Anthem (アンセム) is a Japanese heavy metal band that was formed during the early 1980s in Tokyo.
Emerging in the wake of scene leaders Loudness in the early ’80s, the group quickly parlayed great success in their homeland into a slew of international releases.
But these found little traction with Western fans, and Anthem were eventually forced into a hasty retreat into a semi-obscure afterlife within Japan’s borders.
Anthem was composed of singer Toshihito Maeda, guitarist Akifumi Koyanagi, bass player Naoto Shibata and drummer Takamasa Ohuchi.
Koyanagi left in late 1983 to be replaced by Hiroya Fukada. In December 1984, vocalist Toshihito Maeda also left and Anthem drafted Eizo Sakamoto for their debut eponymous album, issued in July 1985 by Nexus and licensed to Europe via Roadrunner Records.
This lineup would come to epitomize the band’s so-called “glory years.”
It was thanks to the pioneering efforts of Loudness and Bow Wow in the late ’70s that Japan truly discovered heavy metal, resulting in a flurry of activity at the start of the next decade, with dozens of new bands vying for attention.
“Wild Anthem” is a great song and “Xanadu“, was the first known song to be used for promotion of a video game “Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu“.
The next release, Tightrope (1986) showcased a more catchy, melodic sound with an improved vocal performance by Sakamoto.
♪ Wild Anthem ♪
Bound to Break (1987) was to be the last album featuring Eizo Sakamoto for nearly two decades, and was by far his most impressive vocal performance to that point.
The album was full of classics (“Empty Eyes”, “Bound to Break”, “Soldiers”) and introduced the band’s long-time world-famous producer, Chris Tsangarides (perhaps best known for producing Judas Priest‘s classic 1990 album, Painkiller).
With the departure of Sakamoto in 1988, Shibata recruited Yukio Morikawa to the band’s vocal position.
With Morikawa came the album Gypsy Ways (1988) , considered the band’s most popular album. Morikawa’s voice made the band a great success at that time and he was similar in style, vocal range and ability to Graham Bonnet.
In 1989, the album Hunting Time was released and the song “The Juggler” was used as a PV. In the beginning of 90s, Anthem dealt with another departure, this time Hiroya Fukuda (guitar) left and was replaced by Hideaki Nakama which recorded the album No Smoke Without Fire, this time without the band’s staple producer / engineer Chris Tsangarides.
Hideaki Nakama left the band after recording just that one album and the search for a new guitarist began.
♪ Shadow Walk ♪ (Guitar: Hideaki Nakama)
After many auditions, the young Akio Shimizu joined the band to replace Nakama. In 1992, the band released Domestic Booty, one of their best albums, with amazing technical songs (courtesy of Shimizu): Venom Strike, Renegade, and The Dice of No Mercy.
Unfortunately, classic-style heavy metal was out of fashion in the early 90s, and with the explosion of grunge in the U.S. and the Visual Kei movement in Japanese music, Shibata decided to put an end to the band.
The members of Anthem followed the album’s release with a very big tour covering many cities of Japan and finally they released the VHS/CD Last Anthem – Live recorded at Nissin Power Station, which was to be the band’s last show for nearly eight years.
Leader and Bassist Shibata showed up on a few Loudness albums in the late ’90s.
♪ Night After Night ♪
After the long hiatus, Anthem returned in 2000, with the album Heavy Metal Anthem which featured the vocalist Graham Bonnet (former lead singer of Rainbow and Alcatrazz).
The album is entirely composed by classic songs of the band rearranged with English lyrics. The lineup on Heavy Metal Anthem was: Graham Bonnet (vocals), Naoto Shibata (bass), Akio Shimizu (guitar) and Takamasa Oouchi (drums).
Later, Hirotsugu Homma (who had briefly played together with Shibata in Loudness) replaced Takamasa Oouchi on drums and Eizo Sakamoto returned to the vocals.
In 2001, they released Seven Hills, showcasing an entirely new musical direction for the band, although still firmly rooted in 80s heavy metal. In 2002 came Overload, which is considered by most critics to be much more aggressive than Seven Hills.
In 2003, the band recorded Live’ Melt Down in Citta Club Kawazaki, with a setlist full of classics and an amazing performance by Sakamoto.
In 2004 the band released the single “Onslaught” followed by the album Eternal Warrior, which continued in the same sound direction as Overload.
In 2005, Anthem celebrated their twentieth year anniversary with a special tour, where all members of the band since 1985 played the band songs in their respective formations.
♪ Gypsy Ways ♪
In 2006 Anthem released Immortal, followed by the single and PV of “Immortal Bind”. The most recent output has seen Anthem push even further into the Power Metal-tinged style showcased on ‘Domestic Booty’ and Eternal Warrior with 2008’s Black Empire.
Their much anticipated album Heraldic Device was released in 2011.
As of 2012, Anthem has released a new single “Evil One” and following with an album, Burning Oath, that was released.
The current line-up has currently guest drummer Isamu Tamaru due to Hirotsugu Homma’s left knee injury from a car accident in late 2008, but the latter hasn’t left the band’s formation, still performing on most songs.
On Jan 10, 2013, the band announced it was on hiatus (中断) after Shibata was diagnosed (診断する) with stomach cancer.
After the revovery of Shibata the band played a couple of return shows in July 2013 with the Live Circus Tour following in September and October 2013.
♪ The Sign ♪
In February 2014 singer Eizo Sakamoto left the band for a second time and was replaced by former singer Yukio Morikawa. The group also announced drummer Isamu Tamaru as a permanent member.
Production of a new album will start in the spring. A kick off tour with the new line-up was also determined(決定する).
‘Absolute World’, Yukio Morikawa’s first album as the band’s vocalist since ‘Domestic Booty’ in 1992, was released in 2014.
・1985 – Anthem
・1985 – Ready to Ride
・1986 – Tighrope
・1987 – Bound to Break
・1988 – Gypsy Ways
・1989 – Hunting Time
・1990 – No Smoke Without Fire
・1992 – Domestic Booty
・2000 – Heavy Metal Anthem
・2001 – Seven Hills
・2002 – Overload
・2004 – Eternal Warrior
・2006 – Immortal
・2008 – Black Empire
・2011 – Heraldic Device
・2012 – Burning Oath
・2014 – Absolute World
・2017 – ENGRAVED