Released: 2012, Listenable Records
Every band needs a gimmick or angle, or to put it in nicer terms, something to set them apart from the pack and help to establish an identity. In the case of Katana, (a type of Japanese sword) this Swedish quintet has decided to embrace an amalgamation of Japanese culture and symbols and NWOBHM fashion sense, just like Tokyo Blade did 30 years ago, and it really works!
STORMS OF WAR is the bands sophomore album coming quickly on the heels of last years HEADS WILL ROLL. Not much has changed in the year, the band is still on Listenable Records and no lineup changes either. The logo hasn't changed and they have the cool Samurai mascot guy on the front cover again of course their lots and lots of lyrics about Japan and the Samurai.
The band hasn't progressed much musically but do stretch out with an attempt at an epic tune or two with 'Khubilai Kahn which hits the six minute mark and 'In The Land Of The Sun' which almost hits eight minutes. Reading this review you might think that the band has nothing to offer and if you are one of those fussy fans who need originality for enjoyment, you may want to pass. For myself, I love these guys! I don't want them to change. KATANA have hit on something, taking a sound that had been done before and making it their own based on the strength of the songs and the individual performances.
The eleven songs are a prime example of classic 80's Metal, you can insert any number of band names here (Maiden, Saxon etc) but that was then and this is now and Katana are keeping the sound, style and traditions of Metal alive. Sure a veteran Metal fan (or even a keen eared individual) will instantly recognize the Iron Maiden influences on the aforementioned song, 'In The Land Of the Sun'. With its quiet bass build up and the semi-spoken word introduction, that song is a brilliant blended homage to 'Number Of The Beast' and 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'. If that kind of thing bothers, again you may not see the merit of this album, but I do!
One of the strengths of the band are the huge vocals and voice of singer, Johan Bergspan. He has a tone much like Sweet of Stryper but not quite as high or yelping. He sings with force and conviction, I was especially impressed with his performance on the cut, 'City On The Edge Of Forever'. The songs are quick but never just fast for the sake of being fast. The simple song construction allow for lots and lots of soloing but not just shredding either. KATANA never get too frantic or modern and just write good, solid meaty riffs. The production is warm and full, especially on the drums, and only adds to the appeal of this record.
The word 'classic' is used so often in Metal album reviews (I'm guilty of it too) that it has lost much of its meaning but I the case of STORMS OF WAR, the word just fits.