J-Rock or Visual Kei as some people have christened it might have been the latest trend coming from the land of the rising sun. If you look a bit closer though, it's more of a revival of sorts as bands like Color or X did exactly the same thing in the late 1980's. However, whereas Japan had an excellent tradition of very original Hardrock bands like Bow Vow and Loudness in the late 1970's and early 1980's, it seems as if the country only followed Western trends over the last two decades. A band which never followed any trends or copied musical styles is Blaze from Osaka. For some, they already embody the future of Japanese heavy metal. However, their musical roots are rather European as guitarist Hisashi Suzuki explains: _I do love the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, that sound is in my blood. Bands like Urchin, High Treason, J.J.'s Powerhouse, Marquis De Sade. Besides, I like almost all British rock of the 1960's and 1970's, also some beat and traditional folk. And I like many early 1980's European bands. Of course, I like the Scorpions. My favourite guitarist is Michael Schenker. I like all UFO albums with Michael and the first two albums from M.S.G. I also like Brian Robertson, Andy Powell, Rory Gallagher and more. Though I respect Uli Roth, I can not play like him. As for the Scorpions, my favourite albums are 'In Trance' and 'Virgin Killer'.?
If you listen to Blaze's self-titled album, especially in the guitar department, there are some traces of classic Scorpions (between _Lovedrive? and _Blackout?) to be found. Heavy but yet melodic. Mister Hisashi Suzuki gives us more details about the 11 tracks on the album: _The opener 'On The Run' is catchy and strong. I like the guitar part of the introduction. 'Heart Of Gold' is Mr. Shiota's favourite song. Mid-tempo hardrock, maybe like early Def Leppard. 'Wiseacre in the Land of Nod' has ironic lyrics and a very melodic sound. I like the guitar solo. 'Walkin' on the Cloud' is a sad song for our friend. 'The Night speaks' sounds more like 1980's heavy metal. 'See the Light' is the whole band's favourite song, catchy mid-tempo hardrock. 'Place in the Sun' is hard rockin' material, it's the closer of our live set. In fact, 'Picture' is a very long track, it's over 8 minutes long, but we could not recorded all of it. It's true title is 'Picture on the Wall' and I would like to record this song once again in its entire version. Also, the High Roller edition has a bonus track called 'Nightwalker'. This is one from our 2011 demo, a hard rockin' shuffle number. I like shuffle and triplets. There were many wonderful shuffle songs in the 1970's and 1980's ...?
Before Blaze (who have been going on and off since late 1998), Hikashi Suzuki has been playing in a band called Strange Flavor. More recent Japanese acts like the mighty Metalucifer, Magnesium and Gorgon were not an influence on him when he formed his band: _I had not known them until I played with Blaze. I have not been influenced by them, but it's great that they made heavy metal in Japan a bit more popular once again. I hope Gorgon will be active again.?
As already mentioned, the glory days of Japanese heavy metal are long gone. The very productive and unique HM scene of the early to mid-1980's is buried and forgotten. Acts such as Loudness, Bow Wow, Shellshock and Genocide are only cherished by (mostly European) die-hard fans. Hisashi Suzuki shares my view: _Heavy metal was popular in Japan in the 1980's and people formed their own bands. Their dream was to play heavy metal music. I was longing for Marino and the Kodomo Band. But the Japanese HM scene went downhill fast in the 1990's. Instead of heavy metal, other rock music became more popular, like grunge, Nu Metal and so on. Younger generations don't play metal but you can't change that. Therefore heavy metal bands are getting fewer and fewer in our country, especially young bands. Most musicians of the current Japanese heavy metal bands grew up to hear late 1980's and 1990's European heavy metal. Therefore, I think their sound is also geared towards Europe.?