Album of the Week 51-2016: Mary’s Blood – Fate

There has been a veritable cornucopia of female heavy and power metal bands from Japan these last few years. A few of them are good, a lot of them are too upbeat and poppy for my taste and then there’s Mary’s Blood. Armed with an array of excellent contemporary heavy metal riffs courtesy of new guitar sorceress Saki and the powerful, slightly gritty throat of the excellent Eye, the band created an almost-masterpiece with ‘Bloody Palace’ last year and almost exactly a year later, they released another fantastic record by the title of ‘Fate’. Another must if you’re into modern heavy and power metal.

Melody and heaviness are in perfect balance with Mary’s Blood. The bottom end is kept firm and powerful by Saki’s riffing and Mari’s not overly complex, but highly effective drum work and combined with Eye’s perfect amount of power, passion and grit, they sound a bit like a 21st century Japanese counterpart to Warlock. They have the catchy songs and the exceptional vocals in common, but Mary’s Blood is clearly a band of its own time and location. And interestingly, they have become a little bit heavier over time without sacrificing any of their memorable melodicism.

If there is something of a tried, tested and true Mary’s Blood formula, it is certainly well represented in songs like ‘Nautical Star’, ‘Counter Strike’, ‘Endless Tragedy’ and ‘Queen Of The Night’. Intense, but not too aggressive riffing, dual guitar harmonies, a chorus that I’d have sung along immediately if I spoke Japanese and plenty of room for Saki to show off her considerable skills. ‘Chateau De Sable’ even has her battling with former Seikima II guitarist Luke Takamura, resulting in a downright awesome solo section. And Miki ‘Sun-Go’ Igarashi from Japan’s original all-female metal band Show-Ya contributes to the album’s highlight: the wonderfully intense borderline thrash of ‘Change The Fate’.

Japanese bands have a tendency to experiment a little on their albums and ‘Fate’ is no exception. Their collaboration with Babymetal producer Yuyoyuppe raised some eyebrows and while the results are somewhat controversial, I think ‘Angel’s Ladder’ mainly suffers from its prominent placing on the album. Eye really shines on this very heavy stomper and it may not have caused as much backlash if it was placed later on the album. The breakdown on the other one, ‘Self-Portrait’, sounds a little strange at first, but you’ll get used to it, as the rest of the track is unmistakably Mary’s Blood.

As a whole, ‘Fate’ is just short of the brilliance and the perfect flow of ‘Bloody Palace’, but not by much. The playing is beyond excellent and Eye’s singing beyond even that. The ballad is even better this time around – the dark atmosphere and the guitar-oriented direction of ‘In The Rain’ work wonders – and the band is luckily still finding ways to keep things fresh. As long as that is the case, I see a bright future ahead of Mary’s Blood. And they deserve it, because they’re easily the most powerful of all the female metal bands coming from Japan the last couple of years.

Recommended tracks: ‘Change The Fate’, ‘Queen Of The Night’, ‘Counter Strike’

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