Review by Daniel for Tokyo Blade - Tokyo Blade (1983)
Tokyo Blade were a five-piece NWOBHM outfit who formed in Salisbury, England in the late 70’s. They went through several name changes over the next few years before settling on their final moniker & eventually found their way into the studio to lay down their self-titled debut album which was released in 1983. Now I don’t know about you but the name “Tokyo Blade” didn’t tend to instill a lot of confidence in me & I have to admit that I was half expecting to hear some sleezy glam metal upon first listen. But that didn’t end up being the case & I was pleasantly surprised to find that Tokyo Blade were pushing a more traditional NWOBHM sound & quite a metal one too. But one thing that DIDN’T leave me pleasantly surprised was the production as it sounds much more like a demo than a proper album release. The guitar sound is certainly very metallic but if I had to guess I would say that the record was recorded completely live in the studio with no overdubs because one of the rhythm guitars drops out during every guitar solo leaving an awful gap in the sonic spectrum. And the levels of the two guitarists are also unbalanced at times with one sounding much louder than the other which is kind of inexcusable if you ask me. It’s a very raw recording but that’s not to say that it’s unlistenable by any stretch of the imagination.
The two guitarists actually possess some very impressive technical skills & the lead guitar work & heavy, well-structured metal riffs are very entertaining for the most part. In fact, they’re definitely the highlight of the album in my opinion. The same can’t be said for Alan Marsh’s vocals however as he puts in a very patchy display indeed. He’s clearly not a big vocal talent but the couple of songs that I enjoy are inevitably the ones where Alan manages to hold it together the best. It’s a really inconsistent performance by him actually as I have no problem at all with some of these tracks & then he sounds well out of his depth & quite pitchy on others. The rhythm section doesn’t do anything terribly interesting & the drummer’s use of kick drum isn’t really up to scratch but that’s not a major concern. Classic heavy metal is really all about loud guitars & anthemic vocal hooks & Tokyo Blade have one but not the other.
I suspect that they were also a bit short of material for this record because it’s really pretty obvious that they’ve tried to extend each song far beyond the length that they should naturally run for with the guitar solos being especially guilty of needless self-indulgence. Look, being an obsessive guitarist I clearly love my guitar solos but if you’re going to double the length of your solo then you also need to keep your backing track interesting by utilizing changes of riff or key & Tokyo Blade clearly haven’t realized that because they just continue on with the same riff & drum beat for what seems like an eternity while their band mate burns away over a greatly diminished backing due to the lack of his rhythm guitar track. You can tell I’m a bit annoyed by it because I can hear the promise in this band. They’ve actually got a good energy about them & understand what the NWOBHM was all about. It’s just a shame that they didn’t have the technical knowledge to pull it off in the studio. I suspect they probably slayed live though.
Iron Maiden is clearly Tokyo Blade’s major influence but they don’t sound like they’re plagiarizing them at any stage. The more accessible tracks also give off an early Def Leppard vibe at times too with one of their songs even being entitled “On Through The Night” which was the name of Def Leppard’s 1980 debut album. But the flaws here mean that I unfortunately won’t be recommending Tokyo Blade’s debut. It sounds very much like a work in progress at this point & you're left with the distinct feeling that Tokyo Blade's next record could be much better (which it was).