Wednesday 5 February 2020

Lovebites - Electric Pentagram (2020)

Country: Japan
Style: Heavy/Power Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 29 Jan 2020
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Lovebites certainly know how to give themselves a little edge in the crowded world of heavy metal. They're an all-female band from Japan who deliberately wear white, as a contrast to the traditional black of the genre, and they're including a wolf on the cover of every release to highlight their status as a lone wolf in a male dominated industry. At the end of the day, though, an edge can help get attention but the music has to back it up, and I'm finding here that, in their instance, it very much does.

On the basis of this, their third album, we can remove the slash from "heavy/power metal band" as this is power metal ramped up to thrash speeds but without ever becoming thrash because the style is very different. I believe that Rage was a key influence on Lovebites, but they've outstripped the pace of of the Germans. Given the intricacy of the music and the fact that every one of the dozen songs on offer runs between five and seven minutes, it's an easy shift to Dragonforce as the most obvious comparison, albeit with fewer show off moments.

It's crazy wicked fast out of the gate with a sonic onslaught called Thunder Vengeance and it doesn't really slow down until the atmospheric introduction to Today is the Day. That's over twenty minutes before we even get a chance to catch our breath and that's not a long intro. The first song to slow down to a different tempo is A Frozen Serenade well over half an hour in. It has a bluesy intro that escalates into a song that's heavy but much slower than the norm here right down to a flamenco like guitar section in the middle. Of course, it eventually ramps up a lot, but it still stands apart.

This is amazingly European for a Japanese band, though the influences there are more varied than we might expect. Sure, there's plenty of Rage and early Blind Guardian on every track, but this goes far beyond that. That's a very prominent Steve Harris bass on Golden Destination. There's plenty of Yngwie J. Malmsteen on a whole bunch of tracks, most obviously Swan Song, and lots of Randy Rhoads on much of the rest. I'd be interested in hearing who Midori and Miyako, the two guitarists here, have been most influenced by.

And those are Girlschool shouts on Raise Some Hell. That reminds that a lot of these songs would feel more recognisable if they weren't so relentlessly fast. Girlschool on speed would seem a fair description of Raise Some Hell, just as quite a few other songs could be seen as the Michael Schenker Group on speed or early Ozzy on speed. There's plenty of NWOBHM on The Unbroken, though it's not obviously one band, so maybe generic NWOBHM on speed.

All told, there are lots of bands on speed here, but what I'm not hearing that much at all are speed metal bands who don't need speeding up to match this sort of frantic tempo. Maybe there's a little Razor or Exciter here and there, like in Set the World on Fire, but there's never much. This is too European and too fundamentally power metal.

The other obvious thing to mention here is that this is a long album and I'd be surprised if some people don't bring that up as a problem. With the sole exception of A Frozen Serenade, this album stays in high gear for its entire seventy minute running time and that's a long time indeed to maintain such a pace. Personally, I enjoyed how incessant this was, because it takes on the benefits of the best thrash albums as a way to clean out our systems. Others may enjoy it for a while but throw their hands up, exhausted before the end of the album, which ends with a soft piano section as if to say that it's OK for us to breathe now.

This is the third album for Lovebites, who have boasted the same line-up all the way since bassist Miho and drummer Haruna founded the band in 2016. I'm impressed with the work ethic that knocks out three albums in four years and doesn't skimp on the live work. I haven't yet heard the first two, Awakening from Abyss and Clockwork Immortality, but I'm highly intrigued. I'm reading that the first is a classic and the second softens up a little but, if that holds up, they upped their game here because this isn't soft at all. It's a blistering album and it bodes well for the lone wolf of Japanese metal.

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