LOVEBITES — Electric Pentagram (review)

LOVEBITES — Electric Pentagram album cover Album · 2020 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Japanese act Lovebites do not have the most metal sounding name. You'd think that a metal band with such a name would, at most, belong to the glam metal genre (in fact there is a glam metal act with the similar name Lovebite). The all female band has never been afraid to show off their femininity either, challenging the entire genre's stereotypes on image since they hit the scene, but that's not actually unusually for Japanese acts. These things may lead those out there with a habit of pre-judging to get the wrong idea about what kind of music that Lovebites play or if they do get it right, assume that the calibre of the band will be the same as others in their country's little sub-scene.

So let's say it plainly: Lovebites plays power metal infused with old school speed/thrash metal influences, with some tasteful but never domineering symphonic elements. Any uses of terms like j-pop and Visual kei to describe them is by those judging based on mere association with other power metal acts of the Japanese sub-scene or the members gender itself, which in this context may even amount to the same thing, since those other Japanese female power metal bands sometimes do have these things. More important than Lovebites' genre, is their chops as musicians. These young ladies are some of the best in the game right now, showcases blistering power metal speed from all four instrumentalists and incredible guitar solos. They also have a great singer in Asami, whose voice admittedly comes across as very accented to these English ears, yet for me that just adds a regional charm to the band. Togther they fully deserve to be recognised not just as Japan's best power metal export since Galneryus, but also one of the best power metal acts to emerge in the 2010s, a decade which gave the world the masterful albums Awakening From Abyss (2017) and Clockwork Immortality (2018).

Electric Pentagram (2020), the band's third full-length album that continues their Morbid Angel-esque naming conventions (the EP Battle Against Damnation (2018) and live album Daughters of the Dawn (2019) were sandwiched between the full-length albums, while Electric Pentagram has more recently been followed by a second live album, Five of a Kind (2020) - so we can only assume their next release will start with a G), is therefore the work of a band who already has nothing left to prove. It would have been very easy for it to be the record where the band slipped up. Instead it's the work of a band that don't seem to be losing any creative steam just yet.

One caveat with that last statement though, I would say that Electric Pentagram doesn't make itself more essential than what Lovebites has already released up until this point. For me their first album is the one that remains the true must have. While Clockwork Immortality was in many ways a refinement, wow factor and nostalgia are powerful things. Someone who discovered Lovebites through a later album (including this one) could easily feel the same about it as I do about their first. On Electric Pentagram it does feel like the band have taken a step back toward the debut again in terms of influences – more obvious deviations into speed metal and even some outright thrashy territory compared to Clockwork Immortality's more polished sound, but the differences between all three albums are really subtle.

What I can say about Electric Pentagram though is that it's another collection of great songs from Lovebites. It is perhaps their weakest album on account of the length though. It's seventy minutes long, which is a lot for a power metal album to be honest. They do have the skill to handle it without it getting into the area of being too much of a good thing, but the previous albums do come across as tighter packages for being even just ten minutes shorter, as was the case with the debut. It's not that there's an excessive amount of songs included here, just twelve, which is the same number as Awakening From Abyss, but their writing style, while never too elongated, has produced no track shorter than five minutes this time (with that said nothing breaks seven minutes either), so on paper it does start to look a little formulaic, like they've sat down and said 'okay, this is what works, let's stick to it'. With that said, I couldn't possible pinpoint any exact point where I'd say they should have trimmed something down or any particular song that should have been pruned entirely; it's just a feeling that upon conclusion, while an immensely satisfying third album, that this will go down on one to complement better, more essential works by Lovebites. I feel like they are at the point where their next record will need to try to be braver and break some new ground, though of course hopefully without ruining the identity of the band.

In summary I have enjoyed Electric Pentagram a lot, with a few cautious criticism that don't really detract from my enjoyment while listening to it, though this will be the lowest rating I've given to a Lovebites album so far and that sounds like a blow but this is is still a 4.5 star album for me, just following two 5 star albums, which is a pretty damn good achievement for any band. I still think that Electric Pentagram is a stronger release that many new power metal albums are as well and reviewing it in October after it's January 2020 release I can safely say that it's still the one to beat for the year in the genre.
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