Thursday, February 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Blue Blood, by X-Japan

As hard as this may be for some of you to believe, English speaking/singing bands are not the only ones who can rock your socks off. It's true. One such example of this is a heavy metal band from Japan that began in 1982 called X-Japan. Unlike many other contemporary music groups from Japan, much of X-Japan's music is far less poppy and more amps up to 11 speedy heavy metal; though later on in their career they did start including a lot more ballads in their set list. However, this doesn't change the fact that they are skilled enough to rock with the British and American bands that the majority of the English speaking world listens to.

In 1989 X-Japan found breakthrough success with their second album Blue Blood. The tunes on this album while very much traditional speed/thrash metal riff based also have a great deal of guitar melody in them; particularly when both guitarists (hide and Pata) harmonize with one another. At times however it almost seems as though they are trying to mimic or at least just pay tribute to Van Halen, which honestly wouldn't surprise me considering how influential they have been in both rock and metal over the past 3+ decades. To top it off, they have a pretty top notch singer, Toshi. Though the average American listener probably won't have any idea what he is saying, his voice is still enough to give you goosebumps at times.

One of the best tracks on the album is the first track that has vocals, the title track Blue Blood. It wastes absolutely no time getting to the meat and potatoes of the album's content by kicking in with some of the fastest rhythm guitar picking I've ever heard all while Yoshiki is absolutely pounding away at the drums and Taiji is thundering away on the bass to keep pace. However, the vocal melodies in the tune are really what make it memorable for me. Whatever Toshi is singing about, he is putting his all into it. To top things off however, hide and Pata do some of the most fantastic solo work I have EVER heard. The way they work together as a lead guitar duo would put many American and British bands to shame.

Easy Fight Rambling could easily be mistaken for a Van Halen tune if the Japanese vocals didn't give it away. Everything about it SCREAMS Van Halen's late 70's musical style; from the guitar riffs, the solos, vocal melodies, drum rhythm, etc. It is upbeat and melodic while also keeping that extra edge and bite to let you know that this is hard rock/heavy metal and not some wimpy pop tune. In a way it kind of reminds me of Van Halen's I'm the One from their 1978 debut album Van Halen. However, while the style may not be originally theirs I think of it as an absolutely splendid way to pay tribute to a band they clearly have a lot of love for.

If you have enough of an open mind to give something from a non-English singing band a try, I think you will be in for a pleasant surprise with Blue Blood. I personally was pleasantly surprised when I first popped this record on. I was expecting something poppy and happy like most of what I've heard from Japan, but no. I was taken on one hell of a ride. It certainly should have a place on the shelf with all of your other rock and metal albums. It is heavy, melodic, speedy, and shreds with the rest of the big boys of the genre.

Blue Blood, by X-Japan receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Prologue (World Anthem)
2. Blue Blood
3. Week End
4. Easy Fight Rambling
5. X
6. Endless Rain
7. Kurenai
8. Xclamation
9. Orgasumu
10. Celebration
11. Rose of Pain
12. Unfinished

Buy the album on Amazon:

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