LOVEBITES — Clockwork Immortality (review)

LOVEBITES — Clockwork Immortality album cover Album · 2018 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
DippoMagoo
Japan’s power metal scene is something I’ve gotten some enjoyment out of in the past, mostly from the likes of Galneryus, MinstreliX and Aldious, but I’ve never been fully hooked on it. The latter of those three bands is an all female power metal band, which has almost become its own scene in and of itself in Japan, with that particular band leading the way, while others have risen up to follow suit. The latest such band, emerging in early 2017, is Lovebites, who released a four track EP in May of 2017, before releasing their full length debut, Awakening from Abyss, in October of that same year. Just looking at promotional photos of the band, and seeing five beautiful women in white dresses, one certainly couldn’t be blamed for thinking the band isn’t out to break any trends. However, overlooking the band and lapping them in there with the likes of Aldious and Cyntia would be a massive mistake, one which I thankfully managed to avoid making, as after seeing glowing reviews for their debut, I decided to give it a listen for myself, and suffice to say, I was not disappointed! The band has their own unique sound, which I’ll go into more detail about in the following paragraph, but essentially, they play a mix of Euro power metal and speed metal as well as some classic heavy metal elements, with just a tiny amount of the kind of J-Pop influences one would expect from the scene, to help keep that distinct Japanese flavor fully in tact. They made quite the splash with their aforementioned debut, before quickly following it up this past June with another four track EP, Battle Against Damnation. Unlike their first EP, which was essentially a mini preview of their full length debut, this one contained four new and entirely separate songs, which to date have not been reused, so it’s very much worth collecting on its own, especially since it very much kept up with the songwriting quality of their debut and some stunning moments of its own. By this point, the band had already established quite the worldwide following, and they managed to sign a deal with Arising Empire to release their second album in Europe, which should help them branch out even further. Between that and a recent European tour, it seems that band has come a long way in in just over a year and a half! Moving on, though, their second full length album, Clockwork Immortality is now here, and it’s every bit as awesome as I was hoping it would be!

One thing I was interested about when hearing this album for the first time, was whether or not it would have the same feeling of the debut, or if the band would reduce the heaviness a bit and become more like their peers. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened in the least, and so fans who were blown by the band’s previous work, should be just as pleased with this album. For those who’ve never heard the band before, they play a surprisingly hard hitting brand of power metal, led by dueling guitarists Midori and Miyaka (with the latter also playing keyboards), and the two of them are clearly the stars here, playing everything from some crushingly heavy thrash riffs, to straight Euro power metal melodies at times, to some classic Maiden style galloping riffs, to some absolutely incredible solos, where the two constantly go back and forth trying to outdo each other, and the results are always epic and absolutely stunning to listen to. Bassist Miho and drummer Haruna originally played in the now disbanded Destrose, and so they already have experience in the scene, and they both do an excellent job with the rhythm section, with the bass in particular being very noticeable in the mix, and so fans of the bass should be pleased with that.

I first discovered the band with Awakening from Abyss, and started the album from the very beginning, so I was immediately blown away by the thrashy riffs presented near the start of the first full song “The Hammer of Wrath” on that album. While there isn’t anything quite that aggressive on this release, the guitar work is still as impressive as ever, and there’s definitely still some very hard hitting riffs, especially on the likes of “Mastermind 01”, “M.D.O” and “Journey to the Other Side”, which are conveniently placed together to make for one awesome trio of heaviness. The songwriting is just as impressive as on the debut, with a perfect balance heavier tracks and more melodic tracks. The majority of the songs are very fast paced, as expected, but the band does throw in a couple of surprises, including one lighter track with some strong J-Pop influences, as well as an epic ballad, which closes out the album. Everything here is amazing, with the heavier tracks all being equal parts heavy, epic and catchy, while some of the more melodic sections are absolutely beautiful, and of the course the instrumental sections are absolutely stunning. The album is an absolute delight from start to finish, just like their first album was, and everything is perfect, from the performances to the songwriting and the production.

Another area where the band might surprise some people is the vocals, for a couple of reasons. First off, most bands in this scene tend to favor lighter, more pop infused vocals, where lead singer Asami has a very deep and powerful voice, which fits perfectly within a metal backdrop. She’s equally impressive singing on frantic, hard hitting thrash infused sections as she is singing lighter, catchier sections. While her voice is pretty deep most of the time, she does hit some really high notes on occasion, and these sound just as impressive as everything else. One other way in which the vocals differ from many Japanese bands in general (and one thing which I think helps me enjoy the band even more), is where many Japanese bands either sing entirely in Japanese, or use some kind of mix between Japanese and English, Asami sings entirely in English (with one exception on their first EP) and her pronunciations are generally quite good, with her accent being more charming than distracting. Usually when I listen to Japanese metal bands, I have to focus entirely on the music while ignoring the vocals, but with Lovebites, that isn’t the case, as Asami does an excellent job, and I find her vocals to be consistently charming, engaging and at times beautiful.

Obviously, going into this album I knew I loved the band’s overall sound, and so the one area that had even the slightest chance of coming up short was the songwriting, especially given how quickly the band has been working lately. Thankfully, any worries about a rushed release or a lack of strong creative ideas are quickly thrown out the window, as the songs here are just as engaging and as fully fleshed out as anything the band has done in the past. Obviously, the opening of Awaken from Abyss is going to be near impossible to top, but the band sure gave it their best effort here with “Addicted”. The track starts out with some very nice acoustic guitar work for close to a minute, before the full band kicks in and the heavy riffs fire up for the first time. The song moves along at a blazing fast pace and has a very classic Euro power metal feel to it, with fast, driving guitar work, fun verses, and a fast, addictive and very catchy chorus. Obviously, once the solo sections kicks in both guitarists go all out to great effect, and overall it’s an amazing track, which gets the album off to a flying start. Next is “Pledge of the Savior”, which keeps the momentum going. It’s another very fast paced track, with faint traces of those galloping riffs I mentioned earlier. It’s a slightly lighter, more melodic track than the opener, but it still moves at a blazing pace and it still has some great riffs, as well as another super fun chorus, and an excellent instrumental section. The guitar work in between verses is particularly awe inspiring, and overall the song is amazing. The lead single for the album is “Rising”, another very fast paced track, which is the lightest track up to this point, with some absolutely beautiful melodies. It’s the first track here to include some symphonic elements, mostly in the main melody and a bit during the chorus. It stays fast for most of its duration, only slowly down briefly for an epic bridge section, featuring piano work which Miyako says was influenced by the legendary Frederic Chopin, and this combined with Aaami’s vocals, help make for an epic lead in to what is probably the best solo section on the entire album, with Miyako and Midori both going all out and unleashing one stunning solo after another. Overall, it’s an absolute stunner of the track, and so the fact that it probably isn’t even one of my top three favorites here, just goes to show how amazing the album is on the whole!

The first surprise of the album is next, as “Empty Daydream” is one of the lighter songs here, having quite the distinct J-Pop feel to it. It’s a slower track, with some very nice, melodic lead guitar work, and it has slow verses, as well as an extremely light and catchy chorus. It’s one of the softest tracks the band has ever done, and yet it still has some excellent guitar work, especially during the solo section, which is the only point where the track starts to approach their usual heaviness. It’s such a fun and catchy track, though, I can’t help but love it the whole way through.

Fans hoping for more of the band’s heavier side will be quite pleased with the next portion of the album, especially the next three tracks in particular. First is “Mastermind 01”, which has a lead riff that brings the likes of Grave Digger to mind, and it stays quite heavy throughout the verses, while still giving room to a very melodic and catchy choruses. It definitely showcases the band’s heavier side very well, though, with some very hard hitting riffs and another stunning solo section. Next is my personal favorite, “M.D.O”, an absolute killer of a track, which comes charging out of the gate with some very thrashy guitar work during the verses, and it moves at an exhausting pace that doesn’t let up for a second, with a chorus that remains hard hitting, while managing to throw in just a bit of that J-Pop charm, to help make for something absolutely irresistible, and impossibly addictive! The solo section remains very heavy, and is of course amazing as usual. The softest of these three tracks is “Journey to the Other Side”, which still manages to pack in some heavy riffs during the verses, before giving way to a melodic, emotional and absolutely beautiful chorus, where Asami gets to shine. These three tracks all perfectly demonstrate what makes this band so special, as they have a classic metal edge to them, with slight thrash influences, while still staying within Euro power metal territory, as well as mixing in just enough of that distinct Japanese charm to help them stand out from the pack. The fact they have stunning guitar solos to top it all off, is just icing on the cake.

Moving towards the end of the album, “The Final Collision” is slightly lighter than the previous three tracks, and has more a classic Euro power metal sound to it, with more of a focus on keyboards, slight symphonic elements, and another super catchy and very melodic chorus, as well as another excellent solo section, as always. Out of all other Japanese power metal bands I’ve heard, Lovebites come closest to Galneryus in their sound, and while nothing here quite invites that comparison as much as “Under the Red Sky” from Battle Against Damnation, “We the United” is in similar territory, with a slight neoclassical feel to the guitars and keyboards, as well as an overwhelmingly upbeat feel to the main melody and chorus, which of course the aforementioned band is notorious for having. The chorus is the kind of epic, super catchy and uplifting music fans would expect from the scene, and the band delivers it perfectly, while also throwing in some classic heavy metal style riffs at times, as well as yet another stunning solo section. Closing out the album is “Epilogue”, a seven minute ballad which is actually very atypical, both for the band and for ballads in general. It doesn’t really have a chorus, so much as it has a slow buildup during the first two minutes, with Asami leading the way with very soft vocals, accompanied by Miyako’s piano, before slowly giving way to an epic solo section, featuring some absolutely beautiful work from both guitarists, where the music has more feeling to it than any lyrics could possibly convey. This eventually leads to a section with some very powerful and absolutely beautiful vocals from Asami, before again going back to some more amazing solo work. Overall, it’s an absolutely stunning and beautiful track, which closes out the album perfectly.

I was expecting great things from Clockwork Immortality, as Lovebites managed to become one of my favorite bands almost overnight with their previous full length album, and I’m happy to say they have not disappointed me in the least, as this release is every bit as intense, beautiful, super fun and fully fleshed out as anything they’ve done in the past, with the same perfect blend of Euro power metal, classic heavy metal, some slight thrash influences and the kind of J-Pop charm fans of the scene would expect. The band has been working very fast as of late, so you’d think they’ve more than earned a bit of a break at this point, but whenever they put out more new music, I’ll certainly be excited for it, because they have proven themselves to be one of the most promising and most refreshing power metal bands in the world over the past year and a half, and I hope they can continue to do so for many more years to come!

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/01/13/lovebites-clockwork-immortality-review/
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Sisslith wrote:
33 days ago
Very good and informative review! Just one heads-up: the final paragraph is duplicate.

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