Volcano – Violent

Volcano – Violent – 4.5/5

I know, two J-pop reviews in a row, I swear my tastes aren't fully removed from metal quite yet and to prove it, say hello to the Power/Thrash band Volcano. When I point people to Gargoyle it's often the earlier releases that come recommended because in '93 they suffered not only the loss of prominent guitarist (She-Ja) but their drummer too, and Volcano was the result. Teaming up with Aion vocalist (who would sing for “Zigoku Quartet”) and the bassist from the already notorious death/thrash act “Youthquake,” the band's line-up would be completed, performing here and there whenever time allowed and after seven years of jamming the best made it into this album of a more than appropriate title.

But this band is different from the others to emerge from the Japanese scene, rather than feel 'uniquely Japanese' in the manner it unfolds, it instead feels almost as though a homage to the Bay Area Thrash style, with all the flair of the best in USPM, combining technicality with slow Sabbath-like dominance and production values of the early Gothenburg scene. Which isn't actually too surprising given that Fredrik Nordström (Dark Tranquility, At the Gates, Opeth) was responsible here. And so in their homage to West, their unusual blend of styles in itself lends a familiar tone that still doesn't quite fit; it doesn't feel quite so unusual but the manner each track compares to the last lends a dynamic fluidity in their influences such that any attempt at a direct comparison fails.

Anyone aware of She-Ja's past work is probably also aware his presence is worth its weight in gold; from blistering shredded solo's, epic neo-classical compositions, dirty doom-like grooves and everything else in between, his abilities are none the less on display here, forming the centrepiece to their sound and given ample room to shake things up a bit. The bass weaves his own course and is made all the more important during the frequent diversions from the guitar, and with varied drum work no less capable than what we would come to expect of a musician of his calibre, and some roaring vocals that succeed in straddling that line between tenor and more traditional thrash screams, what were left with is a creative and melodic take on modern thrash. Quite frankly, what's not to like?

Highlights: Kill all of Me, Fear of the Scarlet, The Prayer