Friday, January 4, 2013

Anthem - Burning Oath [2012]

What I absolutely love about the last months of every year is that it always seems to be stocked to the chunks with the best releases of the year, and an unmistakable front-runner for the 2012 lists is Anthem, with ''Burning Oath''. Going strong ever since 1981, the Japanese have consecutively released material that would finally pile up to form a meaty bodywork of albums, and while admittedly I've never tasted their radiant brand of heavy metal before, I was staggered by their underrated status, especially after fifteen records, but the past aside, ''Burning Oath'' reveals blazing excellence that could annually be only matched by Pharaoh's own impulsive concession, ''Bury The Light'' when the heavy/power genre is taken into consideration, and quartet certainly exhibit a glimmering sheen of talent on their fifteenth album, even if creativity is omitted.

I think the only thing worth fussing about here is that the group rarely surpasses certain boundaries, let alone exceed them. As far as I've read, the material here is not entirely different from the band's previous material, and I don't think it would take a mastermind to figure out the Japanese are far more fervent on boasting their modernized, amplified cave-crusher of a guitar tone and imbuing it with colorful Van Halen-esque leads, thus firing away into laser-like precision, rather than breaking the rules and processing the entire slew of spacious brilliance in a completely different format. Their sky-high echelon, though, enables them to effortlessly think through redundancy and produce simple, genuine power metal beauty that reflects the resonant, perky and highly jumpy aesthetics that fall somewhere between Priest, Maiden, Drangonforce, Primal Fear and Gamma Ray, all beaten into rainbow-like shimmer that feels dazzling no matter how many times you spin the whole thing.

Every tune they've composed is blazing, each and nuanced highlight that forms the rainbow. The core rhythm tone could have easily worked as a brand new butcher's cleave for the avaricious audience of brutal death metal extremes, all demanding a thousandth weapon to raze and exterminate, but with the vocals of Eizo Sakamoto upon the meat, there's a queer balance formed that anchors both the piercing melody orgy and vibrant pulses of Eizo's tone. The basis of brutality remains quite simple really, but still completely cavorting and critical to the band's mathematical precision, and guitarist Akio Shimizu piles up so many lead work on top of a single slab of bread that it almost seems though he's completely throwing all his solos out into the face of the listener, but at the same time the leads feel ridiculously spasmodic, almost surreal, and he never refrains from supporting a memorable complex while doing so. Strikingly, he seems as talented in crafting modern thrash chug fairs as he is in wallowing the listener in a paradox of quizzical, spurious solos that just make me swelter in excitement every time I hear them.

While the guitar is the undeniable superstar of the record, Eizo's vocals can deliver almost as many twinges of pleasure as the riffs, and in a far more foreboding way, at that. Not that his vocals have a sense of misery or anything, but they occasionally tend to take on melodious, almost mournful hues while delving into overly harmonious territory. But you see, that's all part of his genius. He has such a long-lasting voice that it readily oscillates while literally keeping the entire riff-work going on underneath in one piece. Additionally, I was quite induced by the foreign eccentricity of the Japanese lyrics, and Eizo also shines here; forming perfect transitions that stick the English lyrics to the Japanese, and what felt somewhat ironic is the abstract vividness of the album, and that they're actually more likely to fit the bill for a band like Drangonforce, but the band sings about much more down-to-earth subjects than dragons or unicorns.

It's quite possible for someone to be in a dilemma when choosing from eleven top-notch tunes, but I probably dug the dual violins of ''Get Away'', the airy, sinister edge of the opener ''Evil One'' and the swerving, bluesy rhythmic combustion of ''Double Helix'' the most, though every song is spectacular in its own rights. As stated, ''Burning Oath'' does not require 200 IQ to figure out; its quite simply plays by the rules but produces quality material that any fan of the aforementioned bands should have a hell of time listening. Even with a deep-seated heavy metal inclination swinging the album towards relatively distinct locations, ''Burning Oath'' principally remains a power metal record, and good fucking one, too.

On And On
Get Away
Double Helix
Evil One
Struggle Action

Rating: 90%

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