Review by Daniel for Tokyo Blade - Night of the Blade (1984)
The 1983 self-titled debut album from Salisbury five-piece heavy metal outfit Tokyo Blade had seen them firmly entrenching themselves within the unfortunate group of bands that only just managed to sneak in on the back end of the NWOBHM movement. And while the band certainly showed potential, there were a number of major flaws on that record that I found impossible to look past. Most notably the shocking production, the blatant Iron Maiden plagiarism & the unnecessary extension of their track lengths; particularly during the guitar solos which seemed to go on & on with little development in the accompaniment. So overall, I found that first record to be overrated & disappointing. But that brings us to 1984’s follow-up release entitled “Night Of The Blade”; an album that saw Tokyo Blade taking a much more polished & professional approach to their music & one that features some notable characteristics that have polarised some of their fan base.
Now it’s worth highlighting up front that even though he doesn’t appear on the final product, original Tokyo Blade front man Alan Marsh was still a part of the band right up until the recording of the album was completed. In fact, the whole album was done & dusted before Tokyo Blade’s record label Powerstation Records decided that the recording could benefit from a more commercially accessible front man like Van Halen’s David Lee Roth & proceeded to unceremoniously dump poor Alan. You wonder if that sort of thing could still happen these days, don’t you? I mean, do record labels still possess that sort of power? I suspect not but regardless… 17 year-old Vic Wright was cherry-picked as Alan’s replacement & he was promptly tasked with re-recording all of the lead vocal tracks in a very short space of time with only Alan’s backing vocal tracks left intact. I have to say that I think the change ended up having the desired effect because Vic definitely brings a level of polish & accessibility to Tokyo Blade’s sound. His delivery reminds me of Guy Speranza (the vocalist from the classic lineup of US heavy metal icons Riot) & he brings some quite similar things to the table really. Vic possesses a genuinely pure & natural singing voice that definitely works to open this material up to a new audience which was clearly the label’s intention.
The production job is a huge improvement on the debut as it sports a cleaner & more professional sound with a glossier edge to it without ever losing its ties with its NWOBHM roots, so the band now had no excuse for failure. Those guitar solos I mentioned earlier have been shortened & tailored more towards what suits the song-writing this time which is a big improvement while the accompaniments now have more variety too. Both guitarists are very capable with the Eddie Van Halen influence that was so evident on the debut still being quite visible here.
But probably the most talked about aspect of “Night Of The Blade” is in the overall style of the music. Whereas the debut focused all of its attention on jumping on the Iron Maiden band-wagon, the follow-up sees Tokyo Blade venturing further afield. There are a couple of tracks here that are pretty close to genuine speed metal while on the other side of the coin we see the couple of more commercially focused songs falling straight into the US glam metal bucket with the rest of the material sitting somewhere in between. Sadly, I’ve noticed that most reviewers tend to concentrate on the more commercial aspects of the album which is unfair in my opinion. Sure there’s a hefty dose of the poppier Van Halen & Dokken output in songs like “Rock Me To The Limit” & closing number “Lightning Strikes (Straight Through The Heart)” in particular but the rest of these songs all have more of a classic heavy metal feel to them that's not too dissimilar to Riot’s “Fire Down Under” album. It’s a fair way from being the obvious attempt at Def Leppard arena success that so many seem to label it as. The Iron Maiden influence is still a part of the Tokyo Blade sound but it’s nowhere near as strong as it was. “Warrior Of The Rising Sun” would be the obvious exception to the rule but it’s a very solid track in its own right so it can be forgiven.
Overall, I find "Night Of The Blade" to be a big step up from Tokyo Blade’s self-titled debut & it's also a pretty enjoyable listen despite the few weaker numbers included. I'd recommend it to fans of the NWOBHM.