X Japan

Blue Blood

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The Japanese didn't invent '80s rock, but they sure took it to heart, and Blue Blood is definite proof of that if there ever was one. On this record, X Japan move through the hard rock variations of their time with the ease of Ritchie Blackmore whipping out the "Smoke on the Water" riff for the umpteenth time. There's even a glam rock detour ("Easy Fight Rambling") and a power ballad, although for the most part the band is content to rock their hearts out, staying on the coordinate grid set by Iron Maiden, Guns N' Roses, Queensr├┐che and perhaps updated Thin Lizzy, with the results being not too far from what Helloween were doing at the time. Whether or not the Germans influenced X-Japan is up for debate, but the similarities are obvious, as the Japanese exhibit the same aptness for combining menacing guitar work with anthemic -- or rather, in this case, cinematic -- hook-laden melodies and performing it at a tempo able to get them a speeding ticket on a highway. Blue Blood is rounded out by the raspy but strong voice of Toshi, progressive tendencies (the 11-plus minute "Rose of Pain" has more ambition than a young politicians seminar), and a handful of good, if not entirely original, riffs. Although parts of the record may be seen as pompous or goofy, the album generally packs enough skill and enthusiasm to deliver the goods on par with its best genre associates, even if clearly following in their footsteps.

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