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Articles Home » 1981 Articles » Heavy Metal Army - 1981 1
Heavy Metal Army - 1981 1

ARTIST: Heavy Metal Army
LABEL: Nexus
YEAR: 1981
CD REISSUE: 1993, Heavy Metal Records (UK)


LINEUP: John Patterson - vocals * Shinki Sugama - guitars * Masahiko Takeuchi - bass * Elichi Miyanaga - drums * Yuki Nakajima - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Heavy Metal Army * 02 Yes Or No * 03 Changeling * 04 Retaliation * 05 Rockin' Long Spell Of Rain * 06 Street Seller * 07 That's Hammurabian Police * 08 Bird Of Destiny

For a Japanese supergroup finding any worthwhile information on this one off act is surprisingly thin, but surely their moniker ranks as one of the all time greats, just the words alone are cause for appreciation, Heavy Metal Army! Much has been made of the supergroup connotations, Englishman Patterson having been the vocalist for George Murasaki's Mariner, although for years listening to him here I swore he was Japanese himself. Miyanga also played alongside Murasaki during his solo years, and other band members were associated with bands such as Creation, Condition Green and Carmen Maki's Oz. Given the bands name you wouldn't expect anything less than a heavy metal barrage and on the whole it delivers forcefully. I wouldn't mind seeing some promo shots of these guys, surely they were armed with camouflage and heavy artillery in the form of their instruments with a mass of bullet belts. Calling yourselves that means living up to the name, although I'm certain several hundred bands have borrowed the name since!

The Songs
Opposed to the rawer NWOBHM and US metal scenes this is typically Japanese with its heavy keyboard use that in 1981 might have foolishly been seen as taboo for a band with the words heavy metal in their name. The title track uses a torrent of swirling synthesizers but is fronted by the all important riffs, which dueling with the keyboards obviously recall Deep Purple, much like Murasaki's 'Double Dealing Woman'. The interplay again succeeds during 'Yes Or No', and you could be fooled into believing the keyboard was the bands idea of heavy metal. Patterson is equally adept with Japanese spoken vocals as demonstrated during 'Changeling', which is close in spirit to Rainbow. 'Retaliation' beats Rainbow at their own game in fact, with some brutishly moody atmospherics, poorly produced but utterly indispensable. Those longing for the real 'heavy metal army' would be smitten with 'Street Seller', unabashed traditional metal that would appeal to the most basic leather clad rocker, Sugama's solo a feedback ridden tour de force that makes Eddie Van Halen look weak. An absolute classic. 'That's Hammrabian Police' is Japanese spoken again and contains one of the best keyboard dominated metal sounds I've ever heard and for 1980 is sensational. It could be tagged as AOR influenced, but is too heavy and satisfyingly so. Again the guitar work has to be heard to be truly believed and appreciated, akin to Ritchie Blackmore only a hundred times more intense. This madness is concluded by the epic progressive metal of 'Bird Of Destiny', that lays the keyboards on so thick it I thought it was heading West Coast, with some jazzy arrangements and Uriah Heep influenced vocal harmonies.

In Summary
This must rank as one of the best one off projects I've ever heard. I'd like to learn why the band folded and left this as their only contribution to heavy metal, but the main thing is they lived up to their name. Supergroups as we all know usually bomb, and commercially this might have, but as sheer musicianship goes this is unsurpassed and the keyboard and guitar work stand out as mind blowing. This leaves Mariner and Murasaki in the dust, and having heard both of those bands music I'd like to feel I'm qualified to make that judgement. I suspect personally this is more convincing than 99 percent of the NWOBHM movement also, I'd take this any day over Quartz or Witchfinder General. This army was not to be trifled with!

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#1 | gdazegod on September 16 2012 00:59:29
Other Japanese bands associated with HMA include: San Diego (an Okinawa west coast-fusion outfit featuring Miyanaga), plus Eastern Orbit, a successor to HMA that released several albums in the mid 80's.
#2 | gdazegod on April 10 2016 12:49:01
We are sadly lacking articles on the band Murasaki. This needs to be remedied quickly.. lol
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