Formed in 1981 – the same year as their slightly-more-famous-compadres Loudness, Japan’s Saber Tiger have only really made any ripples on the surface of the worldwide metal scene over the last five years. That’s surprising, because the storming power metal evident throughout this reissued and expanded version of their 2015 album Bystander Effect suggests a band who are fully au fait with their metal onions. And then some.
At times it gets a little samey – guitarists Akihito Kinoshita and Yasuharu Tanaka are a little heavy handed with the unforgiving riffage at times, if we’re being honest – but there are some truly hair-raising metal moments scattered throughout the album. Certainly enough to warrant closer inspection from all of you currently reading this review, I’d have thought.
Founding member Kinoshita clearly calls the shots, and both he and his six string chum deliver stunning array of tuneful solos and pummelling riffs, but the real star here is vocalist Takenoru Shinoyama. Singing in a pleasant mid-range that at times is stunningly reminiscent of Euro metal God Apollo Papathanasiou, the man displays not only an ear for a tune but also the sort of command of the English language as a vocal tool that often eludes Japanese vocalists. His work on tracks like Shameless and What I Used to Be is nothing short of world class, with the Savatage-styled overload of Devastation Trail isn’t far behind in the impressive chops stakes.
One Last Time is probably my pick of the headbangers on offer, but perhaps the best track of all is the show stopping ballad An Endless End – Another Time. Again Shinoyama plays a major part in the song’s success with a tour de force performance that brings to mind names like Graham Bonnett and Klaus Meine, and both guitarists deliver with both barrels both as muscular riff purveyors and as over the top solo delivery units. It’s old school, sure, but it’s completely impossible to resist, let me tell you.
Let’s hope the band can build on this surge of interest in Bystander Effect and build themselves a worldwide career!
Bystander Effect is out now on Sliptrick Records.