Style: Heavy Metal
Release Date: 15 May 2020
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I was in bliss to discover a couple of years that Tokyo Blade aren't merely back, but they've been back, everyone in the band has been with them a long time (even if some have taken breaks) and they still sound damn good. I gave their 2018 album, Unbroken, an 8/10 and I think I'm going to have to follow suit with this one, if mostly for a different reason.
While Unbroken was a solid album elevated by a few standout tracks, this one is an completely reliable creature, so consistently good that maybe only the opener, Story of a Nobody, manages to stand out. That's a classic, from its riffs to its hooks and everything in between. It's a real anthem too, a song that feels like it could, under the right circumstances, change a life for the better. Nothing else here matches it, but every song is still worthy and they warm the soul like an old friend we haven't seen in forever.
Like Unbroken, this is so traditional that it feels like it could have been written back in the eighties. The production is modern, amping up the bass end far more than could have been done back then, but songs like The Fastest Gun in Town, Crack in the Glass and The Lights of Soho are so quintessential for that era that my brain segued from them into Friday Rock Show incidental music so Tommy Vance could tell us what they were.
It's rooted, of course, in the NWOBHM sound, with the vocals clean and the guitars heavy but melodic. The band's standard routine is to kick in with a solid riff, then add vocals with the guitars chugging along in support under them. I like the mix, but I'd have preferred it to not be quite so driven by the bass. The guitars and vocals could have been a little higher.
Tokyo Blade flirted with a lot of genres back in the day, not all of them a good call. This is mostly mid paced heavy metal with few attempts to add an extra element into the mix. The only song that feels a little different from the rest is Perfect Enemy, which is a little more recent in style and with a hint of glam in the vocal. It reminded me of Saigon Kick, which is far from a bad thing.
Crack in the Glass marks Tokyo Blade at their fastest, something I remember from their heyday of Night of the Blade, on which four of the five current band members played; the only one missing from that classic album is singer Alan Marsh, though he was in the band before and after it. However, even if it's the fastest song on the album, it also features the most introspective midsection, which is a delight.
What impresses most here is what impressed me most back in the mid eighties, namely the way that Tokyo Blade can be so powerful in delivery but find such reliable hooks. The riff on Story of a Nobody that opens the album is heavy stuff indeed, like a fast oncoming brick wall. Yet there's still melody and Marsh finds a memorable hook for the chorus. The only other band I can think of that can merge power and hooks this well is Metal Church and there are a few points where that comparison does manifest, even if this is very British in outlook.
Outside of Story of a Nobody, which keeps on getting better and better every time through, I'd be hard pressed to pick a favourite as different ones leap out with each listen. The title track was an early favourite of mine, until The Lights of Soho took over. I'm five or six listens in now and The Fastest Gun in Town is really impressing me, as is Voices of the Damned. This is the sort of album where every track might end up my favourite at some point.
Kudos to the band for staying so strong across so many years. Alan Marsh may deliver those solid hooks, but it's the twin guitar assault of Andy Boulton and John Wiggins that really underpins this album. They're focusing more on riffs than solos here, though I enjoyed the latter too. However much great material is behind them, maybe the night of the Blade is still to come.