Like a lone katana slashing through the midnight air, like a specter haunting the stormy landscape of Tokyo, come the 4 ninja warriors of the great shadow. Though 2 of these Shinobi-like assassins are so swift of foot that they fail to exist in the material plain, as a proud union of 4 in principle they bring forth an impressive, albeit cliché and low-fi produced array of ninja magic. So pack your shuriken stars and nunchukus, mask your face in black, and join our heroes on a 4 pronged quest into the realm of proto-DRAGONFORCE Power Metal, with all the catchy melodies and fast paced fun, but a much humbler presentation more befitting of a servant of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
At the helm of this fearsome order of 4 is Akimo, known by most round eyed foreigners as Sam Totman of DRAGONFORCE fame. With his mighty six-string bisento in hand, he serves up a healthy does of Punk infused power chords and hook drenched melodies. Since 2 of his companions exist as mere specters due to their heightened ninja skills, Akimo has to resort to handling their weapons for them, a task which results in a very bare bones realization, perhaps due to his own obsession with his axe. At times, you can not hear the bass weapon for its tendency to simply follow the lead of the axe and is about as present in the mix as Jason Newstead’s handiwork on “And Justice For All”. Likewise, the percussive thunder weapon that is normally applied to maintain the rhythm of any ninja journey sounds of a poor Taiko drum that clicks more than it blasts, alongside a lightning weapon that crashes with the overpowering nature of a massive tam-tam.
Alas, the lack of high-tech. gear does not dissuade the true warrior, and the SHADOW WARRIORS do not fail to deliver in their 4 chapters of ninja exploits. Like a flash in the pan of 80s Metal classics, “Feel The Fire” delivers a lighthearted, catchy as hell song that solos like Eddie Van Halen, yet otherwise sounds like a faster version of a RAMONES classic like “I Wanna Live” or “Somebody Put Something In My Drink”. Vocalist and only other non-astral member Haoki delivers a stripped down, somewhat rough performance, occasionally going out of sync with his 2nd voice, but still able to slay with a single shout and without the need of extending his fist. Though the results of this Honshu based campfire episode with an 8 track recorder exemplifies their humble service to the Shogun, the warriors would later be honored by having this song covered by the famed pale-skinned DRAGONFORCE, in typical western posh and pompousness, but still doing honor the integrity of the source material.
As the rest of the tale unfolds, a clear pattern of songwriting emerges that very closely parallels the compositional contributions that Totman would submit to both DRAGONFORCE and POWER QUEST. Much like any other shadow, this group of eastern silhouettes to their better know western counterparts present later songs in a much more honor bound, metallic fashion that puts attitude before slickness. “Fight For Be Free”, which all ninjas must essentially do at some point, presents a speed injected; riff happy version of what would become “Starfire” not too long after. There are no piano, no atmosphere of waterfalls and serene landscapes; just a continuous flash of power chords and some impressive yet tastefully brief lead work. Likewise, one can not listen to the sword swiping goodness that is “Power Of The Ninja Sword” without hearing strong parallels to “Beyond The Stars”, particular in the makeup of the chorus and in the general driving nature of the song. “Die For Honour” is the only song on here that doesn’t sound of a perfect shadow of any one DRAGONFORCE or POWER QUEST composition out of Totman, but more of a composite of several songs heard on “Valley Of The Damned”, but without the obnoxiously fast double bass and a much shorter lead break.
In a fortune cookie, this is something that will most like appeal to two groups; ninja fanatics and diehard DRAGONFORCE fans looking for good times with Pagodas and grappling hooks. It is not meant to be taken serious, it is meant to be taken with dragon tattoos and spiked claws. It is what appears to be the final testament of 2 real and 2 imaginary ninjas who have since had their website shutdown by vengeful samurai at DRAGONFORCE’S record label who wished to avoid committing seppuku for allowing a harmless side project to capture the laughter of the masses. But thanks to the advent of downloading, this soundtrack of good times playing with sharp weapons is readily available to any that wish to walk the path of the shinobi. Make haste now, you round eyes capitalist metal freaks, and feel the fury of the SHADOW WARRIORS.
(Online August 9, 2010)