Lockdown One and MetalTalk’s Kahmel Farahani spoke with Ryan Roxie in Episode One of MTTV, who predicted that from out of the chaos, some magnificent music would rise from the ashes. If there is one album which cements Roxie’s status as guitar guru and teller of fortunes, it is the absolute slammer that is Judgement Day, from Japan’s Heavy Metal leaders Lovebites.
Lovebites – Judgement Day (JPU Records)
Release Date: 24 February 2023
Words: Steve Ritchie
May 2021 saw the release of their Glory, Glory, To The World EP, as well as a sprinkling of live shows, as Japan’s restrictions started to ease. “In the end, the band members couldn’t hide their emotions, and we cried from being on stage again,” drummer and co-founder Haruna told MetalTalk. “It felt like this was where we belong. For the first time in a year, we were back on stage, and it was a very special feeling.”
Later that year, bassist Miho would leave the band, and to the outside world, it looked like Lovebites’ attempts to reignite the earlier momentum gained from their 2019 tour with DragonForce and their Download performance had ground to an unfortunate halt.
Fast forward nearly two years, and now, with newcomer Fami recruited on bass, the five-piece have released the stunning Judgement Day, a passionate piece of perfection that is sure to reward their dedication and patience.
From the opening 25-second salvo of We Are The Resurrection, where the band in your mind’s eye are standing straight, almost defiant, the song proper kicks in and the fast-paced, explosive guitars are in your face, wonderfully backed up by the on-point rhythm section, all led by Asami who is inspired throughout. Wailing, screeching guitar licks, and melodic dual passages, Midori and Miyako show incredible teamwork, and you know you are beginning a special journey.
Judgement Day opens slowly. Almost a short recovery, the deep breathing at the start, either something passionate or a feeling of being out of breath after the earlier sprint, before you are launched into the track. With symphonic styling grabbing you, later new bassist Fami shines with wonderful unison playing along with the guitars while also throwing in some fantastic octaves.
The Spirit Lives on is a track where the drums grab you. The pre-solos have epic harmonic dual-guitar playing. The guitars each have solos, and it becomes almost a duel. For a styling comparison, this is something a more youthful Iron Maiden may have attempted. Its seriously up tempo, and fierce, with lyrics and melody I desperately want to sing. But no chance of that. I love the way the tom fills move around the ears. Would they play this live? They would need a five-minute recovery after those exertions.
Wicked Witch is a slightly slower, melodic beauty. I love the way the guitar replies to the lyrics. It’s just two notes, over three syllables, but its comforting. The verse sits on a same-note guitar riff but with a wonderfully sung melody on top. Fantastic. The new bass player does that Steve Harris gallop to massive effect. This is a song that really shows off the skills of the guitarists range. From fast and aggressive to melodic, each is in tune and style with the other. This will be a beauty to see live.
A rumbling distorted bass introduces Stand And Deliver (Shoot ‘Em Down) before the band go for it again. The wonderful whammy guitar has you fist pumping, and then we are in for chanted verse and a simple chugging riff over thunderous drums. “Shoot him down,” Asami sings at a level I can join in. With another beautifully worked solo section again, you feel the desire to have been a fly on the wall when Midori and Miyako were building their parts. That would have been something special to witness.
Victim Of Time is great, and then you are into the back end of the album. My Orion has another classic riff and a superb melody, and a peach of a sing-along chorus. Coming out of the solo section, there is a Whitesnake-style melody, but souped-up to the max. I wrote ‘most accessible’ as in the ‘easiest listening’, but that does a real disservice to the earworms on the rest of the album.
After you run through the next couple of tracks, you end with Soldier Stands Solitarily. A genius opening. The first listen emotions were torn between should this have been an album opener or is the special place it deserves set to be the first song on tour encores?
Judgement Day is a triumph. Wonderfully constructed and beautifully executed, it is a tribute to and a testament of the hard work the band has put in over the last year.
This style of music does not sit well with Mrs Ritchie, so it’s unlikely to get a kitchen play. I don’t care. I’m more than happy to indulge my ears via fantastic headphones, as that is the best method to pick out the copious ear candy easter eggs in this magnificent beast, a treasure trove of Heavy Metal magic.