12-19-2016, 09:41 PM
Release: To Glory We Steer (1990)
What we have here is not only an amazing power metal album, but also a highly influential work of art from a vastly unappreciated band. Precious was one of the many bands signed to the keyboard-loving, shred-crazy fetishists at Mandrake Root Records, and unlike so many of the other bands, good as they were, they pushed their melodic aggressions to the next level. Right off the bat, the relentless thrashing of "Burning Vengeance" comes breaking down your doors, with a killer hook and attitude to carry it all so coherently in the Japanese fashion. One of the very first instruments that will easily catch your attention is the precise musical assaults of Yusuke Takahama's keyboard playing. It's not uncommon for a metal album with keyboards to place a far greater emphasis on the guitars, but in Precious' case, there's an equal exchange of power between the keyboardist and the guitarist, working as the co-lead section. Despite that, though, Precious was clearly used by the label as a platform to show off Akira Kajiyama's playing to the Japanese audience. Being that the country literally worships Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore, Mandrake Root Records even asked Kajiyama to shred on To Glory We Steer, despite his refusal to be slapped with the label of a shredder. Regardless if he's a shredder or not, his riffs are catchy as all fuck, with "Burning Vengeance" already one of those standouts showcasing his playing.
Moving on, "Shock Wave" kicks the tempo back a few steps, but has a majestic charm, working efficiently as a bridge between the song before it and "Back to the Memory" — the latter of which giving Takahama more room to shine. It's probably the least heavy song on the album, but when a band like Precious can deliver the goods in a musical setting, it's more about the feelings that a song can evoke. "Blasting Your Head" returns to the faster sections of the album, albeit with a more epic verse in the same manner as "Immortal Oath". There's a bit of sleazy riffing on "Wasting My Time", which works well to keep things varied. I always get a kick out of hearing that short keyboard solo, too.
Probably the STANDOUT song of the album, "Die for Glory", starts off with an ominous keyboard intro. At this point, it's all about atmosphere, being a six-minute power metal cruncher. When the verse finally kicks in, there's a very mesmerizing feeling about how the keyboards and the guitars all blend, reminding me of some of Malmsteen's earlier albums, and yes, this song is definitely the most obvious of them all in terms of making such a comparison. The chorus section repeats the song title often, but its the magical force that it creates in musical form that makes it so memorable and worthy of singing along to. Even if you don't speak a word of Japanese, even humming "glory, die for glory" will put you into a trance of sorts. There are also multiple solos, both keyboard and guitar, scattered throughout the song, thus proving my point that this is the song to define such a glorious, mythical album through and through.
The closer, "Shining Through the Night", is another relic that deserves a fair shake — it has that empowering vibe that a song like "One Shot to Glory" emits, which I honestly think is perfect to close off the album with. It's a bit more "positive" in sound than some of the other songs, but its optimism is another reason why power metal is my favorite metal genre.
Finally, let's get to the vocalist. Eiji Fukagawa may not be any more special than most other Japanese metal vocalists at the time, but his overall charisma adds to this album's charm. He's capable of delivering Don Dokken-esque snarls, while proficiently emulating Graham Bonnet and Eizo Sakamoto. He's got some really great mids, and he stands by them with pride. Personally, his vibratos stand out the most on "Wasting My Time", while "Burning Vengeance" and "Immortal Oath" unleash all of the fury that his throat is capable of on record. While not the most versatile character out there, he's got the guts to prove his musical qualities.
The production is flawless, accomplishing exactly what it set out to do. If you ask me, it's a pretty impressive sound to get, especially if the band produced it themselves. All of the musicians deliver their goods, with no passengers. Even the bassist and the drummer have their many great moments, such as the swift, furious transitions on "Burning Vengeance". Definitely worth the buy, even if you'd likely have to import it. If you do set out for the album, consider picking up the 1996 reissue, as the remastered sound quality is an improvement on the original. Still, though, I can't find anything to fault this band on. They've delivered a true Japanese metal masterpiece, even if it'll never get the same level of recognition as Anthem or even Concerto Moon.
Timeless days shall never end...