If there is an award for sticking to one’s guns and not allowing the shifting tides of opinion affect you in any way whatsoever, CONCERTO MOON definitely challenge even the likes of YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and AXEL RUDI PELL with their tenacity for it. They definitely tend towards the former in terms of style, particularly the “Marching Out” era that many respect him for, with perhaps a hint of “Odyssey” and “Magnum Opus” here and there. Riffs get the principle focus rather than raucously loud keyboards, the vocals are aggressive though not necessarily harsh, and the solos mix catchy melodic material with impressive arpeggio calisthenics.
The band’s history falls into two eras; that with the band headed by former vocalist Takao Ozaki where the band almost sounded like a Japanese offspring of MALMSTEEN, and the one that started in 2001 with the entry of Takashi Inoue where things changed fairly significantly. The band has still kept to their Neo-classical way of doing things, but Inoue’s voice has a lot more attitude to it. In fact, the biggest flaw on here is that the vocals have a little too much attitude and get a little too in your face, as in enough to make Matt Barlow blush. He keeps it cool enough not to become overtly ridiculous, but on a song like “Almighty Wings” which looks sorrowful lyrically, he literally sounds like he’s getting ready to kick somebody’s ass for trying to pick up on his girlfriend.
To the band’s credit, the vocal performance mostly fits the lyrical subjects, as these songs are mostly about struggle, anger and hypocrisy. When you combine the occasional gang choruses that filter into the background during songs like “Lies And Betrayal” and “Break Free”, what you have is a Melodic Power Metal album with enough fury and fire to almost come across like a Thrash Metal album. When you combine all of these really flashy guitar and keyboard solo interchanges as heard on “The Distant Light” with this lyrical approach, minus the fact that these vocals are still tonal, you almost think that maybe Norifumi Shima has been listening to early CHILDREN OF BODOM for some of his song subject ideas.
Although definitely an aggressive Power Metal album, there’s nothing on here that would be classified as genre bending or extremely innovative. It fully bolsters the Neo-classical style pioneered by Uli Jon Roth and Ritchie Blackmore and simply ratchets up the aggression and speed. Some of the slower songs like “The Distant Light” and “Pain In My Heart” have a good share of keyboard prominence and is only slightly heavier than what RAINBOW was doing in the early 80s. Even the faster riff monsters like “Hungry Heart” and “Mr. Weathercock” are not so much morose as they are indignant and fed up.
This is definitely something that will go over well with the YNGWIE crowd who want more than one album every 3 years. Unlike a fair share of their earlier stuff, this is completely in English so the language barrier is pretty well bridged, although I should note that Inoue’s pronunciation gets a bit muddled while he tries to throw 110% of his throat into every yell while simultaneously carrying a tune. The next time that someone tells you that Power Metal is all about dancing with faerie folk, just refer them to this album for a lesson in how a melodic album can kick your ass while it hooks you in with its choruses.
(Online December 18, 2008)