I’m a huge fan of the real, Japanese, Animetal. They did Metalized covers of classic anime theme songs, often incorporating well-known riffs here and there as a tribute to bands they like, such as Iron Maiden and many, many others. Ever since I was a small child, I had prayed to Satan for Metal versions of the Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, and Space Battleship Yamato theme songs, and so the first time I ever heard Animetal play exactly what I had always hoped to hear, I just about died of pure joy. Of course, I was disappointed when Animetal split up in 2006, but more because I’d never be able to see them perform live than anything else, as they had long since covered everything I really needed to hear, and honestly had started to branch out into some slightly less than mandatory territory. And that brings us, at last, to Animetal USA, which is a “supergroup” of sorts, comprised of Mike Vescera (Obsession), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot), Judas Priest’s Scott Travis, and Chris Impellitteri. I must admit to not really being sold on that lineup, especially Sarzo, since the real Animetal’s bassists, Take-Shit (yes, Take-Shit!) and especially Masaki were total badasses. With that in mind, I was cautiously enthusiastic about hearing this album. I’m not sure if I was relieved or not to discover that Animetal USA more or less covers Animetal’s covers, rather than doing Metal versions of the theme songs from US cartoons like The Simpsons, The Jetsons, or South Park. (There is another band called Powerglove that already does that, by the way.) Musically, this is phenomenal, hyper-energetic Power Metal, and sounds very close to the original Animetal. Sarzo’s basswork even turns out to be okay (not as masterful as Masaki’s, however!), and even Vescera’s wailing vocals are not bad (and not too far removed from Eizo Sakamoto’s singing), but he does make one mistake, and it was almost a deal-breaker for me: he sings in English. I don’t understand why he’d do that. This album, which is essentially Animetal-Japan’s “greatest hits” re-recorded, may never even be released outside of Japan (where, believe it or not, Animetal was/is kind of a big deal), so assuming that Vescera doesn’t speak Japanese, why not learn all the lyrics phonetically? I’ve listened to the original, awesome, Ichiro Mizuki version of Mazinger Z’s theme song so many billions of times that I can sing it in Japanese, so it’s not impossible. To my ancient ears, this stuff doesn’t sound quite right if it’s not in Japanese. And that brings me to the ultimate question about Animetal USA: Why? I suppose that the demand was there for the true Animetal to reform, but apparently they didn’t want to, so did Sony form this group to replace them? Or did the guys get together and approach Sony with the idea? I just don’t know what to think about it either way, but if it’s okay with the original band, I guess it’s okay with me, but they can never be as good as the original Animetal. That said, if Sigh ever breaks up, I demand to be in Sigh USA - we’ll only play the early stuff and their Venom covers!
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Given that this album is a “Japan only” release, I actually think it’s better that Vescera sang in English. I could easily see this turning into a joke release if they tried to sing in Japanese because if you change the intonation or cadence of a word, you change the entire meaning. I don’t know that I’d enjoy being laughed at for unintentionally saying “I make fire come out of my ass for justice” or “I rape my children to save the Earth”. You know someone would put the song with the literal translations on YouTube, ensuring that the entire world would get in on the joke.
Just thought you’d like to know - This album made it onto the top 10 anime related CD album sales chart in Newtype magazine’s December 2011 issue. It’s listed at number 4 with 6393 units sold. Its current rank on the Oricon charts (the Japanese equivalent of the Billboard charts) is 104. Animetal is apparently still a big deal in Japan - even if this version is a knock-off.
@Ychoril: You’re thinking of chinese. Intonation has no effect on the meaning of words in Japanese, which is actually a pretty easy language aside from the horror of moon runes.
I had never heard of animetal before this article, so thanks!
@Kalashnyx: Intonation does have an effect in Japanese but not as much as in Chinese. It isn’t usually as devastatingly bad if you don’t pronounce things correctly in Japanese. Trust me, I’ve heard some pretty funny shit from people who didn’t know how to pronounce things or didn’t know how to properly construct a sentence. Japanese is definitely easier to learn than Chinese but building a vocabulary and being able to speak naturally are hard if you don’t have someone to speak to in the language. I’m lucky I actually have a Japan Town in my city so that I can actually hear native speakers (outside of my mom and my relatives in Japan).
I’d definitely recommend checking out the original Animetal if you’re like me and you grew up on anime and kaiju movies. I’m not sold on the English language version, though. For good Japanese Rock & Roll, I also recommend Aya Kamiki. She’s a powerhouse singer and her music rocks pretty hard too. Search YouTube for “evilalive” or “the light” to check her out.
Thanks for the rec, I’ll check her out along with the old school animetal. I’m still a student in Japanese so I don’t mean to pass myself off as an expert or anything, haha. I’m sure it’s as easy to fuck up and sound like an ass as it is in any language. The only Japanese band I’ve really gotten into is Melt Banana (saw em a live a few weeks back WAS AWESOME), a kind of noisy, experimental punk with some grindcore influences but I’m surely open to checking out more bands. Love anime, kaiju, tokusatsu etc.
Here is some more Animetal USA news…
If you’re into the Naruto anime, Animetal is doing the opening theme for the Rock Lee spinoff.
I have to admit, I’m not sure whether I would prefer to hear them sing in Japanese or English. To me, it doesn’t really matter what language it’s in. The only thing I have to say, though, is that the translations sometimes make for awkward points in the song where he either has to fit in a bunch of syllables together, or the original Japanese lyrics that flowed well with the song translates to a monosyllabic English word that doesn’t flow well at all.
My opinion on the album is that if you like metal and you like anime and you’re not one of those people that can’t listen to anything but the original version, I think Animetal USA is a good way to go.
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