Anthem (アンセム, Ansemu) is a Japanese heavy metal band that was formed during the early 1980s in Tokyo. They are among the handful of heavy metal bands founded in Japan during that time and are considered to be one of the most successful and influential, alongside Loudness and Earthshaker.
Early years (1980–1985)
Anthem was founded in Tokyo during 1980 as a quartet, composed of singer Toshihito Maeda, guitarist Akifumi Koyanagi, bass player Naoto Shibata (also known as “Ski”) and drummer Takamasa Ohuchi. Koyanagi left in late 1983 to be replaced by Hiroya Fukuda. 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.
Their first studio release featured classic songs like “Wild Anthem” and “Warning Action”. Their first EP single in 1986, entitled “Xanadu”, was the first known song to be used for promotion of a brand new video game, namely Nihon Falcom‘s computer RPG Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu. Their second album, Tightrope, released 21 April 1986, showcased a more catchy, melodic sound with an improved vocal performance by Sakamoto. Bound to Break 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, 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 ‘Shadow Walker’ 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.
After many auditions, the young Akio Shimizu joined the band to replace Nakama. In 1992, the band released Domestic Booty However, 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 tour covering many cities of Japan and released the VHS/CD Last Anthem: Live recorded at Nissin Power Station, which was the band’s last show for nearly eight years.
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 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[by whom?] to be much more aggressive than Seven Hills. In 2003, the band recorded Live’ Melt Down at Citta Club Kawasaki. 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 anniversary with a special tour, where all members of the band since 1985 played the band songs in their respective formations. The Kawasaki show of this tour was filmed and released on DVD as “20th Anniversary Tour”.
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. A PV of “Heat of the Night” was released shortly after the album hit in November 2008 and has thus far garnered even more positive critical reviews than Immortal.
Their much anticipated album Heraldic Device was released in 2011. This was their last album with record label company JVC.
As of 2012, Anthem has signed with record label Universal Music and has released a new single “Evil One” in September 2012 and following with an album, Burning Oath, that was released in October 2012.
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 10 January 2013, the band announced it was on hiatus after Shibata was diagnosed with stomach cancer. After the recovery of Shibata the band played a couple of return shows in July 2013 with the Live Circus Tour following in September and October 2013.
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: 7/19 Nagoya, 7/26 Osaka, 8/2 Kawasaki.
On 17 April, the band announced via social media, the title of their next album, Engraved, which was released 21 June 2017. A video was released for the single, “The Artery Song.”
The band announced that their greatest hits album, Nucleus, which will feature English-language versions of their songs, will be released on 29 March 2019 by Nuclear Blast Records. On 17 December 2018, the band released “Black Empire”, originally sung by Eizo Sakamoto and now sung by Yukio Morikawa, as the first single off the album.
|Takamasa Ohuchi||Drums (1981-1992, 2000)|
|See also: 5X, D.T.F.M., Solitude, Superblood|
|Akifumi Koyanagi||Guitars (1981-1983)|
|Toshihito Maeda||Vocals (1981-1984)|
|See also: ex-Dancer, TYO, ex-Ello, ex-Groove Master, ex-Trinity|
|Hiroya Fukuda||Guitars (1983-1990)|
|See also: ex-DeadClaw, ex-Hiroya, ex-Silver Blaze|
|Eizo Sakamoto||Vocals (1984-1988, 2000-2014)|
|See also: Eizo Sakamoto, 哀旋士, ex-Eizo Japan, ex-Animetal, 鬼魔威羅生, ex-JAM Project, ex-練馬マッチョマン|
|Hideaki Nakama||Guitars (1990-1991)|
|See also: ex-Emerald Forest, ex-Hell ‘n’ Back, ex-Hideaki Nakama, ex-Hurry Scuary, ex-Minoru Niihara (live)|
|Hirotsugu Homma||Drums (2000-2013)|
|See also: Naked Machine, ex-Ezo, ex-Flatbacker, ex-Loudness, ex-Saber Tiger, ex-Sons of Angels|
|Graham Bonnet||Vocals (2000)|
|See also: EZoo, Graham Bonnet Band, Lyraka, Michael Schenker Fest, ex-Blackthorne, Bonnet, Parga & Heavenstone, Taz Taylor Band (live), ex-Impellitteri, ex-Rainbow, ex-Alcatrazz, ex-Forcefield (Gbr), ex-Michael Schenker Group, ex-Southern Comfort, ex-The Blue Sect, ex-The Graham Bonnet Set, ex-The Marbles, ex-The Party Boys|