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The first time I can recall listening to an ANTHEM album in its entirety was in a used record store in Hawai’i. Their sharp edged logo and complex album art hearkened back to the days of early Judas Priest and Queensryche. Purely out of curiosity, I tossed their vinyl under the needle and gave them a go. What I heard was guitar work that rivaled Glenn Tipton and dynamic vocals that were curiously enough, in Japanese. You’ll be hard pressed to find any physical copies of their old recordings in the U.S., which made this discovery all that more special. Which brings us to their latest album, Nucleus.

ANTHEM have been pioneers in the metal scene in Japan since the early 80’s. And with their latest release, Nucleus, they have their eyes set on expanding their reach across the globe. It's a solid metal album parading as a Greatest Hits’ album with classics spanning their long and prolific career. This is not simply a traditional re-recording of their greatest hits by any means. It is a re-imagined, modern primer on the Japanese metal legend’s discography. Enlisting iconic Swedish producer and engineer, Jens Bogren, (Babymetal, Opeth, Dragonforce) Nucleus becomes an album unto itself with modern production unifying the different eras of the band’s past.

And what seems to be one of the band’s proudest and most challenging accomplishments on Nucleus, is vocalist, Yukio Morikawa’s powerful vocal delivery re-sung entirely in English. A first for this veteran metal outfit and an impressive feat for any band singing outside the safety of their own mother tongue.

The album opens with the explosive, "Immortal Bind". This one's a no-nonsense thrasher, pummeling you right out of the gate and doesn’t let up until drummer, Isamu Tamaru’s final symbol crash. The song encapsulates everything that ANTHEM has come to stand for over the years; more specifically the quick-paced, chugging metal grooves of the 80's.  Of course, the lead guitar acrobatics courtesy of longtime lead guitarist, Akio Shimizu as well as the always impressive bass work from founding member, Naoto Shibata take this one to a whole new level.  "Overload" and "Venom Strike" are also crushing in their delivery,  but hook you in with those catchy, over-the-top choruses and blistering lead-work, akin to their American peers in Accept and Judas Priest.  This wouldn’t be a summation of ANTHEM’s greatest hits without mentioning their instrumental, neoclassical opus, "Omega Man".  This one was originally performed on their 2004 release, Eternal Warrior, and was re-recorded to perfection (And a song which I honestly just put on repeat for the entirety of writing this article).

Overall, Nucleus is a powerful release from a seasoned band who are clearly not content with staying within tradition of their own shores but confidently push on far beyond them. Japan’s ANTHEM are celebrating their 35th anniversary on the eve of this release and Nucleus is a fitting primer for today’s modern metal audience from these progenitors of Japanese Heavy Metal.  It's a must listen for any metal aficionado, and one that I'll be returning to over and over in the weeks and months ahead.  


As always, rock on my friends!     Hunnypot Approved!     Overall Rating:  8.5 out of 10

Artist: Anthem,  AlbumNucleus  Release Date: March 29th, 2019,  LabelGolden Robot Records



Raul Soria Jr.

Photojournalist - Portland

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