Japan’s metal scene hasn’t always been the most well-known outside of breakout stars such as heavyweights Dir en grey and “kawaii” metallers Babymetal. Dig further in, however, and one finds a rich tapestry of bands of all manner of shapes and sizes. Alongside this and quite unlike more well-known Western bands, metal in Japan has also flown the flag for not only female-fronted bands but also an ever-increasing number of all-female bands. Only forming in 2016, Lovebites are continuing this proud tradition of bearing the torch for women in metal.
If the album art wasn’t already a dead giveaway, the one-two combo of instrumental opener ‘The Awakening’ and ‘Hammer of Wrath’ makes clear that this is an unashamedly cheesy, over-the-top in the best kind of way, power metal record. Awakening From Abyss is an album unafraid to revel in tropes of the genre whilst still executing them with real flair and unabashed conviction. Lovebites shred damn hard too, with cuts such as ‘Scream For Me’ having the kind of gloriously over-the-top fretwork Blind Guardian would be proud of. Closer ‘Bravehearted’ is also a late highlight, featuring standout performances from the entire band throughout and features guitar and keyboard melodies that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Dragonforce track and the vocal lines are utterly enthralling.
The band are incredibly tight and the musicianship is top notch; Midori and Mi-Ya’s guitars complement each other and entwine superbly, their solos are gleefully virtuous and there’s also restraint enough to not overshadow other elements. Asami’s vocals are a clear focal point and a highlight of the album as a whole. Her usual register is more restrained and seems to be more of an alto range but she is also capable of soaring higher and her voice is always clear and crisp without sounding forced. The drums pound away courtesy of Haruna (ex-Destrose) and are an absolute powerhouse which along with Miho (also Destrose) lends a solid rhythm section that underpins the band as a whole. The production also has an unpolished feel that lends itself well to the music, making it even more forceful.
Lovebites are clearly unafraid to change things around with the album featuring some more mid-paced tracks (‘Liar’, ‘Hammer of Wrath’) but also throws in some classic speed such as on ‘Burden of Time’. Even the slower numbers such as ballad ‘Edge of the World’ avoid the bloat all too typical of ballads, which accelerates into a high-octane thriller onward from the middle section.
Awakening From Abyss is a rare beast in that it is an incredibly accomplished and uniquely enthralling album, especially for a band only on their first outing. The sound is an irresistible combination of classic heavy metal, modern power metal with some symphonic bombast and plenty of thrills that deserves to be heard.
Highlights: The Hammer of Wrath, Burden of Time, Bravehearted