Album of the Week 45-2014: Anthem – Absolute World


While many old school Heavy Metal bands had an enormous identity crisis in the nineties due to the rise of Alt-Rock and – in this case – Visual Kei, Naoto Shibata did the right thing; he put his band Anthem to rest until new artistic and business opportunities presented themselves. The result: Anthem exclusively released solid, quality Heavy Metal records throughout their career. ‘Absolute World’ is one more piece of evidence proving that the band can still make fantastic records over three decades into their carreer. In fact, it is on par with ‘Immortal’ and ‘Black Empire’ as the band’s best post-reunion albums.

Iconic singer Eizo Sakamoto left the band after the album’s predecessor ‘Burning Oath’. His replacement – for the second time in Anthem history – is Yukio Morikawa, who has obviously aged since he last worked with the band on ‘Domestic Booty’, but still has a set of pipes many young singers can be jealous of. Admittedly, I sometimes miss Sakamoto’s primal energy, but Morikawa’s performance on the album is stellar. In addition, Isamu Tamaru became the band’s full time drummer, after replacing Hiro Homma during his injury.

However, what counts in the end are the songs and Shibata has once again written a collection of fantastic Heavy Metal and Power Metal tracks. Throughout recent years, many keyboards carrying the main melodies crept through Anthem’s songs, but ‘Absolute World’ is very much a guitar riff driven album. Opening track ‘Shine On’ misleads you for a second, but turns into a fantastic Power Metal track – as well as the most logical first single – with a couple of fantastic melodies courtesy of Morikawa.  Furthermore, there’s an awesome 2 minute Speed Metal track in the shape of ‘Destroy The Boredom’, as well as the blazing ‘Stranger’ with its fantastic chorus and the driving ‘Pain’.

From the moment he joined, guitarist Akio Shimizu quickly became an important part of the band. His contributions here include his usual instrumental track (‘Absolute Figure’) and the more traditional Power Metal tracks ‘Edge Of Time’ and ‘In The Chaos’, which both build upon strong riff work and fantastic choruses with spirited performances by Morikawa. Shimizu also throws around some of the sickest guitar solos in contemporary Metal, most notably on the brooding midtempo masterpiece of a track ‘Sailing’ and the closing triplet riff monster ‘Run With The Flash’. Shibata himself, meanwhile, has an incredible bass sound.

In the end, the only bad thing about ‘Absolute World’ is that no European or American label has the balls to release an album that has mostly Japanese lyrics and therefore, the album is quite expensive. That and the fact that ‘Love Of Hell’ is about a minute and a half longer than it should be. But those are just minor complaints that in no way ruin the enjoyment of one of the best old fashioned Heavy Metal records in recent times. Not even the financial aspect. It helps that Shibata isn’t only a great riff writer, he’s a great songwriter with a bunch of fantastic musicians around him. If that doesn’t make a fantastic Metal album, I don’t know what does.

Recommended tracks: ‘In The Chaos’, ‘Sailing’, ‘Destroy The Boredom’

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