Thursday, August 19, 2010

Iron Attack - Arashi No Hurricane (2010)

With his 14th full-length in four years, it is a safe bet that Hiroyas 'Iron' Chino has now cornered the market on Japanese shred with neoclassical and video game influences; but what's really staggering is the general level of quality he commits to his recording software. I don't think there is a single Iron Attack record that I don't at least somewhat enjoy. Granted, part of this stems from the manga and anime addict within me, breastfed an unending stream of escapist joy ever since I was old enough to turn on a TV knob in the 70s or slap down my allowance at the local comic store's import section, but truly, Iron Chino's compositional skill holds up even by comparison to legendary shredders like Yngwie Malmsteen, who are undeniably huge influences to why this lone, scaling ranger wakes up in the morning for his tea and shred.

Arashi no Hurricane is just another day in the park for Iron Attack: another dazzling manga model graces its cover, strapped a V, and the diminutive but expanding legions of his fans are armed for an attack of catchy, explosive leads over driving rhythms, the perfect balance of Children of Bodom and Stratovarius with no vocals. He throws us for a loop briefly with the choral intro "Immortal Mountain" before bursting into what he does best, "The Moon for a 1000 Years", a tasteful if predictable melodic shred with some mellowed moments of piano and clean guitars. "First Coverage" has a pure, rocking core not unlike a Judas Priest or Iron Maiden rhythm section with glinting leads, and "Princess in Alcatraz" festoons a more desperate surge of plucky melodic thrashing, following a descending motif which is essentially the perfect anime metal for driving or cyber diving, with a little traditional Asian progression deep after the opening impact. Within "Ancient Dreams", the man shows off his excellent balance of keys, rhythm guitars and over the top, glimmering sensations that have you feeling like you're in a metal-charged alternative to a Mega Man game.

As par for the course as the album is up to this point, the quality is difficult to deny, and as the hugely classical inspired "Spring is Here" arrives in its flourishes of piano and a raging mid paced rhythm, you're either with him or bored to tears by the excess. I have no doubts that Iron Attack could use a vocalist and use one well, if Chino could appropriately ration out the verses and chorus with the leads, especially on savage power metal numbers like 'Brequet in Pavilion" and the emotionally uplifting "Sky Starbreaker". The tracks function as is, but the music is so strong that an applied vocalist of note would catapult it into the top tiers of international power metal, certainly a match for Japanese bands Galneryus or Concerto Moon, which a touch more of the 80s pop/rock Romanticism so prevalent in Japanese popular music. Still, this would perhaps detract from the uniqueness of this project, and as "Dominant of Dark Pain" weaves its way through the closing moments of baroque shredding bliss, you will feel satisfied that this is another album worth your time and an excellent background for the right situation (custom soundtrack to an exciting videogame works well).

Arashi no Hurricane might not be the singular most interesting album this man has put out below this banner, but its certainly one of the tightest. He doesn't experiment a whole lot, and the songs aren't as catchy as a Dead Heat Refrain or Far East Judgment, but its all wrapped up so lovingly and in defiance of popular convention that I found myself once more aboard, kissing the feet of his manga Muse. One wonders how quickly it would take to toss most of his albums into a digital playlist and become jaded with the works, but at this time I don't feel he has yet saturated his potential or produced his masterpiece. Apply only if you enjoy shred instrumetal with a clear Asian influence.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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