LOVEBITES — Awakening from Abyss (review)

LOVEBITES — Awakening from Abyss album cover Album · 2017 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Pairing the phrases 'heavy metal' and 'fashion' invokes a certain kind of mental image. Denim and leather. Lots of black. Maybe some corpse paint and a lot of spikes if you're thinking of black metal. It's a stereotypical enough look that, much like with progressive death metallers Akercocke in their (now abandoned post-reunion) tweed suits, when you see a promo picture of new Japanese act Lovebites and try to put it in context with the above, the band can't help but seem out of place. This five-piece all female band presents themselves in near-matching white dresses, with what may just be the shortest skirts that an all female metal band has uniformly worn. They honestly look like they're more likely to be playing j-pop than metal. The band name doesn't do much to dispel that initial impression. Lovebites. Definitely not the most strikingly metal name going. They're not the first to use it (or Love Bites), as several other pop and rock bands have had it before them, likely more fittingly.

This is of course a preconception, which where music is concerned is never a good thing to form based on image (you listen to music with your ears and not your eyes, after all). Even when it's completely unintentional, long exposure to something, in this case metal music, can cause people to have them. I'd call it human nature. This one is possibly influenced by cultural differences, since Japan has quite a prevalent scene of all female acts, including but not limited to Mary's Blood, Aldious and Destrose (who Lovebites share members with), who regularly challenge the usual stereotype (even for all female acts) when it comes to image. But over here in the western hemisphere Lovebites' image seems to go just that bit further than most and speaks of sex appeal turned right up to the max, which popular culture over here has subconsciously instilled to associate with pop music. And since Japan's growing scene of all or near female acts does have an association with j-pop, it's maybe not too out of line to assume that Lovebites will fit into that niche as well.

Dead wrong. Despite the band name and image, it's an illusion Lovebites are quick to dispel. How they present themselves and how they actually sound may just be the most paradoxical thing in metal you'll encounter all year. Naturally, these five ladies just challenged all preconceptions and delivered what may be the heaviest and most aggressive power metal album of the year with Awakening from Abyss (2017). The album follows closely on the heels of The Lovebites EP (2017), all songs of which reappear here in re-recorded forms. It's an album that shows the band to have much more in common with the classic German scene that spawned the likes of Blind Guardian and Rage than anything else. Certainly there's nothing to do with j-pop here or heaven forbid, Japan's so called Kawaii (cute) metal scene (and yes, that term is a thing that someone's felt the need to coin) that's given the world the likes of Babymetal, Ladybaby and arguably even Aldious. Within Awakening from Abyss listeners will hear an hour's worth of power metal spread across twelve tracks, displaying a varied sound that can go from giving even the likes of Rage a run for their money for the year's most aggressive power metal album to epic symphonic backed parts which pack no less of a punch.

After the intro track The Awakening is out the way it only takes the first full song The Hammer of Wrath to be impressed by the band and hooked into the album until it closes with Bravehearted. The band rarely lets up the pace throughout that whole time. Liar and Inspire both start like they're going to be ballads, but the band are quick to kick things back into gear, firing on all cylinders. The album is very guitar based with the riffs also delving into speed metal as well as power metal. The Apocalypse, which is one of the re-recorded songs from the EP, has riffs that summon memories the first two Blind Guardian albums. The Hammer of Wrath even comes close to full-on thrash metal at times. The symphonic elements are used sparingly and are rarely dominating when they are present, Edge of the World towards the end of the album being the most overtly symphonic track, as well as the album's only actual (semi) ballad, which is still incredibly heavy once it gets going and has sped back up into power metal long before it's end. They're incredibly effective when they are used though. Take Shadowmaker as a key example. The symphonic part is audible, and would be missed if not there, but it's still really just for flavour, augmenting the aggression of the guitars. The song just oozes blazing riffs, incredible lead melodies and blistering soloing, just like a good power metal song should do. It may just be the best power metal song of 2017, it's that good.

Aside from having a powerful sound, what makes Awakening from Abyss a really special release is how strong the actual musicianship is. Those blazing riffs and incredible leads I mentioned in relation to Shadowmaker? Lovebites have those in every song here. If Shadowmaker isn't the best power metal song of 2017, then one of these others is, because there's never a moment where the quality of the record drops even a little, not even the half ballad Edge of the World or the intro track, which still manages to get some great riffs in despite only lasting a little over two minutes. Both the riffs and leads from the guitarists Midori and Mi-Ya (also keyboardist) are among the best the power metal genre has ever delivered. Destrose alumni Miho (bass) and Haruna (drums) provide a rock solid rhythm section. And then there's the vocals. Singer Asami certainly brings equal amounts of power to the mix as the instruments. Her tone is a bit deeper than most female vocalists in power metal bands, but she keeps her vocals completely melodic throughout and displays an impressive non-operatic range with plenty of wails that many a classic metal singer would be proud of.

As I count power metal among my favourite forms of metal, it isn't often that a new (or at least new to me) power metal band blows me away. In fact it's typically a once per year thing. Last year for instance it was Eternity's End who did it. The year before that, Unleash the Archers. This year, despite some strong efforts from bands familiar (MindMaze, Iced Earth) and new (Palantír), I had started to think that maybe it wasn't going to happen. Then Lovebites came along. I did not manage to pick up on The Lovebites EP earlier in the year; if I had then such thoughts would never have had time to form, since I went back and checked out the EP as well and it promised a lot for this debut full-length, which Awakening from Abyss absolutely delivers on and more.

Do not make the all too easy mistake of prejudging this band. They're the real deal. And Awakening from Abyss looks like an unbeatable record for the title of best power metal album of 2017. Maybe even best metal album period.
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666sharon666 wrote:
1 year ago
Sounds like I'm definitely going to have to give this one a listen.
1 year ago
I need to get a copy ASAP.
adg211288 wrote:
1 year ago
Just got the CD copy in today and it's definitely worth picking up a copy for the extensive liner notes. Not only are the lyrics printed in full, but they also denote who plays what solo, something that a lot of liner notes are lacking.
bartosso wrote:
1 year ago
Great review, just listened to a few songs from the album right after reading it. I'm floored. This is true power metal with just enough j-rock in it to give it this unmistakable Japanese feel :)
1 year ago
Great review. I'm floored by this album. Though it did take me a couple of listens to appreciate the vocals I must admit.

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