A strange one, this. I’ve had Fury, the new Tokyo Blade album, in my possession for a fair while now, and it’s been a real struggle to get to grips with it. One thing might be the size of the thing – at fifteen tracks and a nearly eighty minute run time there’s more than enough Blade here for most people to digest in one sitting – but there’s a strange disparity in the songwriting on the record that makes it very difficult to listen to as a cohesive entity.
Opening brace Man In A Box and Blood Red Night are both classic ‘Blade bangers, powered by the churning axes of Andy Boulton and John Wiggins and led by the immediately-recognisable vocals of Alan Marsh, but after that things start to unravel a little. I Am Unbroken suffers from a poor lyrical flow and the fact that it seems to be attempting to shoehorn the story from Thin Lizzy‘s Waiting For An Alibi into the song structure of another Lizzy song, Cold Sweat. Two tracks later, on Eyes Wired Shut, the band seem to be working out some sort of Lizzy obsession again, and this is a little distracting to the ear to say the least.
Best track on the record, the hard driving We All Fall Down, pushed along by some gloriously clanking bass tones from Andy Wrighton is much better, featuring some great lead work, and it provides a link to the classic Tokyo Blade sound we’ve come to know and love over the years. It also features Marsh’s most confident and commanding vocal on the album, which may or not be a coincidence.
However, the next track goes back a million steps; Heart of Darkness is more Lizzy than anything on any of the Black Star Riders albums, with March feeling it necessary to do an actual Phil Lynott impersonation a couple of times during the song; it’s bewildering, befuddling, and I just don’t understand it. There was a whiff of Thin Lizzy present in some of the best moments on the band’s last album Dark Revolution, but they never got in the way of the actual songs in the manner they do here. It’s a big barrier to the enjoyment of the album, at least to these ears.
Much better is the fast-paced metal of Life Leaves A Scar, wherein the band cut away all the affectation and just go for the throat – and deliver in spades. Like We All Fall Down, this is the ‘Blade at their pure, unalloyed best; duelling, flashy guitars, a singalong chorus, a great vocal… British heavy metal in it’s purest and most enjoyable form, and the place where this band undoubtedly thrives.
The portentous Message on The Wall, which opens with a quote from George Orwell‘s 1984, is pretty good too, again featuring some superb, up-front four string work from Wrighton and the sort of chorus this band were so good at ‘back in the day’; Again, stripped of this curious Thin Lizzy business, the real quality of this band shines through…
In the final washup, Fury is another solid, well-made slab of British metal that, whatever my misgivings, is probably going to do enough to slake the collective metal thirst of Tokyo Blade’s many fans. As the old adage goes – when it’s good, it’s very, very good – so let’s accentuate the positive!
Fury releases on February 28th.