Tokyo Blade – a classic band in the b league of NWOBHM that have endured their life in the shadow of the genre greats, together with bands like Satan, Tank, Grim Reaper and the likes. There’s some real gold nuggets here, but the dangers of making up a genre purely on geographical location, although the bands might sound totally different, is as apparent in NWOBHM as in Grunge. Tokyo Blade released a couple of great albums in the early 80’s when the British scene was in its most intense period. The bands original singer, Alan Marsh, had left the band by the time they released their claim to fame and, in my opinion, greatest album entitled “Night of the Blade” in 1984.
To be honest the turnaround of members, the release history and different versions of the band with various original members through the years is a true nightmare… For example the Night of the Blade album also exists with Alan’s vocals on it, since these were recorded before his departure, and for a short while there was an american version of the band with no original members in it at all(!). The important thing to know now is that the current lineup is basically the same as in 1984 before Alan left the band. I witnessed the bands comeback (as the ’84 lineup) gig at the Keep it True festival in Germany in 2016 and even though it had its flaws I still think back on it as a great gig with lots of heart and determination. For Tokyo Blade the show must go on.
With this as my bagage and history with the band I take on their 8th full length album, Unbroken, with curiosity. How does it sound then? Well, it’s actually hard to say… Let me try to explain. First of all I’m surprised over the sound of the album, in a good way. It’s organic, pretty dry and very in your face without being annoyingly over mastered or “modern” in its presentation. The guitars sound like guitars without the band falling for trends or fads of sound ideals, it just sounds raw and nice. Second of all I’m surprised by the melodies and song structures. This doesn’t sound like a long forgotten album from ’84 that someone found the master tapes for, laying around in a box in their dead uncles attic. You can clearly hear influences of a more modern sort in tracks like “Burn Down the Night” or “The Man in Black”. Sometimes the music very Iron Maiden, sometimes a bit of Thin Lizzy and sometimes I think of pop-rock-punk like The Offspring or Blink 182. I know, blasphemy and all that, and don’t get me wrong here… They don’t sound like those bands, but some melodies and passages makes me think of that type of music (listen to “No Time to Bleed” for some skate punk meets Thin Lizzy).
So, what’s the overall impression you may ask? Mainly that this is decent, but falls a bit short on two main points; 1) the songs/riffs aren’t really memorable or good enough and 2) even if Alan’s voice definitely has a certain charm, it’s not competent enough to last over the whole album (which is looong). I find myself craving a bit of vocal diversity of some sort. Maybe I’m just a sucker for that falsetto style metal vocals that are totally absent here. Maybe the dry mix makes the voice too dominant. It could also be the extensive playing time of just under a full hour that makes it all a bit much. Whatever it is, there’s something amiss and that leaves the album as merely an OK listen. If nothing else for the formidable guitar work of Andy Boulton and John Wiggins.
Artist: Tokyo Blade
Label: 3ms Music
Date of release: 2018-07-20
Playing Time: 57,58
Stand out track: The Last Samurai – a great epic track with good guitars and nice melodies.