Despite the success of many, many western bands in that part of the world – and the nation’s adoration of all things metal – very few Japanese bands have managed to return the compliment and break out of the land of the rising sun with any degree of credibility or success themselves. There have been a few honourable exceptions, of course: Loudness and Vow Wow in the mid- to late-Eighties for example (the latter aided, or ultimately hampered, by the recruitment of one Neil Murray to their ranks), while, latterly, more innovative acts such as Gallhammer and Sigh have pushed the boundaries of extreme to new limits….
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Blaze, and this, their self-titled debut, are not pushing any boundaries – they’ve opted for the traditional hard rock/heavy metal sound favoured by their fellow countrymen two decades ago – nor are they likely to push too many buttons either.
The main attraction of the album is Hisashi Suzuki’s stunning guitar work throughout – the best examples being perhaps opener ‘On The Run’ and ‘Fool’s Mate’ or finisher ‘Night Walker’ – if perhaps it is a bit too precise in places or a bit too mimicky of the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen in others. Otherwise, the majority of the songs are derivative and unspectacular in their presentation, and it is often difficult to get past Wataru Shiota’s heavily, and almost impenetrably, accented vocals, especially on the mellower and unusually titled ‘Wiseacre In The Land Of Nod’: this in turn results in some truly inane and clichéd lyrics, such as the truly kitsch “let me love you every time, be my sweetheart” refrain on ‘Place In The Sun’ (which also features one of the best solos on the album) or what sounds like “go Robin Hood” throughout ‘See The Light’…
Ironically, one of the best tracks is saved to the very end, in the shape of the aforementioned ‘Night Walker’, which is an excellent bluesy rock stonker.
Overall, Blaze’s sound is that of NWOBHM crossed with LA glam, built on driving riffs such as that on ‘Walking On The Cloud’: all very Dokken-esque, in fact. If this was a band for whom English – or even German, for that matter – was their first language, certain sections of the media would be ranting and salivating over it as a slab of pure retro metal: as it is, being where they are from, they’ll most probably be criminally ignored, which will be a shame as, behind the inanity there is some worthy stuff here, not least in the shape of Suzuki-san’s guitar histrionics.
‘Blaze’ is available now on High Roller Records: http://www.hho-records.de