Monday, December 30, 2013

Blaze-The Rock Dinosaur

High Roller Records

Having enjoyed the heck out of Blaze's 2007 self-titled debut album, which was reissued in 2012 by High Roller Records with an additional bonus track in the form of "Night Walker" (see link below for my coverage of said album), I had high expectations for this 6-track EP. Thankfully I was not let down! Japan's Blaze, who should not be confused with the other Blaze who also hail from Japan (confusing I realize), are a Osaka-based hard rock/heavy metal band who have been going at it since 1998. Other then the 2007 full-length album and a 2001 single called "See the Light" (from which the above mentioned track "Night Wolf" was taken) this is as far as this four-piece act has gotten. Speaking of which, the band is lead by Wataru Shiota and, other then drummer Takashi "Bikky" Funabiki, the same line-up has been in place since the band's formation. Besides lead singer Wataru Shiota, whose vocals really suite the band's fun take on all things eighties* (even if they can be a bit uneven at times), you've also got original members Hisashi "Q" Suzuki** (guitars) and Kenichi Kuwahara. (bass). Together with the band's (third overall) drummer Takashi "Bikky" Funabiki these three musicians take a stab at relighting a (much-needed) fire under the butt of today's stale hard rock/heavy metal scene. So what if it takes a band like Blaze looking backwards (as far as their influences) to forge forward? The second opener "One Way Flight" kicks in you're likely to find yourself fondly remembering why eighties hard and heavy metal kicked so much ass in the first place while also realizing that Blaze has all the right tools as their disposal to easily blend right in with today's scene. The band's sound is tight while retaining enough of a carefree attitude to make tracks like "Shed Light on Dark", "Right In White Light", "Underground Heroes" and "The Going Gets Rough" really rock! This one should feel right at home in the collections of those who like honest-to-goodness, no-frills, hard rock/heavy metal with a homegrown vibe. Then again, I would especially recommend this 6-track EP to those people who, like me, still reminisce about the days of old when most good hard rock and heavy releases were still found on LP and cassette!

*The first name that comes to mind when listening to Blaze is the Scorpions. The band almost comes across as a Japanese version of the the Scorpions as (perhaps) envisioned by a younger version of Loudness.

**When talking about the band's first (and so far only) full-length release guitarist Hisashi Suzuki had this to say (as far as the band's influences and what drives Blaze): "I do love the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, that sound is in my blood. Bands like Urchin, High Treason, J.J.'s Powerhouse, Marquis De Sade. Besides, I like almost all British rock of the 1960's and 1970's, also some beat and traditional folk. And I like many early 1980's European bands. Of course, I like the Scorpions. My favorite guitarist is Michael Schenker. I like all UFO albums with Michael and the first two albums from M.S.G. I also like Brian Robertson, Andy Powell, Rory Gallagher and more. Though I respect Uli Roth, I can not play like him. As for the Scorpions, my favorite albums are "In Trance" and "Virgin Killer"."

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