Posts Tagged ‘ Yoshio Isoda ’

Album of the Week 25-2020: Takenori Shimoyama – The Power Of Redemption

‘The Power Of Redemption’ is the second solo album Saber Tiger singer Takenori Shimoyama has released in less than six months. It is however, significantly different than ‘Way Of Life’, released in November. While Shimoyama’s raw, impassioned vocals worked surprisingly well with the largely acoustic music on that record, ‘The Power Of Redemption’ is his first metallic solo album. It is full of neoclassically tinged hard rock and power metal in the best possible Rainbow tradition, as is still relatively popular in Japan. The stylistic consistency on the album is admirable, as Shimoyama works with a changing cast of Japanese all-star musicians.

Anyone who thinks Double Dealer is the best band Shimoyama has ever been a part of will likely enjoy the hell out of ‘The Power Of Redemption’. In fact, the track ‘Sun Down’ is only keyboard player Toshiyuki Koike short of being a full reunion of the final Double Dealer line-up. Most of the other musicians and composers Shimoyama works with on the album are from the Rainbow meets Malmsteen school of old school power metal as well, however, with the likes of Galneryus’ keyboard player Yuhki, Cerebellar Rondo guitarist Atsushi Mashiro and Blindman’s Tatsuya Nakamura all contributing material.

However, the most successful partnership here appears to be the one with Yutaro Abe. There is a sense of drama and build-up in ‘Beneath The Wave’ that doesn’t sound miles away from Symphony X, while Saber Tiger drummer Yasuhiro Mizuno and bassist Koichi Terasawa of Blizard and Sly fame are an extraordinarily tight rhythm section. Former Anthem drummer Takamasa Ohuchi appears on the other Abe composition ‘The Last Survivor’ instead of Mizuno, which despite its consistently high energy level features surprisingly subdued vocals by Shimoyama during the verses. The instrumentally dense section before the solo is one of the highlights of the record.

Yutaro Abe’s compositions are hardly the only worthwhile tracks on the album though. ‘Chaos Region’, a composition by Earthshaker guitarist Shinichiro Ishihara, is probably the most pleasant surprise on here due to its more modern sound and somewhat unpredictable structure, while Nakamura’s ‘Grace Of My Heart’ is a classy, elegant hardrocker with an excellent chorus. The best lead guitar work on the album may just be provided by Bow Wow frontman Kyoji Yamamoto on the closing ballad ‘Whisper In The Dark’. The other ballad, ‘Life After Life’, has a bit of a weird, semi-jazzy vibe, but also a fantastic bass solo by Terasawa and a great guitar solo by Atsushi Yokozeki. Once it sinks in, it is quite a nice sequence break from all the shredding.

While not necessarily a surprising album, ‘The Power Of Redemption’ is different enough from Saber Tiger to be a worthy release and it is nice to see Shimoyama embracing his seventies rock inspired heavy metal roots again. He is obviously highly skilled at singing this type of music and the musicians he chose to work with really did a great job bringing out the best in his voice. Anyone yearning for a new Double Dealer record or apprehensive about the new Concerto Moon album should definitely give the album a chance. But really, if you like your metal with plenty of neoclassical guitar runs and great, Dio-esque vocals, you cannot go wrong here.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Last Survivor’, ‘Chaos Region’, ‘Beneath The Wave’

Album of the Week 41-2017: Saber Tiger – Timystery

Before Saber Tiger was fronted by the passionate howls of Takenori Shimoyama, they made a couple of excellent albums with Yoko Kubota, an impressive singer in her own right, at the helm. This was the time when the Japanese quintet started incorporating progressive elements into their music, slowly morphing from an above average heavy metal band to the amazing band they are today. ‘Timystery’ is one of those albums that does everything just right. The compositions are better and the musical interaction is more cohesive than ever before. And though it would turn out to be Kubota’s last album with the band, she really comes into her own here.

‘Timystery’ finds Saber Tiger streamlining the progressive touches that were on the foreground on its direct predecessor ‘Agitation’. As a result, ‘Timystery’ feels a little more like ‘Invasion’, Kubota’s 1992 debut with the band, but there is some more musical class hidden beneath the surface. In essence, the album is exactly what you would have expected from Saber Tiger at this point in their career: energetic songs, huge beefy riffs and recognizable choruses, but the songs take a few surprising twists. Also, it is Saber Tiger’s first album that features English lyrics exclusively.

Fortunately, these lyrics go beyond the usual English catchphrases surrounded by poor grammar that Japanese bands revelled in at the time. I don’t know if Kubota had any help, but her English is decent enough and the songs actually have topics. There is a lot of relational material and lyrics about trust issues, but they work. Sometimes even surprisingly well: every aspect of ‘Bad Devotion’ is flawless. The start-stop riffs and dynamics of the song really enhance the story of a woman trying to get back on her feet, while every section of the song is a new climax, culminating in the solo section, which is both virtuosic and goosebumps-inducing.

Of course, no one needed to worry about the qualities of the musicians; Akihito Kinoshita and Yasuharu Tanaka are likely the best guitar duo in the business, Takashi Yamazumi is a bassist who makes the most of his moments, but also has no problem holding down the bottom end and drummer Yoshio Isoda is solid as a rock. That musicianship is what lifts songs like the highly rhythmic ‘Living On In The Crisis’, the relatively heavy opener ‘No Fault / No Wrong’, the pleasantly melodic ‘Distressed Soul’, the pounding ‘Revenged On You’ and the highly dynamic ‘Easy Road To Life’ above their obvious compositional quality.

Saber Tiger truly struck gold on ‘Timystery’. They found the perfect balance between progressive metal – the unconventional rhythms of the lengthy closer ‘Spiral Life’ are easily the most “proggy” moment of the record – and traditional heavy metal, creating something that may appeal to fans of both genres. The album contains several of the best songs the band has ever made and it would take more than fifteen years before the band would top it. Albums this consistent are a rarity, especially in the mid-nineties metal scene, but ‘Timystery’ is simply an album that will not let you go until long after it is over.

Recommended tracks: ‘Bad Devotion’, ‘Living On In The Crisis’, ‘Easy Road To Life’