodic metal effort with all of right elements from stellar playing to slick production. It's worth mentioning that Naoto Shibata (bass, band leader and key songwriter), Akio Shimizu (guitars), Yukio Morikawa (vocals) and Isamu Tamaru (drums) are a very tight unit. ANTHEM is a working band (as opposed to a project) that is more than the sum of its constituent parts, and this is evident in the performances. A tip of the proverbial hat to guitarist Akio, whose solos are melodic, concise, pristinely executed and integrated seamlessly into the songs with just the right amount of attitude and technique. "Omega Man" is an instrumental track that gives him a chance to showcase his skills, similar to the inclusion of George Lynch's "Mr. Scary" on Back For The Attack.

Given that ANTHEM had the luxury of picking the material from a large discography, it's not surprising that Nucleus is uniformly strong. The official video for "Black Empire" (video on KNAC.COM HERE) and official lyric video for "Immortal Bind" tell the tale, and "Venom Strike" is another highlight. Nucleus also contains a second disc comprised of 11 live tracks that demonstrate that ANTHEM can deliver their music in concert. The bonus is that there is only one track repeated from the studio disc ("Pain"), which makes this a more meaningful addition to the package.

Nucleus is an excellent introduction to ANTHEM, and hopefully it will generate interest in their past and future efforts and help to pave the way for other Japanese metal bands to have broader distribution and better availability of their music.

4.3 Out Of 5.0


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