Anthem - Biography




Anthem was founded in Tokyo during 1981 as a quartet, composed of singer Toshihito Maeda, guitarist Akifumi Koyanagi, bass player Naoto Shibata (also known as "Ski") and drummer Takamasa Ohuchi. Koyanagi left in late 1983 to be replaced by Hiroya Fukada. In December 1984, vocalist Toshihito Maeda also left and Anthem drafted Eizo Sakamoto for their debut eponymous album, issued in July 1985 by Nexus and licensed to Europe via Roadrunner Records.

Their first studio release featured classic songs like "Wild Anthem" and "Warning Action". The next release, Tightrope showcased a more catchy, melodic sound with an improved vocal performance by Sakamoto. Bound to Break was to be the last album featuring Eizo Sakamoto for nearly two decades, and was by far his most impressive vocal performance to that point. The album was full of classics ("Empty Eyes", "Bound to Break", "Soldiers") and introduced the band's long-time world-famous producer, Chris Tsangarides (perhaps best known for producing Judas Priest's classic 1990 album, Painkiller). With the departure of Sakamoto in 1988, Shibata recruited Yukio Morikawa to the band's vocal position. With Morikawa came the album Gypsy Ways, considered the band's most popular album. Morikawa's voice made the band a great success at that time and he was similar in style, vocal range and ability to Graham Bonnet. In 1989, the album Hunting Time was released and the song "The Juggler" was used as a PV. In the beginning of 90s, Anthem dealt with another departure, this time Hiroya Fukuda (guitar) left and was replaced by Hideaki 'Shadow Walker' Nakama which recorded the album No Smoke Without Fire, this time without the band's staple producer / engineer Chris Tsangarides. Hideaki Nakama left the band after recording just that one album and the search for a new guitarist began.

After many auditions, the young Akio Shimizu joined the band to replace Nakama. In 1992, the band released Domestic Booty, one of their best albums, with amazing technical songs (courtesy of Shimizu): "Venom Strike", "Renegade", and "The Dice Of No Mercy". Unfortunately, classic-style heavy metal was out of fashion in the early 90s, and with the explosion of grunge in the U.S. and the Visual Kei movement in Japanese music, Shibata decided to put an end to the band. The members of Anthem followed the album's release with a very big tour covering many cities of Japan and finally they released the VHS/CD Last Anthem - Live recorded at Nissin Power Station, which was to be the band's last show for nearly eight years.

After the long hiatus, Anthem returned in 2000, with the album Heavy Metal Anthem which featured the vocalist Graham Bonnet (former lead singer of Rainbow and Alcatrazz). The album is entirely composed by classic songs of the band rearranged with English lyrics. The lineup on Heavy Metal Anthem was: Graham Bonnet (vocals), Naoto Shibata (bass), Akio Shimizu (guitar) and Takamasa Oouchi (drums).

Later, Hirotsugu Homma (who had briefly played together with Shibata in Loudness) replaced Takamasa Oouchi on drums and Eizo Sakamoto returned to the vocals. In 2001, they released Seven Hills, showcasing an entirely new musical direction for the band, although still firmly rooted in 80s heavy metal. In 2002 came Overload, which is considered by most critics to be much more aggressive than Seven Hills. In 2003, the band recorded Live' Melt Down in Citta Club Kawazaki, with a set list full of classics and an amazing performance by Sakamoto. In 2004 the band released the single "Onslaught" followed by the album Eternal Warrior, which continued in the same sound direction as Overload. In 2005, Anthem celebrated their twentieth year anniversary with a special tour, where all members of the band since 1985 played the band songs in their respective formations. At the final show of this tour was filmed the DVD 20th Anniversary Tour (again at Club Citta in Kawazaki).

In 2006 Anthem released Immortal, followed by the single and PV of "Immortal Bind". The most recent output has seen Anthem push even further into the Power Metal-tinged style showcased on Domestic Booty and Eternal Warrior with 2008's Black Empire. A PV of "Heat Of The Night" was released shortly after the album hit in November 2008 and has thus far garnered even more positive critical reviews than Immortal.

Their much anticipated album Heraldic Device was released in 2011.