Friday, March 17, 2023

Album Review (Obscurus Metalus): Stereo Nasty's Twisting The Blade

Happy St. Patrick’s Day fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

As I’m probably posting this up in the morning, I hope that today goes well for all of you. Later on, I hope you have a good can of Guinness (If you drink), a nice hot Reuben in front of you, and you got a few good mates sitting on both sides of yee! So last year I looked at the first album from an Irish metal band by the name of Stereo Nasty, but unfortunately they’ve been gone for I believe 4 years at this point. Regardless, there was some legitimate potential for these guys to be something pretty special in my opinion, and their first album was definitely a sign they could have made it big. Does their second and ultimately last record continue to show of their strengths? Well, let’s not waste anymore time, and take a look at Stereo Nasty’s second release, Twisting The Blade. Let the review begin!

Kinda like last year, it’s pretty hard to find information about these guys. There’s not that many articles interview, and I’ve only seen maybe one brief meeting with the band. As such, it’s damn near impossible to find out what Stereo Nasty was doing after the release of Nasty By Nature, so I can only assume that their first album did well enough that they were able to get a second one out on the first of July in 2017.

Basic Description

Stereo Nasty definitely up-ed their game on Twisting The Blade. Compared to what they did on Nasty By Nature, the band were trying to have a little more depth with the music. The guitars & bass are heavier, the drums are louder, and the vocals are ever more harsher (But in a good way). TTB also doesn’t have much of an amateur vibe as NBN, showing that the band was more than willing to grove & evolve their music. Nothing else to say really!

Best Track
Vengeance is an oddball of a track on Twisting The Blade, and even the band’s brief musical discography. Playing for just 2 minutes & 16 seconds, it is Stereo Nasty’s only instrumental piece, but it is a sinister one! The tune feels like something you’d hear in a Slasher movie, which isn’t a surprise considering what this album’s name is. Composed of nothing but guitar & bass, Rud Holohan and Adrian Foley really make things creepy with the low yet murderous tones they’re making. An absolutely chilling song you don’t want to hear at night!


Worst Track
Twisting The Blade, like I said a little earlier, was a step up from what Stereo Nasty doing the first time. The band was most certainly trying to diversify their sound, and the results speak for themselves. That being said, there are plenty of times where TTB comes across as pretty similar to what was on Nasty By Nature. There’s plenty of moments where the audio sounds similar, and even the vibe at times. That being said, and I’ll repeat this in a bit, but there is way more going on here that’s new & fresh. Again, Stereo Nasty seem to be taking things in just enough of a different direction that Twisting The Blade feels like it has an identity that’s not completely like it’s predecessor, and if the band stayed together I would have loved to hear more.

If you’re curious about listening to this album, then click on the link below:

Stereo Nasty - Twisting the Blade

Overall Impressing & Rating
Twisting The Blade was a definite improvement over the band’s first output. Though the sound is somewhat similar to Nasty By Nature, there is way more audio that’s new than the audio that old or similar. Stereo Nasty were a group of Irish lads that were bringing back the old ways, and the potential for them to be something more (Maybe even international) is most obviously there. It’s a shame, however, that the group broke up before this could theoretically happen. Kinda like their first release, Twisting The Blade is just a fun & simple time, so give it a go if it comes your ways!

Twisting The Blade gets a 8 to 9 out of 10.

And that was my second look at the sadly now defunct Stereo Nasty. Twisting The Blade was a rare glimpse into the world of Irish Heavy Metal, and showed that the Emerald Isles could rock out as much as anywhere else in the world. These guys could definitely have been something on the Heavy Metal world stage, what little music they did release was lovely regardless. So, I’m taking the rest of March off. See you all in April!

If you’d like to see my review for Stereo Nasty’s first album, click the link below:

Album Review (Obscurus Metalus): Stereo Nasty's Nasty By Nature

Also, here is a link to a concert of their’s from back in 2016:

Stereo Nasty - Full Show - Live at Old Grave Fest V - 07.10.2016

Monday, March 13, 2023

5 Of My Favorite MTG Cards (Green Edition 2.0)

Happy St. Patrick’s Week fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

This coming Friday is the day where we all don our most green clothes, crack open the closest Guinness or other form of alcohol, and overall be merry about the Irish saint driving out all of the snakes from the Emerald Isle. As someone who is part Irish, the incoming holiday means just a little more to me than some. So, to celebrate the occasion, I got some green themed goodies in store for you. Today’s post is one I did last year, showing off some of my favorite MTG cards that just so happened to be as green as a four-leafed clover, and just for fun I’m doing it again! So without further delay, here are 4 of my favorite MTG cards that are green......2.0!

1) Ruxa, Patient Professor (Strixhaven Commander)

Our list begins with a bit of a strange one, but also from one of my top 3 sets of all time! Hailing from the Quandrix school, this bear of a teacher is all about teaching the basics. So much so, that she gives bonuses & helps out creatures that don’t have any abilities. Doesn’t matter if it’s base creatures or creature tokens, Ruxa lives up to her name of being a patient sage to her students. If you’re willing to take your time, you’ll find that Ruxa is a pretty potent professor!

2) Isao, Enlightened Bushi (Betrayers Of Kamigawa)

And here we come to another odd one on this list. When we first visited Kamigawa back in the mid 2000s, our first glimpse at that plane’s samurai was among the colors of White, Red, and Black. Betrayers was a big departure from that triad of colors, and we were given the lone Green samurai of the original block. Further adding to the weirdness is that he can actually prevent samurai from dying. Granted, you need a little bit of mana open to do it, but he can prevent a swordman from going into the beyond. It’s a little strange, especially since there has be hardly any Green samurai released since Isao came out, but the concept is cool!

3) Old Gnawbone (Adventures In The Forgotten Realms)

Overpowered as hell!

This gigantic green dragon that prowls the woods is an absolute monster! Not only does she have some beastly stats herself, but she & any other creatures you control can generate absolute tons of wealth. All of the treasure you create can be incredibly massive, especially if you have other big beefy critters that can deal a lot of damage. With all of that treasure lying around, you can definitely cast some other big things, and that’s always a plus for me!

4) God-Eternal Rhonas (War Of The Spark)

Before we had the Phyrexians finally spread their evil across the Multiverse, the last big threat players faced was that of Nicol Bolas & his attempt to regain his former power. Taking over the plane of Ravnica in an effort to harvest the sparks of planeswalkers, he brought with him an army that our heroes had a tough time dealing with, and heading parts of his army were the zombified dead gods of the world Amonkhet. One of them was Rhonas, the former god of strength, was now leading a portion of this army. Because of his state, he’s got new ways to boost your creatures, and can even come back from the dead! Thankfully, our heroes were able to imprison Bolas seemingly for good, and the gods could rest in piece.

5) Baru, Fist Of Krosa (Future Sight)

I realized when I made this 2nd list, that pretty much all of the creatures picked were legendary, so let’s end things on a legendary mechanic. Grandeur was an intriguing idea outside of commander: have multiple copies of a legendary creature that had Grandeur, and discard them to activate an effect. It was certainly interesting, but given it was only on five creature that were also Futureshifted (The gimmick of the 3rd part of the Time Spiral block), it’s obvious that it probably wasn’t going to be used much......but it was at least a neat concept!  

And those were 5 more of my favorite green MTG cards. Like last time, I certainly had quite the selection, but they all happened to fit the moment. So, with this first celebration of one of the most vibrant colors completed, join me on St. Patrick’s Day itself for a 2nd look at an Irish band that could have been. See you soon!

Here’s a link to last year’s list:

5 Of My Favorite MTG Cards (Green Edition)

Friday, March 3, 2023

Food For Thought/Thought For Food No. 28b: Thought There Was Hope

So, remember when I said I’d put out an update if new info on Pikamee appeared? Well, there has been new stuff that’s come to light.....just not the kind anyone wanted to hear.

Just over a day ago on the 1st of March, 2023, Pikamee re-emerged after receiving copious amount of harassment over EXPRESSING INTEREST in playing Hogwarts Legacy. I want to repeat that.......EXPRESSING INTEREST! She stated in her must recent video (I'll have a link below) that on the 31st of March (In Japan Time), she will be permanently retiring/graduating from her Vtuber activities, and from the internet itself it seems. Pikamee stated that she will be removing all of her content off of her Youtube page once the 31st comes around (Twitch material I think is also getting removed), but it’ll still be up beforehand, so download any of it if you can!

I admit when I watched Silvervale tell off the Bullshit Justice Warriors, I was grinning from end to end, and I was hoping that the rest of the Vtubers targets by these senseless attacks would raise their middle fingers in unison. Sadly this is not the case, and one of the kindest & sweetest vtubers has been thoroughly silenced by these nimrods. I can’t even remotely begin to feel what Pikamee is going through & feeling right now: for a very long time she had to deal with a lot of bullying, thanks to being Japanese & American living in Japan. Once she got into Vtubing, all of that bullying seemed to go away, and in fact was able to connect with two different audiences because of her heritage! Her cute & gentle vibes were always welcoming, and her streams were always entertaining. Even when she collabed with other vtubers, she brought an energy that was just infectious! For example.....

Pikamee Causes Chaos In My Kitchen (Onigiri)

So to see this innocent Tea Kettle get bullied away from the thing she loves is sad. To see all of these fake activists take victory laps is pathetic. To see ACTUAL Trans activists & Trans causes get completely dumped on because of the fakes that have been doing nothing but doxxing, harassing, and sending death threats to Vtubers instead of actually taking time & energy out of their pathetic lives to actually promote and participate in Trans causes shows how they don’t actively contribute anything & are just a waste of space. With Pikamee leaving the thing she loves, this will just ignite the Bullshit Justice Warrior base even more. Lord only knows who they’re going to go after next.

My final thoughts? It’s only going to get worse from here. This was a victory for the Bullshit Justice Warriors, and it’s only going to get worse as the year goes on.

So, yeah, I said I was going to do an update when new info came’s just a shame it was something not pleasant. Hopefully, I don’t have to do another one of these, as that will probably be just mindless ranting. In any case, I can now work on some special Green related posts, so join me next time when the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day returns. See you then!

Pikamee’s graduation announcement:

Arigatou! (Pikamee)

Shylily continuing to be a voice of reason:

Lily Talks About Pikamee Graduating (Shylily)

Even Biden, Trump, and Obama showed love for Pikamee:

Trump, Obama and Biden react to Pikamee graduation...

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Food For Thought/Thought For Food No. 28: Enough Is Enough (But There's Hope)

I wanted to wait a few weeks on this one. This is a pretty touchy subject....perhaps even more so when I do one of these angry rants of mine. I wanted to wait until more information came out, so as to maybe sounds a little more intelligent while I’m popping a blood vessel. This one might also ruffle some of your feathers a little more than previous anger spasms of mine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if any of you leave.....possibly for good. So with that out of the

I think most of us know about the J.K. Rowling controversy, but for the terribly few people who aren’t in the know, back in 2020 the author of the iconic Harry Potter franchise decided to shoot her foot off with a shotgun in some pretty awful statements towards the Trans community. Effectively because of these statements, she came out as a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, or T.E.R.F. for short. Now, as a non-trans guy, I can only even remotely begin to understand what those in the Trans community went through when this first happened. Especially those in the Trans community that were die hard Happy Potter fans, I can scarcely guess as to what they were feeling when this all went down. Because of her actions, many Trans & Non-Trans people understandably flipped their shit, and began a campaign to shame this woman into oblivion (Rightfully or Wrongfully, I’ll leave that up to you).

However, I’m not talking about those people today. I’m not talking about actual Trans rights activists, who promote & work on actual causes that help Trans people. I’m not going to be talking about Trans individuals who were hurt by what J.K. said & did. The people I’m talking about today are the so-called “Activists”. The people online who claim to be trans allies, but in reality are Bullshit Justice Warriors of the highest degree. The people who don’t even bother looking into Trans/LGBTO causes, and instead spend seemingly every minute of their pathetic lives causing nothing but pain, suffering, and annoyance to everyone unfortunate to cross their path. In particular, the BJWs who have done nothing but harass, doxx, and send death threats to the various Vtubers who’ve either simply expressed interested in playing Hogwarts Legacy, or who have been actively playing Hogwarts Legacy. 2 Vtubers in particular were reemed with particular savagery.....and they just so happened to be some of the most beloved Vtubers out there.

For starters, there’s Pikamee. Since 2020, this adorable little tea kettle has released some highly entertaining VODs over on Twitch. Because of her heritage, she was able to easily connect to both her Japanese & English audiences without trouble. In early February of 2023, she had expressed interest in playing “That Wizard Game” that so many people call Legacy. Again, merely expressed interest in playing Hogwarts Legacy. Because of this expressed interest, Pikamee was immediately made into a target by the fake activists, and was a victim of horrific amount of harassment. So much so, that it has been weeks since she posted anything to her Twitter & Twitch, and it’s pretty worrisome that she hasn’t said anything since. Now, I haven’t watched her all that much outside of a few clips & her collab with with Onigiri, but from what little I have seen, I can tell that she’s one of the sweetest & kindest Vtubers/People I have never seen. Pikamee is the living embodiment of inclusive, and would never turn away anyone regardless of race or gender. The fact that she became a target simply for expressing fucking interest in a game, and because of said expressed interest received a torrent of pure hatred. Fans of hers are really worried, and are hoping that she hasn’t done anything drastic to herself.

Fans Are Concerned About Pikamee After Hogwarts Legacy Harassment (Rev Desu Says)

However, nothing has ever been so tragic & rage-inducing to me as that of what Silvervale has gone through because of this fiasco. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love this wholesome Sakura Wolf girl. Anyone who knows her streams know that she’s one of the kindest, sweetest, coziest, happiest, most welcoming, and even occasionally lewd streamers our there. She is filled with so much love for her chat & fanbase (Petal Pals), it is within the realm of impossibility to think that she would be Transphobic. Unfortunately, the army of Bullshit Justice Warriors doesn’t seem to think so, since she played the game, and that’s like kicking a puppy in their eyes. So, Silver was assaulted by so much doxxing & death threats.....she broke down on stream.

Silvervale harassed to tears by Hogwarts Legacy antis (Beelz FlyLord)

Again, I must state the fact that I’m not talking about ACTUAL Trans Activists! Actual Trans Activists do their part to make actual change for their community & cause. Actual Trans Activists shut the fuck up once their goals are met, but this shit that’s been going on!? None of this doxxing.....none of these death fucking activism! If anything, all of this bullshit justice has set the Trans cause back by a decade. A FUCKING DECADE! It’s shit like this that sets back all good social causes in this country, and by extend the world! It’s shit like all of this doxxing & threatening that makes all of these legitimate causes look like jokes! Perhaps most of all, it’s all of this kind of shit that got Donald Trump into office, as well as give the Alt-Right ammunition that they have been using perfectly & flawlessly for the past few years.....and I’ll just leave it at that.

So you’re probably wondering at this point where the “But There’s Hope” part kicks in. Considering how pissed off I sounded before this (Despite not really swearing all that much), it’s easy to dismiss anything even remotely positive. However, there’s this:

"Twitter Freaks" Enraged By Silvervale's Latest Stream (Rev Desu Says)

Again, Pikamee sadly hasn’t been heard from for a few weeks now by this point (Hopefully, nothing has happened to her), but it is nice to see another Vtuber stand up to all of the fakes who say they’re Trans allies, but are really just attention whores who say they’re “Activists” in an effort to get a few minutes in the spotlight. It’s nice to see someone not let people who actively damage causes keep them down, and instead raise a middle finger to all of the trolls who are out only for blood & fame. Many other Vtubers have simply decided not to play Hogwarts Legacy, and I totally respect their decision (Maybe even a smart decision in some cases), but I also appreciate those that do play it & don’t let the fakes get to them. It’s oddly refreshing is this modern age, so I’ll leave it at that.

My final words: real activists keep the cause alive, fake activists cause problems & ruin causes, and the only way to put the fakes in their place is to not give in, and throw a little shade back at them. Now that I got this out, we can get to some fun things for March! So join me a little later this month, when we’ll all be looking at some green. See you soon!

From Elara (Another Vtuber) a few days ago. There’s a discussion that starts at the 1 hour & 36 minute mark, and it offers another view on the situation. It goes on for a little bit, but it’s worth watching.


Also, when anymore Pikamee info comes out, I will either update this post, or make a mini sequel to this FFT/TFF. Also Also, here’s a link below to The Trevor Project: which actually helps Trans & LGBTQ people:

Also Also Also, here’s Shylily’s take on the whole situation:

Lily's thoughts on the Hogwarts Legacy Twitter drama (Shylily)

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Metal Overview: Anthem (Part 3)

Welcome to part 3 of my look at Anthem fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

We last saw the band with their last album of the 2000s, Black Empire. It was a great way to not only end that decade, but a great way to prove to the fanbase & those out in the world at large that they were back with a vengeance. As we entered the 2010s, yet another phase of Anthem began. Would they still begin strong, or would they stumble when they step onto the ground. With that out of the way, here’s is part 3 of my look at Anthem. Let’s begin.

Heraldic Device (2011)

By 2010, Anthem’s 7 album contract with JVC Victor was coming to an end. Naoto Shibata around this time was beginning to feel suffocated by what was going on: if the band wanted to make it into the international market, the clock was ticking down on that chance (They were in their 3rd decade of existence by this point). Enter Universal Music Group, who promised the band more favorable contracts, and while ambiguous, a promise to make a push into America. With this incredibly lucrative deal on the table, it kept Anthem’s partial attention, and wound up distracting them. It was this distraction that ended up giving us the album I’m talking about right now; Heraldic Device. Release on the 6th of July, 2011, Heraldic Device is the other bad album that I hinted at back in part 2, but in a weird way it’s only just bad. As I was listening to the whole thing, I was strangely reminded of Stryper’s 2005 album Reborn: there’s a lot of potential, but it buried by a thin layer of bad. I’ll repeat this in a bit, but Anthem aren’t lazy on Heraldic Device, but it’s obvious that they’re doing the minimum just to fulfil their deal with JVC Victor, who themselves would go through a rebranding just a few years later.

Best Track? Code Of The Silence is yet another great instrumental track, and perhaps is one of the few songs on the album that has more strength that has the rest. I can’t say anything else here that I haven’t said already: great drumming from Hirotsugu Homma & great guitarwork from Akio Shimizu. Nothing else to say really!

Code Of The Silence

Worst Track? Heraldic Device’s only fault is that it was cranked out simply to fulfill their contract with JVC Victor & hoping the Universal deal would come through. They’re definitely not being lazy, as I don’t think Anthem are capable of being such, but it’s also obvious that they’re coasting just to get by. The guitar & bass is safe, and Eizo’s vocal work sounds pretty safe as well. However.....

If there was any instrumental issue, it would be with Hirotsugu Homma. Normally an incredibly reliable drummer, by this point he was beginning to feel the effects of being behind the drumkit. Coupled with previous motorcycle injuries, his playing comes across like downpaced hard rock than the typical Anthem drumwork. Not awful by any means, but definitely not quite up to snuff when compared to previous releasesHe would not be with the band for much longer....but we’ll just have to wait for that when the time comes.

Heraldic Device. Like I said above, it’s just barely bad. As with Reborn from Stryper, there’s a hell of a lot of potential within the music, but because of the band’s attitude at the time with their record company, as well as the issues the band was going through, it’s easy to see why the record ended up the way it did. Fortunately for Anthem & their fans, things would turn around just a year later.....and it would end up being one of the best releases they ever made. Next album!

Burning Oath (2012)

As time moved on from Heraldic Device, cracking were finally beginning to show themselves in the reformed Anthem. In addition to Hirotsugu Homma feeling the effects of old motorcycle accidents, not to mention being behind the drums almost constantly for decades at this point, it was obvious it wasn’t long for the exit sign. On top of that, the band practically jumped ship almost immediately to Universal’s side after Heraldic Device was release. If anyone thought that Anthem would fold because of all of this, Burning Oath would put them to shame. Released on the 24th of October, 2012, Burning Oath was the exact opposite of it’s predecessor, as Heraldic Device was done with less effort & to fulfill a contract. Their 2012 outing, meanwhile, was a strong & energetic release. It was made by a band no longer shackled to a record label that didn’t know how to promote one of the finest Heavy Metal groups on the planet, and it was made by a band that felt seemingly refreshed by the change in labels. Not only that, but the Power Metal like vibes come back in force, as yet again they never go all the way, but they sure as hell are close!
Best Track? Double Helix once again shows off the craftsmanship of Hirotsugu Homma & Akio Shimizu in a fantastic instrumental piece. At this point, it should be obvious that neither of these two guys, when working together, are incapable of making anything even remotely resembling trash. Nothing else to say, but a great song!

Double Helix

Worst Track? This doesn’t have anything to do with the music, but more to do with the band itself. Hirotsugu Homma by this point was feeling incredibly drained, having played in Loudness, Eizo, and Anthem for a good chunk of his life. Couple with the previously mentioned older injuries, he would had in his resignation, and become a drum instructor ironically enough, recording only one song on Burning Oath. His replacement would come in the form of Isamu Tamaru, who was decades younger than him, but genuinely just as talented as him (Maybe even better if I’m being honest). Unfortunately for Anthem, Homma wouldn’t be the only member to leave, as Eizo Sakamoto would leave right after the tour of Burning Oath. Due to a mix of quickly switching record labels, recording records within a year of each other, and rumors of Animetal reunions, this resulted in band complications, and thus he had to leave. Fortunately, he left on really good terms with the rest of his bandmates, and actually has a brief yet profitable run in a commercial for a restaurant called Steak Ken. On top of that, Naoto Shibata found out during a routine checkup that he had early stage Stomach Cancer, but fortunately enough all he need was surgery & some time to heal & kick out of it, and thankfully he did.

Burning Oath. A massive reversal of the album before it, it restored faith to the small handful of fans that were expressing doubt after what came out in 2011. If you were dissatisfied with Anthem’s first outing in the 2010s, then you will dig the hell out of this one. Next album!  

Absolute World (2014)

Like I just said above, Anthem definitely suffered some setbacks on their last album. Thankfully, they got a brand new drummer, and Naoto Shibata managed to recover from the cancer scare. However, there was the issue of finding a singer, and who were they going to find? Yukio Morikawa of course! Despite not being with the band for nearly 20 years by this point, he & Anthem remained in orbit of one another since the group’s dissolution after Domestic Booty, so since they couldn’t get Graham Bonnet back for a 2nd run, it seemed only right to bring Morikawa back into the fold. Not only that, but Yukio has lost none of his vocal power since the last time he was with the band! With a new singer in tow, Anthem went into the recording studio, and on October the 22nd, 2014, Absolute Word was released.

Best Track? Bit of a two-way tie between Pain & Love Of Hell. The former is a speedy little track, and while it doesn’t quite have the intensity of something like Voice Of Thunderstorm was, but there’s still quite a bit of meat on the bones, and it strikes a perfect balance between blistering speed & steady pacing. The later goes in a more slower direction, but it is compensated by a darker & more emotional atmosphere. Yukio Morikawa’s vocals, while always great as a whole, are perfected sharpened to a fantastic point on Love Of Hell. It’s that perfect mix of low, crooning, and loud-ish that lets him soar on the tune in question. Definitely don’t skip these two!


Love Of Hell

Worst Track? None! NONE! Absolute World is a fantastic album from beginning to end, and unlike what came out in 2012, there were no issues among the members of the band both physically & mentally. This resulted in a release that shows no sign of weakness in even remotely any way, and thanks to the new infusion of blood with Isamu Tamaru, the band have a new drive they probably haven’t felt in quite some time.

Absolute World. A record that proves that one can charge right through adversity, and come out like a beast. If their last outing was even remotely shakey, then their 2014 release was as solid as Mt Fuji, and just as titanic. Next album!

Engraved (2017)

With Yukio Morikawa back as the leader signer, it seemed as if Anthem finally had a stable base once again. The oldest members were still firing on all cylinders, and their new drummer was still a great infusion of new blood. So with things solidified for a 2nd time, they went to record their 4th album of the 2010s. Released on June the 21st, 2017, Engraved leaned in & expanded upon the melodic nature of Absolute World, as well as continue to travel alongside the Power Metal road. It’s definitely a strong package for sure, and while it does come across as similar to Absolute World, there is way more things that are different than there are the same.

Best Track? Gotta give it up to the one-two combo of Midnight Growl & Sacred Trace. Though Morikawa sings very well on the first song, both tunes have some of the best instrumentation on the entire album. Isamu Tamaru definitely proves he got the chops on these two (Been proving himself the past few years, to be honest), but Akio Shimizu yet again shows how genuinely phenomenal he is on the guitar. Able to shift pacing at the drop of a hat, Akio has not lost a single bit of energy in the 20+ years since he joined Anthem, and I don’t think he’s leaving anytime soon.

Midnight Growl

Sacred Trace

And while this doesn’t have anything to do with the music, I gotta give some small credit to the artwork. Engraved’s album cover harkens back to Anthem’s oldest albums covers, on account of the minimalism & slightly faded colors. Again, it’s nothing big, but I found it to be something of a small surprise.

Worst Track? The Artery Song would be the only track I’d say is bad/worse, but even then it actually not. If anything, it feels misplaced when compared to everything else on Engraved. It’s still got the same level of quality & intensity as all of the other songs, but it comes across like a tune from Anthem’s time in the 2000s rather than the 2010s. Even more strange is the fact that it opens up Engraved, and one the song is done it’s almost not remembered by the time the record is done.

The Artery Song

Engraved. An absolute banger of a release, and one that kept things going for the reinvigorated band. If you were a fan of Absolute World, but maybe want an upgrade or two, then this record for you. Unfortunately for Anthem & their faithful, tragedy would strike the band, and strike hard. Next album.

Nucleus (2019)

In the early morning of January the 7th, 2018, longtime producer Chris Tsangarides tragically passed away at the age of 61 due to a mix of pneumonia and heart failure. With their western champion now gone from the picture, Anthem began looking for a new producer. One that was just as good as Chris, and one that would continue to help them grow in the west. Enter Jens Borgen: known for his work with Opeth & Dir En Grey (Dir En Grey was probably how Anthem found out about Borgen), he has just as much love & respect for Anthem as Tsangarides did, and that was good enough for the band. Coupled alongside a new deal with Nuclear Blast Records of all companies, they set out to produce a new record, and on the 29th of March, 2019, Nucleus was released. A spiritual successor to Heavy Metal Anthem, Nucleus was a collection of songs from their prior output. In Nucleus’s case, it was selections from 2001 all the way to 2017, but the release was also remarkable in that it was Anthem’s first ever album completely sung in English. In addition to this, they premiered for the very first time at the Keep It True festival in Germany in 2019, where the proceeded to steal the show from everybody else, and considering some of the bands that were there......that’s saying something.

Best Track? The redo of Venom Strike marks the lone older track on Nucleus, and it’s that oddity that makes it the best song on the album. The modern production makes the revised instrumentation sound absolutely incredibly, and Yukio Morikawa sings like a damn banshee at the high points. I gotta give Yukio credit here, as while his English sounds nice across the entire album, it definitely comes across as the best on this tune. Ironic, since Yukio said in an interview or two that singing in a language he wasn’t completely familiar with was tough.

Venom Strike

Worst Track? Like I said when talking about Heavy Metal Anthem, the lone fault of this album would be yet again that I’ve heard all of these songs before. I can sort of forgive HMA for doing this because it basically remastered older tunes with newer vocals, but with Nucleus I just find it weird. It’s slightly more frustrating in this case, as outside of Venom Strike, the songs in question are from their fresher material from 2001 to 2017. As such, old-school Anthem fans might get pushed away because of this, but those who haven’t heard of them might get a kick out of what’s on here.

Nucleus. As a way to show off a decades old legend to an audience that may not know of them I think is perfect, but for longtime Anthem fans it’s probably more of a curiosity than anything else. It’s definitely not a necessary album to listen to for old-schoolers, but it’s not a bad one if it ever comes your way.

Well folks, that was my last look at the iconic Anthem. Absolute titans in Japan, and thanks to some fairly recent deals, are now finally becoming rightfully well known here in the United States & Europe. Not only that, but we got a brand new album to look forward to in April of this year! So if you are looking for Heavy Metal outside of the normal countries that’s absolutely wonderful, you cannot find a more excellent example than these guys! Well, March isn’t far away, so join me next month for some fun stuff.......but I’ll be starting the month of green off with something serious. See you then.

If you’re curious about listening to these albums, then click on the links below:

Heraldic Device

Burning Oath (Incomplete. Will Update At A Later Date)

Absolute World (Link At A Later Date)



Monday, February 20, 2023

Convention Review: Katsucon 2023

Katsucon 2023 is in the book fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

Just this past weekend, the Gaylord hotel opened it’s doors to the largest & wildest horde of geeks, nerds, otaku, weebs, and even metalheads to ever congregate on the east cost of the United States! Ravenous for art, merch, and reuniting with one another, we all came and conquered the hotel & convention center for a few days to celebrate what makes us happy, and to escape the horrors of the world for a little bit. Did it meets my standards like the last 2 times I’ve gone? Well, let’s not waste anymore time, and take a look at my review for Katsucon 2023!

Good Points
Like I said last year, the first good point about Katsu would be the strict entry requirements. You gotta have your COVID card with you, and you gotta wear a mask throughout the whole event. The card part of the entry was enforced pretty strictly, while the mask wearing aspect.....well, I got a thing or two to say about that a little later. Regardless, I like the fact that this was still in place for 2023, as while COVID is definitely shrinking away, it’s still around in enough places & at enough frequency that some form of safety should be implemented.

Another good point in Katsu’s favor would be it’s space. Like I said in the past 2 reviews, the Gaylord is an absolute behemoth of a venue. In addition to great rooms, you got a lot of amenities practically in arm’s reach. There’s restaurants, a couple bars, some souvenir shops, and a spot or two so you can grab a snack. I must admit I found the pricing to be a bit silly this year as opposed to the past 2 times I came, but if you buy things only once in a while, it’s not incredibly draining on your wallet! **

The 3rd good point, and I don’t think I’ve talked about this in my last 2 review, would be the absolute party atmosphere that Katsucon provides. I admit I’ve never partaken in any of the raves, room parties, or absolutely absurd orgies many Katsu goers say take place (I’d like to think they happen in their own weird way), as I’m nearly 36 & probably don’t have the energy unlike those that are younger than me. That being said, see a bunch of geeky people having the time of their lives just brings a giant smile to my face. Seeing everybody dancing & such just adds to the positive energy and good vibes to the entire convention. Hell, even after the con was done this year, there was still some partying in the main area where the gazebo was, and that made me smile more!

To round things out, the last good point would be all of the cosplay & stuff to purchase. As usual, the sheer amount of costumes I see at Katsu is just jawdropping! From low-end yet charming simple cosplay, to the most elaborate getups that probably took months to make, there is no end to the creativity of all of the cosplayers that roam the halls of the Gaylord. As for the swag to get, Katsu always delivers! The Dealers Room is always filled from top to bottom with a wide variety of stuff, and the Artist Alley always has talented artists & craftsman showing off. I do not regret my purchases from the stalls I stopped at, and I definitely won’t next year.

(Tiny good point: no high school class was scheduled to stay at the Gaylord this year! Woo!)

Okay Points
Strangely enough, I can’t really think of anything to put in this section of the review. Perhaps the only thing I could think of would be the mask mandate, but even then with COVID still being around at smaller rates (Pandemic is apparently going to end in May from what I’ve heard, but I could be wrong with that), it’s easy to see why the staff of Katsucon & the Gaylord wanted to make sure that everyone was safe in that regard. However.....

Bad Points
The enforcement of the mask mandate throughout the weekend was god awful! There were plenty of people that had one on, but there were far more that didn’t. Throughout the con, I only heard about 4 to 6 staffers says anything about con-goers keeping their masks on (A lot of the staff didn’t have masks on to be honest), and most of the others didn’t seem to care! To play devil’s advocate, Katsucon has a horde of people come in, so perhaps it wasn’t strictly enforced because of the sheer volume of numbers (Something that oddly wasn’t an issue in 2022). Even so, it’s absolutely pathetic that the mask mandate wasn’t implemented as strongly as it was in the past year, and if by chance there is one next year.....I hope it is enforced to the letter.

A second black spot would be the odd aggressiveness of some of the staff. Not exactly with the con staff, but more along the lines of the hotel & security staff. I confess I’m simply assuming more in this regard, cause I don’t always engage with the late night parties & such. Still, I’m surprised at the early closings of the Gazebo, along with hearing/seeing some con-goers leave pictures & comments in the Katsucon 21+ Facebook page. If anyone (Including any con or hotel staff) has more clear information on this, please leave a comment so I can correct this portion of the review.

A 3rd point of complaint would be the odd lack of voice actors & recognizable guests. Outside of one (The narrator for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, who’s name escapes me as I type this), there was only a small selection that came this year. It’s absolutely baffling, and outside of potential COVID scares & such, I can’t think of any other reason why Katsucon wouldn’t invite a bunch of voice acting guests to come. If there’s any con staff (Or con goers in the know) that have any answers, then please let me know.

Finally, and this isn’t a knock on the convention itself, but the time it takes to get to Katsucon is insane. Like I said in my 2022 review, I live in Upstate New York, and it takes a good chunk of the day to come down to Maryland/Washington DC. I said last year it took 7 to 8 hours to get to the convention, and I think it took the same amount of time for 2023's. That does include stops, although my group did stop for dinner on the way back, and so coming home was definitely longer.  

Final Thoughts & Rating
Katsucon 2023 was a step backwards from the previous 2 times I’ve gone. Make no mistake: I had a hell of a time, I took in the sights, and I will definitely be coming back (If I’m able to) in 2024. That being said, the things it had going against it in 2023 were definitely damaging to the overall experience. Perhaps I’m complaining a bit too much, but I hope that things get fixed for next time, cause if this happens a few more times, then I’m out. Still, Katsucon 2023 was a lot of fun, and I’ll definitely be talking to my friends about it for a bit!

Katsucon 2023 gets a 7.5 to 8 out of 10.

And that was my review of Katsucon 2023. A step backwards compared to the prior 2 I went to, but at the same time there was still fun to be had, and I bet a bunch of you has a blast also. So, with my look at this nerdy bastion behind me, I got my last look at Anthem for the end of the month......and it’s possibly some of their best work of their entire career. See you soon!

I actually stayed at the Wyndham hotel not too far away from the Gaylord (Couldn’t fit in with the group that brought me down), and the room I was in was huge!

If you’d like to read my review of last year’s Katsucon, click on the link below:

Convention Review: Katsucon 2022

Also, here’s where I stopped for dinner coming home. Absolutely phenomenal, and worth the trip & price!

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Metal Overview: Anthem (Part 2)

Welcome to part 2 of my look at Anthem, fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

We ended part 1 on the goofily named Domestic Booty. It was an absolute monster, but it marked the final album of Anthem’s career in the 1990s, and seemingly by extension the last one they’d ever do. So as the band members went their separate ways to pursue their own projects & such, the fates were beginning to weave a new tapestry. One in which would call the band back to the metallic forefront in Japan, and reignite the cult fanbase outside of the Land of the Rising Sun. So let’s not waste anymore time, and check out Anthem’s time in the 2000s! Let’s begin!

Heavy Metal Anthem (2000) ***

With the release of Domestic Booty, Anthem’s tour venues kept getting smaller & smaller, until the point where it just wasn’t worth it anymore, and the gas in their tank finally ran dry. Feeling the strain, the band finally called it quits, and went their separate ways throughout the rest of the 90s. Then the dawn of the new millennium came by, and the weirdest thing took place. Naoto Shibata was in a restaurant one night, apparently quite shitfaced, but he just so happened to be sitting opposite from iconic Japanese Metal producer Hisatake Yamasa. Mr. Yamasa said to Naoto that he’d be up for doing another Anthem album, but only if the legendary yet obscure Graham Bonnet would sing on the album....and that’s exactly what happened!

Best Track? Like I said in my review for the album, I thought that the newer version of Hungry Soul was a banger of a song, and I still stand by that. The pacing is similar to that of the original, but with the improved production & sound, things sound a bit fresher. Perhaps importantly, a western listener can finally understand the lyrics (Outside of the original’s Engrish), thanks to the translations & Graham’s excellent singing voice. Not much else to say but that!

Hungry Soul

Worst Track? Also like I said back in 2021, the only fault with Heavy Metal Anthem is that I’ve heard all of these songs before. Yes, the instrumentation & production is improved. Yes, Graham Bonnett sings his ass off and still has a great voice, but all of the songs on this album I’ve listened to on prior releases. Got nothing against the band wanting to show themselves off to a newer generation, but rehashing prior material comes across as rather lazy. They would do this again around the end of last year, but I’ll talk about that when I get to part 3.

Heavy Metal Anthem. Retreads previous material, but at the same time it’s a great gateway into the annals of Anthem. If you’re someone new, or a longtime fan that would like to get back into the band, then this is a lovely place to start. Next album!

Seven Hills (2001)

With Heavy Metal Anthem now behind them, it was time for Anthem to look into their future. With Graham Bonnet heading off to do his own stuff, somebody had to come in to fill the shows. Luckily for all of us, the iconic Eizo Sakamoto came back to provide the voice that would propel the band into the new millenium. If anything, his singing was vastly improved from his time in the 80s due to singing with a bunch of bands in Japan, and I think a few outside as well (I could be wrong on that last part). Sadly, Takamasa Ohuchi couldn’t return to the drums, but the equally impressive & legendary Hirotsugu Homma was able to take that spot. While an exceptional drummer, his bandmates in Anthem complemented him more on his cooking skills than anything else (Naota Shibata once said in an interview that if Hirotsugu left, it would be the band’s loss but the restaurant industry’s gain). Coupled with returning band members, it was time for the band to skyrocket, and on the 22nd of August, 2001, Seven Hills would be the release to help the group fly into the sky!

Best Track? The weirdly named D.I.M. 422 takes the spot as best track of this album. It’s unique in that there’s no vocals in this song, as it’s a pure instrumental tune.....but what a hell of a tune! Hirotsugu Homma definitely shines on the drums, but it’s the duo of Akio Shimizu & Naoto Shibata that have a giant amount of time in the spotlight. Akio in particular is going to town on the guitar during the song’s entire runtime. So much so, that at one point you’d swear he became pure electricity. This is a track you shouldn’t skip!  

D.I.M. 422

Worst Track? I legitimately can’t find a single awful tune on Seven Hills. While it does show off it’s 20+ years of age (In small ways), it also manages to remain a crisp & clean release through pretty much the whole run time. A great experience in every way!

Seven Hills. If Heavy Metal Anthem was a key starting up the engine, then this record was the roar of that engine. If you want an example of a legend making it’s triumphant return, look no further than this beast. Next album!

Overload (2002)

Blindly devoted MAGA cultist & pretentious metal hipster asshole Razörfist would have you believe that Anthem have no bad albums. That they are perfect, flawless, and so many other fancy words you pull from a dictionary. Well, hate to break it to you Paul, but even a band as absolutely phenomenal as these guys are have some bad eggs, and Overload is the first......of only 2 bad albums in their decades spanning career. Yes, that’s right, Anthem only have 2 duds to their 40-something years as a band! Release on the 9th of October, 2002, Overload is something of a strange release. Their last 2 records reignited their career, but Overload takes a weird turn towards commerciality. Not full-blown, but they did incorporate a little bit of late 90s/early 2000s radio friendly element into their music, in addition to some oddly used rap metal elements. The end result is an album that doesn’t have a solid identity, but the overall quality remains mostly intact (Outside of some small hiccups).

Best Track? Ground Zero is another phenominal instrumental track from Akio Shimizu. You got Hirotsugu Homma still pounding away, but Akio takes up the stage as he tickles the guitar strings like no other. If anything, he kinda reminds me of Hideaki Nakama: both absolute geniuses when it comes to their instrument of choices, but only have a fraction of the ego of the guitarist that more than likely inspired them (In this case, Yngwie Malmsteen). The song never outstays it’s welcome, but instead takes up just the right amount of time to show off how awesome it is!

Ground Zero

Worst Track? Like I said above, Overload is suffering from an identity crisis. There’s plenty of the signature quality we’ve come to known from Anthem, but at the same time that late 90s/early 2000s radio commerciality the band was embracing takes away some of that classic identity, and coupling the rap metal elements I mentioned earlier didn’t help things either. The end result is a record that isn’t 100% awful, but it could definitely be much better.

Overload. Not a hideous abomination when taken in doses, but as a whole it’s a very bipolar experience. It is definitely not a horrid experience, but it is a mildly unpleasant. Fortunately for us all, a release would come 2 years later that would silence any potential naysayer, as well as fix any damages done by this release. Next album!

Eternal Warrior (2004)

With the release of Overload, there were many potential naysayers beginning to come out of the woodwork. The two releases before that reignited an interest in Anthem, but their 2002 output made some question whether or not their return was just a flash in the pan. Fortunately the metal gods intervened for us, and gave the band a big boost of energy. With said energetic boost, the boys entered the studio, and on the 21st of July, 2004, Eternal Warrior was released. This was a welcome breath of fresh air after what came out in 2002, as the band seemed to refocus their efforts, and made a transparent attempt to simultaneously have old-school vibes mixed with then modern playing. Not only that, but it was around this time that Anthem would begin to incorporate Power Metal into their music. While they would never fully go down that path, you can easily feel elements of that style on Eternal Warrior & fundamentally every release since 2004.

Best Track? Omega Man is yet again a great instrumental piece in a sea of already great instrumentals from Anthem. Yet again, Akio Shimizu & Hirotsugu Homma play their Japanese asses off in spectacular fashion. Not much else to say, but this is a great track!

Omega Man

Worst Track? While an undeniably awesome record as a whole, Eternal Warrior is a little lopsided when it comes to it’s energy. The first half is badass to the 10th degree, while the second half is still great in it’s own right, but does loose a little bit of steam. Fortunately, this slight loss of fuel doesn’t impact the album as a whole, as the entire experience is something that’s worth your time from beginning to end!

However, if there was one gripe outside of Anthem’s control, it would be with their record label. Back in 2001, the group would sign a multi-year deal with JVC Records. More specifically, they would sign with JVC’s metal sub-label Victor, and if any of you cringed at the sight of that name, then good for you. For those who don’t know, Victor were virtually incompetent when it came to marketing the band. From numerous copyright takedowns on Youtube, to region locking music videos, and just having horrible distribution in general. Not only that, but they seemed intent on keeping it that way! This will come up again when I get to part 3, but I won’t say anything else.

Eternal Warrior. Maybe sputters in the second half ever so slightly, but doesn’t damage the record’s overall quality. If releases like Inferno from the almighty Motörhead were signs that legends could come back into the spotlight, then this early 2000s masterpiece rightfully deserves to stand in that company. Next album!

Immortal (2006)

2005 marked a significant point in Anthem’s career. It was in 2005 that the band celebrated 20 years as a musical group, so the celebrate the occasion they had the mother of all Heavy Metal shows. In addition to an hour-long set, all of the prior members of Anthem (sans the legendary Graham Bonnet) were brought on stage to perform songs from their respective fans, and was won of the biggest love letters to said fans in Heavy Metal history. It’s also this love & strength that gave way to way to the eternal life themed Immortal. Released on the 30the of August, 2006, Immortal was a follow up of sorts to the similarly themed Eternal Warrior. Maybe a little more solid when it comes to it’s energy & production, but it deals with the topics of life, fighting, freedom, love, and fantasy just as much as their 2004 records was (Anthem’s entire career was like this to be honest).

Best Track? Soul Motor is a spiritual successor to Anthem’s first intentional/unintentional tribute to the iconic Motörhead (Said intentional/unintentional tribute was Voice Of Thunderstorm from part 1). Everybody is firing on all cylinders as the songs goes on: Eizo Sakamoto still kills it when it comes to singing, Naoto Shibata has a tight grip on the bass, Akio Shimizu is still amazing when it comes to the guitar, and Hirotsugu Homma continues to be great on the drums. It’s an incredible testament when it comes to Anthem, as by 2006 they have been producing albums for just over 20 years, yet rarely if ever has there been any dip in quality. A great song all around!

Soul Motor

Worst Track? Like Eternal Warrior, Immortal suffers from a energy imbalance despite being a great experience on the whole. This time around, it’s the beginning of the album that doesn’t quite have as much steam (Except for the best track I mentioned above), but the second half is where the amps are charged to maximum. Nothing else to say in this regard!

Immortal. Take Eternal Warrior, and flip it around, and you have Anthem’s output in 2006. Again, the overall experience is fantastic, but the lopsided energy makes it for a slightly unbalanced experience at the same time. Fortunately for those that were worried that the band would keep this lopsided nature had no idea as to what was coming in 2008. Next album!

Black Empire (2008)

If the prior 2 releases teased the Power Metal influences, then Black Empire practically bathed in those influences. Released on the 29th of October, 2008, Black Empire is perhaps the strongest album of Anthem’s time in the 2000s, as the whole of the release as a solid level of energy throughout it’s run time. Not only that, but the Power Metal elements the band so lovingly used made many of the songs on here sound incredibly similar to groups like Stradivarius & many others. However, it was also around this time that the press in Japan would begin to express doubt over Eizo Sakamoto’s time within not just Anthem, but also in his longtime gig with Animetal (A metal band dedicated to covering anime theme music). Eizo practically silenced everybody when he said that his attention was squared solely on Anthem, and would outright breakup Animetal in the process. This would result in the only other bad album in Anthem’s career, but we’ll get to that when we get to part 3!

Best Track? Walk Through The Night stood out to me in a lot of ways. For starters, it’s highly reminiscent of 80s Hair Metal ballads. Not just in emotional power, but in instrumentation as well. It’s just as heavy as everything else on here, but Anthem must have had nostalgia goggles on, and seem to be going for a Dokken-like pace. Hell, even Eizo Sakamoto has a little bit of that Don Dokken style of metal crooning in his singing voice on this song, as while it’s loud & intense like pretty much everything on Black Empire, he lets the emotion flow a little more obviously as the tune plays on.

Walk Through The Night

Worst Track? Ladies & Gentlemen (and everywhere in between), name me one single bad song on here. I dare you! Black Empire is one of Anthem’s best releases in the 2000s, and unlike their previous 2 outings, the energy on this album is consistent throughout the entire playtime. From beginning to end you’re treated to an absolute beat of a record that never wavers, and stays nice & heavy also.

Black Empire. A scorching way to close out the 2000s, and also manages to be a solid release energy wise. If you found the prior 2 records, as great as they are, to be lopsided when it comes to strength, then you will love the consistency of this one. I guarantee it!

And that was part 2 of my look at Anthem. Like a phoenix rising from it’s ashes, these noble masters of metal came right back to life, showing the world that they were here to stay. However, with this newfound energy, can they carry it over into the 2010s? Join me around the end of the month when I’ll have my final look at the band, but in the meantime I got my 1st con review of 2023 coming soon! See you next time!

If you’re curious about listening to these albums, then click on the links below:     

Heavy Metal Anthem

Seven Hills


Eternal Warrior


Black Empire

Also, coped info from the 2021 review. Again, I know it’s a lazy move!